Wander to Welda Weekend Twofer pt. 1 – Saturday

July 14, 2013

So, with no particular obligations or plans for this weekend, the idea struck me to do the Wander to Welda RUSA route – same I did last weekend with Ron A – on both Saturday AND Sunday of this weekend.  There’s a certain symbolic satisfaction in this – I still am sheepish/embarrassed about my 0-2 start to the RUSA career on this very route, so now, I’m making a small statement to return and complete it twice in one weekend. It’s also a good statement/test for me because, of my four RUSA rides prior to this one, only one of them didn’t leave me fairly useless from a cycling perspective on the next day. So to do this tough route two days in a row is, for me, big.

Day One – Saturday, July 13th

So, I once again got the control cards from Ron A, one for each day. A planned 5:30 AM start time each day – super early. For a 100-km ride, that is. Lots of established rando’s start at 3 or 4 AM for a 200-km ride, and sometime soon that’ll be me, but not yet 🙂

Woke up at 4 AM with the alarm and went into my normal morning routine.  First what I humorously refer to as my “morning juice bar” – I make a cup of coffee with a dash of hot cocoa, my normal green drink which contains V-8 and several fruits/veggies, and a bottle of ice cold water.  Sat down and worked through that fairly quickly while eating my normal breakfast cereal.  4:50 it was time to make final bike/equipment prep – fill belt bag with Hammer products plus control card and credit card for c-store purchases, fill water bottles, clean & lube chain, top off tire pressure, double check presence of spare tubes and air canisters in under-seat bag, etc. This time I threw a banana in my belt bag, which has become my normal MO for 55+ mile rides but which I did NOT do on last week’s RUSA ride, and which doubtlessly would have saved me some of my leg-cramping grief at the end.

Showered and dressed and was on the road by about 5:25.

Opening control was again the Short Stop gas station, about a mile from my house.  Arrived there around 5:30, went in to make a purchase and get card signed.  Same clerk was working who was there for my/Ron’s ride last week and remembered me.  I explained I’m a glutton for punishment 🙂  Didn’t mention that I also plan to ride tomorrow.  I wonder if the same dude will be there tomorrow too.

My purchase represented a new experiment for me.  Prior to today my solid-food fuel complement to the Hammer products for very long (50+ mile) rides has been Combo’s, in the belt bag. And while these are really good tasting, and good fuel for the bike, they become progressively less palatable to chew and eat as the miles stretch on.  For those reading who haven’t ridden long miles on a bike, it might not be intuitive but there’s something about the act of chewing and swallowing solid food while you’re churning away for mile after mile that becomes arduous and a real act of will.  It becomes harder to do, which CAN be bad if you need that to get the calories in.  I’ve found Combo’s problematic in this context.  After some few dozen miles, I just don’t want to chew them up thoroughly and swallow them down.  I’ve started considering replacements.  First I was considering Cracker Jacks, which on the whole looked to be decent bike fare, but their sugar content is higher than I’d like to be taking in hour after hour.  The nutritional content of Chex mix looked pretty solid, and their much smaller form factor seemed likely to be CONISDERABLY better than Combo’s later in rides, which turned out to be the case.  A fair amount of sodium, yes – you wouldn’t want to eat a lot of this stuff every day – but for fuel for long rides, and on which you’re going to drink a LOT of water and need sodium to balance, this is what the doctor ordered.

Made the purchase, got the receipt (5:34 AM) and card signed for the same time, and was rolling at 5:40.

Conditions were very similar to last week’s ride.  At 5:40 the sky was getting light but it was still pretty dark. The first mile or two on the trail were fairly dark, as I was wearing my shades to fend off the multiple spiderwebs that I knew to expect.  It was about 70 degrees to start.  Wind for the day was very similar, too – started around 8-9 MPH from the south, gradually building to maybe 12-13.  So a growing, but not substantial, headwind on the ride up and then decent tailwind on the return.  Again, with the tree cover on the PST, neither head nor tailwind is a MAJOR factor unless it’s really blowing.

This time, riding solo, I had Pandora going, my usual MO.  Ride tracking software, check.  Also I’d brought with me a “thank you” gift – a few small gift cards, to McDonalds, Dairy Queen and Subway – for the guy who returned my phone last week, making the title of this blog entry possible.

First several miles were pretty unremarkable, but I mean that in the best way.  It was dark, and I was again proven to be “tete de la course” as I found every single spiderweb along the trail.  At least last week, Ron had cleared maybe 50% of them and I’d cleared 50% – today it was all me.

