Monday, June 23, 2014

Another Challenging Kentucky Century: Preservation Pedaling

“It’s gonna take a century for me to finish,” Tomahawk said to the audience at the Sewell Shop/US 60 rest stop at mile 57.

“I’m gonna have two birthdays on this ride.”

The volunteer crew and the entire Powell County contingent (minus Mark, we lost him) cracked up laughing.

As we left the fourth rest stop me and my red bike hooked up to the Locomozer.  I caboosed into North Middletown and the fifth rest stop training behind them.  Mandy had texted me to go on with them: that she’d keep riding with her dad and catch a lift back home so I could find Mark and get him back to the county before he turned into a pumpkin.

We’d started out sorted into completely different groups.  Tom started out at 6:15 am from Winchester and Mandy, Mark and I struck out into the fog at 7:05-ish.  Jeff and Casey came later.  Mark pulled away from us after the first rest stop.  We collected with him and Tom at the second.  They both left out ahead of us.  We never caught Mark after that, and it took until the third rest stop before we caught up with Tom again.  Jeff and Casey rolled into the midway point just as we were getting ready to pull away, and caught and overtook our group again at mile 57.  They dragged me along with them.  For the remainder of the ride we were all (Mark included) stretched out over three rest stops.  This caboose fell off of the Locomozer for good after the sixth rest stop.

The Pelexoton

The first section of the ride down to and over on Waterworks Road was enjoyable.  Fog still hung heavy over the rolling ridgetops.  “Rolling” became the theme of the day.  “Bluegrass surfing” is more like it.  For most of the ride you could describe yourself at either a crest or a trough.  Otherwise you were bombing down a descent too fast to describe anything, or laboring up a climb and gasping for breath, wiping sweat, and cursing gravity.  If it had been ten degrees cooler I would have been in miserable climbing heaven.

Riders leaving Winchester early

Along aptly named Waterworks Road

Ford, KY

Along Bybee Road

The Pelexoton (Lexington peloton) overtook us just after we turned off Bybee Road onto Two Mile Road.  I saw a group of matching local bike shop kits go past in a blur.   Never saw them again.  Most of the other pelotons represented alternately the Central Kentucky Wheelmen, the Louisville Bicycle Club, or various out of state groups.

It was nice to revisit my route from The Long Commute Home.  I love Fourmile Road along the Kentucky River, the wooded climb of Bybee Road, the open rolling ridges of Cole Road, and the remote and rugged beauty of Red River Road

Cole Road

Bombing onto Red River Road

Recently my lone KOM efforts in this area have been pulled down by a couple of other local riders.  I was cognizant of the fact that after Saturday my created Strava segments in Clark County would go from a three person leaderboard to dozens of rungs on the ladder back to KOM.  On the approach to Red River EB# 1 I decided I was going to give my best effort knowing I would have to in order to place high in the dogpile that would result in the Preservation Pedal deluge.  On the 1.1 mile segment I sorted low: a mere 41 out of 62.  But on the crux segment I held a more respectable 24 out of 62.  The next few segments I was pacing Mandy so I was purposefully reserved.  My intent was to ride easy and make a strong effort on a short climb at Ecton Road just east of the L&E Junction junction.  Before Saturday there was no segment on that particular climb.  I was planning to give it my full effort.  Of course I knew my chances of setting and holding a KOM were pretty slim.  Believe it or not, fat boy has some hill climbing skillz in him.  More on that segment later.  

Go Left at Rightangle/Welcome to Rabbit Town

Mandy hit a wall on Red River Road.  Those relentless short and steep climbs pummeled her spirits.  I promised her an Ale-8 from Fox’s General Store at Trapp.  That didn’t seem to bring her out of the funk she found herself in only a third of the way into the ride when the sun was still lurking behind a low cloud cover.  I was worried initially.  She definitely wasn’t in a good place, and it was too early into the ride for her to be talking about ending it.

Now, to be fair, my beautiful wife cranked out on her third ever century in “off the couch” status.  I’ve ridden very little this year, and she’s ridden even less.  She did the Redbud on a handful of 50 mile rides over a few months.  Considering the base miles she had going into it she did amazingly well.  We’ve been going into these events with far less focus too.  They’ve started to be old hat, and the result is we don’t plan ahead well for child care, morning-of fueling, and the like.  I threw everything together less than twelve hours before the ride and we woke Saturday morning having not really considered what food we’d take with us and what we’d eat before leaving the house.  Along Red River Road I feared my own impending bonk.  I forced myself to eat.  I noticed I had not been drinking much either.  My early finish line was racing to meet me.  Had Mandy already met hers?  That’s what I kept wondering as I looked sidelong at her climbing slowly beside me out of the Kentucky River drainage.

