We rolled through the starting arch at 7:00am, us and about 100 other people. The first few miles were pretty chaotic, there were a lot of bikes all bunched up together, to be perfectly honest, I can’t believe no one got hurt. There are rest stops every 10-12 miles along the route and my goal was to skip the first two stops, but the amount of coffee we consumed at 4:30am resulted in a pit stop at the first rest area.
We skipped the second rest area and rolled into the lunch stop at a local high school just after 9:00am. Now your first thought might be “who eats lunch at 9:00am?” Well, people who had breakfast at 4:00am. The lunch stop is always fun, you are surrounded by 1000 other people who have just done the exact same thing you’ve done. There are people of all shapes, sizes and athletic abilities; you see $50 garage sale bikes and $10,000 professional race bikes. You see people who should be in spandex and people who shouldn’t, but in general everyone is friendly and supportive of everyone else.
There are local bike shops at each stop along the way to help with mechanical issues. There are trucks and SUVs all sporting bike racks all along the route for those who for one reason or another need a lift. The volunteers swarm around like a bee hive making sure riders have what they need from food and drinks to medical care. But the coolest are those with MS who come out to cheer and support the riders. The have signs and yell encouragements, it’s a great reminder of why we’re really out there.
Once we inhaled a couple sandwiches and a ho-ho or two, we headed back out. The weathermen had been calling for some rain, but to this point the weather had been perfect. It was sunny with a mix of clouds, cool and no wind to speak of. We made the lunch stop averaging about 15.5mph, not a bad pace for us. Everything changed after lunch. As we left the lunch stop we could see clouds in the distance. As we continued the ride said clouds became more and more ominous. Then the winds came at about mile 38! We’re not talking a nice cool breeze; we’re talking gale force winds that had trees going sideways. We would find out later that we battled 20mph winds with gusts well above that. Winds like that are hard on everybody, but those of us who are of a larger build, it’s unbelievable, and we’re not exactly aerodynamic.
For 5 miles we did battle with winds off Lake Erie. We hit the next rest stop and like just about everyone else we put on out rain jackets. Mine isn’t a true rain jacket, but it is a high viability/reflective jacket. We put our cell phones in zip lock bags and prepared for the oncoming storms. The picture I have included is the weather radar at that time. The rains moved in around mile 46 along with some thunder and lightning. The rains varied from a nice gentle shower to a driving stinging rain. We had a break for about 8 miles at one point, not that you really noticed, the amount of water on the roads still soaked you. My favorite memory from this portion of the ride was to watch grown adults huddle under trees in the middle of a thunderstorm, of course some of these geniuses we also passing left of center, going up hill!
By about mile 60-65 we were both starting to get a little tired, mostly of being cold and wet. While you were riding the cold was bearable, but when you’d stop, the shivering was almost immediate. We finally rolled across the finish line 7 hours after we started. The tracking app I use says we had 6 hours of actual ride time. 75 miles in 6 hours? I’ll take it.
The ride wasn’t over for us when we crossed the finish line. We had an additional 2 miles to ride from the finish area to our hotel. The event gives you the option of sleeping in the gym at a local high school, but I’m too old to sleep on a gym floor filled with strangers. We got to the hotel and let me just say that the warm shower and dry clothes were the highlight of the day!
What’s great, we get to do it all over again tomorrow.