A few lessons learned on a difficult ride

All good road trips start at a coffee shop. If I were a bit more pretentious, I’d have a thing against Starbucks, but I really don’t. It’s decently good coffee, the service is generally quick (at least here in Severna Park) and the people behind the counter are friendly. Most importantly at 5:00 AM on a Saturday, it was open. I alternated between my 5 shot venti americano and a skratchlabs drink. I also ate a cinnamon scone on the way. That was the fuel.

Upon arrival at a rural mega-church outside Lancaster, PA, I scouted out my buddy’s ride and parked near his. I headed inside to register and then got my cycling gear on. Within minutes, I knew that the chamois and my nether-regions were not going to get along on this ride. I wished I’d packed some chamois butter or at least some vaseline, but I didn’t remember that either were in the bag.

We headed out and I quickly learned that the past month and a half of sitting on my ass was going to catch up to me quickly. I’d seen the elevation profile when I registered, but it did not register. Lancaster County has a lot of ups and downs, where as my usual terrain is flat. Flat, like less that 200 feet in elevation over 17 mile rides flat. I was in for some struggling.

The first 30 miles were not particularly difficult, but I was feeling them. The chamois and my nether-regions were in an all out war with each other. This was a supported ride but I wouldn’t say it was well supported. Food was sparse at the rest stops and there was no first aid to be found. Since they did a great job planning the route to avoid towns, there was no where to stop and pick up anything to relieve the chaffing that I was certain was going on. Perhaps some field mud?

I soldiered on and had some real difficulty on two of the hills. On one, I averaged less than 5 miles per hour. I’m not sure I could have gone any slower and still kept the bike upright. But the downhills were amazing. On one, while clutching the breaks and white knuckling it, I hit 37.5 miles per hour. That may be the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bike.

After the final hill, I was dogged. My friends were peddling at a clip that I couldn’t sustain, but that was fine by me. I just kept turning the pedals and knew I’d show up when I did. About five miles out from the finish, I came upon an older woman (mid to late 60’s) who was walking her bike on a flat section. I suspected she needed help. She told me she’d flatted and was walking in. The frustration was evident, “fourth flat this year.” I suspected that she didn’t know how to change her flat.

It took some convincing, but I got Eunice to stop and I changed her flat in less than 10 minutes, maybe five minutes. I think she was completely blown away that someone would show so much kindness to her. (I could get righteous and talk about how people shouldn’t cycle without basic repair skills, or about how her son should have stayed with her if he knew that she didn’t have the skills – but that would be waisted effort.)

When I came upon Eunice, I was pretty much ready for the ride to be done. If a SAG wagon had pulled up, I might have taken the SAG even though my bike was in perfect working order. But something magical happened in the minutes that I was off the bike and changing her flat. My spirits lifted and my legs recovered just enough. I rode in triumphantly even if I was late. And so did Eunice.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Despite having not ridden much in August and September, I still had the strength to do a 65 mile ride. But, training is important and I would have enjoyed the ride more if I’d done some more regular riding leading up to this ride.
  2. Eating is important. Don’t count on a supported ride being supported in the way you might expect or like it to be. Bring your own food.
  3. Always bring a few first aid items with you on a ride. Chaffing can happen at any time and having something with you to relieve the pain will make a ride much more pleasant.
  4. Nothing makes you feel better than helping another human being. There were a lot of parts of my ride that I truly enjoyed, but there was a lot of struggle and suffering as well. If I hadn’t helped out Eunice, I might not have had such a positive finish.

2 thoughts on “A few lessons learned on a difficult ride

  1. heh…. I’ve hit nearly 70 on a descent. I’m one of those guys that refuses to touch the brakes unless disaster is just a hair past imminent. Also, I’ve noticed that trimming, not shaving, hair very short seems to help with chaffing. Shaving that area brings on a whole new kind of misery and makes you long for the good old days when all you had to deal with was chaffing.


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