We watched the forecast calling for 90s the day of the race, and suddenly 140 miles seemed like a long way indeed. The ride would start at 6 am in SLC, and then made its way south, near our house, down to Utah Lake, and then all the way along the lake to Elberta. There we would turn around and do it all over again to get back. The forecast was also calling for south winds, which would speed me back home if I could just get to the turnaround! But it's a ride, not a race, so I could use the help of the peloton to help fight the wind and go faster.
|Sunrise over Salt Lake City|
Jim, by the way, was enjoying cruising with the peloton until about mile 5, when he hit a nasty patch of gravel on a downhill and flatted both tires. :( After trying to fix them repeatedly, he realized that he had actually shattered his carbon rim and was out for good. I didn't know until later but he would spend the day getting his bike into the repair shop, very disappointed not to get to finish the ride.
Meanwhile, I was redlining the first hour trying to keep up with the peloton and thinking they were going really fast. We averaged 22 mph and that was with stops at red lights! I realized why later...the leaders knew we needed to beat the strong south winds to Elberta before it got really gusty. But after an hour of riding with everyone, I made the crucial mistake of cruising down a hill rather than speeding up. The lack of momentum on the subsequent uphill made me terribly slow, and the entire peloton sprinted ahead and were out of sight before I could blink. Never to be seen again.
I felt like I was now the last person on the course. With 115 miles to go I settled down to a solo ride. But of course I wasn't last, and occasional small groups of riders would catch up to me. I tried to stick with them, but I just wasn't fast enough usually. So I spent a good part of the first half getting dropped by every group that passed me. They were mostly guys, so I didn't feel too bad...but a little bad. Sometimes I would stick on the back wheel for a mile or three. Sometimes I couldn't even catch their wheel at all....they would pass me like I was standing still!
The day started to heat up, and it was nice to get to the first water stop at mile 37. I knew I was now more than halfway to the turnaround...breaking the distance into smaller chunks is good for the psyche. The ride, which had a few small hills so far, flattened out along Utah Lake as I turned the corner to the west. From here I could see Elberta! Bad news...I was still 20 miles away. It was so clear and so flat that distances were deceiving.
But the miles clicked off pretty fast and I was averaging a faster speed than I had hoped for. Even better, there seemed to be no wind...I stopped once, in disbelief that the air was totally still! Too good to last though, as with about 6 miles to go to Elberta, the wind finally kicked up, right on schedule at 10 am. Suddenly I realized why the peloton had been riding so hard to beat this nasty headwind. I struggled against it alone, seeing riding coming back already from the checkpoint. Luckily with 3 miles to go, two guys caught up to me (they had been fixing a flat earlier) and I determined to stick with them to fight the headwind. It is really, really nice to tuck in behind a wheel and suddenly go a few mph faster with less effort! I did take a few turns at the front but I was grateful for the help.
The checkpoint at the turnaround was well stocked with snacks, but I didn't stay long. It seemed a shame to not be riding, now with a tailwind! The tents were threatening to fly away, the day was getting quite hot already at 10:30 am, and I wanted just one thing...to get to the finish line.
It was a breeze going back north this time....I didn't care if I had a peloton, I was going 25 mph and I held that speed for almost an hour. It was like I had a sail or something. A rider near me said he hoped it would never end. I wasn't sure if a never ending bike ride was a good thing, but flying along on a flat road felt pretty nice. I had time now to count the dead snakes on the road (three), and evaluate the bunny population (lots of expired ones on the road), and swerve to avoid a sheep in the middle of the road with a broken leg (yikes).
Back along the lake, the wind wasn't quite as strong or as helpful, but it blew me into the food stop at mile 102 about as fast as I could have dreamed it. I downed a Dr. Pepper, subway sandwich, cookie and chips while talking to a man who had helped pace me earlier in the day. Didn't stay long though, it was uphill to the finish and there were 38 miles left. I did most of them alone, but finally stuck with a group in the middle. I felt really strong, but hot. At each water stop, I would fill my bottle with ice, and then top it off with water. This felt blessedly cool to drink for about 10 minutes before it melted and got hot again. Luckily water stops and volunteers came at regular intervals...it was hot.
Even drinking a lot of water wasn't enough for my effort levels over the day. For a while now, if I stood up and straightened my leg to stretch it, my muscles would lock up and cramp. Nothing for it but to keep riding. A bit of shade during the final few miles was welcome, but the short-but-steep hills were not. I slowed for a couple of deer crossing the road (in the middle of SLC!) and then sprinted to the finish line with a flourish. My time for this not-a-race was 9 hours 30 minutes, faster than I had hope by a ways!
|A water stop in Sandy|