“I really have no idea what possessed me to attempt a 5k, but, here I am!”

That text, from me to my friend Beth M shortly before the start of this morning’s Ottawa Color Craze 5k, pretty well sums up my ambivalence of the morning. For a few weeks I’d been looking forward – with a fair dose of apprehension – to my first-ever run/walk 5k, and now, regardless if I was ready for IT, here it was.

I’d done a little bit of running training in recent weeks, with my buddy the ever-patient Mrs. O – but I certainly hadn’t done as much as I’d like to have done.  I’d never gone more than 2.5 miles of run/walk in any single day, and still needed generous stretches of walking interspersed with the running.

The event was the Ottawa Color Craze 5k, a run in my hometown that benefits Communities in Schools.  A very worthy cause with which Mrs. O was familiar, and with which I previously was not.  The “color” is the theme of the run: the idea is to wear white or light-colored clothing to the run, and at pre-determined “color stations” along the route, you get blasted by volunteers throwing colored corn starch.  As the pre-run email said (paraphrasing), “start wearing white, end wearing color!”

The start time was 10 AM.  Weather was really nice – I don’t know but would guess 70ish degrees, with a little wind.  Again I’m fortunate that it’s in Forest Park in my hometown, one mile from my house. So I was able to just ride my bike over around 9:30 to pick up my packet.  I met Mrs. O there in the park; and I got a picture of the “before” – prior to all the color carnage.

Ottawa_ColorCraze_2013_01Above:  Was really cool to roll into the park on the bike and see a big crowd assembled at the check-in table wearing tons of white.  Reminded me of Wimbledon!  It was also visually very cool to see the large group depart the start line at the air horn and file out of the park…a long line of folks wearing white…visually pretty cool.

At 10 AM the air horn sounded and everyone headed out.  There was a fairly narrow channel heading out, with the result that 90% of the participants walked for the first few minutes.  Most folks didn’t start running till they’d turned out of the park onto the side street.

Not a really big “ride report write-up” from me, except to say that I had a lot of fun.  Mrs. O, saint that she is, stayed with me the entire time even though she could have finished several minutes faster if she’d chosen to.  We started out with a decent (for me!) run segment, then into a walk, and so on for the duration.  I do recall that the turnaround point – not the exact midpoint but just where you turn, down an east-running road, then back north and then cross back onto the first road you were on – did arrive faster than I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised at that  🙂  Again, having not done more than 2.5 miles in any training session, a full 3.1 mile course was going to seem like a lot to me.

We went through a few color stations as we made our way – including one where the volunteer throwing the color was unsatisfied with how much Mrs. O had taken and made a point to run after her with a little cup of the stuff, getting her several feet down the road 🙂

In all, I was not totally satisfied with my pace, but what else is new, right?  I knew my walking segments would come more frequently, and for longer duration, toward the end, but I was a little disappointed with just HOW unwilling my legs were to run for the last perhaps mile.  I do take heart that it’s just a question of getting accustomed to the different muscle usage and different movements; when I do get tired and need to slow to walk, it’s rarely from cardio, it’s from my legs getting a little “weary” and needing to stop.  I have every confidence that over time, with training, that’ll dissipate.  For only having run perhaps 5 running training sessions total in my life, and still growing accustomed to a body that’s 90+ pounds lighter than it used to be, I’m not going to be overly harsh on myself.  But my struggle did generate in me a resolve to keep working hard so that I can keep getting better.  An earlier blog post about the bike (which I cannot seem to find) will also prove accurate for the running side:  the initial impetus of the activity is to lose weight & get into better shape, but my psyche is such that I turn the formula around and want to work hard and get in better shape, in the service of becoming a more capable cyclist (and now, runner) 🙂

Notwithstanding my slower pace (read:  I walked a lot, ran a little) in the final mile, we did arrive at the park.  Mrs. O, aka “The Taskmaster”, gently insisted on the start point for our final running segment, which we did, crossing through the finish line.  Our total finish time was roughly 42 minutes.  This wasn’t a timed 5k, so this is based upon my phone’s clock.  I’d had a goal to finish this first one in 40 minutes; but, given those few minutes we were more or less required to walk at the start, I can rationalize that I *might* have been able to slide in at 40 minutes if not for that.  Either way, it’s a start; and now, it’s my start.  My first-ever run/walk  5k.  I’m looking forward to the next one, but also aware of the work I’ll need to put in in order to feel a little more satisfied there.

