There’s suffering and then there’s suffering… but before we get to the gory details, let’s get the pics out of the way…
I explored new territory yesterday and found some new things:
A lake… known as Lake St. Louis. Very nice roads around here, all with bike lanes.
And here’s some history… didn’t know video stores existed anymore. Obviously, this isn’t quite the historical maker that our resident Graham Watson Steve gives us, but it’s all I gots.
Then I crossed over this cool stretch of railroad.
As I got farther away from suburbia, I found a place where I would later wish I was fishing at instead of riding by.
After the river came the corn fields. Not the sunflowers of Le Tour, but still a nice ride (at this point).
And finally, the rollers of eastern Missouri. As much fun as these were on the “Out,” they would do me in on the “Back.”
Sunday night I went to bed around 10:30pm with the plan to be up and out the door by 6:30am, going for a 45-50 mile ride. I say went to bed because I did. Sleep didn’t come until around 4am. Then I was up at 7:something and knew I wasn’t going riding.
But inspired (or fooled) by watching the Tour de France, I decided to ride. I packed 5 Gu’s, filled two water bottles with cold water (I was out of the amazing Skratch Labs), and rolled out around 10:30am.
I live in a new neighborhood these days and am still finding my riding areas. One of the best things about Strava is how you can click on other riders’s profiles and find all sorts of roads you never knew about. I had decided to try a new ride I’d found this very way.
It was a classic Out & Back. As I headed “out” I encountered a nasty headwind. Fizz’s Rules of Cycling #7 — if you have a headwind on the Out, it is inevitable you will have a headwind on the “back.”
But I pressed on, feeling very strong and riding well despite the extreme temps and humidity… when I started the ride it was 88 degrees with 94% humidity. By the end it was 97 degrees and 87% humidity. <<Foreshadowing!
As I left civilization and headed toward the corn fields and rural farmlands, I thought about topping off my water bottles…
I had no Skratch Labs magic mix today and knew it was hot, and I had (for some INSANE reason) chosen to wear my all black Rapha kit. But instead of stopping, instead of hurting my average speed (which at this point was nearly 18mph) I thought, “I’ve still got one full bottle and over half another, and according to my route map, I will be back here just about the time my water should be running out.”
I rode on. Seeing the sights of the pics above and thoroughly enjoying the empty roads of rollers — uuuppp and dooowwwnnn, uuuup and doowwwnnn…. the Goat and I were having a grand time.
At the point where I was to turn around and head back, I checked google maps on my iPhone and saw that if I went down this road here to my right, I could then make my Out & Back more of a loop — add another 6 or 8 miles to the ride and get back home in perfect time… see, I was to meet my kids at a specified time that day, and being a divorced dad nothing is more important than time with your kids.
So, I made the turn.
I rode along a very nice two-lane highway with a 2-foot wide bath lane, drinking and Gu’ing accordingly. About 8.2 miles later, I got to the road where I *thought* I would turn and thus begin my loop home…
The road wasn’t actually a road. Well, it was if you had a 4-wheel drive or possibly a mountain bike you didn’t give a crap about. I stopped and reevaluated. Checked my time – still okay; checked my water situation – just about out, hmm; checked my Gu – three left, good for about another 20some miles or 90 minutes of riding.
The only option was turning around and riding back where I came from. The 8.2 miles back to my original route. Off I went.
8.2 miles later, I noticed it was WAY hotter than it had been. My water was now gone, and I estimated that I was only about 6-8 miles from refreshing my water at a lone gas station I had seen earlier. No problem. Checked the clock again — so long as I kept a good pace, I should be able to get back to the gas station, rehydrate, Gu up, and then have the strength to cruise home in time to see the kids.
I could tell my pace was slowing. I could tell I was getting dehydrated. So I stopped again, checked my map, and saw that if I took this road here to my left I might be able to cut off a mile to the gas station. I knew the road was paved because I had seen it on my “Out” portion. So I made the turn.
What I hadn’t seen were the extreme rollers on this road.
