Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Biking & Babies

In between long bike rides and other Ironman related training, I've also been spending time with my four grandchildren. The picture above is of Ella (age 3) and Nora (age 4 months). During my last two organized bike tours I got lost due to poor road markings and maps. When I'm with my grandchildren, I'm never lost. I know exactly where I am and it's always exactly where I want to be. They are truly a delight! Ella can certainly pedal her Big Wheel at a furious pace. I think she might be able to out ride me in a few years. I look forward to bike adventures with all of my grandchildren.

Here are the details of my most recent rides - The Tour DeWitt (Clinton, IL) and Mendota Sweet Corn Festival Ride (Mendota, IL). I certainly am seeing a lot of the rural countryside of Illinois. Illinois has a lot of corn and beans!

The Tour DeWitt ride (July 25th) had a few logistical problems. The course map was very small and had no road names or numbers on it. Eventually after noticing we were circling back around Clinton Lake rather than heading in the proper direction, we realized we were off the course. The map was so poor there was really no way to figure out how to get back on course. So, we called the sag wagon number provided on the map. Within about 10 minutes, one of the ride organizers arrived to transport us back to where we got off course. He apologized for the delay in getting to us - first he had to pick up another lost rider and then he had to go mark the turn which had not been marked properly. After we began riding again, we quickly noticed all the road markings had been redone. Now instead of the little tiny arrows in dark green (very difficult to see on the dark pavement), the new markings were much larger and in neon green.

The day was still long due to a very stiff headwind on the entire ride back. In addition, the rest stops had no Gatorade, only Country Time Lemonade. This might sound refreshing to a spectator, but for runners or cyclists, Gatorade is a necessity especially in heat and humidity. There were no sources of salt at the rest stops - no pretzels, no trail mix, etc. Luckily I did have some Endurolyte tablets and those helped save the day. One of our fellow cyclists suggested black arrows for next year's ride to give the cyclists a great challenge.

The post-ride lunch was pretty good and the free massage was wonderful! At the end of the day I had ridden 80 miles with a lot of it into strong winds.

The next organized ride was the Mendota Sweet Corn Festival Ride (August 8th). The ride started at the Mendota Community Hospital and offered three different routes, each circling back to the hospital for access to additional fluids and food. The ride organizers suggested doing the 42 mile loop first because it was the hilliest and the return was into a headwind most of the time. As we started riding, the course appeared to be very well marked, with large arrows well in advance of the turns, arrows right at the corners and a template marking with ears of corn marking the turns as well. After about 5-6 miles of riding we were comfortable enough with the course markings that we stopped referring to our maps. That turned out to be a mistake when we eventually bumped into roads without any markings at all. After referring to our maps, we realized that we were again lost and off course. This time, however, because the maps were good we were able to get ourselves back on course and finish the loop within a 1/2 mile of the 42 mile distance. Getting back on course did involve riding about 4 miles on a fairly busy rural highway and a brush with a large semi truck who came far too close for comfort. Due to the windy conditions, our bikes were really buffeted as he came flying by us at a speed well over the speed limit. And no, he certainly did not give us the 3-feet as required by law now in Illinois.

My riding partner decided 42 miles was enough. The weather conditions were extraordinarily challenging. The temperatures were expected to be in the mid-90's with a heat index of over 100, a strong winds. We were already feeling the effects of the heat, humidity, hills and strong wind. I decided to go out for another loop, choosing the 25-mile loop option.

My partner graciously offered to wait for me until I returned. As she waited, she noticed the sky getting darker. Yes, I did encounter rain, but no thunder or lightning, so it was ok. Then she noticed an ambulance pull into the hospital with a husband and wife cyclist. They had been on the 25-mile loop, and encountered an aggressive dog. Apparently the wife ran into her husband as he tried to come up with a strategy for dealing with the dog. Both riders and the dog were involved in the crash. The dog fared better than the two riders, as it trotted off. Two more cyclists came back in from the 25-mile loop with reports of encountering this dog. Needless to say, my riding partner was quite concerned.

I returned safely. I never did see the dog. At the end of this 25 mile loop (with a add on of 3 miles) I finished the day with 70 miles in very challenging conditions. It was enough to call it a day. I also knew that the next morning's schedule called for an 11-mile run, a swim, and my favorite activity of more time with grandchildren.