Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Little Randos on the Prairie

In keeping with the mystique of last year when I did a 400k 3 weeks before Paris Brest Paris, I thought it was an idea to do the same thing for the Cascades.  I would pick an easy 400k in Iowa and use it to test ride the bike configuration. etc.  I verified the easiness of the route by asking SpinBob, who had done the 300k.  "Pretty flat and easy", was the assessment.  He was going to the 400k too so this was another opportunity to ride with old friends.

So of course in the 3 days before the ride, the forecast called for hotter and hotter temperatures and higher and higher winds.  By the night before, the forecast was for 95 degrees with a 30 mph south wind starting at about 9:00 am.  No worries, the route was supposed to be mainly east west with the longest southern section first. 

So we met the night before in the trusty Super 8 Motel (national hotel chain of cheap randonneurs).  One thing about warm temps in the day is the warm temps at night.  Very comfortable.  I decided to leave my jacket in the hotel room bringing only knee and arm warmers (which I would never use).

13 riders had gathered at the Quality Inn (national hotel chain of classier randonneurs) for the 400k.  Included was another woman, although a closer examinations showed that she was built like an olympian and obviously fell into the classier and faster rando set.  Not someone I was likely to chat with on this ride.  Also at the start was a young randonneur named Scott who was on his first 400k ever.  He'd ridden with SpinBob before on the 300k and the three of us decided to do a trio for the day.  We would play Jedi Masters to the young padawan (okay, we were cheap and less classy than some other Jedi Masters, but we did both finish PBP).

So off we went at 6:00 am riding straight into the beautiful Iowa sunrise outside Ames.  As promised, this was a flat route with very gentle rolling farmland.  Maintaining a 16 mph pace was easy.

I like to say that I learn something new on every single ride I go on.  On this ride I finally and positively learned how to identify pot plants.  SpinBob is a master gardener (of a different type, but a plant is a plant and he was around in the 70s) so he pointed out the endless wacky weed lining this section of the road.  I envisioned pot dealers doing emergency dumps of the stash during traffic stops as being the reason, but no, it seems that hemp was a popular thing to grow in the 20s.  The remnants remain.  I was advised however that smoking roadside wacky weed will give you a headache.  See, I can now speak intelligently on a subject that I used to truly know nothing about.

There is a lot of prairie in Iowa.  In fact there may be more than Minnesota, but the endless prairie flowers in the ditch were really something to behold.  Purple, yellow, orange, and every other color were lurking at every dip in the road.  Corn was already knee high.  There was no wind (yet).

So we pulled into the first control at 37 miles at about 8:30 with almost all the southern route done and the wind beginning to pick up.  At the control, we ran into Dan and James, two people that I know.  In fact, when I was creating cycling software for the local bike club, James had been my first total failure to read someone's handwriting.  I had been sure that someone named Jamn Fug had joined the club.  So I joked with him about it.  "Well, it was probably after the ride, I often look like jamn fug after a brevet", was the comeback.  Ah, another Oscar Wild wit on a brevet, music to my ears.

It must have been the later heat, but I can't seem to remember hardly any of the control towns.  As we left this one, James and Dan got sidelined by an obnoxious cadillac and missed a turn.  Bummer - bonus miles for them.  More prairie and a surprising number of vistas of the green hills follwed until we turned onto the Raccoon River Trail.  At this point, the wind and the heat were increasing fast.

We ate like complete pigs at the 75 mile control.  I figured in a short time, the heat would be too great to really pig out so I downed more than usual including a hefty wrap, a Naken Protein Shake, chocoloate millk, a big cookie and V8.   Not sure where I put that except it took about 30 minutes to forget it was there.  Scott was eating less so we Jedi masters sent him back to the swamp for a sandwich.

The next 40 miles were a struggle with high winds and hills that appeared out of nowhere.  The temperatures climbed and climbed until my thermometer was up to 92 in the shade.  We cruised for about 20 miles and stopped for an ice/ice cream brake in a small town (Guthrie Center, I think).  I put ice in my lap, around my neck, in my mouth and in some other places.  I also lamented not bringing a sports bra for once (an ice chest is a beautiful thing in the heat).  This was a really refreshing stop.

