Friday, June 29, 2012

Lake Gaston 210K NC to VA out and back


I figured that since I was going to be vacationing with my wife and kids for 10 days, and going to be in another state, I would get a permanent in, and in the mean time get a state or two more towards my "American Explorer" award, which is cycling at least a 200K in at least 10 states. Once this is achieved in a RUSA cyclists lifetime, they can get a metal plaque that state magnets can be added to, with the goal of "filling the map"!

This is set up as a goal to accomplish over a number of years, I am going to try to accomplish it in my first year as a RUSA randonneur, since I have finally committed to giving up the goal of a Super Randonneur award for the year, because of scheduling difficulties, and the fact that it would mean I would have to drive back to NC twice in the next few months, to ride 240+ miles, and then 360+ miles in likely high temps and heat, I thought it would be more logical to try for that goal next year. Riding severely fatigued and dehydrated can lead to accidents, as well as other problems, and I don't need to be stupid.

I decided to do this particular ride because it includes two states, NC and VA. I already have rides in NY, PA, and NJ, and have looked at some more rides closer to home that include WV, and MD, so I wouldn't be "wasting a state" by riding in a state that would overlap. I am hoping to get some other states later this year.

I contacted the route owner, this is the person who builds the route and is in charge of it, and he told me that he would be out of town when I was here, but I was more than welcome to do his route, and also recommended a route out of Raleigh owned by a friend that was a loop as an alternative. I am not a huge fan of out and back routes, but he told me that his route was a little more rural, and I always prefer a route with less traffic involved.

I decided to do the route on Monday morning, since that was the second full day of our vacation, and it would assure I was more rested and better prepared for the ride, without cutting in to too much of our vacation time. The weather promised to be in the mid-90's, with humidity near 60%. It was warmer than I had ridden before, and though I wanted to ride my Fuji, since it was a bit flatter of a course, I went with the CoMotion because of more water bottle holders. This proved to be a very wise choice.

I started at 6AM, trying to get as much ground covered as possible before the heat set in. I brought a stocking with me to make an ice sock for later in the day, and traveled light. Water bottles were filled, and I brought 6 mini PayDay's with me, and 4 baggies of INFINIT Endurance powder that I put in the 3rd water bottle that sits under my downtube just in front of my pedals, one for each segment of the ride. I grabbed an orange juice at McDonalds to get my receipt and card signed and got rolling.

It was a foggy morning, with 100% humidity, but also 73 degrees, so I wasn't complaining. My glasses fogged up quick, and I took them off. About 8 miles out of town I saw a sign for "Bailey - 9 miles", so of course I had to stop and get a picture. As I got back on my bike I noticed about 30 little round "seeds" on my legs. Shoot, are those ticks?  That caused another quick stop to verify that they weren't in fact ticks, they were seeds of some kind, but they bothered me for the rest of the trip, as I would look down, and there would be more on my legs from cars kicking them up as they passed.

These rides all have time limits, both too fast and too slow.. You can't get there too early or too late. The first Control, 37 miles into the trip had a 7:58 opening time, and a closing time at 9:56. I was doing well, with my stops and starting slightly after 6 and I pulled into the stop and got my card signed at 8:10, which was after getting my water, and chatting with one of the locals about what I was doing. He had seen "another fella" doing this a few weeks back, and was aware of where I started from and where I was going. He followed me out the door, and I filled my bottles and got on my way. I had 4 dogs chase me on the first leg, and was thinking it was going to be a long day, as the dogs can cause you to "burn matches" that you may need later.

This segment promised to be prettier, with more remote roads, and a 1 mile long lake crossing as well as crossing from NC to VA. The open time for the next control was at 9:30, and I arrived at 9:50, so I was still going strong.

It was starting to heat up now, and I should have filled the ice sock here, but I wasn't feeling uncomfortably hot, and thought I'd be OK. About 3 miles down the road, I realized I was wrong about that, between the heat and headwind, it was going to be some real work. I had made it to the midway point in 4 hours, it was possible to finish in 8 theoretically, but I knew immediately that wasn't going to happen, and was hoping to finish between 9 and 10 hours total.

I kept my pace very reasonable over the next 28 miles, making sure that I didn't over-exert too much, and trying to stay cool. There was little shade, and the temps had popped to 90 degrees in no time. Each hill was work, even though they were really very slight grades. I was just concentrating on how much fluid I was taking in, and taking it reasonable. I  drank 2 bottles of INFINIT mix (27oz bottles) in the first 65.5 miles, and probably finished another 27 oz bottle of water. I also ate 2 of the mini paydays. I was starting to feel full, which was a bad thing. I was also starting to feel very hot. Over this next 65.5 miles the Garmin said that the temps got up to 104, I don't think that was the air temp, but I'll bet you with the road heat, it might have been pretty close. I know I thought a couple of times about letting a little air out of my tires because I was concerned with the heat that they might pop, but they held out. I stopped a couple of times for photo ops crossing Lake Gaston, the NC state line, and  for a pile of what I at first though was a HUGE snake hit by a mower, but went back to see it was a bunch of alligator gar someone had thrown in the ditch.

I got to back to the middle control at 12:10, got some water and ice, and filled all my water bottles with only water, and filled the stocking with ice to hang around my neck and try to keep my body temp down. I only had 37 miles to go, but knew it was going to be painful. There were some long stretches of nothing but sun and rolling roads. No stores to stop and fill my water, so I had to plan accordingly. You can see in the following photo with my bike, the panty hose loaded with ice that I put around my neck.

The final miles were in fact tough. I stopped 10 miles in to fill my bottles, and again at 20+ miles in. When I stood after filling my bottles at the 20 mile stop, I had to grab the wall to stay up from being a little woozy. I had gotten to the point of overheating, and was having trouble consuming anything, including water, but was thirsty, so forced it down. The final 10 miles were tough, with just cranking the pedals becoming quite the task. I averaged under 10 mph, and was stoked when I saw the sign for the Cracker Barrel in the horizon ahead, knowing it was next to the McDonalds that was the final control.  A little further on I saw the Hampton which hosts the parking lot which you ride through to get to the finish. I rolled in slow, and was damned happy to be done. The receipt from Mickey D's said 3:34, so 9 hours and 34 minutes.  I was dreaming of under 9, and if it had been cooler I might have made it.

I am glad I did the ride. It was an eye opener about riding in the heat, which CAN be done, but you have to ride smart. I do know that coming back to North Carolina at the end of July to ride a 400K, and then again at the end of August to ride a 600K is out of the question.

I also found out between the ride and writing this report that another good friend, and guy I rode with a couple of times earlier this year died in a ride in Virginia. It was a major event. 2000 participants, and it's a multi-day tour. Mark Hogan who was a gentle giant of a man was riding with another guy I have ridden with a few times, Blaine Chamberlain, and Mark was crossing railroad tracks, and fell. He was wearing a helmet, but the impact with the road caused too traumatic of head injuries for him to survive. He was another guy in the 60 year old range. In fact I rode earlier this year with Mark Hogan, Mark Sheehan, Bill Fischer and myself on an 80+ mile ride around the southern tier of NY.

During my first ride with Mark H. I was lagging behind, so when we crested a hill, I told the group to go on ahead, and I would finish on my own. He refused to leave me, and said we all ride together. He was a great man, and will be dearly missed. What a great guy.. It's just not fair some times.

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