Monday, June 6, 2011
Tour de Cave Ride Report
My 45 mile bike ride through the Kentucky countryside was a success. I had a wonderful time and saw some of the most breathtaking scenery. From gorgeous fields of golden wheat, to charming old houses with bright splashes of color in their gardens, to the lush greenery of the Mammoth Cave National Park, it was an amazing ride. I felt pretty good most of the way, although my bum, back and shoulders got tired a few times.
I ended up riding near a couple and an older man, and while we did not speak much, we rode together companionably. They kept a better pace than I did until we hit a hill and then I was usually the first to the top. My average speed for the ride was 13.3 mph, and that was pleasing to this novice rider. I have a lot of work to do, and I am in the process of planning out weekly rides and actually working on improvement this year. I'd like to get to where I can hold a 15 mph minimum speed for my entire ride (maybe faster for the shorter ones). I have my eyes set on a half-ironman one day, but I need to get considerably more efficient on my bike before I attempt that.
On this ride I loved my surroundings. For most of the morning there was a cool breeze and plenty of shade, so the heat did not bother me much. I passed a dear munching on a bush and she just looked at me as I rode by. There were plenty of hills, but they were gradual and rolling. There was one horrific hill and I did not realize just how steep it was until I was in the midst of climbing. I should have known by the frowny face in front of the words "big hill" spray painted on the road that this was not your average hill, but I powered up as hard as I could. I was standing on my bike, legs pumping, lungs heaving, determined to get to the top without getting off my bike. I made it most of the way before a car drove up behind me. I wasn't super steady on my bike and so I couldn't really stay to the right and let them by. Eventually, I conceded and hopped off. I walked it up the remainder of the hill thinking, "I will be back for you next year...."
Shortly after the hill, there was another warning spray painted on the road that read "Dogs Ahead." I did not see any, but I stayed alert. Sure enough, I heard two hound dogs begin to bark off to my left, and as I turned to look at them, I saw them begin their pursuit. I peddled as hard as I could go, and started laughing, which did not help matters. It just seemed so comical to be peddling like that with two dogs chasing me. I could hear them in the tall grass beside my bike when a car drove passed and they stopped their chase. I was kind of relieved because my legs were still burning from that hill.
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. At mile 21.5, I stopped at the aid station and ate a piece of watermelon and half of a banana. I noticed the bowls of M&Ms, but decided against them - a decision I regretted soon after. I was running low on steam, and watermelon and banana did not cut it. I had some honeystinger gummies in my back pocket and so I very expertly (in my opinion) dug them out, opened them and ate four, all while riding. I felt like I was some sort of accomplished rider for the next few miles, and then when the gummies reached my system, I felt great!
I hit another low around mile 40 and I started day dreaming about those M&Ms again. The last 5 miles felt long, and by that time, my back and shoulders were extremely tired. When I reached mile 45 on my speedometer, I looked around at the corn fields surrounding me and said to no one, "I am at mile 45 and I am supposed to be done now..." It was only 2 more miles to the school where we started, but they too seemed like an eternity. When I got off my bike, I gingerly stretched out my aching back and slowly put my bike on the back of the 4Runner before heading over to the tables with snacks and water. AND M&Ms! I refilled my water bottle with cool, fresh water and got a handful of M&Ms. I sat and chatted with the other riders until Jason rode up, completing his 70 mile ride.
On the way home we compared stories and I was amazed at how normal I felt. Once I moved around a little and loosened up my muscles, I felt totally fine. It had taken me 3 and a half hours to complete the 47 miles, and it felt nothing like running for that long. I had a great day and thought to myself that I just might get the hang of this cycling thing before too long. And I welcome the experience of getting there.