IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Monday, May 07, 2007

Suddenly Windy Century

I woke up and jumped online to check the weather forecast for the day's ride. Though it was only 52 so early in the morning, the prediction was for the temperature to rise to 70. Great, I thought, this will be a nice, warm ride! However, I noticed the little pictures on the hour-by-hour forecast went from a cute little sun to the word wind. This wind was scheduled to start around 10am and last through the afternoon.

It took a little longer to get to the starting location than I had planned, so the nearest parking lot was already filled. I went to turn around when I noticed Chris chasing me down the street. He and Laura had parked in a lot a couple blocks down. Excellent! Since I planned to ride a majority of these miles with Laura, I figured it made sense to park near them.

Quickly, I found a spot and ran to the registration line, which seemed really long. While there I saw so many Salt Creek Tri Club members. It was awesome! I quickly gathered my wristband and course map, but they were out of cue sheets for the 100 mile route. I waited for about 10 minutes, but I knew people were getting anxious to start, so I grabbed a 75 mile cue sheet and went back to my car to get ready.

Many of the Luna Chix were riding today, and we were quite the vision in our bright Luna jerseys! As I was getting my things together, I decided it was much colder than had lead me to believe. I was shivering and my legs were covered with goosebumps. The wind was already quite strong and I shuddered at the fact that at some point, we'd have to be riding head on into the wind today. Maybe I should change plans and go for the 60 mile route, which many of the Luna Chix were planning to do...? Well, I just decided I'd make that decision when the split of the two courses came.

I went on over to Chris and Laura and Sally was nearby. Sally and I planned to practice some of our time trial riding today because of the race we are entered in next weekend. Sally didn't bring a jacket and was already calling dibs on my jacket when I was ready to dump it. With the cold air and the wind whipping around us, I wasn't sure I was letting this jacket go at all today! We were all at the start and started to roll, only about 20 minutes later than as planned. Within a block, Judy needed to stop because her cleat was loose. She took off her shoe and we saw that out of the 4 screws that hold on her cleat, 3 of them were missing!! And she had just been on a ride 3 days ago. It's a very depressing thought when you're prepared for a long ride and something like this happens that threatens to cancel the ride for you completely. Cyclists typically carry extra tubes, tools and pumps...but no one carries extra screws for their cleats!! With that, we left Judy to fix her cleat and she promised to call me if she wasn't going to be able to join us for the ride.

The ride started off and our group was pretty big...I'd say maybe 12 of us or so. The pace was pretty easy and the group talked and laughed as we rode along. Sally and I missed one of the very early turns, but thankfully, Laura caught that and we didn't go too far out of our way as we did last week. I cannot be trusted to be in the front of these some point, I become involved in a conversation or simply just riding and then stop paying attention to the course markings. So I dropped to the back for a while.

One of the draws to this ride is that they allow you a lap on the Chicagoland Speedway. The first thing you notice is how steep the banking is. It's really an experience to ride at the top, where you are riding upright, but the banking is so steep, it looks like you are riding at a huge angle. The next thing you start thinking is that it takes a lot longer to ride around this track on a bike than in a car!

We all stopped at the end of the lap to let the group catch up. At this point, I handed my jacket off to Sally. I was already getting too warm and when you sweat a lot and then ride into wind, well, that makes for a pretty freezing ride. Judy and Jeannie then caught up to us. Judy was able to fix the cleat and not cancel her ride after all. It was great to see that she had worked it out!

Shortly after leaving the Speedway was the splitting point. Riders doing 60 miles or less would turn left. Riders going 75 or 100 miles would turn right. But wait, Sally and I hadn't even practiced our TT riding yet! The wind was already tough, did I really want to ride 100 miles?? I looked at Laura and she firmly said, "I'm going 75." There was no changing her mind. Kelly and Griz also said "75." The rest of the group could not be convinced to go that long, so the groups broke up.

And then it was just Kelly, Griz, Laura and myself. I had no idea what happened to BC, but it didn't matter because I knew if he was in front of us, he'd probably be waiting at a SAG (support and gear) stop. And if he was behind us, well, he'd catch up quickly. That first stretch felt lovely...little did I realize we had the tailwind at that point. Once again, the talking and laughing initiated and we were all having fun again.

Then the course turned. The wind was at our faces. It was so strong, it screamed in your ears and it was now impossible to hear anyone talking, even if they were riding directly beside you less than 2 feet away. Our pace dropped dramatically and we all shifted into smaller gears. This isn't fun. OK, keep pushing until we turn! It was dangerous to try to stay aero because it felt like the wind gusts would push your wheel in whatever direction it felt and it caused you to feel like you were going to fall. Ugh, this is so hard. And then...a turn. Aaaaaahhhhhh....wait for the group to get together and complain about how hard that stretch was. Uh oh, another turn...into the wind again. Come ON! I cannot wait for the first stop. Not only do I have to go to the bathroom, but I need a break from all this wind. Then Laura screams to me - the first stop isn't until mile 28. WE WERE AT MILE 14!