A final word of praise and thanks for the volunteers, coordinators, planners of this event. Especially for a small-town event, this one was very well organized.  I’ve been speaking to a friend lately who participates frequently in 5ks, triathlons, half marathons, and heard some horror stories of poor organization – including situations where runners have every right to expect more.  Here, despite being a small-town event, things were coordinated and organized well.  Water stations along the route, helpful volunteers around, the color stations of course, some bananas and water at run’s end – A+ job and I think everyone had a really good time.  If they repeat this next year I’ll most definitely be back.

Ottawa_ColorCraze_2013_02Above:  Me at the finish.  We went through 3-4 different color stations, but the “blue people” – the final color station shortly before you returned into the park – is the one that really got me  🙂  While running through there we passed a small kid, a few years old, who was head-to-toe blue.  Face, arms, legs, clothes – pure blue.

Ottawa_ColorCraze_2013_03Above:  Self-picture at the restroom in Subway, where I rode to for lunch following the run.  Had to capture a last picture of the color carnage.  They had warned participants to wear stuff they wouldn’t mind getting colored, and they weren’t kidding!

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Please forgive the wordiness of the writeup.  I now understand why a local RUSA rider whose blog I follow, Commuterdude, engages in such long detailed writeups.  As he explains multiple times over the course of his blog, the ride report is as much for him – for retention of detail and posterity – as for any other readers interested in it.

So, some background, this being my first successful RUSA ride.

I’ve been interested in randonneuring almost since first hearing about it – somewhere over 13 months ago.  The first time I believe I mentioned it on this blog was in this post (also a good primer of the pursuit for those unfamiliar).  At that time, my fitness was such that I couldn’t realistically consider participating.

I finally joined RUSA (Randonneurs USA, randoing’s governing body in the United States) in November 2012 (RUSA member # 8198 at your service!).  I elected (logically) to start with RUSA’s lower-mileage rides, which are known as populaires.  Populaires can theoretically be between 100 & 200 kilometers (62 and 124 miles) long, but in reality are typically 62 miles or a little longer.  I reached out to Ron A, who owns a few local RUSA perm populaire routes. Perm is short for permanent.  This is a very popular style of RUSA riding in which a prospective rider contacts a route owner and schedules a date & start time for the ride – which is then begun at the stated time, frequently with just that rider (sometimes a couple riders).  This is as opposed to scheduled, calendared brevets which are group rides that are scheduled well in advance.

For my first RUSA ride I decided to tackle a route on the Prairie Spirit Trail, about which this blog contains much. It starts less than a mile from my house.  The perm populaire route I selected was “Wander to Welda”, which features a ~31-mile ride on the trail, to Welda, and then back to Ottawa.

I attempted the ride on December 15th, 2012, but with a disappointing conclusion.  I was fairly sick on the day of riding and was battling some nasty trail conditions (rain, soft trail surface, and wind) to boot, and bottom line was that I simply wasn’t yet ready to succeed at this particular route under RUSA conditions.  I had to bail out basically halfway in and inform Ron that I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) the ride.  I rode back to Ottawa in disappointment and defeat.

A few weeks later, I tried again on the same route.  This time, while I was in good health, very similar crappy conditions prevailed.  Soft trail surfaces due to rain, and a LOT of wind.  I was once again forced to concede to myself that, despite all my progress with weight loss, stamina,  and non-RUSA cycling in general, I wasn’t yet prepared to become a randonneur.  I once again had to inform friends and family, as well as Ron (a friend as well as route owner) that I DNF’d.  My 0-2 start in randonneuring, a sport whose participants take pride in enduring and finishing the ride on time, was and still remains a matter of great displeasure to me – a pain that’s been partially dulled with yesterday’s success.  In my January 20th post about this (here) I summarized three things:  My failure only elevated my already-high regard for established rando’s; I wasn’t giving up and would give myself 2-4 months without self-inflicted pressure to try again; and that I was going to succeed at my rando efforts.

