Thursday night I carefully went over my bike. I removed the front rack and a few Phillips heads to standardize my bolts. I carefully checked each to see that each bolt and nut would be reachable with the reduced number of tools I would carry. I had also scored a water bottle short enough to clear the fender for my third cage. The silkscreened corporocoffeelogo came off nicely with a bit of whittling.
Friday evening Julie, Ben, their friend Snacks and I drove up in a borrowed car and split the room. Val and Brean stopped by for a visit, then we all turned in early and I fell into a light sleep to the craziness of the cartoon network.
I set my cell phone alarm for 5am, or so I thought, but was awoken by our 6am wakeup call. No matter, nothing would prevent me from the eggs, potatoes, bacon and pancakes I pledged to devour before the ride. The instantaneous oatmeal packets of the continental breakfast just wouldn't cut it. After an underwhelming breakfast at Perkins (which opened at 6am anyway,) I returned to motel to get dressed, packed, registered and slathered with various ointments.
Yes, by the time I pushed off, the ride had departed without me. I tried not to push myself to catch riders, but given my orienteering skills it is of paramount importance to keep riders in view. I soon caught up with the rear, putting my mind at ease.
At the 1st checkpoint I guzzled some gator-juice and scarfed down a hamster pellet—despite not being at all hungry. Unlike last ride, this time I would eat every time the thought crossed my mind and would drink as much fluids as I could stand.
I left town feeling strong and quickly got off course. Confusing matters was the fact that, despite missing my turn, I was on the correct road—just going the wrong way— and crossing streets I remembered, since I was riding parallel to the correct route. I noted the mileage when I turned around and again when I found my missed turn. 3.5, or a total of 7 extra miles. Immediately following this blunder with another unwarranted double back, I was soon 10 miles over for the day, again the last rider. I was further dismayed by the kindly checkpoint staffer on ‘sweep up patrol’, assuring me that there would be plenty of food and water at the next checkpoint.
On the bright side, the wind was hard out of the east and I times I was doing 24mph without much effort. I just tried to enjoy it, telling myself that it would likely die down by the time I turned around. Meanwhile, I passed pastures where every last cow was laying down.
I rolled into the 2nd checkpoint, relieved to catch up with a handful of surprised riders, including Snacks & Julie. “Everything’s gonna be OOOOOKKKKAYYY,” I lied. Food. Gator-juice. Stretched my neglected legs. We left together rolling through scenic downtown Sun Prairie.
Not having seen the start of the ride, I didn’t know that the racing set had all but disappeared. 186 miles is well beyond the point of diminishing returns for training for anything but endurance cycling. About 5 miles to the halfway point at Lodi, WI, the first riders started trickling past, without the aerodynamic advantage of the pace line.
Re-gathering after the hills we created a pace line, but could still only muster 11mph into the harsh east wind. For awhile we caught up with Mike, who was trying to get the Bulls game on his walkman. A storm brewed on the horizon. Pretty country, anyway.
We were in dire need of a break when we rolled back into Sun Prairie and more than one of us contemplated heading into “Toot’s Tap” rather than the checkpoint. We sat on the curb at the filling station discussing the ridiculous nature of randonneuring and comparing knee surgeries. When I arose to leave, my left calf felt like a fist.
The wind was slowly dying and—as Snacks said—so were we. I dropped an energy bar and moved with all the grace of a gnome when trotting back to pick it up. The crosswind on this stretch was nearly worse than the headwinds. It dried my eyes and felt like a bloody nose. No matter how close I tucked in to anyone, there was no relief.
“Steak Burrito War” having broken out Taco John’s, I attempted to stay neutral by ordering some tater tots, which proved a tactical mistake of excess. During the course of the day I ate a large greasy breakfast, 5 energy bars, a can of Pringles, a bag of nuts, two bananas, a bag of orange slices candy, a bottle of V8, a bag of cheese curds, a heat-lamp hamburger and a peanut butter rice crispy treat smothered in chocolate frosting, all of which my system tolerated. But these little suckers sat in my stomach like buckshot for the remaining 30 miles.
Studying my brevet card, I was pleased to discover that I had done, unofficially anyway, 105 miles in >7 hours, 134 in >10 hours and 168 in >13.5. Even without my 10 additional idiot miles, 95/124/158, these were all records for me.
When we departed the last checkpoint, night had fallen. I hadn’t given much consideration to riding in darkness. My front lights were in the traditional position: up for motorist eyes instead of down for the pavement and markings. They were also mounted low on my fork, out of reach, so I was unable to use them to read either cyclometer or cue sheet. I relied on the bright lights of Julie and Dave to find the arrows and read the street signs, watching the shadow of my legs pounding like pistons when I rode ahead, although I spent as much time as I could hanging of Dave’s rear wheel.
Eventually, I was alone, cruising the residential streets of Delavan, thinking about the cold beer awaiting me. I rolled into the Super-8 sometime around 11:45, three plus hours before the cutoff. I totaled 196 miles in less than 17 hours.
I found Mike, who was laughing. He demanded my camera.