|Riding up from Ankeny to Slater Saturday morning.|
The forecast was for a nigh unto perfect day for the 9th running of the Gent's Race. I was feeling pretty confident that it would be good, and so I brought my Endura 3/4's length Single Track knickers, a base layer, a RidingGravel.com jersey, my vest of the same livery as the jersey, and a pair of Pirate Cycling League arm warmers. I wore my buff as a head cover, my new Bell helmet, long wool 45NRTH socks, and my Shimano lace up cycling shoes. Temperatures were to be in the upper 40's when I started at 6:00am to head up to Slater. It was supposed to zoom right through the 50's fairly quickly after that, and end up in the 70's. I figured on loosing the vest and arm warmers at the check point then I would be pretty comfy.
I rolled out of the motel at 5:30am to get something to eat for breakfast at a nearby Casey's convenience store. The motel we were at didn't serve breakfast till 6:00am, so that was out. I ate a couple breakfast sandwiches and was rolling slowly by 5:50am. Of course, it was still dark out, and of course, I forgot a headlight. I did have a tail light. With the roads being so well lit up in Ankeny, it wasn't a problem to navigate though. Still, I took things very cautiously. I will say that I am spoiled with a great bicycle path network at home because Ankeny's path system is broken. Frustrating for sure. Anyway.....
I got out of town just as the Sun was starting to lighten up the atmosphere, which was good timing, as I was now on gravel. The light wasn't advancing as I expected, and I realized now it was very cloudy. I could finally see some breaks in the clouds where the Sun was rising, and I was hoping for a spectacular Sunrise. It wasn't what I was hoping for, but it was good. Anything is good if you are healthy, up early, and riding. I've nothing to complain about.
|Hey! My bike matches the sky! This was all we'd see of the Sun until afternoon.|
The rain never got beyond the "spitting stage", what they call "rain" in the Pacific Northwest, from what I understand of it. It did almost get to what I would call an outright rain- where you're soaked within a few minutes, but then it mercifully backed off. I arrived in Slater mostly just a bit moist. I hung around a bit and talked to Steve Cannon for a couple minutes. He just finished the Iditarod in Alaska, so I congratulated him on his latest feat. Then not long afterward, Steve, our El Capitan, showed up. Then we had a substitute this year. Sam couldn't make the ride, as his fitness was not up to his standards, and I think he had to work all day. So, Matt came to the rescue last second and with his stubbly beard, he fit right in with the Careless Whispers look. Bob and D'Corn showed up, and then the team took off at about 8:35am.
|The Careless Whispers, (minus myself, as I took the image), on their way Northbound|
Potsing around by myself is one thing, but riding with a group is quite another. You'll find yourself being pushed harder if you ride in a group. I wasn't used to doing 17-18mph steadily on gravel, but that is what we were doing. I was hanging on, but not very conversant since I was near my limits. Good training for me. Not so great for having fun.
Eventually we turned into an Eastward section, and it was readily apparent that the wind was out of the Southeast. We would have a headwind going East and South, and of course, that would be the majority of the course, with its layout not changing year to year much, if at all. I started to have some left hip pain. A dull ache, and numbness a bit shooting down my left leg. It was sapping my strength on that side. I never have experienced that before. So, I ended up falling off the back and then I had to stop at one point to just get off and walk a bit. That seemed to help. Back on and into the checkpoint, where we were planning to stay for a bit.
|Bob at the checkpoint which is hosted by Snus Winery|
|D'Corn at the checkpoint munching on some salty goodness.|
So, there is this thing that got started nine years ago when I first did the Gent's race with this team. Sam brought a can of FourLoko. If you are not familiar with this stuff, it basically is a bad energy drink and alcohol mixed together in an unholy way resulting in an awful tasting, 14% alcohol content drink. I think I had never had it before and Sam and I polished off that can that first year with some humor and that was that. A tradition was born. Every year, Sam made sure we had a can of that stuff at the checkpoint. Well, with his not being there, he had his sub, Matt, bring the fire. And boy howdy! did he ever. He brought two cans! We polished one off before we even started between most of the team. At the checkpoint, I was trying to be a god boy and not drink. I didn't mention the FourLoko, because, well.......we already had done it!
|Our El Capitan, Steve, gets left holding the can.|
Then Steve passed the can to Bob, then D'Corn, and then a few outside of the team were persuaded to take a drink. Finally it came back to Bob. He looked down at the remainder of the can, suggested we pour out a drink offering to Sam, and then took a small swig. That was the end of that! I escaped having to try the radiator fluid after all!
I did have a couple Bud heavies and I got half a pancake with almond butter, chia seeds, and I don't know what else, to eat, and had some of D'Corn's potato chips. It all hit the spot just right and I was not in want for calories. Then it was time to kick back and watch the goings on.
I suppose this also has become a tradition. The Careless Whispers closing out the checkpoint. It was well after noon before we made "exit behavior", (Thanks for that term, D'Corn!), and got saddled up for whatever was going to come. Well, we knew headwind was going to be part of that! I had done some stretching and tried to relax. I felt okay, but I was definitely worried about that hip issue. Steve had said I should not use the big ring anymore and try to spin more. Which I started doing before reaching the checkpoint.
I think my issues came about earlier in the week when I did about an hour plus ride on a fixed gear rig I am testing out. I did some steep hills both going up and down, and that really works your muscles differently. I hadn't done any fixed gear since last year, and my legs were toasted for several days afterward. I think that's where this all started. But at any rate, I was game to give things a go.
|Obviously it was a LOT nicer after the checkpoint. The wind was still REALLY strong though.|
|Steve passes the flask during our time of "roadside fellowship".|
Now my hip.....Yeah. Not so much. In fact, my other hip started to ache, just not as badly, and my entire body was hurting. It got to the point where I was biting my lip every time I made an effort to push hard into the wind, or climb even the slightest grade. I was certainly discouraged. It just wasn't my day.
D'Corn graciously tried to pull me back, and I got there once, but then I fell back right away again. I just didn't have it that day. I told D'Corn I had to give it a rest, so he called up and everyone gave me a few minutes to gather it together. That's when it was decided we would cut the route short at the Heart of Iowa trail which the route crossed about a mile East of Slater. The "official route" was about ten miles longer.
We made that turn, and by the time we reached Slater, I was feeling hungry. So, I hit Joe's Nitehawk Bar, the host of the Gent's Race, had a great meal, yakked with a few folks, then called in Mrs. Guitar Ted to pick my sorry butt up. It was a great time, but I am pretty concerned about how tired out my legs and especially my hips were feeling. Gotta monitor that. To be clear, it isn't in the joint. It's connective tissue and just tiredness.
Anyway, thanks to everyone involved with this event. It was awesome to ride with the Careless Whispers once again! Matt was a worthy sub, but I expect you back next year Sam! It will mark the tenth year! Gotta get the band back together!