So that background leads us to today.  I’ve had a decent last couple months cycling-wise and have gotten stronger on & off the bike.  I began to get some confidence that I was at last able to accomplish a RUSA ride.  I reached out to the eternally patient Ron A, whom I’ve come to view as a mentor & friend, and scheduled a ride for May 4th.  This time I chose a different perm populaire route.  Known as the “Old KC Road” route, this one was on roads (as the vast majority of RUSA rides are) versus trail.  Its route, to quote Ron A’s ridewithgps summary, runs “Olathe-Spring Hill-Hillsdale-Paola-Osawatomie making good use of the Old KC Road.”  Roughly 50% of the ride (south, and then the return north) is on Old KC Road.

I’d been watching the extended forecast for the 4th for 10+ days prior.   All seemed pretty consistent – a fairly mild north wind, cool but not outright chilly or cold, a little rain the Friday prior but none Saturday.  However, early to mid week things started looking ugly.  Talk of snow for Friday and Saturday. Mind you, this is *May* – not February or March.  Feeling bold, I confirmed the ride AFTER it seemed clear there’d be some rain and snow on Saturday morning.

As the weekend neared, the weather did in fact turn uglier, and the Saturday forecast more grim.  They were calling for 1-3 inches of snow on Thursday and Friday – which did come to pass, in a slushy wet snowfall/rain/drizzle mixture – and depending on your forecasting agency, Saturday was going to be raining some or most of the morning.  With a scheduled 8 AM ride start, there was forecast unanymity that it’d be cold at ride start – mid-ish 30’s but feeling below freezing – and raining.

I got the bike fairly cleaned up and ready the night before.  “Fairly” because I didn’t see the point of going all-out to get her sparkling knowing she was just going into a sloppy day the next morning.  I cleaned up & relubed chain, cassette, wheels, aired up tires etc.  She was in pretty solid operational order, if still carrying some muck from a couple recent rainy rides.  For the record, “she” was my old bike – the Specialized Crosstrail hybrid, whom I’ve named “Baby”.  Storm Paris, my recently-purchased Roubaix, still has a little configuration work to go before I am comfortable taking her on a really long ride.  So it was me and old faithful. Not the lightest or most road-warrior bike, but she & I have been through a lot and I have absolute comfort and confidence in her – which goes a long way for this kind of riding.

I spent a little final time reviewing the route’s cue sheet, which I memorized, and hit the sack for a good long night’s sleep.

I set the alarm at 4:50, with the plan to head out the door at 5:30 to arrive at IHOP – my favorite pre-long-ride breakfast place – around 6:30.  Plan was to eat there, head out around 7:30 to 151st & Black Bob which was the route start.  Had my morning green drink (blend of V-8, water, asparagus, banana, orange, kale, stevia, spirulina powder, wheatgrass powder, Udo’s Beyond Greens powder, whey protein powder…great stuff), drank some water, showered, grabbed all my gear, loaded up the bike and out the door.  Earlier that morning I’d awoken around 3 AM to use the bathroom; looking outside, I could see a light but steady snow falling.  Awesome.  Now, at 5:40, it was still precipitating – mostly snow, a wet slushy snow.  My car had a good coating of wet snow all over it.  Temp-wise it definitely felt like very low 30s.  Some part of me that was not yet entirely possessed by the rando bug knew it was borderline crazy to go and do this.

I packed a poncho in the car with me and decided it’d be a “game time decision” to use it or not.  I brought full-fingered riding gloves & was wearing leggings and my trademark “big bulky red sweatshirt” that’s reserved for sub-30 temps or rain – or both.  Packed in Baby’s small under-seat bags were Gu gel, Perpetuem, a banana and a pack of wheat peanut butter crackers.

