Sunday, June 2, 2013

Come Hell(-ish Wind) or High Water

For those of you living under a rock (or in another part of the world), the Midwest has been hit with some pretty gnarly weather this last few days.  We have had severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, generally high winds, lots of rain and flooding.  It did not bode well for a girl attempting her first century.  All week I was somewhat obsessively checking the weather forecast.  While it seemed pretty certain that I would ride in some amount of rain, the severe storms had me wondering if I would be able to ride at all.  Getting wet is one thing (and scary enough as I’ve never really ridden in the rain and wasn’t sure how that would change bike handling), but lightening was likely a deal breaker.

A couple days before the event, the Tour de Cure organizers sent out a revised century route due to flooded roads.  Instead of starting the hills about mile 50, they would start about mile 12 and go on and on.  My anxiety was at all new highs – full on nausea due to nerves.  But I told myself I was going to just get it done – come hell or high water. 

Oh how I wish I hadn’t had THAT thought.  We made arrangements for our kids to spend the night and day with friends (much better than my dear husband having to listen to them whine about being bored).  We dropped off my daughter as a nasty storm was heading into our area (and stretched from OK to IL).  We heard reports of large hail and high winds and decided to go back home and wait an hour to leave.  We watched the big radar blog marching along I-70 leaving havoc in its wake and then got in the truck and basically followed it.

We never completely caught the storm, but by the time we got to St. Louis, we were RIGHT behind it.  We stopped at a McD’s in Alton for a late dinner and then checked in at the hotel.  We showered and got ready for bed.  The Comfort Inn was a bit of a dump.  It did have a mini-fridge so we chilled my Gatorade for the next day.  It had two teensy beds so we voted to sleep separately.  Sleep was not to come though. The room was kind of hot and humid and the a/c cycled frequently with jet engine-like sound.  This was not to bode well for my event either.

When I got tired of looking at the clock at 5 AM, I got up and dressed and went to the breakfast area in the hotel.  It wasn’t officially open, but I snagged a banana and peanut butter which is about all I thought I could keep down given my jumpy stomach.  Watched the news of all the destruction from the night before – 100,000 people out of power, roofs off a Holiday Inn and a casino and lots of homes.  It was a mess!  Woke my husband up and finished preparing for my long day.  Headed out to the event just before six.  Packet pickup line was short and didn’t take long at all.  We stood around for a bit and then there was some pre-event info and the Red Riders (though riding with diabetes) lead us out.  GO RED RIDERS!
Not paying attention while buckling helmet - sis holding bike
Almost time to go
It was cloudy and lightly raining as we started.  The lead out group took a wrong turn out of the parking lot and led us in a circle around the venue back to the start – oops!  Then we were finally out on the riverfront road.  It started raining harder, but the flat terrain made it easy to push a larger gear and just make as much forward progress as I could.  The visor on my helmet did quite a bit to keep the water out of my eyes.  I wasn’t too cold even if the pelting rain was quite reminiscent of the SHITR.  The wind was at our side, but not too awful for most of the way out.  I wished that we were doing the original route as I felt great on that flat road.  I was dreading that first hill, but even after climbing it (somewhat breathlessly), I was still feeling great.  There was a lot of relatively flat rollers after that, but I stayed in the big ring for almost all of it (not crazy hills). 

I was tickled to death to zing past the first aid station and then the second just feeling fantastic.  I had an awesome average speed and had plenty of fluids left.  I ate a few Chomps and a half a waffle in there sometime.  About mile 31, I saw riders coming back towards me.  I knew the route didn’t have an out-and-back so what the hell.  They said the route was flooded and we were being re-routed.  I rode back the way I came and then I hit a section into the wind.  OMG – no wonder I had been feeling so good – serious tailwind on any portion going north.  My speed started dropping and my first signs of struggle appeared.  Then I saw ANOTHER bunch of riders coming towards me and telling me to go back the way I had come and look for a different road.  We went past the original route turn and went to a parallel road.  As we were cruising down this road, the SAG car appeared and told us we’d missed the turn.  The road we were looking for was on the original route.  My mental state took a dive as I realized I had just added about 8 miles.  But the guy assured me that they were having to cut the course down and it wouldn’t be 108 miles, but probably more like 75 (or 83 if you add my extra 8 miles).

As I went back down the original road, I heard that sound no cyclist wants to hear. PPFFFSSSTTTT!  Flat rear tire.  I started to panic as I have never really changed a flat. But here came the SAG.  The guy helped me get my wheel off and started trying to change my tire, but one of my levers broke.  So we stopped another cyclist who I was then handed off to in order to finish the tire change so the SAG could move ahead and try to get the revised route marked.  My guardian angel was named Mark.  He was part of Gus’s Gang team and was an experienced century guy (7 last year alone).  He said he’d ride with me – first, to make sure the tire held and second, to make sure I finished my first century (or as close as the route would allow).

But this stop was the beginning of my mental downfall.  It was a tough time getting going again.  I ate a little and drank a little, but probably not enough.  I started feeling soreness in my knees and my left Achilles along with all the usual places.  We got to the next rest stop and I grabbed some food and refilled a bottle.  Just after that, we passed two guys working on another flat (all the debris on the roads was torture for tires).  I pedaled ahead knowing they would probably catch me at some point.  But that riding alone, INTO the wind, in the middle of nowhere (seriously no humans for about as far as the eye could see) was very demoralizing.  They caught me as I rolled into the next town about 13 miles later blowing by me like I was barely pedaling.  I pulled into the rest stop fighting back tears.

