On June 4th Mike Doyle and I made the journey, once again, to Eldridge Iowa to participate in the Ultra Midwest (Big Dog’s) 600 K brevet. I needed to complete this last brevet in the 4 ride series to be eligible for Paris-Brest-Paris. Mike was riding for the challenge to see how far he could push himself.
The time cut-off for a 600K is around 40 hours but our plan was to ride straight through the night. I have successfully complete two previous 600K’s, six 24 hour rides, a 33 hour ride and a 35 hour ride. Mike had never ridden more the 12 hours and with a projected 24-26 hour finishing time this would take Mike into un-known areas of cycling. I have been riding with Mike for many years and I had not doubt that he would be physically up to the task but all ultra-distance riders know the physical challenge of a 600K is not the hardest part. A ride of this length is mentally challenging as you ride through the sleepy hours of the night knowing you have many miles to go before you can get off the bike.
Five other riders that started had the same game plan to ride through the night. The group consisted of the same riders Mike and I rode with on the 200 and 300K as pictured above with the exception of the rider on the right Matt Levy. Left to right Mike Doyle,Jim Yost, Larry Ide, Joe Mann, Jay Yost, Paul Carpenter, Doug McLerran.
The forecast for the day was light winds out of the south-west switching to west then north-west as evening approached and temperatures in the 90’s with over-night lows in the upper 60’s. With a route that headed southwest before the turn around the wind was going to be a factor during the ride. I do not like riding in that kind of heat so getting through the middle of the day was also going to be quite the challenge.
Control stops to get our brevet cards signed were Bennett, Wilton, Nichols, Morning Sun, West Point, Keosauqua the Bloomfield. It would have been neat to drop down to Missouri.
As we headed west-ward we had a little wind in our face but the group worked together to negate the effects and we pushed through the first 62 miles to Nichols with no problems. With the wind more west and the temperatures approaching 90 the leg to the south proved to be a little more challenging. We kept the pace a little slower to make sure everybody stayed together. We took an un-scheduled break in New London to cool off as the temperature was in the upper 90’s. At the 100 mile mark my bike computer showed 100 degrees. We still had many miles to go so it is better to spend a little time now to have the energy to make it through the next 18 hours. With about 5 miles to go before our southern section ended the wind switch to the west-north-west. It was the first, and last tail wind we would have for this ride.
While we were in New London Joe Jamison caught up with us in his van. He is the organizer of the brevet series and many other rides promoted by the Big Dog’s. Joe has been on two RAAM crews and been participating in ultra-cycling events for many years so he knows, first hand, what it takes to complete rides of this length. The only outside support you can received during a brevet is at the control points and Joe’s plan was to meet us at the controls through the night to make sure we had food and drink and sign our cards. This route had no 24 hour convenience stores so between 11 pm and 6 am there would be no place to replenish supplies. He also would provide a “safety net” if something happened and one of us could not continue.
Leaving West Point, heading into the wind, Mike and I got a little gap on the rest of the group and continued on our own for the next 30 miles. At the 140 mile mark the clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped and the wind quit as it started to rain. Boy did the rain feel nice after being baked for the last 3 hours. Mike and I rolled along enjoying the cool weather and the scenery of the Bonaparte, Bentonsport area. We rode through this area on RAGBRAI several years back and I remember the nice river valley but also some big climbs. This would prove to be the hilliest section of the otherwise flat route.
As we headed into Keosauqua Joe was on the side of the rode and told us there was a severe storm warning for the next 30 minutes and we needed to wait it out in town. The longer then scheduled break at a nice c-store gave us time to have a nice meal and allowed Jay, Paul and Larry a chance to catch up. Jim and Doug were a little further back and rolled into town as we rolled out after a 45 minute break. This was our longest break of the day and Mike’s favorite and my least favorite. Only 30 miles until the turn around and it looked like Keosauqua would be the last re-fuel stop before the night.
