Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Dehydrator

It was my third organized bike ride in three months and I almost blew the start, again.

The first two rides (Tour de Meers and Tour of the Wichitas) I had been busy fiddling with my Strava, setting my music, adjusting my glasses and helmet, and wasn't ready for the "Go" from the ride director.  Both times I found myself foundering, struggling to clip in without falling over, and getting stuck behind riders that blocked me from jumping into the lead group.

My excuse this time?  A surprise trip to the bathroom from an overwhelmed bladder and my over-enthusiastic hydration plan.

Lucky for me there was no line for the urinals and I was back outside and on my bike in a flash.  I weaved through the crowd to the middle of the front, no need to be too ambitious, and waited for the start.

Almost late for the start, but first, let me take a selfie!

The lead group, about 30-40 riders, took it easy enough for the first few miles that I settled right in and started wondering how long I would be able to hold on.  80 miles is a long ways and it was going to be a hot day, topping out at over 100 degrees.  They didn't call it The Dehydrator for nothing.

There were plenty of rolling hills, a few awkward riders that struggled to keep a straight line without bringing us all down with them, and a deer running across the road.  I kept waiting for something to happen.  I had latched onto the wheel of a rider I recognized from previous rides.  A local Cat II racer who's whole family was known for dropping the hammer regularly.

At mile 25 someone started singing, "Can you feel the love tonight?"  This was going to be a long ride.

At mile 27 there was a little acceleration and the group seemed to come apart, I spun around the riders that had fallen off the front and latched back onto the lead train of 5 riders.  Everyone calmed down and I decided that it was safe to grab a peanut butter bar from my jersey and try to get some calories in while things were steady.

Bad timing.

No sooner had I taken a bite than the front riders chose to light their afterburners, activate the hyperdrive, engage the warp engines, and leave me back in Kansas on the wrong side of the rainbow. A line of riders blew past me in chase while I choked on and coughed up peanut butter bits.  Tears ran down my face (and sweat, too) as I churned my pedals trying with all my poor weak little heart to catch up.

At mile 29 I was part of the lead pack easily cruising along the smooth asphalt.  At mile 30, I was all alone.

I soon realized that most of those that had dropped me so badly had stopped at the water point a mile ahead.  Stupidly, I decided to pass the rest stop and keep pedaling to the next water point at mile 40, hoping to get enough distance that they might pick me up along the way.

At mile 34 someone slowly crept up behind and began chatting with me.  The voice belonged to Garrin Bratcher, together we had ridden most of the Tour de Meers together a couple months ago.  His knee was bothering him and my heart was broken so we spun along together into a bitter headwind looking for the next water point.  As the speedy groups left the previous water point began catching up to us, I tried in vain to jump onto their trains.  No luck.

First time I've ever been ran off the road by an angry ecehlon of riders in the wind.

At the 40 mile waterpoint, we stopped to breathe and I pee'd for the last time.  There were fig newtons.

Rewatered and refueled, we turned up the tempo and proceeded to "lay down the scunion" across the course making the most out of the new tailwind.

After mile 50 we began catching both the trail of tears (dropped riders) of the lead packs and converged onto the 100km course.  There's nothing better for your self esteem than speeding around riders that you know are easily 20 miles to the finish closer.

Soon, the heat began catching up with us and we stopped every 10 miles to refill bottles.  More fig newtons.  I've never finished my bottles so fast on a ride before.  The air heated up, burning my throat, the sun cooking my skull and I began to realize why they called it the Dehydrator.

The final two miles we eased off the gas, still cruising along pretty quick but also struggling in each crosswind and every climb along the rolling countryside.

We crossed the corner to see the finish line, leaned back and congratulated each other on our ride.  Char was there waiting and cheering and a race volunteer gave me a high five as I rode by.

80 miles, done.


Once off the bike Char helped me to stagger inside where the shock of air conditioning almost make me throw up.  After a short rest I was able to eat, drink, and stagger back to the Jeep for the ride home.  Almost four and a half hours in the sun and raging heat had taken their toll.

