Tuesday, June 2, 2009
What a great conditions for an out and back bike ride to the north! 51 degrees at the 5:00 am start time with no wind. The forecast for the day was to be near 80 with north west breezes increasing as the day progressed. About 30 ultra-distance cyclists from all over the Midwest gathered in Dewitt Iowa for the Balltown Classic. Bill Ford and Mike Doyle joined me for this year's ride. For Mike this was his third start and for Bill it was his fourth in a row. I was lining up for my fifth consecutive attempt.
The first 60 miles went by quickly as 12 of us rolled into the first stop in 2:50. If you have never seen a sag stop at an ultra-distance event it is more like a pit stop in NASCAR then a RAGBRAI stop. I personally like to be in and out in less then one minute. My stop includes two new water bottle, slam down a bottle of Ensure, and grab a bag with a sandwich to eat halfway to the next stop then back on the road. The goal is to be out towards the front of the group so you don't have to chase. I was the fourth rider back on the road. For most riders, including Mike, first and foremost is a bathroom break. Unfortunately Mike took a little too and never caught back up with the rest of the group.
After the "stop" the route gets hillier and our group dwindled down to 8. At the 85 mile mark as you leave Epworth you enter some back roads that wind around and take you to the turn around at Balltown. This 20 mile stretch has three very steep and long climbs. They all are over 10% grade and one gets up to 18%. Throw in some pretty bad road conditions and you get one heck of a workout.
The eight of us rolled into Balltown (Bill and I sprinted for the sign and he won) for the turn around in 5:07. The turn around is actually at the 105 mile mark so we were still averaging over 20 mph. Not too bad for a bunch of old guys. Other then RAAM finisher Bryce Walsh I don't think any of us were under 40. At Balltown Bill and I decided to wait for Mike and finish the ride together. None of the three of us had ever finished with anybody. Each year on the way back it seemed like ever-rider for themselves. We decided we had nothing to prove and since the three of us had been planning this all year why not enjoy it. Besides misery loves company. Stopping time in Balltown was 35 minutes.
We picked up, and dropped a few riders going back through the big hills. The worst climb we sped up the hill at a whopping 5.5 mph. Back on the flat the three of us worked well together. Nothing hard just steady and efficient as the three of us rolled into the "stop" at 150 miles. We were number 6,7 and 8 to arrive 40 minutes behind the leaders. Three other riders left right after we arrived so we were within sight of third place. Just as Mike was getting comfortable at this stop I told him it was time to go and he would have to eat his food on the bike. This stop totaled about 10 minutes.
The tailwind picked up as we head back through Lost Nation to Dewitt. We were rolling along when we looked up and saw the other three riders. One of them had just got a flat and they all stopped to help him fix it. That is a great thing about Ultra-distance riding. No rider left behind. The guy with the flat was out of tubes so he borrowed one from Bill and a CO2 from me. That time got a hole as soon as we aired it up. It looked like his valve stem hole was causing his problems so Bill used the old tube to make a boot to cover the hole and he borrowed Mikes tube and got rolling again. The three of us pushed it in the tailwind (25-30 mph) and lost two of the riders and finished with Paul Carpenter. Paul was the only finisher of RAW last year and went with Bill and I to Florida in February. This gave me some time to pick his brain about my upcoming race. We were finishers 3,4,5 and 6 in 10:48 with a riding time of 9:55. In Ultra-distance events they only keep time to the minutes not seconds so there is no sprinting to the finish unless you can get a one minute gap. After 201 miles nobody was sprinting.
Food and drink for the ride:
Two 70 oz camelbacks of water, 48 oz of Gaterade, 60 oz of Cytomax Energy Drink, 24 oz Perpetuim, 2-20 oz Sobee's, three chicken salad sandwiches, 10 fig newtons, three ensures, three cheese sticks, one package of Clif Shot Bloks, 20 Succeed S!Caps(no cramps on this ride for the first time).
Check back for the Crew Chief profile and my final thoughts and preparations as the race is only two weeks away.