Sunday had all the makings of a disaster. I have really cut back riding the last 3 or 4 weeks. My last few rides over 30 miles have not been too great. I ate Mexican food for dinner last night but didn't get the rice, so I didn't really carbo load at all. I drank a large chocolatey caramely espresso coffee sugar-bomb thing at 9:30 Saturday night, resulting in me trying to go to sleep at 11:45, but tossing and turning until 1:30. The alarm clock went off at 5:20. By 6 I was out the door and headed to Ottawa for the Starved Rock Cycling Association's annual Pumpkin Pie Ride. It's a popular ride with JBC members and this year is the first I'd heard of it.
No rain was in the forecast, but the high wasn't expected to get past the mid-50s with NE winds around 10mph. They didn't make the route available prior to ride day, but I expected it to go west, meaning a return into a crosswind at the minimum. I got to the starting point (the YMCA) at about 6:40 and got in line to register. They had a large route map on the wall, and much to my surprise, the route headed NE! This meant a headwind on the way out, but a glorious tailwind on the way back. I am firmly in the camp of "get the wind out of the way ASAP". In my opinion, it's so much better to deal with headwinds while fresh at the beginning of a ride rather than struggle with them at the end.
I saw Janet from JBC right away. She would be riding with her brother-in-law and a few friends. I saw Jeff from JBC soon thereafter. Jeff and I had both ramped down time in the saddle the last several weeks, so we decided to ride together, and told Janet we might catch up with them later.
When we left at just after 7am it was 38 degrees. I was very thankful for the trip to Performance Bike the night before. I was sporting my new light-mid weight windbreaker, the new head liner (big enough to cover my ears) and my neoprene shoe covers. I had cycling pants on (no shorts!), a long-sleeved base layer, a short-sleeved jersey, arm warmers, and light wool socks. I busted out the thick gloves as well, bringing the thin full-fingered ones for later. The first five miles were brutally cold. I couldn't believe that just five weeks earlier I was riding a century in temps that were 60 degrees hotter. The wind that I was happy to see would be in our face for the first 30 miles instead of the second 30 didn't disappoint. It was rough. And cold. Cold. Cold. More out of the N than NE, though.
Before we had even made it two miles from the start we encountered our first hill. Now... I am no longer afraid of hills and actually look forward to them once in a while, but to have one this early on such a cold day was just cruel. It was much more difficult than it should have been if for no other reason than my leg muscles weren't even close to warmed up. After about 5 or 6 miles we caught up to Janet and her group and rode with them a few miles.
Around mile 20 I started wondering if I had zoned out and passed the rest stop. I was starving. Thankfully, a couple miles later we rode into the small town of Sheridan and the rest stop. Refilled my water and gatorade bottles, then hit the food. Half a banana, a PBJ, a cookie, and some apples/caramel dip. And the potato soup. As I mentioned in the live updating post, the potato soup was awesome. It was nothing but rehydrated packaged soup, but as cold and hungry as I was, it seemed it was the best thing I've eaten in ages. As someone on bikeforums put it : "A word on the potato soup -- it was simultaneously the absolute worst canned/dried soup ever and yet, the absolute best tasting, best rest stop food you could desire. I know, odd. I guess you have to ride the ride on a cold morning to believe me. Really."
After a 15-20 minute break we took off for the last 10 miles into the wind. Up to that point my average speed was 13.4. When we finally reached the turnaround point and started heading SW back to Sheridan and the rest stop I was elated. Instantly I was doing 20 mph. It was about this time I noticed it was after 10:00. I said I'd be home by 1pm and it wasn't looking good. Jeff was fine with me taking off since he wasn't going to risk bonking from redlining. So I took off alone. A mile later I got in behind a couple of guys on a tandem and proceeded to haul ass for a few miles while getting a rest, averaging 22-24 mph. It was pretty much the only time I drafted anyone - there was no paceline involvement on this ride, so it was a nice, fun, easy few miles.
I pulled back into the rest stop, anxious for more of the yummy soup. I was devastated when I discovered they had lost power and only gotten it back a few minutes earlier, meaning cold soup. Instead, I filled my water and gatorade bottles and attacked the PBJ sandwiches, eating three. I also had another half a banana and a few apple slices. I removed the arm warmers and switched gloves since I was a bit warm, but opted to keep the shoe covers on since my feet were still a bit cold. As I was getting ready to leave Jeff came in, and then Janet and her group. A few minutes later I saw Mark, another JBC member. We all chatted for a few minutes and I took off for the YMCA.
This last 20 miles was pretty lonely. I only encountered four other cyclists during this time. One within a mile of leaving the rest stop and the other three within two miles of the end. The other 17 miles I was alone - just me and (mostly) a tailwind. During one particular stretch I was unsure if I was even on the right road, as I saw no one else and there were no road markings to reassure me. I finally saw a marker after about 15 minutes of riding, thankful that I hadn't gone four or five miles off course.
The last few miles were a little tough but not that bad. As I rode through Ottawa the last mile and a half or so, I again saw no markings. It was almost as if they ran out of paint ;). I pulled into the parking lot a little after noon. 63.24 miles total. I went inside to get my piece of pumpkin pie, which I promptly wolfed down before heading home.
Overall I really enjoyed this ride. The route had some nice scenic parts, and it was a bit hillier than anything I have ridden previously. The route layout was also interesting in that there was only one rest stop, which I imagine made it easier logistically. One thing I haven't run into much happened twice today - dogs. One of them wasn't listening to its owner at all and really wanted a chunk out of the guy in front of me. She finally got it to back off. Still, it's scary, so I think I'll look into getting some of that spray, since 90% of my riding is on farm roads, where dogs run free.
The rest of the information can be found here.