I was feeling very strong and riding strong.  This past week I’ve been eating and drinking very clean, getting in bike and gym time, and the body is responding.  I’m going to make a post on this point sometime in the next couple days.  I was noticeably stronger/more comfortable on this ride, even, than last week on the same route.

Those who’ve read much of my blog at all know my bogeymen during long (50+ mile) rides is making sure my in-ride calories are sufficient and in-ride hydration is sufficient.  Otherwise, toward the end I tucker out a little and not infrequently border on leg crampiness.  With the intention from the get-go to do two straight days of this route, I knew I needed to be much smarter today.  Drink, drink, and drink more.  Bring the banana as I usually do and eat that.  So, in this first stretch I was drinking LOTS of water.  I had my usual two bottles in the handlebar bag – one with Perpetuem – and a third bottle in the frame.  The design was to drink basically a full 2 bottles of clean water plus a Perpetuem bottle every 16-18 miles for the length of the ride.  Chex mix to balance.  I was gratified very early to realize that my suspicions about the Chex were right on the money – MUCH easier to munch, and I knew that even late in rides this would be very accessible.

Nothing major to report for the first stretch – just drinking lots of water, munching Chex, listening to tunes, and riding through many spiderwebs.  After roughly 4-5 miles the sky had gotten light enough to see perfectly clearly even with the shades on.

I rolled into Richmond, about 15 miles in, and took my first break.  Still feeling good, in fact very good.  When I’m on top of my game in terms of calories and water on the bike, I’m feeling great.  Took a short break here, took about 2-3 bites of the banana, rejiggered water and fuel & took a health break, and back on the road.

First few miles outside Richmond are, again, my favorite section in terms of ease – you just fly along.  I made note this time of a particular mile marker that, on my return, would tell me I was very close to Richmond, because this section heading BACK north is a grunting grind, and I liked having a landmark to look for to tell me when the suffering was almost over 🙂

Soon enough, those few “miracle miles” passed and it was time for the 5-7 mile climb into Garnett.  Still drinking great and munching Chex occasionally, and riding strong.  In Garnett I took a very short break, just to rest up briefly from that ascent, and set the stage for the 7-8 mile grind to Welda.  I got back on the road (trail) after just a couple minutes and it was on to Welda and the turnaround.  The guy who’d returned my phone to me lived just south of the trailhead but I wanted to make sure to make Welda and back in good time, ensuring a successful ride, before peeling off to his place.  Plus at this stage it was not even 8 AM!  Didn’t know their morning routine and didn’t want to wake anyone.

The 7-8 mile “Bermuda Triangle” climb up to Welda (well, after an initial down-sloping-grade out of Garnett) is always a toughy and it was today too.  Fortunately I know exactly what I’m getting into and it’s just head down, find a gear and grind through it till you get there.  It was a few miles north of Welda that I saw a LARGE snake of some kind – a good 2, maybe 3 feet – partially in the trail sunning himself.  I stopped just past him and walked back a bit to get a picture, but this alarmed him and he crawled off into the grass and out of sight.  From the “flora and fauna” perspective, earlier on the ride (in fact, same Welda stretch) I’d seen a turtle right in the center of the trail; and half an hour earlier had been QUITE startled by a deer who bounded out into the trail ahead of me – I missed the first part of his leap as I was looking down at my bike, so to look up and see this huge, graceful animal in mid-air landing on the trail was startling.

I made it to Welda in good time.  Passed the information control at 8:32 AM – 22 minutes prior to control close – and proceeded the short distance to the trailhead for another rest and reset.  I made efficient use of time here, getting in and out in about 10 minutes after eating roughly half of the remainder of the banana, a little Chex, and rejiggering water.  Still feeling good, although I was feeling the effort of the ascent from Richmond.  Back on the trail for the finish.  It was good to have the wind at my back on the return, although that inevitably means it’s hotter, because you don’t have a breeze cooling you off.  I had a really good sweat going.  By this point I’d drank well over a gallon of water.

The Welda-to-Garnett stretch is a whole lot easier (typically) than the reverse.  That was the case today, particularly with the usual prevailing wind from the south.  I made very fast time back into Garnett.  I peeled off the trail to deliver the gift.  The guy was VERY surprised and almost speechless for a few seconds, as he clearly didn’t expect to see me again or for this to happen.  I’d taped up the cards with a note in an envelope, which I handed to him, so he didn’t know what exactly it was till I’d ridden away – all the same, he was very appreciative and we talked for a few minutes.  He mentioned that they also had a nicer smartphone as I do and that if they lost it they’d be lost themselves; and that he’d previously lost a phone and it never was returned or seen again, so he knew how I felt last week. His wife was there this time (she answered the door) and we all talked for a minute or two.  Really nice people.  I shook their hands again, he assured me I could stop in whenever, and I got back on the road to knock out the final 25 miles.