Fox’s store came into view and my own spirits rose.  Jeff and I often ride specifically to Fox’s, grab an Ale-8 (one of the official sponsors of the Preservation Pedal), and then head back.  We’ve even detoured miles out of our way to get Ale-8s there.

We sat on the front porch drinking our Ale-8s and watched Preservation riders cruise past.  While it felt good to get a cold and fizzy drink down the gullet, I have come to the realization that you can’t rely on sugary food and drink to keep you going.  I’ve crashed too many times trying to keep the engine going on simple sugars.  While it’s refreshing to get a cold drink, it doesn’t always have the desired effect.

We left Trapp onto more familiar roads.  One of my earliest Fred-type rides was in the Rightangle/Rabbit Town area way back in 2007.  I love those roads and being out in that country again just made me want to wander over to Log Lick, cut through to Pine Ridge Road, and surf Willis-Rupard.  I’d hoped the route would take us up Pilot View Hill, but am thankful it did not.  I want to get back out there soon though.

Welcome to Rabbit Town

 I was holding back to keep an eye on Mandy.  I knew we needed some real and good food—better than convenience store fare—and wanted to pull my favorite SAG mama to substantial sustenance.

Looking forward to the Indian Fields and L&E Junction area I roamed ahead to Goff’s Corner.  There I collected my wife and we rode together across the flats to the turn onto Schollsville Road.  Then began the long steady climb to one of the route highpoints and the next rest station beyond.  I held back for awhile, but eventually decided to break away to the rest stop and wait for Mandy there.  Tom was sitting there in the shade when I pulled up.  We chatted for a minute but then my hunger took over and I headed inside.  I was getting ready to procure a feast for my wife when she came into the fellowship hall of the Bethlehem Christian Church.  We both got sandwiches, drinks and other food and went out to sit in the shade and refuel.

Indian Fields

Halfway point rest stop

After a long repose we were ready to head out on the road again. 

The 42nd Peloton

From the church there is a nice general descent down through a picturesque valley through L&E Junction, past Hedges Station and Stoner-Ephesus Roads, and on out to Ecton Road.  I geared down and crushed my pedals for the first time in a long while.  I passed rider after rider keeping up a 25 mph pace until the dog.

A gnarly looking little mutt came rocketing out of the yard of a house by the road and almost breached my hull.  I few yards after he fell off the chase I grabbed brakes and did a u-turn.  Mandy and Tom were behind me and would probably not have enough speed to outrun the furry missile.  I extracted my Halt! from the handlebar bag and pedaled back to do battle with the mongrel.  He met me mano y dogo and got a face full of pepper spray for his efforts.  I continued on down the road at a clip to give warning.  Mandy came along and I fell in beside her.

“There’s a dog ahead,” I warned and positioned myself between her and the edge of the road.  As we pedaled past the house I saw my defeated adversary off in the back yard trying to lick his own eyes.  That was satisfying.

Tom caught us and I recounted the battle.  Mandy pedaled off as I pointed out the remnants of the Lexington – Big Sandy railroad to Tom.  As we passed Stoner-Ephesus Road and started up a short hill three things happened: a car approached from the opposite direction, I slowed to maintain my conversation with Tom, and the 42nd Peloton overtook and enveloped us.  

On the narrow road there was room enough for maybe one cyclist to pass between me at the edge of the road and the oncoming vehicle.  One cyclist didn’t try to pass as I slowed down—a dozen did.  One guy, probably the 42nd  Peloton Team Captain, bellowed at me: “You’re making us all stop!”  Of course I wasn’t.  I was riding at my own pace on the far edge of the pavement.  Their timing was unfortunate, but not under my control at any point throughout the day.  The rest of 42P grumbled as they surged around me after the car had passed and then pulled away at a blistering pace.  Well…

I had intended to claim glory on the Ecton surprise hill.  Just after we were sorted out of 42P we turned on Ecton and saw yon hill.  The 42Pers were spreading themselves out on the 0.7 mile 107’ climb when I launched my attack.  And in a few short seconds (106 to be exact) I passed every one of the disgruntled Pedalers.  On the newly created Ecton Surprise segment I was 7 out of 74.

