This year I decided to play it safe and ride the short course version of the trip to Hermann. Since I'm trying to actually train for this year's Skippo 30K, I wanted to save my legs so I could run the next day. All of my dubious smarts, though, were used for deciding to cut mileage rather than calculating the actual mileage.
Let's see, it's about 60 miles from St. Charles to Hermann (actually 63). And it's 27 miles, which is close to 30, from St. Charles to Augusta, so that means it should be about 30 miles from Augusta to Hermann (actually 36). So if I start in Augusta I'll only be riding about 60 miles, which should be a light enough day that I can run tomorrow.
If that seems confusing, imagine how garbled it was with the numbers floating around in my head. In short, I'd neglected to account for 6 miles. Because an out-and-back route doubles any mileage, at this point my ride was going to be 72 miles rather than 60. And then, realizing I wasn't sure how to get to the Augusta trailhead, I opted to park at Matson Hill, adding another 5ish miles each way to my journey. Admittedly an 85 mile ride isn't an outlandish thing in my world; unless, of course, you're only expecting to ride 60.
At 8:30 Saturday morning, however, I waited for the long-haulers at the Matson trailhead, basking in blissful ignorance and the unfamiliar sensation of being early. So THIS is what it feels like to be the wait-er instead of the wait-ee, huh? Interesting. Before long, Dave and Jim rode up to tell me the other guys were back a ways changing a flat, so we hung out and talked until everyone else caught up. Jim had other plans for his day, so the rest of us set out for Hermann.
Mickey and Paul were leading with a pretty strong pace, one I knew wasn't going to work for me for long. I called ahead, "If you're planning on riding 17 mph the whole way, you can just save me a seat at the restaurant!" They eased up, but the group spread out a bit. I tried to settle into all-day mode, passing the time by making conversation with whoever was "lucky" enough to be in my vicinity.
Last year's (November) Hermann ride had featured unseasonably warm temps in the 70's; despite being a month earlier, this one was considerably cooler. The morning temperature was in the low 40's. One thing that remained a constant, though, was the wind. We're now two for two on Hermann rides with a nasty headwind, and this year no one had volunteered to tow me. The wind was particularly challenging for Joe, who was fighting it on a singlespeed, and Paul, a regular road rider who was tackling the Katy on a 14 year old tank of a bike.
|I almost caused an accident when I slowed down to get out my camera without warning Dave, who was drafting behind me.|
At one point Paul mentioned that we still had about 17 miles to go. Looking at my odometer, I knew he was wrong because 17 more miles would put us way past the 30 I was riding. "Ummm, I don't think that's right," I mentioned. We discussed it a little and then rode on, both silently sure the other was incorrect. Clearly if I'm not going to do my research I should learn to keep my mouth shut about details and not expose my ignorance. Overall, the first 30 miles or so were pretty pleasant until they were up and I still wasn't close to Hermann. Making matters worse, the cool weather had made it hard for me to remember to keep drinking, and my quads started cramping pretty badly.
Maybe this was in answer to prayers Paul was silently uttering, because I get quiet when I'm hurting. I was relieved to see the rest of our group waiting (and waiting...) at the McKittrick trailhead, and though the slight climb to the highway into Hermann hurt, the gloriously smooth pavement more than made up for it. I chased Dave down the shoulder, wanting nothing so much as to arrive at Wings-a-Blazin and get. off. my. bike. I have to admit that as we passed the turn to the train station, I thought seriously about looking into a ticket back to St. Louis.
|Riding up to the McKittrick trailhead, very happy to be near Hermann, very unhappy on my bike. Photo credit: Dave Beattie|
|Robbie, Sarah, Luke, Becca, Paul, Joe, me, Dave, Mickey|
I was a little slower starting than the guys, so I was still on the highway when they turned onto the trail, and they were barely in view when I rolled onto the Katy. Any time I pushed much on the pedals my legs would start to cramp, so I shifted into an easier gear and resigned myself to soft-pedaling in the back for a while. Looking at the time, I assured myself that the medicine would kick in within 30 minutes and I wouldn't be so sore any more.
|Riding alone and trying to ignore my sore legs and appreciate how pretty the day was.|
The temperature had warmed up, and with the wind at my back I sailed happily along the trail, finally able to really appreciate what a beautiful day it was. I knew the tailwind was helping me, but I didn't realize how much until I stopped to take a picture of the river and felt the wind pushing against me. Still I watched my odometer like a hawk and counted down the remaining miles.
|It looked prettier in person.|
|Looking down the trail|
I'd just gotten to Twenty-eight miles left...anyone can ride 28 miles...that's like a medium-distance Trailnet ride... when I caught up with Mickey and Joe where they'd stopped to regroup at the Treloar trailhead and regaled them with tales of Bob and Adam's visit there during a past ride. Once the group was back together again, we took off, and from then on I felt like I was flying. I'm sure that taking it easy for so much of the ride was a big help, as were the wind and the knowledge that my remaining miles were limited. Whatever the reason, it was pretty awesome to be at the front of a group rather than playing caboose like usual.
|Tailwinds are fun!|
As we stood there talking, a fox ran out of the brush and looked down the trail. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I've seen one in the wild. Very cool. It ran off before I could get my camera out and on.
|Joe finishing up his 104 miles with a smile and a one finger salute to the organizer.|
|We're running trails...where's everybody else?|
|I'm their number one running partner. :)|