It's become readily apparent that any day that begins with Coach Mike saying something like, "Bike, 5-6 hours, HR zone 1-2" is sure to hold many adventures. This weekend's long ride certainly lived up to the challenge. It can be added to the "Ooops, the road is gone" issue of my bike around Lake Winnebago and the "Hey, 90 degree right turns are hard to make at 45 mph" situation from WIBA 2007. Then again, all the challenges of last weekend resulted in my Vittoria tires being wrecked, and this ride was on brand new Continental Ultra Racers.
Any ride longer than a few hours takes some amount of planning. Since I am loathe to bike in circles, I spend a great deal of time plotting out 80-100 mile routes. This weekend, a section with youth from the tri club had to be added into the mix. After a lot of browsing through maps, I laid out an 85 mile route complete with a good number of slow rolling hills.
The ride started out at a very easy pace, as I was biking with one of the youth, and he was on a mountain bike. In addition, we were headed into a fairly stiff headwind. It took just under an hour to complete the first eight miles to get him to his house. And I knew that I would have to spend much of the next 30 miles heading into the same wind.
Once I was on my own, I kicked the pace up, and started the tough training. Some of the hills were more than I expected, and the wind kept the pace down in the 16 mph range. Of course, the adventures of the day were still to come.
That first fun situation happened around 20 miles into the ride. I started to make one of my turns and thought, "Yeah, new blacktop." Followed immediately by, "Why is that new blacktop so wavy?" I was already slowing as my wheels hit what appeared to be very fine black gravel. Apparently, in some places they are unable to afford actual blacktop, so they spread nice black gravel/sand on the road to make it LOOK new. It might look nice, but it's brutal for biking.
After getting through that, and dealing with one minor glitch in the route, I hit one of the larger cities on the ride. After riding by Jellystone Park (yes, THE Jellystone, complete with Yogi and BooBoo), I saw a sign indicating one of my turns was coming. Where I thought I should turn, I saw two important sings. One said the road was now the "Jellystone Recreational trail." The other said the road had no outlet. I figured the road I wanted must be somewhere up the road. Only it couldn't be, because of what I DID know of the course. I crossed a highway I shouldn't have crossed, yet, and went about a mile before turning around. Heading back, I saw a similar sign indicating Railroad Grade Road, and decided to take the "recreational trail."
What started out as a nice blacktop road soon turned to a gravel trail. However, I could see that about a half-mile up the road, it was blacktop, again. I walked the bike to the blacktop, only to find out it was just enough to turn around. Well, that and hold the reflector posts indicating the dead end.
I grabbed the phone and put in a call to my sister. "Help, operator, I need an exit!" Helpful as she was, my sister only found the same information I already knew. Googlemaps was missing some fairly important details about this route. Luckily, a guy at the cabin right at the dead end had a county plot map. Oddly, it also showed the road I was on as continuing through what was plainly NOT a road. He also indicated that I was actually the FIFTH biker that day on the same route.
After thanking my sister for her help, and determining that the road I needed was on the other side of a little used path along some high tension wires, I began the cyclocross portion of the ride. I grabbed the Pol-R Express and started the half-mile trip down the overgrown path. Luckily, there wasn't any actual swamp, though the last 20 feet had me nervous. I was also, apparently, the fifth biker to take this path.
The rest of the ride was comparatively mundane. It is notable that the first 45 miles of the ride took four hours. The next 44 miles took just under two hours. That's headwind, for you.
And now, since it has taken nearly two and a half hours to write this post, it's time to deal with the causes of delay. Ahhh, the life of pursuing Ironman while raising two toddlers...