Right away, within 15 minutes of leaving the house, I realized I’d left a crucial item.  I ride with my mobile phone in my handlebar bag, to listen to Endomondo and Pandora in headphones.  On clear days, I just throw the phone straight in there; but on rainy days, I enclose the phone in a Zip-loc bag and run the cable through a small hole, to keep the phone dry.  I’d left this bag at home, although I HAD, fortunately, brought a larger Zip-loc bag, which would live in the panniers, to house the cue sheet, the control sheet, and my receipts collected at controls.  I was pretty bummed out at the omission of the phone Zip-loc, but soon enough realized I could buy some kinda replacement at the Walgreen’s which was the route’s opening control.

Driving through snow/rain (and dark) the entire way to IHOP, I arrived, wiped off some of Baby’s surfaces, and went inside for breakfast.  The “Simple & Fit 2x2x2” is a great way to set a base for a long ride – 2 pancakes with sugar free syrup, 2 pieces turkey bacon, and “egg substitute”.  Good stuff, and at 400 calories it won’t break the bank. I added their Swiss Mocha Coffee (which I deliberately don’t finish pre-ride…want to limit the caffeine) for a little indulgence.  Great start to the day.

By breakfast’s end, the precipitation had slowed, but it didn’t fully stop.  I again wiped Baby down and hopped in the car to drive to the route start.  The thought passed through my mind that it wasn’t too late to back out of the entire deal.  I hadn’t signed a legal contract here.  It occurred to me that this was the parting of the ways – I would decide this morning whether I was a randonneur, or not.  If I wasn’t, I could inform Ron A that I chose not to ride, I would probably not pursue RUSA riding again, and I would simply enjoy riding my bike.  Or, I could choose to pursue this activity that I’ve been fascinated with for over a year.  I drove to the route start.

The first control of the route is an “open control” – meaning one of a number of nearby businesses could be visited to confirm start time.  For those not familiar with RUSA riding, usually there are two methods both of which you utilize at a control to confirm your presence and time of passage.  First, buy something and save the receipt.  The receipt time must be after the control’s opening time & prior to its closing time.  Second, have the cashier sign/initial your control card (sent to you by the route organizer when you scheduled the ride) and note the time you were there.  In the case of this ride, there were 4 local businesses that qualified for both the opening and closing control.  I chose Walgreen’s at the northeast corner, so that I could get a replacement bag for the phone.  While browsing through the store (waiting for the 8:00 AM control to officially open), I hit upon even a better idea.  I saw a small bubble mailer in the office supply aisle, perfectly sized to put the phone in, close (not seal) the flap, and just run the cable out the top…put that whole thing in the handlebar bag and viola.  Instant and nearly airtight waterproof.  Grab that, a pack of gum (I love to chew gum on the bike), swipe my card and collect the receipt.  8:04 AM, perfect.  Explain the deal to the cashier, get his 8:04 AM John Hancock on the control sheet, and I’m out the door.  We ride!!

At 8:10 AM, when I got on the bike, it was still very overcast, still cold, and still raining/snowing.  I decided to leave the poncho in the car and go with only the sweatshirt.  I pulled out of Walgreens onto 151st, turned south onto Black Bob and we were underway.

The Old KC Road route is a wonderful route for a first-time RUSA initiate, at least from standpoint of simplicity.  I’m, ahem, very directionally challenged (a skill I actually hope rando’ing will improve!) and yet I was able to memorize the entire route, only needing to refer to the cue sheet once, on the return.  The entire thing goes south and west, south and west, south and west, essentially ending on Old KC Road for the final stretch, and then you return north and east.  I’d ridden the first 25% of this route back in March (link here) so I was familiar with that portion of it.

This morning, I was feeling pretty good at ride start.  It was chilly, but I’ve become accustomed to cold riding.  The precipitation was something else.  I’ve ridden in rain a few times recently, but this wasn’t exactly rain – more a snow/drizzle/rain mix that was constantly in my face for the first several miles.  Refreshing on the one hand but somewhat annoying on another.

