Pedal Another Mile

Bicycling, death, life after death.

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44.64 Miles 05/29/11 - Bike the Drive

So after Saturday's 46 miles, half of it a hammerfest, and an afternoon/evening of eating poorly and drinking beer at a party, I decided that if the rain for Sunday looked like it was going to hold off and if I heard the alarm clock go off at 3:45 am, I'd drive downtown and participate in the annual Bike the Drive, something I'd wanted to do since beginning riding again in 2008.  It's for a good cause (raising funds for the Active Transportation Alliance) and besides just being plain cool - riding my bike on Lake Shore Drive - it would give me some practice riding in crowds of cyclists which is good prep for RAGBRAI.

I woke up at 3:30 (before the alarm clock) and checked the radar, which looked like rain would hold off at least through the morning hours.  It did mention a dense fog advisory, so I checked several Chicago-based webcams and saw none.  I decided I'd get up and go do this, even on less than five hours of sleep.  The ride kicked off at 5:30 and I still had to register. I checked and double-checked that I had everything and set off for downtown at 4:10.    I backed out of the garage... "Hey! No fog! Great!"

I spoke too soon.  About halfway into the city it began and never stopped.  To make matters worse, I remembered as I pulled into the parking garage that the screw for the GoPro mount was sitting in the garage.  How on earth was I going to make it not fly off my stem when I hit the first bump?  This sucks.  I found a paperclip on the floor of my truck and determined that it would at least make sure it stayed on my bike but would not keep it fixed in position.  I decided I'd just try and keep an eye on it and see what happened.  After all, with this fog, I wasn't going to get great shots anyway.

After paying my registration fee I got into the Southbound starting lane.  A few minutes later the announcer gave us the go-ahead.  It was at this point the only crash I'd see all morning happened.  That's right- someone in the Northbound lane crashed before even crossing the starting line.  Poor guy.

The first 1/2 mile was frightening just due to the sheer number of people all starting at once.  Thankfully LSD has many lanes and I decided to haul ass in the left to get ahead of the crowd a bit.  The weather was abysmal.  Not only was it very foggy but it was 48 degrees.  I was in shorts but (unlike yesterday) was wise enough to have a jacket.  This was soaked pretty quickly but still helped.  About 5 miles in I decided there was no way to keep my sunglasses on - they just kept getting covered in water droplets.  Taking off my glasses also meant losing my rear-view mirror which had me a bit concerned, but not as much as riding at 20mph directly into a pothole because I didn't see it.

Bike the Drive starts at Grant Park and heads North and South.  It is 7.5 miles to each end point.  This gives participants the option of a 15 or 30 mile ride.  It also gives faster riders the option for 45 or 60.  As I stated earlier, I opted for South first.  The turn-around was at the Museum of Science and Industry.  While I was cold, I had plenty of fluids left and wasn't hungry, so I skipped the rest stop and headed to the Northbound turnaround, 15 miles away.  Once there I decided I needed some food and a restroom break.  Two bananas and a couple mini muffins later I set off for the start point. 

As miserable as I was, I decided I'd take the south route again.  This would give me another 40+ mile day and I'd ride through discomfort - something I may be forced to do during RAGBRAI if the weather is bad.

I was riding at a very fast pace for me, with very little of it drafting behind others.  It was as if I finally found my legs this weekend!  The last 7.5 miles from the south turnaround to the start/end point was quite fun as I finally had a partner to take turns drafting.  He was completely his second full loop - 60 miles.  He was flying.

Could I have done the north route again?  Maybe, but I had had enough for the day.  I decided to check out some vendor tents for a few minutes, but quickly started to shiver.  It was 48 and I was no longer riding to keep warm.  I called it a day and headed back to the truck (after another banana and a bottle of Muscle Milk - which is not good, BTW).

Today's ride was my fastest average of the year - 17.1.  Again, much of this was not due to a paceline.  I was quite pleased with this.

OK now for the multimedia goodies...