I cried a little while I texted my husband that I was at mile 52 and struggling.  I ate a couple little sandwiches (ham on dollar rolls – actually pretty great).  I also had a banana because not much else (even chips and cookies) sounded good.  I had some plain water which was a nice break from the Gatorade.  I went to the bathroom (which kind of gagged me it was gross).  Threw up a tiny bit as I walked back to my bike and got on again.  Everything was starting to hurt and my mental state was shit.  But the food put a little bit of hope in me as did the fantastic volunteers.

We headed out again.  We ran into a guy with a shredded tire who couldn’t describe where he was to the SAG wagon (since the various reroutes had us all confused) and was hiking with his bike on his shoulder to try to get a better phone signal.  We told him about how far he was from the last rest stop to see if that helped when he called them back.  We saw him ride by in the van a little while later so I guess it did.  The hills and wind were continuing to crush my spirit and body.  I may have cried some more, prayed, whined, and wished for it to be over.  Mark generously tried to chat a few times to take my mind off of it, but part of me just wanted to be left alone in my misery.

But eventually, we rode into the last aid station.  The shredded tire guy was there getting a new tire from the awesome bike guys and headed out to finish as we rolled in.  I sat on a bench and cried again as I texted my husband that I was being told there was only about 13 miles to go.  He said he was at the finish and cheered me on again.  I told him I was glad he hadn’t met me out on the course because I’d have thrown my bike in his truck and given up.  Nothing sounded good to eat so I ate a cookie I had stashed from the previous stop and had some more plain water.  Finally headed out with a guy that I think had done the 50 on a hybrid (and he wasn’t a small guy).  The only thing that buoyed my spirits a little was the thought that we were “almost done”.  That only lasted until the first hill.  We managed to pretty much stay together which was good because pretty soon we were back in Alton.  This was a bit of a mind-fuck though because we got back to town a long damned time (and a few more hills) before we were at the finish.  Lots of stop signs and stoplights to go through plus a roundabout so it was nice to have others riding with me.

I had thought in my mind that we would be done at mile 83 on my watch.  But we passed that and then the mental low was deeper (kind of like the Kicks In The Sticks last year with the last 0.5 mile really being over a mile).  I almost called my husband to come get me since I knew I wasn’t far from him.  One stoplight, the tears were coming I just wanted to be done so badly.  The final downhill was super steep and kind of terrifying as the rain had started up again.  Then we took a turn into the parking lot instead of taking the road around so we got to climb one last hill to cut over to the finish line.  I was a bit of a mess as I rolled in to the cheers of my family.  I wanted to smile for their pictures, but I was hurting and so relieved to be done.  I looked at my Garmin – 85.5 miles.  I’m not sure I could have done the full 100. 
Rolling in down the sidewalk since we missed the turn onto the road
Trying to make sure I can unclip since I am so tired
I want to smile for the pics, but I'm in tears here.
Pulled it together to smile for a pic with my guardian angel - Mark
I pulled it together and introduced Mark to my husband and thanked him again for helping me with my flat and my ride.  I changed into my flip flops, emptied my pockets, wiped off my legs (mud/grime everywhere – looked like those guys from the Cedar Cross!) and went to look for the massage tent while my Sherpa took everything back to the truck.  The massage folks were gone so I grabbed some food.  The stir fry wasn’t too good so I dumped that and headed for a hot dog.  Grabbed my shirt and met up with my husband to head home. 

As we drove west, we saw probably over a hundred linemen trucks going east to help with the destruction.  It also got sunnier and less cloudy/rainy as we headed home.  I thanked God that the sun didn’t bake me at any part of the day (though the crusty salt on my face showed I still sweated plenty).  I rested some and then we stopped at Hwy 19 to get gas.  Then we went next door to the McD’s and I went to the bathroom and changed out of my chafing bike shorts and got a coke.  We got home pretty early so we told our friends that our kids could come home.  I had also been disappointed that the Qdoba folks had left the finish area before I got there so we headed out for Mexican for dinner.  I ate my weight in chips/cheese.

Slept pretty good after putting some Biofreeze on my legs and popping some ibuprofen.  Still tired and sore, but happy to have come close to finishing a century.  I gave it all I had to complete what I was given.  I definitely should have done some longer rides.  Still not sure if my being an emotional mess through the last half was from the lack of sleep the night before, not taking in enough food/drink, PMS, thinking about my dad a lot, lack of training or what. 

Thank you to all who have supported me on this journey.  Probably not doing anything the next few days while I rest up, but then it will be time to dive into Show Me Games training (especially getting my happy ass back in the pool since my arm is finally healed).

Swimming = 10,000 yds = 5.7 mi
Biking = 822.1 miles
Running = 92.0 miles




  1. You did AWESOME! I am SO very proud that you persevered in such awful conditions. You are a rockstar & you gave it a century effort!

  2. Those roads can be terrible when water washes debris over them. Glad you had someone to help you out with the flat and to keep you company for a while. Not knowing where the heck you're going can really add to stress. I know it did for me towards the end of Cedar Cross. Good job logging 85...if you can do that you can do 100.

  3. Way to perservere through adversity! While it was tough and unpleasant, now you know you are capable of gutting it out when things get tough. 85 miles is impressive!

  4. Way to step up and get it done -- I never ride when it's wet, too chicken. Poorly marked routes are so stressful as well. Kudos on finishing it!

  5. Great job! I am not a wet weather riding had to have been nerve-wracking for you. And a nice long one, too!