The first part of the route went by quickly for two reasons.  One, I had in fact ridden it before.  Too, I was fresh (and had a 10ish mph northerly tailwind to boot).  And three, the first few roads are all a few miles, then turn.  Couple miles, then turn.  So the mind stays occupied on looking for the next turn, clicking off the route landmarks.  Black Bob to 175th; to Ridgeview; to 199th.  A beautiful stretch of a ride, with a couple rolling hills and a little climbing here & there. My recon ride in March ended about .5 miles onto 199th; as I passed that turnaround point today I knew I was in all-new territory for me.

A short jaunt on Woodlawn, then a turn west and a quick little run up a hill onto 207th and past an industrial area of the kind that I love to ride a bike through. South on Webster for a couple miles through Spring Hill.  I was making very good time here, the tunes were flowing, and I was feeling very strong. It was still sprinkling at this point but much lighter now.  Water was dripping off my helmet every time I turned my head, and in general it was very foggy/misty for the first 15 miles or so.

Right around here I received an Endomondo “peptalk” – essentially an intra-app IM/text message which the application reads aloud across your headphones – from Mr. V, my oftentime riding partner.  He’d checked in on my ride on the internet and was sending his regards.  A huge smile broke over my face.  Very little uplifts the spirits like the support of others, and I was to receive plenty this ride from friends & family who understood the important to me of this ride.

A brief turn west onto 223rd which I unnecessarily extended with a little bonus mileage.  I made a recon drive – in a car – of this route a few months ago, and on that route I drove right past the turn-off onto Old KC Road and had to double back, and darned if I didn’t do the same exact thing this time.  Fortunately I realized my mistake very quickly, having passed the street that I used to double back when I missed it in the car, and I pulled a U-turn back up a nice little hill (the time-tested method of punishing bonus rando miles for missed turns) and back on the route, heading south onto Old KC Road.  From this point, you have ~14 miles of this road, then a couple final miles after a turn-off.

Around this stretch, I sowed the seeds for later issues in the ride.  My pre-ride plan was to take a brief stop at around 17-18 miles in; rehydrate, refuel, chomp a couple bites of banana, and remount for the run to the first control.  Instead, I was feeling very strong and confident during this part, and just kept riding and riding.  Now, it’s one thing to ride 25, 30 miles without stopping when that’s your normal style.  But when your normal style is brief stops at 16-19 miles, and the longest ride you’ve done all year is 51 miles, and you’re going to go 64 today (including bonus mileage), AND the route is hillier than you normally do – you don’t take chances, you stick by your plan.  The irony here is that I distinctly recall thinking earlier in the ride “this ride is going to test me, so let’s not take any chances today and monkey around with fueling or hydrating…let’s play it by the book.”  Yet…there I was…feeling my strength and just deciding “I think I can just make it to Osawatomie.” No stop to refuel or rehydrate.  Incomprehensible?  Yes.  Would it exact a price?  Yes.

In studying the elevation profile of the route in advance, I concluded the toughest portion would be, roughly, from mile 19 through 25 – so roughly the last half of Old KC Road, after you go through a traffic circle.  The actual ride did bear this out.  The first half or so of Old KC Road did have some rollers and some grade changes, but (especially with my tailwind) nothing huge.  After the traffic circle, the rollers did come steeper and longer as you rode up to and through Paola.  On this first HALF of the ride, I handled the rollers quite well; and I’ll once again note my stupidity for future reference – the thought went through my head “this part is pretty tough…I’m going to need to be fortified for the return…let’s stop now and refuel and rehydrate.”  But, NOPE.  I kept on rollin’.  Inexplicable, really.  My thought process was that I wanted to put some time in the bank for what I knew would be a longer return (due to headwind).  But even as cogent as THAT thinking is, it was mixed with an awareness that sometime the bill would come due for not following my plan, and yet I ignored that.