Mandy overheard more grumblings.  Apparently my chopped pace really annoyed 42P, but in my defense, I wasn’t taking up the whole road, nor did I encroach into anyone else’s personal space.  Maybe after my rocket ride up Ecton Surprise I stopped to get photos of the members of 42P in front of some particularly spectacular scenery.  I wasn’t intentionally trying to offend.

Along Ecton Road

Turning on Sewell Shop Road

 At the fifth rest stop the entire Powell County contingent (minus our library staff) collected for a few minutes.  Mandy seemed to be in better spirits and Tom entertained as usual.  We chatted with the volunteers before heading off for North Middletown.  The remainder of the route would be all new roads to me.  That should have inspired me to feats of speed, but the heat was shriveling my resolve.  That’s when I got caught up with the Locomozer though, and we pedaled strongly over some of the finest road riding anywhere as we talked about the ride and riding in general.  Since we’ve not been out much recently we’ve been trying to catch up on stuff in fits and spurts.

North Middeltown, Bourbon County

After North Middletown the heat really sapped me and I started to lose interest in the ride.   The rest stops were so close together I wanted to skip every other one, but because of the heat I used them as an excuse to get off the bike, take of my helmet, and fill up my bottles with ice water and sports drink.

Rollers Behind and Rollers Ahead

I worried about Mandy from North Middletown all the way to the last rest stop at mile 92.  She’d texted me there and was only one stop behind me with her dad.  They were moving on.  But as bad as she’d felt at mile 30 I couldn’t imagine she could be holding up under the relentless heat and constant rollers.  I knew she would be having trouble surfing the rollers effectively.  It was hard for me and I'm an accomplished surfer.

When you can’t keep up a good pace you end up losing all of your momentum and having to climb each hill.  If you can keep up the speed you can literally glide over each wave crest and surf through the troughs.  It’s not that I didn’t think my wife knew this, or could do it, but I knew she was suffering quietly as she pulled herself along the route.  I couldn’t help but split my thoughts between all of the rolling terrain between me and the finish and all of the rolling terrain I had crossed that I knew she still had ahead of her.

I considered waiting at a rest stop to make sure she as doing good, to try and cheer her on, and to have a little company myself.  But her texts were plain that she was doing well and that I should keep going.  So I did.  Selfishly I wanted to be out of the sun.  But even as I thought about getting free of the heat, getting food, and into clean clothes I realized they were going to be out at last an hour longer in the sun and heat.  It made it hard to rush on to the finish.

 This was the view from the last rest stop at mile 92

The scenery was pretty grotesque

After Clintonville (the sixth stop) I picked up the pace; I felt a little better after another bottle of ice cold sports drink and was able to power into a rhythm over the rollers heading south.  I stopped at the last rest and got yet another cold fill-up.  Then I was on a sprint for downtown.  I didn’t drop much below 16 mph all the way into town and hit 20+ in a few sections.  On and on I drove my faithful and dogged sporty-sport bike toward the end.

It was anti-climactic as I rolled up to the Kentucky Century Challenge check-in.  I signed my name.  I stopped my Strava at 103 miles (I'd backtracked some), and then I headed for free Ale-8s and food.

Mark, Jeff, and Casey were finishing up their lunch as I sat down.  The Locomozer headed out to get their kids and I called my dad to see how mine were.  Mandy and Tom were on their way in from the last rest stop and she texted me that I should get Mark and the kids on home.  I obliged.

For his first organized ride Mark did well.  He enjoyed the ride and the route much to my surprise.  I didn't think it would be his thing.  Of course I didn't think it would be Tom's thing either and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself.  But then, the Redbud and the Preservation have both been smaller and well organized rides.  It was hard not to have a good time all environmental conditions aside.  Though after this year I really hope I have no continued reason to make the Kentucky Century Challenge my "thing."  It might be time to move on.

Finally Mandy and I collected at home.  We licked our wounds, ate, and fantasized about what we would eat next.  We moaned out loud to take our minds off the minor aches.  It was an early bedtime in the Chainring household Saturday night.  Another Kentucky Century ride behind us…

Last year the "Challenge" didn't seem so much.  In the past year I've ridden seven centuries.  The three it took me to get a jersey were small potatoes in the whole scheme of things.  This year, despite a rough winter, the early Redbud Ride wasn't much of a challenge either.  I think we all went into the Preservation Pedal a little too casually.  Finally, I think I saw the Kentucky Century Challenge for what it is.  I see the appeal from a different point of view.

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