The photos (click on one to launch viewer):


The time lapse video (the song was actually added on youtube - I had never heard it before but think it fits well):

And the map/stats/other stuff:

Frozen Pumpkin Pie

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.



  • Distance 63.2 mi
  • Elevation Gain 2,485 ft
  • Elapsed Time 05:02:51
  • Moving Time 04:04:47
  • Resting Time 00:58:04
  • Average Speed 15.5 mph
  • Max Speed 30.9 mph

The rest of the information can be found here.

Pumpkin Pie Metric Live Updating

Well I'm at the first rest stop. 22 miles in. Started just after 7. It was 38 degrees with N winds. Ouch. Anyway, I'm feeling pretty good so far. The potato soup is absolutely fabulous.

10 more miles of headwinds and then it's tailwind city!

Update 2: Back at the rest stop. 43 miles done. I feel really good, all things considered. I had to leave my riding partner Jeff because I need to be home by 1. The rest stop lost power so the great soup is cold (booooo!!!). Oh well - 20 miles to go and then it's time for the pumpkin pie!

Update 3: Done! More later.

Last minute metric, anyone?

Well, it appears I am going to try to do the 62 mile route at the Starved Rock Cycling Club's annual Pumpkin Pie ride tomorrow. I'm a little concerned for a few reasons. First, I have not been cycling anywhere near as much as I had been. September has been a crazy month and I've been lucky to get out once a week. Second, I haven't prepared for a longer ride all week. No hydrating, no carb loading, no 8 or 9 hours of sleep. Lastly, the bottom dropped out of our mild weather. Tomorrow morning is looking to be starting off in the mid-30s getting to mid-50s and with 10-15mph winds from the NE. While I am not sure of the route, I imagine it will start out heading west, meaning the second half will be into the wind. Luckily, I got to use my $50 coupon at Performance Bike Shop tonight. I picked up a helmet liner that covers my ears, leg warmers, and a light-mid weight windbreaker. So I should be ok temperature-wise at least.

And since this is a supported ride, with SAG wagons, rest stops, and the route being well marked, I don't have to worry about hanging on to a pace line that's going too fast. I'll just let them drop me :D

Wish me luck. Recap tomorrow.

Are we there yet? - a.k.a. My First Century

When I made my fitness goals for 2010 I had two cycling related ones - ride 1,000 miles and ride a metric century (100km or 62 miles).  My longest ride had been 51, so 62 didn't seem that far out of reach.  I completed my metric on July 31st.  63.5 miles by myself.  It was quite an adventure - maybe on a cold winter night I'll write about it.

Anyway, I joined the Joliet Bicycle Club in mid July and began group riding with them a few weeks later.  After several 40+ mile and a few 50+ mile rides with the club, a few members began making me believe I might be able to do something I wouldn't have imagined possible at the beginning of the year - ride an actual century.  They kept referring to "Bike Psychos" coming up at the end of August.  I began to believe the hype (or peer pressure)- that I could actually make it 100 miles on my bike in one ride.

I never actually committed, saying that if it wasn't too hot or windy I'd give it serious thought.  I still had doubts I could do it.  Just in case, I put in for a vacation day for the day after (in pencil, for if I were to go AND finish, I'd need Monday to rest).  As the month rolled on, early weather forecasts called for mostly sunny and temps in the 80s.  Not bad.  So I began researching on how to prepare for a century.  Mainly, the key in the week leading up to a century is to be well hydrated.  I already drink plenty of water, but I kicked it up a notch to be sure.

As the weekend approached, the weather started looking a little worse than I would have liked.  Upper 80s with 10mph winds from the south.  Still not a deal breaker - I was going to go for it.  Saturday morning I rode to my normal JBC meetup spot from home, a 6 mile trip.  I just wanted an easy spin to loosen up my legs - another tip I read for preparation.  I chatted with the group before they took off on the normal 44 mile ride and told them I'd look for them tomorrow.  The rest of the day I spent relaxing and carbo loading.  Double serving of oatmeal for breakfast, Thai with a lot of rice for lunch, and about half a pound of pasta for dinner.  I loaded up my truck with everything I'd need to leave at 5:40am for the trip to the start in Coal City, and went to bed at about 8pm.

