Monday, July 19, 2010
The ride is never a big one in terms of numbers, and I wasn't figuring on having many people on this year's version. That said, it was the lowest number of folks ever on the ride with just Jason Boucher, Jeremy Fry, and myself showing up. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. It made for an intimate group and we all got along quite well. Jeremy came up in the morning, so it was just Jason and I camping out Friday night with a short visit from Captain Bob, who was in the area for a family reunion.
So the morning started without a hitch, as it was cool, and there was zero wind. None. This also bothered me actually. But for the time being it was pleasant, and the opening miles were very good with the river as a companion along the way. We could see the vapor from the morning dew burning off under the hot sun in the valleys around us. Again, something that raised a red flag in my mind, but we kept ticking off the miles, and we were making good time, actually.
My hope was that we would get well into the brutal middle section before 1pm and beat the heat up to that part. Then we would have to slug out what we could of the rest of the route. I knew we were making good time in the morning, but I also knew we weren't going to be capable of sustaining that pace in heat with the gradients we were going to face.
By the time we were approaching Elkader, I felt we were on a good pace to get by. Maybe, just maybe we were going to get away with getting this route done. Elkader was the first re-supply chance, and I knew we were going to have to stop for awhile. I was just hoping it wouldn't be too long.
Still, we were having fun, and things were rolling along really smoothly. We had to stop a minute before leaving town so I could tighten the lid down on my Osprey's water bladder. It was leaking down my backside, which wasn't too comforting!
After Elkader, the hills kicked into gear and we would get up into the highest elevation sections of the course. It is really pretty up there and the view goes on for miles. We were running into more car traffic by this time, and every one threw up a thunderhead of dust that just hung in the air with little to no breeze to knock it off the road. I think we injested a fair helping of "Vitamin G" on this ride!
The other thing about my bike that was working well, but I hadn't really tried out much, was the Woodchipper bar/STI shifter thing. Now, I am not a big fan of STI levers, but I was getting the shifts I wanted, and surprisingly, the brakes were more that powerful enough to slow me down. In fact, the mechanical advantage of the levers was too great, if anything. It made modulation an exercise in subtlety. That's for sure!
Then we popped out of the trees and back into the sun for some roller coaster like descents and climbs. Very, very steep! Still, we all rolled up these climbs, albeit in our lowest gears. It was a bit tougher in some places this time because the rocks were loose, and spinning out had to be avoided by making sure you were choosing the correct lines. It was no picnic then climbing these short steeps, which were requiring not only muscle power, but mental sharpness.
With Impala Road looming, I had some good thoughts. I knew we were going to have some awful climbs in the beginning sector of that road, and I knew we were in for a real treat on the final two miles of that road. It didn't disappoint either.
Basically, everything was going as well as could be expected. It was so hot by now though that we were all going pretty gingerly and the rate of progress was coming down rapidly. I was still climbing every hill without walking, or wanting a lower gear until the Fantail Road climb. My body was shutting down, and I needed to take a break. Jason and Jeremy disappeared up the 18% grade as I pulled over to cool off under a shade tree. I ate some trail mix, downed some water, and then I felt cooled down for sure, but I had nothing for power now. I walked the steepest part and rode slowly to the top where I found Jason sitting in a corn row and Jeremy standing next to him. I pulled off and joined them where I announced that I had cracked and this infernal heat was just too much. They agreed to head for the nearest town, which was Edgewood, to get refueled and plan a paved route back to West Union. Jason asked on the way in. "Hey, didn't you guys stop a Trans Iowa here?" To which I replied in the affirmative. He responded with, "How fitting!"
I suppose it was.
I opted for a Strawberry Point, Arlington, then to West Union type route which I knew would be much flatter and given the heat, a wiser choice. We set out for Strawberry Point on the highway, but coming into town I was fading fast. It was as if I hadn't eaten at all. I get really sleepy when I am hungry- weird, I know, but that's how I can tell if I am hungry. Well, I had just eaten, and now instead of pepping up, I was falling asleep on my bicycle. When we got to the other side of the town, I told the guys to go ahead. Jeremy said he would come back to pick me up. I suggested that I could limp into Arlington and he could get me there. So that's where we broke fellowship and I soldiered on alone the last miles into Arlington.
Looking back on what happened to me, I now know it was a nutritional issue. For some reason, my body wasn't absorbing the calories as it should have. I know this because everything was "expelled" from my system once I got home. Let's just say it wasn't pretty and leave it at that! Why that happened, I haven't a clue, but it did.
Thanks to Jason and Jeremy for riding. It was a great day to hang out with two fun guys that are great cyclists to boot. Thanks to Captain Bob for the timely visit at the camp ground. I know Jason was glad you stopped by as well.
That was the last ride for the GTDRI on that route. Next year will mark a move to a slightly less challenging, but still fun route in the mid-section of the state. Stay tuned to the GTDRI site for details.