We rolled out in a drizzle that soon became a downpour, except that downpours tend to be short-lived. Three hours later with the road flooded in spots, the deluge continued. We were wet through and still had 70 miles in front of us. This turned out to be a blessing for me. In heat, I dehydrate quickly, no matter how much liquid of certifiable nutritional chemistry I pour down my neck. The cold rain kept me in the game. I didn’t say anything to my companions, but I hoped it wouldn’t end.
I was in over my head, honestly. Brad just finished a cross country bike race a few weeks ago, averaging 176 miles a day. Matt is the holder of a number of long-distance cycling records and in the middle of training for a 1000k brevet. The other Matt is closer to my equal, but he was riding to my end point, 125 miles out, and then turning around to ride home. My longest ride in 2015 has been 70 miles.
I had no business being on the front, and if my ego forced me there in the opening three hours of action, it was only stupidity that drew me to the sharp end thereafter. In my head I heard a voice, “just hang on/just hang on/just hang on,” so I just hung on, even when I was foolishly burning matches on slow, steady climbs with my companions strung out on my wheel.
One way I can tell how I’m doing on a long ride is by whether or not I can smile. Around 75 miles, I stopped smiling of my own volition. At 100, I stopped being able to force myself to smile.
We stopped at a cafe about 15 miles short of my final stopping point, and I felt alright, almost triumphant. I’d come through. I’d make it, but then standing in line holding a muffin and a banana and straining my eyes to see the coffee menu I felt a wave of nausea sweep over me. I swallowed hard and stumbled forward to the register, ordered a smoothie and a cold brew and paid for my stuff. Then I handed it all to Brad and went outside in the hope that I’d be able to hold down the current contents of my stomach.
You can’t underestimate the value and saving grace of a picnic table and a shade umbrella in a moment like that. Actuaries have broken pencil tips trying to calculate the sums.
The blood returned to my head and the palliative effects of calorie and caffeine quickly took hold. I regained the ability to smile, which was good because Matty deserved a cheerful send off for the return trip. I got a text 8 hours later that he’d arrived safely home again, 210 miles in 16 hours.
I swung my leg back over the top tube and continued on to the beach house, only to arrive a couple hours before my wife and kids. This is what happens when you ride with people who are faster than you are. I had to tippy-tap around the corner in my bike shoes to a local surf shop to buy shorts, a t-shirt and some flip-flops. I showered and dressed in the new clothes and began working my way through every bit of food and drink I could find, so as not to be completely useless when the family showed up. This was my longest ride of the year, 125 miles in 8 hours.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what was your longest ride of the year like? How far? How’d you do? Is it still in front of you? Are you training, or like me, just hoping your background fitness will carry you through?