95 miles

Last November some friends and I biked on the Katy Trail from St. Charles (Missouri) to Hermann (also Missouri), a distance of about 63 miles, for lunch.  And then, of course, we rode back again.  It was, as the organizer titled the event, a long way to go for lunch.  It was also a lot of fun, as much as is possible while riding 111 miles, dodging rainstorms, and battling headwinds.  We had such a good time that we scheduled an encore last weekend with a slightly bigger cast.  Two new guys joined us for the westward journey, and we met up with a Team Virtus group of four who rode east.

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.  
We regrouped at the Marthasville trailhead (about the 17-mile mark for me, where I cheerfully thought I was halfway to Hermann).  Paul rode on ahead so he wouldn't tighten up, and the rest of us followed after a bathroom/snack break.  When I caught up with him, he mentioned that his bike wasn't working right and was hard to pedal.  Having spent time struggling alone at the back of a group, I hung out with Paul to keep him company.  Long bike rides offer a great opportunity to get to know people, and if my constant chatter was super annoying rather than a nice distraction Paul was nice enough to keep it to himself.

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
We once again sat on the patio, though it was much busier this October than last November, when we had it to ourselves.  We had a great lunch -- though anything would taste good after riding 40+ miles through a headwind -- and thoroughly enjoyed the break.  Eventually my legs stopped hurting, giving me hope that the ride back wouldn't be a total sufferfest.  The Virtus crew arrived from the west, having dealt with some mechanical issues on their way, and we had a little bit of time to visit before getting back onto our bikes.

Robbie, Sarah, Luke, Becca, Paul, Joe, me, Dave, Mickey
My legs started hurting again as we rode uphill out of town; I had visions of 40 miles of cramps and tears, wondering what the chances were that Jeff would drive 2 hours to come and pick me up and then wondering who in the St. Louis area might be more likely to come to my rescue.  Luckily, we stopped at a gas station on the highway, and I picked up some ibuprofen along with a couple of candy bars and a gatorade, barely getting out the doors before ripping open the medicine.

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.
I spent the next half hour backing off any time my legs started to hurt, and my patience was rewarded when the medicine did indeed start working.  I finally reached Dave (Awww, that's nice...he waited for me...oh, nope, he's just not feeling it right now) and then Paul.  "This tailwind is SO much better than the headwind!" I celebrated, but hampered by his mechanical issues, Paul wasn't enjoying the same benefits I was.  Onwards...

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!
We regrouped in Marthasville and then Augusta, where Joe's lovely wife was meeting him.  While waiting for the rest of the guys, we were entertained by a very drunk foursome who were riding west from the Augusta Brewing Co.  One of the girls actually fell while standing over her bike, making me very glad we weren't going to be sharing the trail with them.  Joe wasn't so lucky, encountering them on the trail as he approached.  The four of them took up the entire trail, running him off into the grass and brush to the side, the second time he was run off the road in one trip.

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.
Paul opted to catch a ride with Joe and Ann, so we said our goodbyes and rode the remaining 5 miles to Matson.  I was feeling the miles by this point and VERY glad to have opted for the shorter distance, not bothered a bit by the fact that I had the least miles of the group for the day.  What did disappoint me was that, with 85 miles on my legs already, my planned Sunday trail run looked most unlikely.

We're running trails...where's everybody else?
As it turned out, though, with Bob and Chuck planning to join me at Castlewood, my FOMO was more powerful than my desire to sleep in.  I was running late, but I got there.  Since Bob hasn't been running much, we all stuck together and took it easy on our first lap; then Chuck and I logged another four before heading home.  Weirdly, it was the best run I've had since starting my Skippo training.  I felt great and had a blast.  If I could have gotten out of bed, I could have ended my weekend with an even 100 miles, but I'm not going to feel bad about 10 miles of trails after 85 miles on the bike and a weekend full of good company.

I'm their number one running partner. :)


  1. That's a lot of miles! When I was cycling more, I always felt better running after - I think it's because they use opposite muscles, so the bike stretches them out/warms them up for the run.

  2. Nice workouts! 85 miles and 10 miles running is a solid weekend for sure. Looks like you had fun at the same time.

  3. You aren't a math teacher, are you? :)


  4. That is the week end of my dreams! My son started last month his trail bike training and he said that nothing is more beautiful!


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