By far, some of the best ride support I've experienced.  There was a full pasta or baked potato lunch with dessert cakes, massage tables and bike maintenance folks on hand.  Each water point we'd passed or paused at had a full compliment of volunteers keeping the watermelon, bananas, gatorade, snacks and fig newtons flowing.

Everything you need to stay motivated in the Oklahoma summer heat!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Welcome to Oklahoma... Is That a Flower?

I don't think that's a flower.  But, it's waving in the wind.

Thoughts flow quickly while riding along an open road.  There's no time to dwell on some things.  As soon as something pops in there... Hey, I need to pick up ice cream on the way home!... it's replaced with... holy smokes, that's a big snake!  All riders suffer from some form of attention deficit disorder.

Oklahoma has been good riding, what little I can squeeze in.  Sure, the wind really does come sweeping down the plains, and try to knock you off your rocker at 30mph, but at least it's only blowing in one direction.  I can't count the number of rides in El Paso that began and ended with a headwind.

Most of my rides are early morning rides.  Cloudy skies, the sun fighting to peek through, rays of light beaming through the gray effervescent layer of moisture, few cars and smooth pavement.  Lots of smooth pavement.  I found a couple local loops that give me anything from 25 to 80 miles of uninterrupted road.  Heck, the pavement never seems to end and is only limited to my imagination and pain tolerance when it comes to distance.

Typical Oklahoma morning.

There's no lack of scenery.  Verdant plains, indeed!  (Verdant refers to the greenness of the plains)  Farms, ranches, cattle, horses racing along the fence, birds galore, skylines... yeah, I could go on.  And then, on every ride, I experience something I hadn't expected in OK.

Hills!  Lots of hills!

Where's the flat plains?  Oh, wait, I get it.  Rolling plains.  Silly me.

And the local riders hammer those rollers hard.  I thought I was going to have a heart attack on the Tour de Meers when I was trying to keep up.  I thought I was a good climber, but these guys power up these rollers and small hills and leave me gasping and clutching my chest, looking around for an AED.  (That's a defibrillator, Char)

But I have found something I have that is lacking in a lot of the other riders.

I can ride into the wind like it's fun.  (It isn't, but I smile a lot anyways)  I suppose it comes from always fighting a headwind in EP.  I'm so above average at it that someone called me a STUD at the 40 mile marker in the Tour of the Wichitas.  I'm a STUD!  Of course, I had been pulling for those poor guys for the last 10 miles.  Every time they tried to pull to the front the wind pushed them right back behind me.

He's in there, glaring at me.

Most rides also seem to accumulate lots of critters.  Dead rotting stiff stinky critters and lively bouncing barking squeaking running critters.  Hopping fluffy skittish fleeting critters and lethargic leathery vulnerable critters.  Chewing gluttonous cows and cantering elegant equines.  It can be very exciting at times.  On one loop I have two furry friends that like to race for a quarter mile.  On another I keep my eyes open and have personally saved one turtle from certain doom.

Then there's that flower looking thing over there.  Waving in the wind, sort of.  

The humidity is something new for me.  I almost always ride with a sweatband now to keep my eyes clear.  The drivers are a nice change, too.  I had forgotten the prevalence of the country wave from the pickup drivers.  I've heard a few locals complain about the behavior of the drivers, how close the cars pass and how scared they are on the roads.  Maybe I spent too much time in EP, maybe I need to travel more, but it seems to me an awesome place to ride.  Outside of town that is.  Gotta love these country roads.

So, with what little I have here I'd say Oklahoma is going to spoil me for cycling.  Lots of rollers to strengthen my legs, plenty of critters and gorgeous scenery, smooth pavement and fairly courteous drivers, and a headwind that doesn't play around.

And then there's that black and white feathery fern-like flower waving in the wind.  There is no wind right now.  That's a skunk waving at me.  Time to pedal a little faster.

Why do I automatically hold my breath and squint my eyes when passing a skunk?

No headwinds or skunks are gonna stop this squatch!