Road Pixie chilling out

We left with 25 miles to the halfway point feeling much better.  This was when the heat and wind really cranked up.  James and Dan had caught up and we could see them on the giant rollers in front of us.  But we kept getting closer and closer which was strange.  My drive train started getting unpredictable and I dropped the chain, for a moment thinking it had broken.  This stretch had a head/cross wind that evaporated any sweat instantly.  I can't remember a ride
  that I never felt at all wet even though I was crusting over.  It left a nasty heat rash too, despite enough sun lotion to simulate an eclipse.  The wind was so strong it nearly blew us over and squelched any momentum going down the rollers.

At the turnaround, I tried futzing with my barrel adjusters but gave up as sitting in the sun at the gas station was like sitting on the surface of Mercury.  At this point, James and Dan caught up.  Dan looked terrible (which I didnt tell him at the time).   He had decided to DNF, the heat was just too much.  James asked to ride with us since we were the last riders.  We tried our best to make Dan feel better reminding him that all of us DNF from time to time.  But that still doesn't make it easier to watch your friends ride off without you.  SpinBob even brought up on of his own past experiences and mentioned our "Never look at your own butt during the ride" rule.  Of course, we were still in Jedi Master mode too (they don't look at their own butts either).

The next 11 miles were brutal, my chain refused to stay on in the small chainring and I finally gave in and did the rest of the big rollers in the big one.  Thank goodness for all those squats.

FINALLY, we turned north.  Now with a 30 mph tail wind, we started making time.  I had taken a calculated risk and not eaten much solid food at the 125 mile mark.  When it is that hot, I just do better on chocolate milk.  But another 40 miles was a long way.   I supplemented with salted pecans and gels.  These were fun miles and with conversation and lots of high speed descents.  We stopped at Coon Rapids for some extra water and were passed by Greg, the RBA, who had picked up Dan.  He was checking up to make sure the rest of us were okay.  Really super guy.

We pulled into Scranten at about 8 and I was just on the verge of bonking.  But the heat was finally over and I got another good meal along with lots of electrolytes.  That made me feel a ton better.  This was a long stop.  Scott got sick to his stomach and another rider, Dave, showed up who had fallen asleep in a park and was looking a little worse for the wear.
We were invited to a party by the locals (why do they always live somewhere in the opposite direction?).  I also attempted to revive my wit and be cheery by pointing out that at this point, I had the nicest ass on the road all for their staring enjoyment.

We left as the light failed all feeling much refreshed.  This was one of the best night rides I've done in some time.  Never even cool enough to change into arm or knee warmers.  The wind finally dying down a bit.  Beautiful stars and we exited the hills for the flats once more.   Lots of fun talk including the statement that when you are a man, the world is your urinal (okay, maybe you had to be there for that one).  But after a long, hot day and the inevitable caffeine hits, what else can one expect.  A bunch of drunk guys in their back yard treated us to "Hey Look, Martians!" - I've been called many things on a bike, but never a martian.  Obviously these guys did not watch Star Wars.

We had a bit of southerly road for about 15 miles and Dave dropped off for another nap (he later finished).  The wind had picked up again and this wasn't necessarily fun.  There is a fantastically lit bridge that the ride passes over near the end, it wasn't lit but was still a beautiful ride.  The last control is a bit fuzzy, I was tired and James gave me half a sandwich, I hope I get the pleasure of riding another brevet with him sometime.  I even did part of a 5 hour energy, I figured we were 2 hours from the end so I drank half  for 2 1/2 hours of energy.

The final 6 miles are a scenic tour of Ames.  In fact, it took 45 minutes to get through Ames.  Road Pixie wishes she were so darn tired and unable to see at the end.  Though it was definitely light when we got in.

The Big Finish:  Yup, we all look like jamn fug
SpinBob and I had a couple miles back to the mighty Super 8.  I wished I had stashed more food there.  A few hours sleep and it was back to Minnesota.

Next big ride is The Cascades 1200k - Road Pixie returns to the ride that clocked her hamstring.  It's payback time.