|Few tracks ahead of me at this point.|
Don Daly and I make a left turn onto a gravel road which is just about dry, wide, and downhill with the wind at our backs. What?!! So this is what gravel road riding should feel like! I'd been slogging through mud and soft, mushy gravel for so many hours that this experience was exhilarating. Speed, wind in the face, easy pedaling! Ahh.......it's about time!
Then reality struck. Right turn, head wind, and it was back to grinding out the miles into another obstacle. Yes, the roads were improving, but just as they did, the wind was increasing, and it was right at our teeth. Don and I started trading pulls without ever saying a word, or making plans to. It was as if we had ridden hours and hours together, but in fact, we hadn't ever ridden together before Saturday. It seemed as though we were pacing each other and pushing each other just a wee bit too hard, but again- we never said a word about what we were going to pace at. I was behind Don when I decided to grab a mouthful of snacks from my feedbag. Then I heard a bzzzzzzZZZZTTT! I had crossed wheels with Don and I feared I was going to take both of us out! I backed off and jetted off to the left, but I saved it! No harm-no foul, and Don even said he thought that was "fun". I told him we weren't going to have anymore of that sort of fun! We then got back to our drafting. I remember at one point thinking we were going a bit hard for the effort I had already put out, but then I found a reason to stop and take a break. I needed to relieve myself!
|Like cookie dough, only dirtier.|
The cues were winding down and Don and I were grinding to a slower pace. It was about here that I was hitting the wall. I was tired from all the earlier "max efforts" I had put forth to clean all those muddy roads and to climb all those hills. I was getting pretty much into survival mode about this time when Don and I decided to stop and rest a bit as Dan Buettner caught us from behind. We all stopped to relube our chains for the final onslaught toward Checkpoint #1, where I figured I would regroup and try to ride back to the start, since I was outside the time allotment to get to Checkpoint #2.
|Pass me the lube when yer finished, okay?|
I was just wanting to get off the bike for a while, regroup, and get myself gathered up to extricate myself from the course and get back to the KOA campground. I didn't see any point in continuing on if the checkpoint closed ahead at 4:00pm, since my average speed to this point was below 9mph! Chad had said earlier that the time cut off was set to a 10 miles each hour covered pace, much like Trans Iowa does. I wasn't anywhere near doing that kind of mileage, and I knew I wasn't going to get any faster headed into the wind on this giant loop of a course.
The miles were ticking down, and I was counting them off in my head and doing the math, since I had knocked my computer sensor awry in the mud earlier and lost a mile or so before I noticed it and rectified the issue. Ironically, the same mud that caused the issue actually dried up in the wind and froze the sensor in place to the point that it would have been solid the rest of the way.
|Climbing the last big hill before CP#1. Don Daly is behind me. (Image by Dan Buettner)|
|Merrie Quigley checks me into CP#1 (Image by Chad Quigley)|
Next: The Madness Part 4