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Monday, May 19, 2014

The Hairy Hundred (minus 7) bike race

On May 18, 2002, I got up at a reasonable time, made myself all pretty, and married my husband on a beautiful, if chilly, spring day.
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Twelve years later, on May 18, 2014, I woke up on another man's couch and spent the rest of our anniversary riding bikes.  And you know what? The nicest anniversary gift Jeff could have given me was understanding how important it was to me to get in one more big day of training before Dirty Kanza and being cool with spending the day apart in order for me to work towards my goals.

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.

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On our way...
Situated 2 weeks before Dirty Kanza and featuring 93 miles of gravel and hills, the Hairy Hundred, while 7 miles shy of a full century, is a great opportunity to get in some last big miles before starting to taper.  I especially wanted to do it in order to gauge my fitness.  I felt really strong at Cedar Cross, but I was a little afraid that was due to all the stops I made.  I hoped to ride HH with far fewer stops and see how I felt.

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.

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Last minute race director talk
This year the Dirty Kanza route is going to be minimally marked, a change I'm super not thrilled about because it'll actually require me to follow a cue sheet and map and (in my head, anyway) reduce my chances of finishing by significantly upping my likelihood of getting lost.  Since the race world doesn't revolve around me, however, I'm going to have to adjust.  To that end, I'd loaded the Hairy Hundred route onto my Garmin so that I'll know what to do to follow the DK route in Kansas.  Since I never bothered to learn to to play the route, though, Chuck and I spent the first half mile soft pedaling while he walked me through set-up.

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Love this tunnel in Rocheport. Also, you can see that even the back of the pack is way ahead.
Start to Fayette: ~32  miles

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.

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Bob says hi.
The thing about following the route on my Garmin is that the default screen shows a black line with the route and your turn when it comes into view; the only other information it gives is some number in the top left corner.  I wasn't sure what that number referred to...it was in the high 80's when I first noticed it; obviously with such a high number it couldn't be speed even measured in km, but I just vaguely assumed that it had something to do with pace and didn't think anything more about it.  What my Garmin didn't show was my speed.  Because of this, the only way to gauge my pace was perceived effort.

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.
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.
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. 

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.


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Photo "credit": Chuck Vohsen
The Garmin track got a little confusing in Glasgow, but we eventually made our way to our second Casey's to pick up some snacks. Jim didn't have anything in a drop bag, and I wasn't sure what I had there. I thought about pizza, but all they had was ham pizza (yuck). I looked for a pickle, but they didn't have any.

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.

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Nothin' but blue skies
I couldn't get over what a beautiful day it was. The temperature was comfortable but not overly warm, the sun was shining, the company was good.  The wind, which had picked up quite a bit, didn't stress me out.  Instead, I though of it as good Kanza training.  We'd been warned about some deep gravel around a newly built low water bridge.  Having already ridden through some pretty thick gravel earlier, I was skeptical that this would be any worse, but indeed it was.  I rode to the bridge, but I walked up the hill after it until I was clear of the new gravel...and then I walked until I was at the very top of the hill just because walking was such a nice change, even in bike shoes.

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Scenic spot along the Missouri River.  "Oh, you want me to get off my bike so we can get a picture...well, ok..."
One thing about gravel roads is that they make those brief paved interludes feel like soft, silky heaven.  On Sunday, however, the headwind took most of the fun out of a 7-mile stretch of pavement.  Pacelines stress me out because being so close to someone else's wheel makes me nervous (possibly because I have a history of being run into a tree), but it was worth a little anxiety to get some shelter from the wind.  Renee had been leading for quite a while when I spoke up: "I can pull for a while if you need a break."

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.

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We rolled the rest of the way to New Franklin at a much more sustainable pace, entertained by Jim's musings about Franklin vs. New Franklin.  I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was funny.  You'll just have to trust me...or ride with us next year.

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If they ever decide to change the race name, I suggest Tour de Casey's.
Though the cue sheet and course markings weren't in complete agreement with the Garmin file (something which will really stress me out if it happens in Kansas), eventually we made our way to our third and final Casey's, where they had cheese pizza and pepperoni pizza, but no sausage pizza. Not cool, Casey's.  I drank half of a Coke and ate a bite of Chuck's Payday.

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.

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The last 6 miles on the Katy were some of the longest of the day. Knowing that we were almost finished, we were all ready to be done now.  On the other hand, it's a pretty section of the trail, we were moving at a decent pace, and my "miles remaining" countdown now included tenths of a mile.  Finally the tunnel came into sight, and we rolled through its shady goodness to the finish.

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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. :-)
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Rolling into the finish. (Photo credit: Mickey Boianoff)
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Great group of friends to ride with!
Overall, it was a really encouraging day.  Even including the stop to fix Margie's bike, I had far fewer breaks than at Cedar Cross and still felt great most of the day.  More than great, I felt strong.  Most of the hills were no big deal (don't get me wrong, I wasn't fast on them...I just didn't want to die), and a lot of the time I was near the front of our group.  I was perfectly content to stop riding when the race was over, but I certainly could have kept going.  I don't know if all of this points to a Dirty Kanza finish, but these are certainly steps in the right direction.
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The race finish was at Mulberry Grill and Bakery, and once I got off my bike shoes I was ready to order one of their delicious fire grilled pizzas.  After being let down by every gas station on the loop, I eagerly ordered my pizza with Italian sausage, onions, and bell peppers...only to be told they were out of sausage.

"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.

10 comments:

  1. I think this is a sign of good things to come at DK. Nah... I know it is! Well done, Miss SK, and to your montley crew, too.

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  2. What a great day, you are so ready for Dirty Kanza!! Maybe you should bring your own pizza, though, just in case... :)

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  3. I agree: I think DK is going to be a very different story for you this year. Love that tunnel pic. Such a pretty day!

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  4. Great ride, Kate! That wasn't an easy course. I can't wait to see how DK goes. See you in Emporia!

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  5. I love the anniversary gift Jeff gave you and I totally get that! What mileage do you taper to? And what is soft pedaling? Going easy? I would NOT want to know how many miles were left. Sometimes on a longer ride Combos does it for me. Funny how we get these cravings and what works. It sounds like overall a big boost to your confidence which is awesome! Yay!

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    1. Well, "taper" here is just another way of saying "I'm not going to ride all that much until DK". Maybe 40-50 miles this weekend.

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  6. Nice ride! Jeff is definitely a keeper and super understanding, maybe SJ?

    DK is yours this year. If you don't have a battery charger, you might want to pick up one of these (or borrow mine) for DK. I use it for more boring things than DK, but it works well. Let me know if you want to borrow it.

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  7. Looks like a great day! Your training is going SO well, you are going to ROCK the Dirty Kanzaa this year!

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