About a mile and a half into this new direction – around mile 46 of the day’s ride – I started to not feel well. I could tell a bonk was coming on. If I didn’t get fueled soon, I was gonna bonk. I don’t like bonking. It’s happened twice in my cycling career and it SUCKS.
“I’ll just take it easy going up these rollers, then hit it hard going down – thus making up for the loss speed going up.”
Up and down, up and down… eventually, I got to the gas station. I refilled my empty bottles, and made yet another mistake… not drinking right there and then refilling again before I left. I just refilled and took off, worried about the time.
Before I even knew what was happening I was a few miles away from the gas station and had nearly finished all my new water. I could not quench my thirst. I had one Gu left and was saving it for the final 10 miles.
At mile 50, I downed my Gu and finished the last of my water. I cranked up the last serious roller of the day… and blew up. Cooked. Cracked. Baked.
My legs lost all ability to generate any power whatsoever. I was forced to spin in my easiest gears. My average speed dropped to around 7mph. I was done.
And still had another 16 miles to go.
I got to another gas station about 4 miles later, stumbled in and filled my bottles. I drank. A lot. But again – I think my brain was just off – I rode off without doing a second refill. I was now terrified of making it back in time to see my kids. I knew I would have to average at least 14mph to get there in time.
I knew if I stopped to rest and re-energize, I would miss them. Well, perhaps I should have purchased some protein or sugar or something at the freaking gas station??? Umm, Fizz’s Rules of Cycling #15 – Never leave for a long ride without money on you… I had violated that rule on this day.
I pressed on.
And things went from bad to worse.
Again, my water was gone before I knew it, but I was passed the point of being able to rehydrate myself. The weather was scorching, my legs were cooked, and even 2% grades felt like 14% beasts.
The harder I tried the worse it got.
With each pedal stroke I felt like my lungs were going to explode. I felt like my legs were made of burlap bags filled with sand. I felt like my bike was a single speed 56/11. If I got to 10mph it was a victory. And I seemed to be hitting every pothole and bump in the road.
I will pause here to give a shout out to my tires – MAXXIS RE-FUSE — simply THE BEST tires made. 900 miles without a flat, and because my brain was in such a fog, I was riding over every piece of broken glass, hitting every rock, doing everything to try and puncture these things. But they rolled on.
Finally, 1.4 miles from my house, I knew the chase was over. I wasn’t going to make it. I pulled over and sat down. I called my ex-wife and told her what happened. I broke down. I cried. She was great. Told me it was okay and the kids would understand and I could see them later at their final swim meet of the season. Okay, good. Now, I just had to get home.
I got up, tried to remount the Goat, but could not. Apparently, I must’ve looked pretty silly (or sick) trying to do this because moments later, an unmarked police car rolled up and asked if I was okay.
“I am not.”
The officer put my bike in the back and I took the Ride Of Shame that last 1.4 mile… when I got inside I grabbed a bottle of Mexican Coke I had in the fridge for a special occasion, and took about five hours to open it. I drank some, removed my kit and laid down naked on the kitchen floor.
For about 10 minutes.
Eventually, I drank the Coke, drank two bottles of water, sat on the floor of my shower for 20 minutes, and began to feel better.
That night I had a great time with my kids at their swim meet, though they all remarked that daddy needed to wear more sunscreen — my face and legs were the color of a ripe tomato.
All in all, it was a 66-mile ride (sans that last 1.4 mile) with 3,300 feet of gain. And the single worst bonk of my life.
I vow to you all that I will never again leave for a ride without more Gu than I need, without money in my saddle bag, and that I will top off my bottles NO MATTER how full they are whenever I have the chance.
I have written here about glory through suffering. How we fall in love with the suffering. Well, there are two types of suffering on the bike.
There is the *Good* suffering — like I did on RockStore last week… where you are suffering simply because of your effort. Because you are giving it more than your all.
Then there is the *Bad* suffering… where you are suffering for no other reason than you screwed up. Too hot, too humid, improper dress, lack of hydration, lack of nutrition, blah, blah, blah. This type of suffering SUCKS. There is no glory in it.
There is only darkness and pain.
But I can’t wait to ride again.
Ride your bike.
Fair winds and following seas, Willy