Friday, August 3, 2012

2012: My Five Stages of RAIN

At the start of year, the RAIN Ride (Ride Across Indiana - In One Day) was not really on my radar, until some friends passed along an invitation to be part of the the Wishard Ride to Remember Team. Unfortunately, my schedule did not allow me to meet or train with most of this fascinating group of riders until the day of the ride. All things considered, I had a great ride and a lot of fun. However, it was day of riding that progressed through many emotional states as I crossed Indiana.

Denial: I am ready to ride 20 MPH all day.

Waiting for the start of the 2012 RAIN
I had been riding a lot more commuting miles this year, and a lot of fast 30 milers, and three centuries (all before mid-May). But I didn’t have any where near the combination of volume and speed to support RAIN in 8 to 9 hours of riding time. And the proof was right in my mileage logs - I was at 3,000 miles for the year before this RAIN; but that was almost a 1,000 miles less than than the same point in 2007, the last time I had ridden RAIN. All the visualization and experience in the world can’t make up for that. Next time (next year?) more speed work and volume in the months before.

Anger: Where is the perfect pace line?

I matched up well with a couple groups in the early miles, after I realized was too slow for the Wishard “B” group (my mental assignment, nothing official) I had hoped to ride with - and too fast, (and planning on shorter breaks) than the next group of riders from Wishard. I hadn’t been able train with any groups to know this ahead of time. So I was just falling in with ad-hoc, informal pace lines through the first 64 miles. That was easy to do before the 1,500 riders had truly spread out.

Some friends on a tandem said hi at 20 miles.
After leaving the Plainfield stop (64 miles), I couldn’t connect with another group. For one 15 minute stretch, I didn’t even see any other riders. I was finally overtaken by a group that was holding a nice 18-20 mph pace, and joined in for a couple of miles. But with a change of leaders after an intersection, the pace jumped to 23-24, and I couldn’t hang on without blowing up.

After that I twice slowly worked my way up to groups that thought I could ride with, only to miss them at stop lights. Much of the ride to lunch at 95 miles was like that.

Bargaining: Please give me a pace line

At the lunch stop, I was still between the B & C groups.  The B group was wrapping up lunch, and I was ahead of the C group, who rolled in for a long lunch stop as I finished eating. I know that I do better on short breaks and steady riding.

Okay, I will head out at an even pace, and just take the best group that comes along.

But it just didn’t happen. No one came up that I could hang on to. And I couldn’t catch anyone that was going my pace (obviously). Then another set of traffic lights and near misses with groups. At 110 miles, I pulled off into the shade on the side of the road, with the hope to recover for few minutes, mentally frustrated from more solo riding than I had planned, even though physically I was feeling fine. (And oddly enough having completed one my fastest total time century’s in a couple of years to this point.)

I stand there for a few minutes, waiting for something, and the the Wishard “C” group rides by. I hope back on my bike, and with a mile of easy chasing and a couple of intersections, I catch them, and I have a group to ride with after almost 40 miles of riding solo.

Depression: Can I finish this?

I relax with the group, and my mind starts working.

I wasn’t with this group, because I had been faster, and they caught me.
My average speed has been dropping the last 20 miles.
I am already over my planned off-the-bike time.
A leg cramp, then a foot cramp, and a twinge in my achilles.
Can I still finish?


Doubts like that can work on you, dragging you down more than a stiff headwind or a soft tire. I work to shake them off, and concentrate on getting my rhythm back, taking a few pulls after sitting in to recover. This group ranges in age from late teens to late fifties, with the same mix of experience. We come to the next stop where we all refill with water and ice, and then we leave the south Indy route to return to US-40.

Back on the highway, we are rolling along and I come off a pull and a new rider comes to the front as we start a long, gradual climb. I have just settled in 4-5 riders back when the speed starts picking up 19 - 20 - 21 mph. Gaps start opening, first a yard, than 2-3, leaving each rider alone against the wind on the grade. In a move that is either selfless or selfish, or both, I jump around to the front, and catch the new leader “You need to drop a gear or two - you are breaking up the group.” He looks over shoulder - “oh”, and brings his speed back down a bit, and we slowly regroup.

I drop back in to the re-grouping line, mulling second thoughts about being that much an “alpha” in a group I only know casually. But the group is now staying together at a good 17-18 mph pace, finishing the grade, so I let it go, and just roll along.

Acceptance: The final 30; you ride what you train for.

We all come into the final organized stop at the fire station in Dunreith, and I rack my bike with no illusions about a short stop. Even having been part of this group for the last 15 miles, I feel spent, and that I will be just turning the pedals over to finish. Sitting under a misting tent, with a popsicle and a sugary kids drink, I just stare at the ground. After a while, I look around, the bike racks are half empty, and I don’t see any Wishard jerseys. I just figure in that they missed me and rolled on. (I later find out they had all retreated into the fires station to cool off, and I left without them!)

Back on the road, I figure I will catch them shortly, and settle in for the last 30 miles. My doubts of finishing have faded. No epic ride, just the ride that I am trained for. I upshift a couple of times and it feels okay, I glance at my computer, and the speed-to-average indicator is now an up-arrow.

I am about an hour and a half behind where I wanted to be, though I am feeling the best I have in a 2-3 hours. No major aches, with just the edge of cramp in my legs, and as the miles keep adding up, my computer is still showing an up-arrow. I am having the mother of all second winds!

Riders are scattered all along US-40 in ones and twos, a few pass me, and I pass a few. Along the way are personal sags, sitting at the side of road, many of them cheering encouragement to everyone as they watch down the road for their riders.

The route enters the last side-road detour, and I start overtaking a few more riders. Soon I have a short line behind me, and that and the up-arrow continues lifting my spirits. I actually feel good! I recognize a rider from a morning group, and we exchange a “hi”. He joins the line for awhile, but he has trouble with the next up-grade. I come off the front to let a rider who was drafting take a pull, but he upshifts and pulls away as I coast back. Just holding my steady pace, I am alone again. Another mile, and I am back on US-40.

RAIN Finish - L to R Dr. Greg Gramelspacher, Eduardo Calderin, Tom Sharp, myself. 

At 156 miles, I pass the 5 Mile marker, and I know that I will be at 161 miles for the day. I still have my up-arrow, and my final goal, to finish under 11 hours. Now on the outskirts of Richmond, the farms give way businesses, with final challenge of stop lights and some rolling hills. 2 Miles. 1 Mile. I make the final turn into the campus, and come up on the finish line. At the end the the chute, I am handed my finishers medal, and then I am greeted and thanked by the Wishard team leaders and some friends. It has been a good ride.

Maybe five years will be too long to wait for the next time.

(I hope you will like The Ride So Far on Facebook.  Look for more tips and comments there soon.)