It was at that point that I decided I would NOT be doing 100 miles today. In fact, I didn't want to do 75, I didn't want to do 60 and I didn't want the 43 mile route. No, this sucks, I want to go home. Problem is, I'm one of the most directionally challenged people on the planet and I have no idea how to get back to the start. Besides, if everyone else was going to continue...then I must. But not, no, please not 100.

Laura and I stick together for the next several miles. Finally, BC catches up with us...somehow we had missed him coming out of the Speedway. We rode with him a little bit and I tried to draft off him to protect myself from the wind. The SAG stop felt like it was never going to come, but finally, it did. When we stopped, my ears were ringing because of all the loud wind. We grabbed some food, refilled our water bottles and waited for the others to catch up. I was able to convince BC that 75 miles today would be PLENTY! While there, we saw Janis, Lori and Donna pull up! They were opting for a shorter route today.

Finally, we were ready to take off. We turned left out of the parking lot and had to wait for a ton of (not too bright) riders to turn left in front of us. Even with someone there directing traffic, it seemed like a cluster! As soon as we made that next left...again...wind. Strong wind. Gusty wind. It was relentless. I wondered why I let Sally keep my jacket because now I really wanted it! Within minutes, BC was pulling away and I tried to scoot up on his wheel. That worked for maybe a mile, then I watched the distance grow slowly between his back wheel and my front wheel. He's just much too strong for me. I turned to look around, but I had lost the rest of the group.

The next 20 miles or so were brutally lonely. The all-too-familiar feel of snot running out of my nose like there was no tomorrow irritated the crap out of me. I don't carry tissue with me, and even if I did, I didn't dare take my hands off the handle bars for fear of being blown over. On a positive note, I passed lots and lots of people on this stretch. Some were riding really heavy mountain bikes. Some had these big jackets on that blew up like parachutes as they were if the strong winds weren't enough, hey, yeah, let's add some more drag to ourselves!

I felt sorry for those people, but I felt sorry for myself, too. I don't need to be riding this many miles at this time of the year! What good is this doing for me, really? This is stupid wind. Every ride I've been on this year has been windy. I don't remember any other ride being this windy. The temperature was actually perfect...and if it hadn't been so windy, this would have been a fabulous ride. But as I kept on pedaling, and pedaling hard, I saw the speedometer read 9 mph and it was crushing. On a downhill, I felt like I could pick up some speed, so I'd pump my legs a little faster to gain momentum...look at the speedometer...14 mph. You've got to be kidding. That 20 mile stretch was one of the longest, toughest sections of any ride I've ever done. Not quite as bad as the section in Coeur d'Alene when I wanted to quit the race, but well, still mentally very challenging.

I finally reached the next rest stop and saw Chris. He was planning on doing the full 100 miles when the day started, but as the rest of us did, he revised the plan just a little because every single one of us was just taking a beating from the powerful wind. And even more challenging than that, Chris was riding alone. I'm sure he couldn't wait for this ride to be over.

This time, we didn't wait so long at the SAG stop. This was a good thing as when you sit still for too long, you tend to get cold. We made our way back onto the course and hoped the wind hadn't shifted. See, all this time, we were either riding with a strong headwind or crosswind. A majority of this home stretch should have been a tailwind.

And there it was happiness! We were putting forth much less effort, but our speeds were now in the 20s. It was a beautiful thing. It was like the reward after busting our butts all day. At one point, I even ran out of gears. An effortless ride is a FUN ride! So now the talking and laughing once again continued. I was extremely thankful the course hadn't been reversed. It's so much easier to do the "tough stuff" first and then coast the rest.

We packed our bikes and went into the bar where they were serving chili after the race. We saw a few familiar faces! We traded our horror stories of the day and Donna told us of a cyclist who was hit by a motorcycle. Everyone was OK, but still not something you want to hear.

We stayed around a little longer, just taking in the environment and talking about the difficulties of the day. The rest of the Salt Creek people I had started out the day riding with arrived, so we had to capture this photo. We took this shot about 20 times...because I still don't know how to work my camera that I have owned for years now!

Happy to have this ride over with! Let's just hope Mother Nature is a bit more kind for the next one...


The Clyde said...

I was out there as well yesterday, it's the only time I can remember that I had to drop into my small front ring, on a FLAT section of road, because of the wind.

Reading what you were thinking going into the wind was pretty funny for me because I was thinking the exact same thing. (In fact the first SAG was a mile from my house, so it was VERY tempting to quit)

Absolutely ridiculous, glad you stuck it out.

Kickstand Pam said...

BRUTAL day - just brutal - that wind can test your limits mentally and physically.

Good job on finishing the ride. We lost a couple of riders too. Don't worry you aren't the only directionally challenged person out on your bike.

Anonymous said...

may i suggest this

Anonymous said...

hey clyde
you post on CAMBR too

Laura said...

Heh! That sucked rocks.

But it didn't kill us (did it?) and I suppose it just made us stronger.

Yay! Looking forward to Baraboo!