Wander to Welda Weekend Twofer pt. 2 – Sunday

July 14, 2013

Day two of my two-day Wander to Welda RUSA weekend twofer.  Day one is posted here.

Day Two – Sunday, July 14th

Character building ride for me today, just continuing to strengthen my randonneur spirit.  I candidly was apprehensive about riding again.  This route is still pretty tough for me, and here I was attempting to do it for the *second day in a row*.  I looked within myself for the go/no-go decision but couldn’t escape the randonneur’s Prime Directive:  the rider must absolutely believe that quitting is the worst thing that may occur.  In my mind that goes just as well for a DNS (Did Not Start) for a ride that you’d committed to doing, as a DNF.  This overriding principle is totally unambiguous, leaving one choice – ride, and if the ride stops you, it stops you.  But give it what you got.

A word of preface – those looking for a ride report featuring a blistering finish time should look elsewhere.  In fact, should look no further than my friend Ron A – but more about that later.  For myself, I did ride today and finished within control times, but, weary from two days of big (for me) miles and difficult terrain, I didn’t set any speed records.

Start time was again 5:30.  I’d rehydrated and recovered pretty well yesterday and, while understandably a little tired, I felt like I could go this morning.  Intended wake-up time was 4:00 with the alarm, but rolling over around 2:30, I flipped on the TV, saw that the verdict had come in in the George Zimmerman trial, and watched the coverage for about 70 minutes.  With insufficient time to get back to sleep and catch Z’s, I turned off the alarm and got moving.  At least I’d have a little bit more time freedom this morning versus yesterday.

Normal morning routine – my “juice bar” of green drink, coffee with cocoa, and water.  Ate some breakfast, packed up the belt bag, final bike prep, and jumped into the shower.  By about 5:20 I was on the road to the starting control, the Short Stop gas station.

Same dude was in fact working there as was there yesterday morning, and last week when Ron & I rode.  By now he definitely knew the drill, and asked me if I was riding again today.  Yep.  Picked up another bag of Chex mix & saved the receipt, got the card signed (5:30 AM for both) and was rolling by about 5:35.

Almost identical conditions to yesterday.  About 70 degrees to start, wind for the day almost identical, and lighting almost identical.  Again first couple of miles were pretty dark with my anti-spiderweb shades on; by about 4ish miles in I could see very clearly.

My hydration and calorie approach yesterday served me very well so it was reprised today.  Banana in the belt bag, 3 bottles of water (one with Perpetuem), all of which were drunk from very liberally between stops/refills, and Chex mix in the bag.

As with yesterday, first stretch passed without much to report.  I rolled into and through the town of Princeton en route to Richmond for my first stop.  Along the way, I once again found every single spiderweb – and once again there were LOTS.  At one point I felt what I still think was a bite on my stomach, and spent some seconds making sure nothing was still alive and crawling around there.  At more than one point I saw a live spider crawling around on the bike on webs that I’d captured as I rode through.  It was pretty funky.

I reached Richmond at pretty good pace – very slightly slower than yesterday, I believe.  However, here I hit an odd time warp.  A combination of feeling slightly cavalier about my ability to crank out ride time when I needed, plus needing to take some time here to really wash off my face, arms, bike helmet, etc of spiderwebs, left me rather unexpectedly in a time hole – or at least, with NO time in the bank.  Looking at the clock prior to pushing off, I was shocked at how long I’d been at the trailhead – it seemed much shorter.  I was essentially “on pace”, but not ahead of pace.  This lit a fire under me and I took off for Garnett at decent speed, running over and over various finishing time scenarios in my head.

Once again the first few miles outside Richmond were fast, although today they seemed not AS fast, which only added to my concern.  I don’t want to overtalk this – I wasn’t panicked or anything, but I was aware that I needed to pedal with intention and to get in and out of my future breaks quickly.

The climb up into Garnett was tough, as usual, but I am clearly getting into better shape – despite having ridden yesterday and therefore being doubtless more tired than if I were fresh, I felt strong during the climb and just grinded through it.

Reaching Garnett, I again took a very short break, to recover for a minute or so from the exertion of the ascent, before continuing to Welda and the turnaround.  Still drinking plenty of water (a gallon or more by this point) and taking in appropriate calories, I felt good – just wanted to give the legs and lungs a second to rest before going on.

Just as I was 15 seconds away from getting on the bike, a cyclist flew past from the north, the direction I’d come from.  In the quicker-than-conscious-thought timeframe that impressions arrive in, I thought “man, that looked a lot like Ron.”  The guy saw me, said “good morning” which I returned, and then he called out, “Bill!” and quickly slowed to a stop, doubling back. It WAS Ron!  He’d decided this morning to ride the route.  Talk about setting a pace – he’d left the opening control 40 minutes after I had and reached Garnett about 5 minutes after I did.

I was thrilled to see him again.  I turned off Pandora, now having gained a riding partner, saddled up and we rode off.  Ron had in fact been hammering it and flown up here from Ottawa with no break and in fast time.  He needed to get home to take care of some things, so initially our thinking was that if he needed to leave me behind and I couldn’t keep up, then he should do so; but quickly he decided he’d ride with me to Welda.  He knew I would take a break there, and he would just turn around and continue.  I was happy to be able to talk to ride with & talk to him again, and happy to have someone light a fire under me in terms of pace for this Welda grind.