Around this time I received another Endomondo message from my friend Beth M. with more support, again bringing a huge smile to my face.  Thanks Beth  🙂

Finally turning off of Old KC Road onto 327th heading into Osawatomie, I started feeling my first uneasy feeling of the ride.  Not from nutrition but from direction.  The cue sheet was pretty plain in terms of directions, but somehow the terrain seemed different than I visualized it being.  I began to get somewhat, and progressively, concerned that somewhere I’d made a wrong turn.  The Osawatomie Casey’s (the mid-point control) should be in view by now, but there was virtually nothing around.  I remember thinking that if the Casey’s wasn’t at least coming into view when Endomondo announced I’d gone 32 miles, then something was wrong. My heart sank when 32 miles was announced and no sign of Casey’s…but, up beyond a curve, I could sense the approach of some civilization, presumably Osawatomie.  I fervently hoped I would round that corner and see Casey’s, because if I wasn’t right on top of it by now, I’d made some wrong turn.  Fortunately, that was the case.  A final run-up over an overpass and I could see Casey’s up ahead.  I stopped in.  I arrived at 10:31, about ~50 minutes before the control closed.

This was the first time I’d ever gone 33 miles without a break.  Some cyclists reading this may raise their eyebrows at that, but this is the style I’ve evolved.  I’m just now beginning to make a deliberate effort to change this – entirely due to randoing reasons – but the operative  phrase is “starting to”.  This first successful RUSA attempt wasn’t really the place to go changing the entire formula!  But, I made my bed.  Now I proceeded with the normal rando control activities – make a purchase & obtain receipt, get control card signed, restroom break, refuel and rehydrate.  I snarfed down about 40% of the banana, sucked down a Gu gel, drank some water.  I ate the Nature Valley peanut bar I bought there, which at the time seemed like the best thing I’d ever tasted.  My control routine was a little bit choppy, and I need to make a point to become more efficient in the future – reading the blogs of several rando’s, this is a common desire!  Always optimal to get in & out of controls quickly.

Soon enough though, I was back on the bike for the return.  The weather had picked up again – it was again precipitating.  Not exactly rain or snow, but more like falling ice crystals.  It was still very overcast out and still quite cold, especially when the wind blew.

Heading back north, I was now riding into the wind which had helped propel me along on the first leg.  I was riding a good gear to two gears lower on some sections on the return than on the way down.  For whatever reason, the 5 miles leading back to KC Road which seemed to take forever on the way to Osawatomie, also seemed to take forever going back.  Some stretches on a bike are like this – some few-mile stretches just seem to last FOREVER.  I will take note here, though, that there were at least two really beautiful looking pieces of pavement that I passed on 327th street that I’d be interested to return and check out at length – looked like decent fodder for future rides.  One was I think called Lone Star, and the other Moonlight, if I recall correctly. There may have been a third, as well.

Anyway, I did eventually reconnect with Old KC Road.  I was already getting a little bit tired now.  The combination of the weather and my questionable fuel/hydration strategy, plus my departure from my usual riding routine, was starting to sap me.  By the time of the rollers in Paola – the difficult section – I was working hard.  I still wasn’t at the end of my rope but I was getting there.  The rolling hills in & around Paola were quite a bit harder to navigate on the return than on the way down.  By the end of that “difficult section”, I had roughly 46 miles under my belt – which was approaching the longest ride I’d been on so far this year.  Factor in the hills, which is more than I typically battle, and I was pushing my limits.  The thought ran through my mind of Jeff Galloway, the world-renowned running instructor, whose stuff I’ve been reading recently.  One interview he talked about how making your weekly or biweekly “long run” stretch out to 29 or 30 miles really helps with both fitness and confidence when you run a marathon. It occurred to me that rando training is likely similar.  If my longest ride of the year was 51 *relatively* unhilly miles, it was perfectly reasonable that a 64 mile hillier ride, under timed conditions, would be tough.  The implication is, I need more hill training and to make my weekly “long ride” a really long one – both of which were already in my intentions.  This just confirmed the need.

Around here, I received a second Endomondo text from Mr. V; although I can see it on my Endo profile, I didn’t hear it in the headphones for some reason.  It might have occurred when I was taking a break, below.

Tired and almost out of push, I stopped for a break at a gas station with a mile or two remaining on Old KC Road.  Here I devoured the rest of my banana and had another Gu gel.  I made a silly mistake not to fill my plain water bottle at the Casey’s in Osawatomie, so all I had were the Perpetuem bottles.  Therefore I essentially denied myself a rehydration of plain water at the 18ish mile point (by not drinking it) and at any time on the return trip (by not CARRYING it).  This is an easy enough mistake to avoid in the future; for now, I shake my head at my cavalier approach during what I knew was going to be a difficult ride for me.

