Sunday, August 23, 2009

Today I will keep another promise to myself. In June, I kept a promise to myself and rode my bicycle to Metropolis to do the "Superman Ride" then rode home for 172 miles total on the day. Today, I'm riding to Mt. Vernon to do the "Kiwanis Fun Day In The Park Century" and ride back home. I should have about 220 miles on the day when I get back. I'm a little nervous about my ability to finish, but I'll never know if I don't try. I have an early start, but will be unable to eat before I leave. The "Hammer protocol" for long events is no eating within three hours of the start. And they recommend that you don't trade sleep for food. So I'm up with enough time for "first coffee" and hopefully a morning poop. (At my age, that's a daily blessing!)

All my stuff is packed and ready, and my bicycle has been thoroughly checked over by the bike wrench at The Bike Surgeon, so I can afford to relax before the event. I have decided to watch bicycling videos on YouTube to help motivate me. I chose videos of the most difficult events I could find, figuring that if they could do it, maybe I could, too.
Since watching videos of other people keeping promises to themselves wasn't going to be enough, I got dressed in my Hammer Nutrition kit and prepared to leave.

I wanted to be out of the door by 3:30 so that if I had any problems on the road, I could still make it on time for the start of the event in Mt. Vernon which was about 55 miles from here. That glowing you see is my safety sash. You'll see in other "dark" pictures just how much I believe in reflective touches to a bicycle and rider. Once after telling Carmel about a driver nearly hitting me in the dark, she said, "They either hated you personally, or they hate Christmas Trees, 'cause that's what you look like in the dark. No way they didn't see you."
Headed out the door for another adventure. Carmel wants a last kiss,"In case it's the LAST one", she says. She would be happy if I would ride an exercise bike in the living room while watching reruns of Gilligan's Island with her. What, I ask, would be the point in that? This way, I can face my fears, and test myself. I was guessing that I had about 17.5 hours of that in front of me. I knew the pace I would keep, and allowing for stops, I figured that I wouldn't be home until 8:00 tonight.
Sunrise between Waltonville and Woodlawn. I had ridden nearly 3.5 hours in the dark waiting for it's arrival. Now I could stop worrying about drunks, deer, dogs, and the Southern Illinois Bogey Man. The worst part about riding before daylight is the dark.
I took the time to mix some Hammer Perpetuem
for the next portion of the trip. I was carrying my fuel in a flask. The contents had the consistency of pancake batter. All day I would religiously take a hit every thirty minutes from the flask to stay fueled and avoid the dreaded bonk. In my bottles I used Hammer HEED. I was carrying extra powder to mix as I refilled. Aside from a couple of Clif bars for variety, this was my breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks all day. Continuing to eat is the most difficult thing about long distance cycling. After a while, your stomach revolts at the idea of taking in one more thing, but the alternative is making that phone call home for a ride. I wouldn't do that.

All kinds of riders, all kinds of bicycles. Everyone was looking for a day of fun. The Kiwanis always put on a good event in Mt. Vernon.
L to R - Wayne Tate, Michael Dunaway, and Josh Tate. They would be of help later as we faced stiff headwinds the last 40% of the ride. Michael, especially, would pull all of us for a while, giving me a needed break from the wind.
Michael Schoenecke, recently of the United States Navy, my son-in-law, was going to be my pacer, windbreak and companion for 110 miles of my adventure. He would be a crucial player in my successful achievement today.
Michael managed to keep this smile the entire time. In fact at the end, he had the strength to sprint up an incline to try to catch another rider. I, of course, didn't sprint with him, I would still have 60 miles to go.
Among bloggers and photographers, this is known as an "action shot". We were on Rend City Road near Rend Lake. Michael had about 35 miles in, and I was at about 90.
Self-photograph. The event was over, and I was riding alone again. Now I just had to make it home. I was at about 175 miles so far. I was riding out of the saddle (standing) for as long I could because of a nasty saddle sore which had developed. Unfortunately, I was burning energy too quickly that way and had to sit for a while to recover. Then stand. Then sit. Rinse and repeat. By now I was on the verge of making a pact with God along the lines of: If He would help me make it home, I would never ride on Sunday again. (I know He's more partial to Saturday as a day of rest and worship, but all the best rides are on a Saturday. No point in promising what you can't deliver, especially with God.)
Rend Lake near Benton. About 190 miles into my adventure. I was cursing myself for not taking up boating instead of bicycling. Or even motorcycling. Anything with a motor to make the thing go.
Sunset at Arrowhead Lake near Johnston City. Official sunset time would be 7:39 and I knew that I wouldn't make it before dark. I had lights on the bike. It would be OK.
This is the traditional "picture out front" that I always have taken. I always call Carmel on my phone asking for a picture before I come in. This time I urged her to hurry, I was ready to get some distance between me and the bike I love. We'd spent the last 17.5 hours travelling 223 miles together, and we needed some alone time.

Coming in the door looks a lot like going out it did earlier. But believe me, I'm not as enthusiastic as I was before - just tired, real tired.
Michael came over to the house to see for himself that I didn't get a ride home, and to congratulate "the old man" on finishing.

The day was done. I had kept my promise. At this moment, I feel as if I could give up bicycling and take up golf. But since I've heard that golf is a "cussing game", I decide to wait until a day or two passes before I put my bike on ebay. I probably won't. I'll probably promise myself a ride of a little longer distance the next time. You know me.