5am reared its head and I got up, showered, ate another double serving of oatmeal, and headed out the door.  The morning was calm and comfortable.  Oh, if it had only stayed that way. 

I met two JBC members at the starting point in Coal City and we waited a few minutes to see if a 3rd was going to show up.  After a ride around the school grounds looking for him, we decided to head off about 7:15am.  The sun was just rising and there was little wind.  Temps were in the upper 60s.  It was a beautiful, calm, and quiet start to the ride.  Just what I needed.  The section from the start to the first SAG stop was very easy paced and uneventful.  I don't remember any hills at all.  I do remember how eerily quiet it was, and I also remember a black cat crossing the road about 100 yards in front of us, disappearing into the corn fields.  I jokingly mentioned how I hoped it wasn't an omen.  Before we knew it we had reached the first SAG stop (at about mile 12).  I needed to stop to get rid of my morning coffee and to take a hit off my inhaler.  I sometimes get a breathing issue after too much exercise and this medicine helps a lot.  I forgot to do it when we started and was just trying to prevent any issues later.  Better to do it now than NEED to do it later.  They sure had quite a spread laid out for us - and I began my impressive display of food consumption for the ride with a few chocolate chip cookies, a banana, and three slices of watermelon.  While at the SAG stop we ran into another JBC member who decided to join us.  Two other JBC members I hadn't met before joined as well.  Instantly our paceline doubled in size.

Soon after leaving the first stop we encountered the first of many hills.  I'm not too used to hills.  Sure, there's a few low rollers on my regular farm routes, but nothing too bad.  Since I began riding with JBC the Sunday ride from Channahon to Seneca has a real nasty one almost at the end, aptly named Cemetary Hill.  I had to walk it the first time but made it the second time, just a week earlier.  That hill behind us, we pedaled on.  The heat and wind picked up as the sun continued its march across the sky.  There wasn't a cloud in sight. 

It is at this time I feel I should share another tip to surviving a century I picked up online.  "Drink before you're thirsty and eat before you're hungry".  I hesitated bringing two water bottles since there were five SAG stops overall and water was plentiful at them.  To think I was debating bringing just one to save a measly pound and a half (a weight savings that would decrease with every sip) was just plain foolish. Let me be clear - there was NO way I finished that ride without both bottles. I also had five gel packs with me, and I used my second one between the first and second SAG stops.  I felt hungry and even had a growl or two from my stomach so I wasn't taking any chances.  I just made a mental note to eat a lot more at the next stop. 

At the second stop at Illini State Park in Marsielles (about mile 30) I drank and refilled my water bottle several times and began using one for gatorade.  The temps were still rising, the sun still blazing, the wind still blowing...I was going to need every calorie I could get my hands on.  I also chose this as the time to apply more chamois butt'r - a must to avoid saddle sores, which are something that could end your day (and week!) very quickly.  As for food?  Another three or four chocolate chip cookies, two pbj sandwiches, a dixie cup full of M&Ms, three more watermelon slices, and another banana.

[caption id="attachment_73" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The SAG stop at Illini State Park"]Illini SAG Stop[/caption]

Soon after leaving the second stop we encountered another hill.  This one seemed to go on forever.  Looking back at the GPS data it was a mile and a half.  Whew!  The wind picked up some more and the temperature kept climbing.  It was about this point I really started noticing that summer was rushing to an end - the corn stalks were almost all brown and the soybeans yellow.  How depressing.  Thankfully the 90 degree heat and unrelenting sun quickly snapped me back to reality.  This was starting to feel much warmer than upper 80s and it wasn't even 11am yet.