We both made decent time into Welda.  I’m quite sure I slowed him down a little bit, although I like to hope not all that much – he often dials it back a notch on this stretch, and I was pushing it a little bit to keep up with him.  We talked about the Tour, about my back-to-back Welda days, about some older bikes he recently bought and is building up; but mostly we talked about awards, RUSA awards.  Ron’s been in the game longer than I have and has picked up a lot different rando (RUSA and non-RUSA) awards, and we talked about our mutual motivation to keep pushing ourselves through these rides, driven largely (certainly not entirely) by the interest to pick up these items.  At this point I’ve no rewards yet from RUSA – my control cards are the closest thing, and we talked about scrapbooking and preserving those – but it was inspirational to talk about a subject we both like and to look forward to starting to write my own name in the book of randonneuring accomplishment.

The grind to Welda isn’t easy, and during a couple open stretches we hit a determined headwind; but soon enough we made it there.  As per the plan, Ron and I bid farewell and bonne route; he split off back north while I continued to the trailhead to go through my routine.  It was just shy of 8:30 – about 25 minutes before control close (for me, that is – he had left 40 minutes after I had).  Exchanging texts with him later I learned Ron kept up his possessed pace, turning in the fastest 100-km ride time he’d notched in quite some time. A beast.

Now with some time in the bank, I nonetheless moved very purposefully through the control.  I was still feeling good and wasn’t getting tired yet; but I knew that the cumulative miles of the last two days, the fast-for-me pace I’d set from Garnett to Welda, and the absence of a fellow rider to take my mind off the struggle the remaining 32 miles were going to result in feeling tired eventually.  I restocked water, fuel, etc, and had about 1/3rd of the remainder of the banana (I’d taken a few bites back in Richmond).  I soon got back on the trail and was happy to now have the wind at my back.

The section between Welda and Garnett was, as usual, quite a bit simpler than the same stretch heading the other direction.  The last few miles up into Garnett is a climb, but I worked my way through it.  Once again I took a short stop in Garnett to recover.

From here I started feeling the fatigue set in.  I had about 24 miles to go, and the time situation was such that I was going to finish on time barring a MAJOR mechanical issue; so I allowed myself to take a couple of different unplanned breaks on the way back to Ottawa.  I was feeling more and more weary as the ride wore on and needed to allow myself to rest and recover.  I had my usual rest stop at Richmond, where I rested a good while, talking to a couple who had ridden down from Iola and were en route to Ottawa, and I ate most of the rest of my banana.  Leaving there, the intention was to get into Ottawa (only about 14 miles away) in one stretch but I was pretty tuckered out and let myself take a couple small breaks.  Just a mile or two north of Richmond I received a very painful bee or wasp sting, to the inside of my right pinkie – which was awesome.  I let a couple very choice words fly.

The older version of me would have gotten very down and critical of himself for needing to take a couple breathers in the final stretch; and I’m not saying I am FINE with doing it – but I wasn’t feeling like a failure.  This was a very tough two days I’d attempted, and I had done really well. This was a route that just a few months before had caused me to quit on myself, not once but twice, and here I was successfully doing it twice in a weekend.  I was at the same time setting a new personal record for mileage in a two-day stretch, at about 130 miles.  And most importantly, I was able to sufficiently remove emotion from the equation to zoom out and view it in its proper context:  I’m getting stronger and evolving.  I’m continuing to go to the gym and getting stronger; I’m continuing to eat and drink quite clean and healthy; I’m continuing to lose weight (this morning I weighed in below 184 pounds for the first time since starting to drop weight 4 years ago); I’m continuing to become a better cyclist; I’m on my way and I’m getting there.  The words of the unfailingly upbeat Ron A, from last week and this morning too, were a thread in the tapestry of support.  In older days I might have beat myself up for being less than incredible; today, I realized that I’m in fact doing great and continuing to progress.

After deliberately allowing myself enough break time that I would arrive at the control in time albeit without tons to spare, I finally did roll into Ottawa.  Getting off the gravel part of the trail and onto the paved part was great; turning totally off of THAT and seeing the control dead ahead was even better.  It’s a very funny thing, ending a long timed bike ride like this; you’re working, struggling, working, struggling, thinking of the end; and then VERY suddenly, the ride is over.  You’re turning into the parking lot.

I locked up the bike and went in.  This time a DOUBLE chocolate lowfat milk from Nestle (the small difference in calories and sugar wasn’t a concern), paid, got the receipt and got the card signed. It was 12:02 (although receipt said 11:59) – 16 minutes before the control close.

As I did the last two Wander to Weldas (last week and yesterday), I took the chocolate milk over to Subway, where I frequently eat after a bike ride, ordered and sat down to decompress.  And let me tell you, that chocolate milk recovery / reward drink may have been the most awesome thing I’ve ever tasted.

RAGBRAI coming up next weekend through the following weekend, so it’s pretty likely I am done with RUSA rides for July.  I’ll pick up again in August – as early as feasible – in continued pursuit of the P-12.

Thank you for reading!

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