I’d been planning to take a short stop there at the Garnett trailhead, but leaving his house I felt strong and just kept going for Richmond.  Still drinking lots of water on the way, I benefitted from the nice 5-7ish mile downhill from Garnett with fast time.  Eventually the short but somewhat grunting climb into Richmond had to arrive, and it did. Once again, just put your head down, find a gear and work through it.  This was going to be the last challenging part of the route, I knew, and upon arrival in Richmond, it would proverbially (and almost literally) be all downhill.

I made respectable enough speed during that ascent, and soon reached Richmond.  There was a Specialized Sirrus parked there on my arrival, and soon I heard water running in the restroom, telling me its owner was in there freshening up.  I was going through my break-stop procedures when he emerged.  As is customary on trails – a routine I enjoy and appreciate – it was incumbent upon each of us to ask where the other had come from, how far they were going, etc.  This was an older gentleman, very nice and engaging, who it turned out had grown up in Ottawa, moved away decades ago, and was back now in town to ride the trail with friends – who, due to their different pacing, were well behind him to the north, so he was waiting for them.  He regaled me with many stories of his childhood, providing a glimpse into the idyllic small-town past of Ottawa, which is still quite like that.  Nice little hometown, and it was very cool getting this glimpse into its past.  By a funny coincidence, this guy grew up just a few houses down from where good friends of mine, Mr. & Mrs. O, currently live!  Truly a small world.

We ended up talking for a good while, and I truly hated not being able to talk longer.  I’d explained early in the conversation the nature of this timed bike ride I was on and that I needed to get going.  Had I been on a JRA (just riding around) ride, I would have stayed and talked till his friends got there and possibly beyond that, as they took a rest stop there too.  But, I needed to get going. Just before I pushed back, he mentioned that after this trail, they were all going over to ride the Katy Trail!  This is a passion of mine, so I SO much wanted to stay and share my experiences (confirmed with him that he’d never been on it).  I assured him it was a beautiful ride and that he’d love it.  With that, I got going.

I frequently get a little weary late in my RUSA rides, but today was for the most part an exception.  My superior hydration strategy and the banana were helping.  This last stretch I was a LITTLE weary because, after all, it’s a long ride, and I did reduce my drinking a little here (when it was hottest) which I shouldn’t have.  Plus shortly after leaving Richmond I felt like some meteor had rained down and created a crater in my stomach.  I was ready for lunch.  So the first couple miles was a little work, especially after cooling down for a while talking at the trailhead.  By this time in the day it was pretty darn warm, and with the lack of headwind, I was really dripping sweat.  But it’s a special reward of bicycle exertion!

I did take a short break in Princeton, just because I could.  It was clear that, timewise, I was not going to turn in an amazing time due to the conversation in Richmond, but nor was I in any realistic danger of missing the cutoff.  The possibility of a flat entered my mind, but even that wasn’t likely to present a major issue. So I stopped in Princeton, finished off the banana (I’d had a few bites of it back at Richmond also), got my water bottles set for the final stretch, and got going.

The last 8ish miles home were fairly uneventful. Again I was drinking a LITTLE less than I should have, but it didn’t have any big impact.  I could tell I was weary, and was ready for the ride to be over. I was very mindful that I was planning to do this all again 17 hours from now, and wanted to get home in good form, rest and recover.

I made it to the closing control at 11:45 – 33 minutes prior to control cutoff.  So I’d gained about 5 minutes over the RUSA pace from the Welda turnaround, despite the lengthy talk at Richmond.  I was quite content with this.  I bought the time-honored post-ride recovery / reward drink – chocolate milk, and MAN was I looking forward to drinking that – got my receipt, card signed, and it was on to Subway for lunch and to savor the chocolate milk.

Another good RUSA ride in the books, much better form (with the extra hydration, the banana, the Chex) than I have typically done, and as I write this on Saturday evening I’m feeling good.  Ready to get a good night’s sleep and do it all again tomorrow!

This ride was significant in one other way:  if I now, hypothetically, do only one RUSA ride per month for August through December, to continue after the P-12, then I’ll end up with 1000 RUSA km’s for the year and qualify for the 1000-km medal, i.e. I’ve now completed my two so-called “bonus rides” that I alluded to much earlier in this blog.  Of course, it’s my intention to ride a lot more often than once a month, but anyway…

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