We rolled into the third stop, the halfway point!!! It was at Mathiessen State Park, a place I like to go hiking a lot.  It was here I ate like I was going to the chair- two bananas, three cookies, two large cups of pasta salad, three cups of M&Ms, more watermelon, and another pbj sandwich.  I noticed fatigue was starting to show in some faces at the stop - it was just so damn hot.  I borrowed some SPF 50 sunblock because my ears were starting to get crispy. 


Heading out of stop three, we actually had a tailwind for what seemed like the first time.  I discovered a funny thing about a tailwind on a day this hot and humid - I didn't really like it because it makes it seems 15 degrees hotter when the breeze isn't hitting your sweaty front.  Soon enough we were back in a crosswind, and headed towards a narrow, busy, potholed, and very scenic stretch of road leading to the very popular Starved Rock State Park.  Thankfully someone in our group was very familiar with the road ahead, and warned us that things were about to get very very scary, and to not take the upcoming downhill portions lightly.  Boy, he wasn't kidding.  VERY steep downhills on this very rough road was a little intimidating, and once the road smoothed out, there was a ridiculous hairpin turn that I went through at about 23mph with both brakes on.  Going wide on this turn meant one of two fates: either head-on into oncoming traffic or into the guardrail.  And if you ended up going over the guardrail it was more than a 100 ft drop to the Illinois River.  This turn had the honor of being the most scenic portion of the entire ride.  Unfortunately I was only able to take it in for about .23 seconds.  As we waited at the bottom to regroup, one fellow cyclist half-jokingly exclaimed that his rims had to be 200 degrees due to the friction of the brakes.

I found a picture online that doesn't really do it justice, but I was in no position to take one myself!

[caption id="attachment_66" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The hairpin on Rt. 71"]Rt 71 Hairpin[/caption]

A map view (it's the second one):

The turns

About five miles later one of our group broke ahead of us about 1/8 mile or so.  I noticed a mean, nasty looking hill looming on the right.  I mentioned to one of the riders that the guy out front had better keep going straight.  A few seconds later I saw his right arm come out, indicating a right turn, straight up this hill.  I cursed, rather loudly.  It was a bitch to be sure, but I made it.  At the top of the hill I noticed we were at mile 62.  I had completed my second metric century.  Another couple of miles and I'd be on the longest ride of my life.  It was about this time an ambulance and fire truck went blazing by us.  We learned a few minutes later that a cyclist had crashed into a guardrail.  There was no more information.  I only hoped he or she was ok and it wasn't the guardrail on that hairpin. 

One in the group really started looking fatigued at this time.  We encouraged her to keep it up, to drink water, and to promise that she was ok and would tell us if she wasn't.  I felt bad, as I think I was responsible for talking her into the 100 mile route.  I think she showed up planning to do the 70 mile route.

At mile 70 we were back at the Illini State Park SAG stop.  Somehow, the temps were hotter yet, and the wind had picked up.  The weather forecasters had screwed the pooch yet again.  The winds were most definitely over 10 mph and the temps were well past the upper 80s.  The little puffs of white clouds were nowhere near the sun.  It was inescapable.  I drank at least four full 24 oz bottles of water at this stop, along with more cookies, more M&Ms, and more bananas.  Moods improved, and our fatigued rider showed very good signs of improvement, both physically and mentally.  We were going to do this thing! 

