I'd planned to spend Saturday night at home, but once I realized I'd have to be up by 3:30 a.m. or so in order to meet Chuck as planned, it made a lot more sense to spend the night in St. Louis and save myself an hour of driving. Bob and Cara always have a spot on their couch for me, thank goodness, because that 4:15 alarm was bad enough. We made it out of the house pretty much as planned, a very un-Virtus-like move to be sure, and met up with Chuck for the rest of the drive to Rocheport, MO, for the Hairy Hundred bike race.
|On our way...|
Check-in was nice and smooth and included a nice glass mug. Race time found me running my drop bag up to the front at the last minute (some things never change), which gave me the chance to say a quick hi to my buddies Mr. Jim Phillips and Mickey before hopping into my normal place at the back of the pack.
|Last minute race director talk|
|Love this tunnel in Rocheport. Also, you can see that even the back of the pack is way ahead.|
The race started with a 6-mile neutral rollout on one of the prettiest sections of the Katy Trail. Chuck, Bob, and I started out with our friend Jim, and we rode in a loose pack doing a little talking as we pedaled. Eventually we settled into a paceline of sorts, and somehow I ended up in front for a while.
|Bob says hi.|
The guys are always having to slow down for me or wait for me, so I tried to make sure I was pushing at a comfortable level to not slow them down too much. I have a hard time turning around to look behind me (well, without running off the road), but luckily Jim was ahead of me and so could keep track of the rest of our group. Following along with the Garmin track was pretty easy and was a nice diversion, but at some point I noticed that the number in the top left corner was getting smaller and started to stress out a little that I was slowing down.
I ended up riding the entire way to Fayette without getting off my bike or stopping at all, a first for me on gravel. Bob had fallen back at some point during that first leg, but he'd told me that morning not to wait if he dropped off. We kept going, and I wondered how he was doing for the rest of the day. I felt surprisingly good when we pulled into the first of three Casey's we'd visit over the course of the day. I'd stayed on top of my nutrition, drinking Caffe Latte Perpetuem and munching on some homemade chocolate chip chia banana bread. I tried Perpetuem for the first time at Cedar Cross, and while I didn't have any bad effects from it I really didn't like the orange vanilla flavor. The coffee flavor was a win.
We stopped long enough to drink a Coke, eat a banana, and refill my Perpetuem bottle with a Starbucks coffee drink. Margy and Renee from Big Tree Cycling were at the stop at the same time we were, and they're doing DK also, so it was nice to get a chance to talk about one of my favorite subjects. After a break of 15 minutes or so, we headed out on leg 2.
Fayette to Glasgow: ~25 miles
As great as I felt for the first third of the race, the second section was very much the opposite. It was only 25 miles -- that's practically nothing -- but while Chuck and Jim sailed along I struggled in their wake. It didn't help that somewhere in here I realized that the little number in the top left corner showed how many miles remained on the route and immediately glued my eyes to the display. I'd been much happier sailing along in blissful ignorance of pace or distance, but I now had the useful distraction of trying to figure out how many miles would remain when we got to Glasgow and then using that number to figure out how many miles were left.
I'm a first grade teacher and all, but my math skills get fuzzy when I'm tired, so I'm not going to pretend that the calculations were at all smooth.Ok, the race is 93 miles long, and the stop is at mile 57. So 93 minus 57 is....ummm...93 minus 50 would be 43...minus 7 would be 36. So there'll be 36 miles remaining when we get there. And right now there are 56 miles left...shit.
We walked one hill in this section. I knew I could ride it -- I'd been strong on hills all day -- but my quads were starting to cramp up and I hoped that a short walking section would help. The walk was a nice break, but I think Chuck's electrolyte pharmacy was a bigger help. My legs felt much better once those kicked in, but I still wasn't really loving life for a while. We were a pretty quiet group for a while, which anyone who's ridden with me knows is a very rare thing. Eventually Jim pulled out one of the funnier jokes I've heard in a long time, and the mood lightened a little.
We went a long time without seeing anyone else, which was a little weird after being around the same people for a while earlier. Ten miles out from the Glasgow SAG stop we'd just come through a stretch of pretty thick gravel and swung around a curve when we saw two people stopped on the side of the road. It was the Big Tree girls again. Margie's rear derailleur had broken and locked up her rear wheel to the point where she had to lift up the back of her bike for it to roll, and they didn't have any phone service to call for help.
Luckily, Chuck and Jim were able to convert it to a singlespeed with the help of the master link Dan donated as he passed by so that she could ride it the rest of the way to town. That would've been a long walk. Lacking any bike skills beyond changing a tire, I just stood there admiring their skills and being thankful to be friends with such nice people. The stop did me a world of good, too; once we got started again I felt great, and the next ten miles flew by.
With my primary cravings stymied, I settled for a bag of potato chips. At the SAG stop a mile down the road, I refilled my feed bag, fixed a bottle of strawberry Perpetuem (yuck), and wolfed down my potato chips. I didn't have a cell signal to update Facebook and fulfill my social media responsibilities, so I asked Chuck to. The price was a very unflattering picture of me.
I'd just shoved a handful of chips into my mouth, so I had to cover up my chipmunk cheeks...and I don't remember the bag being nearly as big as what it looks here. The camera adds 8 ounces and all that...
With Margie's bike out of commission, Renee decided to ride on with us. She made a great addition to the group.
Glasgow to New Franklin: ~25 miles
We started out with a decent hill, but this stretch was primarily flat. Unlike the aftermath of our first stop, I felt really good.
|Nothin' but blue skies|
|Scenic spot along the Missouri River. "Oh, you want me to get off my bike so we can get a picture...well, ok..."|
From then on, we all took turns, working together nicely. Eventually we caught back up to Dan and he joined in. Renee ended her turn, and it was my turn to fight the wind. Unable to see my speed because of the map on my Garmin and definitely struggling in the wind, which was getting a little ridiculous at times, I worried that I was riding too slowly for the group and did my best to keep up with the pace Renee had set until I'd gone a mile and could drop off. Looking back after a while, I realized that our group had broken apart and I'd inadvertently overdone it. Oops.
|If they ever decide to change the race name, I suggest Tour de Casey's.|
New Franklin to Rocheport: ~11 miles
With 11 miles left, we rolled out of town and uphill -- seems like it's uphill coming out of every town -- in pretty good spirits. There were a few hills left, but the knowledge that each might be our last made them not bad at all, and eventually we spotted the cool tile silo that marked the entrance to the Katy Trail.
|If you think it's hard for your eyes to adjust going from bright sun to dark tunnel, imagine how much better it is when the person in front of you uses their camera flash. Oops. :-)|
|Rolling into the finish. (Photo credit: Mickey Boianoff)|
|Great group of friends to ride with!|
|"I'm not mad; I'm just...disappointed." (Source)|
Big thanks to everyone who organized and/or volunteered at the race. I had a blast, and if I can get away with racing on my anniversary weekend again, I'll be back next year for sure.