Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tour of Lakes

Yesterday I participated in the Tour of Lakes (TOL) ride in the Brainerd area, sponsored by the Paul Bunyan Cyclists club. My friends Colt and Geoff and I did the 100k “Long Ride” (my GPS said 64.88 miles at the finish) along some beautiful lakes and farmland in what turned out to be definite “cabin country,” Minnesota. I was looking for lumberjack themed kits and amazing moustaches, but soon realized that the event didn’t cater to that crowd. (The closest I saw to lumberjack apparel was an older gentleman riding in jeans and a Minnesota Twins training pullover.)

There were a lot of older and casual riders that turned out to spend the day doing the 36 mile “Short Ride”, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely during the prolonged rest stops eating not quite appropriate food for a distance event.

I was pretty nervous about the ride, my first organized ride of that distance, and was already trying to save face with my friends a week before the event by acknowledging my lack of preparation and possible failure. "Bonking" is a theme that came up repeatedly as we talked about it.

Some reading this will think that 100k is nothing to sweat over but when Colt started talking nutrition on during the two hour car ride to Brainerd, I thought I was toast. I didn’t sleep well that night, and my stomach started giving me trouble. Butterflies turned to gut-rot was the last thing I needed at this particular moment. Resigned to my imminent failure, I just had to lean on my friends, line-up and give it a go.

With doughnuts stuffed in our jerseys, we embarked at about 6:30 in the morning. The air was crisp at 56 degrees, but I was glad that I decided to leave the shell jacket behind. For the first 20 miles the riding was amazingly easy, and we were clipping along at about 17 miles per hour. It was during that period that I noticed that my front-derailleur was off-line, stuck on the lower gear, and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to push the pace any further. During our food stop I tried to clear up the issue but realized that the cable must have slipped when I lubed it the day before, and I didn’t have the tools available during the ride to adjust it; I would have to do the entire ride in my lower gears. I have been known to push too hard, so that may have been a blessing that helped keep me on a reasonable pace for the duration of the ride.

Geoff was the seasoned randonneur among us (having done many, much longer rides), so Colt and I followed his lead with growing confidence after each mile that we would succeed. He was the one who came up with the idea to do the ride in the first place, having heard that there would be excellent food. After signing up, he declared that it was his intention to consume at least as many calories that he burned (the estimate was that I burned 3,500; I am sure Geoff enjoyed keeping that constant). The food did not disappoint (although there were a few weird selections that wouldn’t make it at the State Fair: Hardboiled egg on a stick, anyone?). I found, however, that the farther we rode, the less I wanted to eat (unless it was called a Snickers). 20 mile stop: I felt sick off after half a breakfast burrito. 40 mile stop: I felt sick after half a PB&J. 56 mile stop: felt sick just seeing people downing baked beans and hot-dogs.
After the 20 mile rest stop, we veered off from the short ride and saw fewer riders until we were all alone on our ride. The scenery was gorgeous and tranquil. We were riding on winding, less traveled highway through the woods and enjoyed the time to chat each other up about bikes, the Tour de France, different views on Lance Armstrong and Bradley Wiggins, wives, children, and our respective Church responsibilities.
After 40 some miles we caught up with several other riders at the second rest stop. And after stretching our legs, having a bite, and with our jersey pockets brimming again with goodies, we set out into cabin country. This part of the Tour had the nicest lake views, and felt a little residential as we passed many cabins with people tending to the landscaping. 

At about Mile 45 we wound out of the cabins and got onto a busy flat stretch of highway for a spell, and could see rain falling in the distance. It soon enveloped us and the ride got very quiet. I like the rain during my daily commute because it helps me dial-in to my bike and get into the zone. I think we were all a little more nervous at this point, about the cars, the rain, and the next twenty or so miles. The rain was well timed for me because the focus I had really helped me push through the fatigue that was starting to set in. It was about this time that I was worrying about “bonking”. Jeff took up the rear and turned on his blinking light to alert traffic (I had taken mine off for the ride thinking we would be spending more time on trails for some reason).

At around 50 miles the rain and our spirits lifted a bit, and realizing that the finish was only about the length of my commute away, I felt like it was the home stretch. We soon rejoined the riders on the short course. We had been virtually alone on the road for over half of the ride at this point, so it was a little weird to see the crowds of people. We pulled into the last rest stop (around 55 mile mark) to a festive scene (I already described the food). I got off my bike and felt a little wobbly. I knew I would be in trouble if we stayed too long; I was already losing momentum. I took a few pictures of people's bikes, but I didn’t touch the food and didn’t refill my water. I just wanted to get back on my bike and get done before my body said stop. I think Geoff and Colt were in a little better shape at this point, but I think we were all agreed that we wanted to do our celebrating at the finish. We hopped on our bikes and powered out of there. I led the way at first, pushing hard, the desire to finish soon setting the pace for the others. We passed tons of riders on casual bikes (and I admit that I relished it), and we picked up a few on faster steeds that did not want to be outdone. I kept thinking “We are coming in hot!” all the way into Crosby, and it was a lot of fun to be in a cluster of bikes with that kind of momentum. I was looking for a sprint finish, until I was totally underwhelmed when I saw the finish line: A two-feet wide orange line spray-painted on the pavement with “Finish” written below it, just before lip of the entrance to the Crosby High School parking lot. What?!

We crossed the finish without any fanfare and coasted into the parking lot to our cars. People were putting their bikes away on their racks after finishing their respective rides. No food. No reception. No larger group celebration. We congratulated each other with hi-fives and asked a passerby to snap our photo together. We went to a weird little sports bar for lunch to refuel and celebrate together. It turned out to just be a great time with good friends doing something we love. I wanted to get this all down until it fades from memory.

Rest 1 - 20 Miles

Starting to get sick here.

Geoff came to eat!

Colt getting his nutrition on.

Really satisfies me.

We only saw ourselves here.

Geoff was jamming to the tunes that kid was blasting from his car.

Rest 2 - 40 Miles

Happy dog, wanted to play fetch with me.

Loved the fruit.

Weird egg nest.

"Middle-aged" men in spandex.

Me in 25 years.

Lots of middle aged men in spandex.

You are here!

Approaching Cabin Country


Rain approaching.

Rest 3 - Mile 56

Hitting the can.

Final Push


This is for my wife; only she would appreciate it.

Celebrating, Mormon Style!

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