After finishing up the banana and using the facilities, I was back on the bike.  I was still at this point making *relatively* decent time on the return thus far.  Averaging 12 mph or thereabouts, which is about what I expected to average on the return due to the wind (I hadn’t counted on running myself essentially out of gas). I remember at this gas station harkening back to something I’d read on some rando blog or another, of a post from someone which essentially said the real rando heroes aren’t the ones who can blast out their ride with hours to spare but rather those normal mortals of us who have to work hard and grind through it.  I’m ambivalent on this view – on the one hand I thought and still think this was a little self-talk to justify not being one of those who can blast through (after all, those cats most likely weren’t born that way – they worked hard to achieve that), but on the other, part of their point rings true if only on a *personal* level, *not* with regard to other people.  What I mean is, a ride that forces you to work your butt off, extend your limits beyond what you thought they were, is one you’re likely to appreciate more than one you can fly right through without breaking a sweat.  That’s the way I view it anyway.

Back on the road again…Old KC Road, that is, for the last couple miles north.  By this point my energy was all but gone.  I knew the banana & gel I’d just consumed would carry me home, but they weren’t going to be a magic elixir.  I think I’d already let the tank run out of gas, and now I was just pushing the car home.  If the banana or gel could provide an additional hand to push it with, that’s great – but the engine just wasn’t firing.  I bravely tried to attack the last hill or two on Old KC Road – and each major incline from here to the finish – but the legs had nothing left.  I would attack at the base of them, get as far up as I could till the engine stalled out, then drop to a low gear and just grind, grind, grind. I was going to earn every bit of this first RUSA completion.

I was somewhat relieved to finally turn off of Old KC Road – for a similar reason to that mentioned earlier.  From this point, you at least make turns every couple miles, in general, so I could just grind on and look forward to the next turn instead of churning down a never-ending road.  Somewhere around here, the thought ran through my head that RUSA riding is something that masquerades itself as a sport, or exercise, but is really just torture…nothing but torture 🙂 And why on earth would anyone choose to do this  🙂 Ah, the thoughts that’ll go through your head during long bike rides.

Also here, I received my final Endo IM of the day – from my beautiful papa, who was also watching my ride and showing his support.  Also, my buddy Mr. O was watching my ride off & on and sent me a text message around this time congratulating me on joining the RUSA ranks (which was all but official now).

At around this point, the sky was FINALLY the clearest it was going to be the entire ride – with only a few miles left.  It was no longer 100% overcast – instead only somewhat overcast – and wasn’t raining or sleeting.  It was starting to look like a day for normal humans to be out and about, and I started seeing a couple of folks out walking, skateboarding, riding bikes.

After the turn onto 175th, with only ~5 miles remaining, I took a final short break.  I had absolutely nothing left in the tank at this point and had been going on sheer willpower for a while.  I knew, from the time, that I had the ride in the bag – I could darn near walk in at this point – so I allowed myself a few minutes to rest up before finishing.  On 175th I passed a cyclist going the other way; exchanging waves, I thought, I wonder how far that guy has ridden today.  Or how far he’s going to ride.

Continuing on willpower and the awareness of the approaching finish line, I ticked off the final 2 miles on 175th and 3 miles on Black Bob road.  I rolled into the Walgreen’s parking lot, got out the control sheet, pen, & credit card, took out my phone and locked the bike onto the car rack.  Going inside, I bought a pack of gum (can never have too much of that stuff!), got the receipt and control card signature.  The time was 2:20 PM.  I had 24 minutes to go until the control would close.

