As my morning unfolded, I found a rhythm and also found myself running alone for the most part. A fellow on a straight up road bike, an old steel one, that passed me early on was seen repairing a flat, but otherwise, this part of the day was flat-ish, and fairly uneventful. Some of the riders were held up by a long passing freight train for a bit, but the group got through the crossing before I got to them. A lone semi driver did wave me through the highway crossing just after the rail road crossing though, which I thought was nice.
Once the sun appeared in the sky, which was right about the time I turned on to Branched Oak Road, the heat began to accumulate and I knew I had to come up with a plan. As readers of this blog know, heat and I have not gotten along well this year. At least I was well hydrated and thought to pack an extra water bottle in the Tangle Bag. I carried it all day, and never needed it, but there is a reason for that which will become apparent soon.
I made it through to the first checkpoint in decent enough time, I figured. I wasn't going out to burn all my matches up front, and I knew I was pretty far back in the field, but again, the goal was to finish, not be racing for places. To that end, I was right on track.
Coming in to Valpraiso, I was being followed by a fellow on a Giant 26"er and when he finally pulled around he exclaimed that he didn't know how I kept grinding up all the steep hills. I just shrugged and said that I had to "just keep moving" and I'd be all right.
The Valpo stop was being held down mainly by some of the Lincolnites that were out having fun. This included standing around with tallboys wrapped in brown paper sacks. Pretty funny. The stop was also being used as a rally car stop where ladies dressed in very colorful matching outfits had to pay for a dollars worth of gas (in pennies!!), get a receipt, and move on. The cashier at the Phillips 66 was about to lose it with all us cyclists and these eccentric elderly ladies and our shenanigans. I had heard Cornbread say at the start that the convenience store across the road had a much better selection, and they did. Funny thing was, no other cyclists were there but me. Oh well! Whilst I re-filled water bottles and munched down a turkey sub, I was approached by an elderly man in a electric scooter chair, and we had a nice conversation. He got a cell phone call, so I took my leave of him and Valpraiso and motored off towards Malcom, which was the next checkpoint.
<==A few miles out from Valpraiso, getting hotter!
On the way there, I hit a rather hilly dirt road section that was putting the hurt to me. I was really getting over-heated, and here is where I kicked in "The Plan". Since I wasn't out to beat anybody, per se', I decided that whenever I felt I needed a break, I was going to take one. So, having found a perfect spot in the dirt road section, I pulled over and layed down in the still wet, cool grass. It was awesome. I cooled down in a hurry.
It wasn't long before a guy with a cyclo-cross bike and wearing a Tomac Bikes jersey stopped and asked if he could join me. I said he should, and that's when I met Matt. He was planning on just getting to Malcom and calling it a day. We chatted a bit, and then took off together. I was happy to have a bit of company in the suffering.
Well, it wasn't long before I felt the need to pull over for a bit again, and Matt joined me once more. Fortunately, the Good Life Gravel Adventure course had plentiful amounts of shade trees lining the course at regular intervals. It made "The Plan" work. Without the trees, I wouldn't have lasted past the Malcom checkpoint.
After cooling down, we took off again. It wasn't long before I had dropped Matt back about a quarter mile. I thought I was crawling up the climbs and that he was right behind me, but he must have been suffering badly. Then I looked up to see a white, beat up General Motors product from about the early 90's turn on its four way flashers and slow down as it approached. Not understanding why, I instinctively knew this was a sign to pull over. Well, it turned out to be a bright and chipper CVO! He popped up out of the car like a jack in the box, asking what we needed. Beer? Monster Energy Drink? Water? What's your pleasure gentleman?
Well, what would you do if a skinny fellow with a plaid pork pie hat and lime green socks emblazoned with "WTF" on them asked you what you wanted to drink in the middle of a desolate Nebraska gravel road? I had a Monster, and I can't recall what Matt said. I just remember he reiterated to CVO that he was intending on quiting at Malcom. I drained the Monster drink and decided that the negative vibe was not good for me, so I pedaled off without him.
The minute I pulled into Malcom I saw the Lincolnites pulling out. I was all alone again. I sat down to chow my food choices and re-fill water bottles again. I was feeling okay. I had no cramping issues, no problem with food or water. I thought I was doing pretty good getting to Malcom around 1pm.