As the darkness rolled in the winds had quit and were not going to be a factor for the rest of the day/night back to Eldridge. Doug re-joined us before dark but Jim was still back about an hour at the turn around. We stocked up supplies for the long night of closed stores. Larry purchased six 20 ounce Cokes. One to drink, three for his pockets and two for the bottle cages. To the left is a great picture. The overnight temperatures were mild in the upper 60’s but the humidity was very high. It was foggy in some areas and the due dripped off your arms and helmet all night long. The six of us rolled back to a closed up West Point at 11:00. Joe Jamison met us to sign our cards and offer us food and drink. He mentioned that Jim was back about 60 minutes but was still moving along. Joe said he was going to keep an eye on him and we might not see him a the next couple stops. I had plenty of food and drink so was not too concerned.
Our next stop was Morning Sun. Between West Point and Morning Sun a car pulled up next to us and asked if we needed a ride. We of course said no and they informed us that it was dangerous to be out this late because there could be drunks on the road. Somebody said something to the effect that we would be OK. I guess the driver and passenger thought this was a smart aleck response as they roared ahead of us then slammed on their brakes in the middle of the road. We split to go cautiously around the car as I took the shoulder. Larry stopped to talk to them and discovered they were not happy that they would have to go around us when there could be a car coming the other way. I think they were the drunks they were warning us about. It really turned into a non-incident but gave us something to talk about and woke us up a little. Joe was not in Morning Sun as we stopped at the closed Casey’s for a break. Nichols was our next control point.
Before Nichols we had to go through Columbus Junction. I knew there was pop machines at the grocery store that we could stop and buy pop or water to get us to Nichols. If Joe did not meet us in Nichols then Wilton would be the next chance for an open store. The pop machines were like an oasis during the night. Many bottles of water and cans or pop were purchased before we continued our journey north to Nichols.
Arriving in Nichols we still did not see Joe. We once again stopped at the Casey’s store to consume any food we were carrying. To any vehicle passing by it must have looked strange to see six cyclist, with red light flashing, sitting in front of a closed Casey’s store at 4:30 in the morning as the sun was coming up. Joe showed up 15 minutes after we did with Jim sitting in the van with him. It looked like he had decided to call it quits. As he got out of the van we asked how he was and what caused him to call it quits and he calmly said he got hit by a car. North of West Point a driver was answering a text message and ran into the back of him. Luckily Jim was OK but his rear wheel was crushed and his ride was over. Joe leap frogging and keeping an eye on us throughout the day proved really lucky otherwise I am not sure how Jim would have gotten back to Eldridge 120 miles away. He lives in the Champaign Illinois area so calling home for a ride would have been a long wait. This incident really makes you think about being out on the road with no support. Last year when I did the 600K I was 230 miles from home at the turn around. That “thrill” is what I like about unsupported rides.
The Casey’s in Wilton was open as we rolled into town shortly after 6:00 am with lightning flashing off to the south. Luckily it stayed to the south and we had smooth sailing all the way through Bennett and into Eldridge for a 8:43 finish for a total time of 26:43 with 22:15 riding time. Way to much time off the bike. Mike will tell you we did not take long enough breaks.
Food and drink for 378 miles: 3 servings Perpetuam, 2 ham and cheese sandwiches, chicken wrap, piece of cheese pizza, Payday bar, Snickers, 2 orange Sobe's, Scotch-a-roo (Rice Krispie treat with peanut butter and Chocolate frosting), 3 chicken tenders, chocolate milk, 6 Fig Newton’s, Little Debbie Creme pie, cheese stick, ham and cheese breakfast sandwich, homemade apple pastry, hammer gel, ensure and only one 12oz Mt. Dew. Also a ton of water.
Larry’s diet is always interesting and quite a contrast to mine. It just shows that diet for ultra events is very individual: 4 donuts, 2 beef jerky, 2 pieces pizza, 2 paydays, Ice cream nutty cone, Rice Krispy with chocolate on top, ham and cheese sub, few more donuts, 3 cans dew, four 24-oz cokes, around fifteen 20 ounce cokes, two 20 ounce orange juice, 2 twelve ounce kiwi-strawberry drinks and 1/2 bottle water. Other half went on head.