Many emotions swam through my head.  I was extremely proud and satisfied to finally have RUSA P-1 in the books.  I was disappointed with my performance in especially the final 15-20 miles, and yet understood that it was a combination of fixable errors and my current riding ability.  I was already, even despite my “torture” epiphany of a few miles earlier, looking very much forward to the next RUSA ride.  An analogy hit me at this time.  You know those “job interview” questions where you’re meant to take a negative, or weakness, and express it as a positive?  That, in a nutshell, is what this ride was for me.  The biggest negative – the suboptimal hydration and fueling strategy and subsequent hitting of the wall – actually generated a very powerful positive.  It forced me to either abandon ship or just grind on for miles of misery.  Which doesn’t sound appealing, and it’s not – but it’s actually very confidence inspiring.  I had to dig down very deep, and I did dig down very deep.  I found some resilience there that I didn’t know I had, and it fortifies me for future riding endeavors.  Within seconds of ride’s end, I was perceiving a change in myself – I was viewing myself as a randonneur now, and I already couldn’t, and can’t, wait for the next time.

Lessons learned / takeaways:  Wow.  A few main takeaways, which I’ll restrict to bullet points.

  • Bring everything in the car that you could CONCEIVABLY use.  Then bring on the ride what you actually need.  Example, the poncho, fingerless vs. full fingered gloves, an additional water bottle or two, the bubble mailer for the phone.  Make a list of rando-specific stuff & tick off that list.
  • Fueling, hydration.  Let’s not mess with what works.  We can adapt the riding style to longer rides with fewer/shorter breaks and still keep an optimal fueling/hydration approach.  Every rider is different; you know what works for you, and you know what doesn’t work for you.  Keep what works, and just improve upon it.
  • Pandora.  Curse Pandora for essentially bullying you into utilizing the pay version of the app. I don’t blame them, I am a hardcore capitalist at heart and they are in business to make money. Keeping the tunes flowing on a long ride is important enough to me to pony up the $$ to upgrade.  Multiple times on this ride, Pandora would stop the music to ask if I was still listening.  This actually became a small splinter in my mind.
  • Do a mental review of your routine at the control(s) and break(s).  Find ways to gain efficiency.

My goal remains to pursue RUSA’s P-12 award, which is given for riding at least one populaire RUSA ride every month for 12 consecutive months. This award is deceptively difficult to win and I have huge respect for all who have earned it.  I’m making it my intent to give it everything I have.  To that end, I’ll ride again in June – exact date and route TBD.

Successfully completed my first RUSA ride today.  A 100-kilometer (62 mile) permanent populaire.  It was very much a tale of two rides – the first half, and the return.

A full ride report will follow soon.

I am very gratified.  I finally have my first successful RUSA ride, and have joined the ranks of the rando’s.  This (randonneuring) is a sport I’ve wanted to participate in for well over a year – since prior to my first post about it on this blog, thirteen months ago, here.  Then, it was only a distant dream.  Now, it’s emerging into reality.

There was some glitchy stuff happening today with the posting of the RAGBRAI lottery results, but after that little bump in the road, I got my wristband # and confirmation that I’m in!  My riding buddy (Linda B) from KC, in fact the person who was the first to ever mention RAGBRAI to me, got in also!

Down 6 pounds in today’s weigh-in…got confirmation I’m going to RAGBRAI…registered for what will be (book it) my first successful RUSA populaire and the start of a long & beneficial RUSA career…today was a solid day!

Had a better than expected number this morning on my traditional “official” first-of-month weigh-in.  I posted 190.2 pounds, a 6 pound drop from April 1st.  I’m more than happy with this.

And yet, I’m ill at ease in some ways.  I don’t have time right now to expand on it, but will do so in a post hopefully later today.  Those who know me (or, heck, anyone who follows my blog) know I can tend to the wordy, and I expect that’ll be the case with this one, so be forewarned of a likely ramble-fest as I look to inventorize & organize my thoughts around the strange journey that is weight loss.

In any event, though – YES, I do feel very proud and happy with today’s weigh-in.  I’ve now lost close to 94 pounds (wow) since my all-time high, and I’m 80% of the way between my initial weight-loss goal (209) and my second goal (184).  As mentioned recently, I still have at least 20 lbs to shed; my plan is to continue to 184, then set another goal of another 10 lbs, down to 174.

More later.  For now though – I’m super excited.  I should leave the “190’s” decade behind forever (allowing for small fluctuations in weight) pretty soon.