It wasn't long before Matt showed up. He already had hooked up with a ride before getting to town. He had news of a rider behind us that was slow to come in, but was also nearly to Malcom. He finally showed up, and I took my leave. Here is where I made a mistake. I didn't buy enough food for the section between here and Hickman. That would eventually hasten my undoing. However; for the time being, I was set on getting to an "oasis" point, about ten miles away.
These oasis points, which there were three of, were set up by folks volunteering their resources to help out the riders. It took me what seemed like forever to reach it, after one more shade tree stop, but I finally found Pioneer Road and the oasis. It was being packed up as I rode in! Well, I was in last place afterall. So, I didn't blame them, but I wanted to see what they had to eat, if anything. Well, they had veggies, but that didn't look appealing to me, so I just took some water, and some good, long conversation in the shade.
The place belonged to a couple that were both teachers: She a high school German language teacher and He the head of the German Language Department at Doan College. Fascinating people. I heard some fantastic stories about their lives and life on the farm. They were super kind to me, and they insisted on a picture of me and my bike before I left them after a glorious hour. I know- I should have been riding, but these folks deserved my attention. (Thanks! I wish I could remember your names, if I even ever heard them. Not sure I got the names)
After the oasis stop, I went on, but the good time feelings didn't last too long. The heat, (which I heard was in the upper 90's to low 100's, depending upon who's thermometer you were willing to believe), was literally baking me. I could feel my body get really hot, my breath coming in panting like patterns, and the heart rate start getting higher. I would then seek out a tree to park under. I was walking the steepest hills by now, and falling asleep in the ditches when I stopped.
It was as I was stopped alongside the road, (where I had sat on a cockle burr bush by accident and was pulling the thorny devils outta my "nether regions"), that CVO appeared out of the haze like an angel. He didn't see me until he was right by me, slammed on the brakes, skidded to a halt, and backed up the car to see how I was doing. He made the same offers as before, but added that I could get a ride from him as well if I wanted it. I wasn't willing to pack it in, but I did swill a beer from his cooler. Then another one. Then a Monster energy drink on top of that. (Hey! It was awesome at the time!)
<===CVO takes a swing at it!
As I stood and swilled the beers and energy drinks, CVO grabbed his clubs and some rogue balls and began to profess his love of golfing to me as he took a few swings at the "gravel fareway". Unwittingly, (or maybe not), he invented gravel road golfing in front of my very eyes. This CVO cat is brilliant! Somebody better tell Zach Dundas, who uncovered Urban Golfing for us all in "The Renegade Sportsman" , that another rogue game has been uncovered in the wilds of Eastern Nebraska!
Well, CVO had other duties to attend to beyond entertaining a greying old man on a single speed device, so he took his leave of me and I went back into the "pain cave" for my final miles. It wasn't pretty.
Basically there were more stops, more ditch sleeping, and much more walking of hills. At one point, I got off my bike, sat down, promptly fell over onto my back, head down to the ditch, and passed out for I don't know how long. Some animal hissing at me from close quarters finally awoke me. I stood up and about passed out again with all the blood rushing back outta my noggin.Still, I thought that if I could get to Hickman, I could eat and recover some. CVO had told me it was a "real convenience store" with actual pizza. I was getting really hungry, and that was sounding really good.
<===Panama Road. Where it all ended for me.
Unfortunately, as a cyclist I knew that when I felt the hunger pains it was too late. Especially after being out for 13 hours on the road. Then I felt the tell-tale signs of a bonk coming on. Blurred thinking. I was second guessing where I was. I wasn't thinking straight at all. I stopped and dug out the last energy bar I had, but that wasn't cutting it. Then I stopped again a few miles further down the road, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything in the bottom of the borrowed Mountain Feedbag I got to use from Mike Johnson. I found a Hammer Gel, and just as I was about to rip open the packet, I heard a car swerving onto Panama Road, kicking up a cloud of dust. it was CVO again!
He went by me once again, slammed on the brakes, skidded to a halt, and reversed it back towards me. He slammed it in park right in the middle of the road, opened the door, which he left hanging open, and asked what he could do for me.
I replied that I was beginning to bonk out, so he offered the car ride again. I looked up the road, briefly thinking about pushing on, but better sense got ahold of me, and I climbed into the car and took the ride back to the start. 110 miles in, (including the two from the motel), only about 3-4 miles from Hickman, but I was okay with that.
It was a brutal, tough day for me. I left it all out there. No regrets.
I'll have some more about the end and some final thoughts for Tuesday.