A mile out of the stop, we encountered another hill.  Do you sense a pattern here?  I exclaimed that they should consider changing the name from "Bike Psychos Century" to "Morale Crusher 100".  Oh yeah - this hill was THREE miles long.  By the time she made it up all improvement just four miles earlier was gone.  Temps were now in the mid-90s and the wind was blowing 15-25.  Apparently it's a good place for wind, as there is a wind farm at the top of this hill.  I told the rest of the group to go on and I'd stay with her.  She told me to go on as well, but there was no way I was leaving her out here by herself.  We pushed on, slowly but moving forward.  The number of other cyclists we encountered had begun to dwindle.  It was a really lonely stretch of the route.  At one point she asked that we rest under a tree up ahead, the first shade we had seen in miles.  I headed towards it, left the road, and noticed two giant dogs launch out of a garage towards me.  I ran like hell back onto the road and started pedaling as fast as I could without being clipped in.  They stopped at the road, so I still have all my flesh.  Another mile or so up I saw a bit of shade.  We pulled over, and at this point I knew she was not going to be able to finish.  She gave it her all and I was proud of her, but now she was scaring me a little.  She looked like she was suffering from heat stroke.  She asked if there was a way to contact a SAG wagon to come and get her.  I got our location off my iPhone and contacted the number on the cue sheet.  We were at mile 80.  They said they'd send someone out.  She told me to go on again, that she could wait for SAG alone.  I refused.  We were literally in the middle of nowhere.  After threatening to throw away a gel pack if she didn't take one, she had that, some more water, and electrolyte pills from a passing cyclist.  She was still dizzy but seemed to be getting better.  The SAG wagon showed up and got her bike on the rack and her in the A/C of the car.  I took off for the last rest stop.  About five minutes later I realized I made a huge mistake - the slower pace and stops caused me to drink all of both bottles save for an ounce or two of 100+ degree gatorade.  That wasn't the mistake - not asking the SAG wagon for a refill was.  I now had about 10 miles to go in 95 degree heat with no water.  I decided to chance hauling ass to get there quicker than risk a slower pace taking longer.  About halfway to the last stop I rode up next to a guy from Joliet riding by himself.  He was doing the 124 mile (200km) route.  We found each other at the right time, as the last miles into the rest stop flew by in no time due to our conversation.

As I pulled into the last rest stop the majority of my group was still there.  They waited for me to get a whole bunch of water, another two bananas, and some more cookies.  After a few minutes I exclaimed "let's get this over with!" and we rode out.  Just about 13 miles to go. 

No hills out of this stop.  Nope.  Just three miles directly into 20+ mph headwinds.  If I hadn't sweat out all the liquid in my body I would have cried.  About mile 96 my body finally realized this was almost over.  Everything started hurting or locking up.  Fingers, wrists, shoulders, upper back, quads, right foot.  When I finally did it - hit 100 miles on the odometer - I resisted temptation to call for a SAG pickup, even though there were only a few miles left.

One last right turn and I saw the elementary school where we started.  I had done it!  I noticed that my friend who stopped at mile 80 waited to make sure I got back.  We chatted for a bit and she looked MUCH better.  I was very happy about that.  I looked down and noticed my Garmin had a low battery warning.  I think I would have collapsed had that battery died before I finished. I asked the staff for an update on the injured cyclist back at Starved Rock.  He hit the support beam of the guardrail, tearing his pectoral muscle.  He was conscious and being kept overnight for observation.  Good news!

As I was loading up my truck, a little girl about 6 or 7 years old was crossing the street near me to go to the park.  She asked why there were so many bicycles there today.  I told her there was a club ride that went all the way past Starved Rock and back.  She asked how many times I did it.  I told her just once, that it was 103 miles.  Her jaw dropped open and she sadi, "WHY would you do that?!?"  I really didn't know how to answer that :)  But I'm glad I did it, nonetheless.

Backing out of the parking spot, all I could think about was getting several large Coke Zeros from McDonalds for the ride home.  So I did.[caption id="attachment_75" align="aligncenter" width="222" caption="Four Large Coke Zeros"]Coke Zeros![/caption]

So that's it.  On August 29, 2010, I completed my first century.  102.8 miles, to be exact. I did something at 39 I couldn't have done at 29.  Or 21 for that matter.  And I'm pretty damned proud of myself.



  • Elapsed Time
  • 09:25:57
  • Moving Time
  • 07:07:41
  • Resting Time
  • 02:18:16
  • Average Speed
  • 14.4 mph
  • Max Speed
  • 32.9 mph

The rest of the information can be found here.