Thursday, August 2, 2012

The R.A.I.N. Ride the Second Time Around

In case you don't know what the R.A.I.N. ride is, I'll tell you. Once a year, approximately 1500 crazed cyclists ride their bicycles across the state of Indiana covering 160 miles from the city of Terre Haute to the other side, ending up in Richmond, all in one day. Why? For the fun of it and because we can! 

Just say, if the condition of our hotel upon our arrival had any bearing on how our weekend was going to go, I would have up and quit before I even started.  While checking in, I was kindly informed that our room had just been converted from smoking to non-smoking less than 4 weeks ago.  Keep in mind, our non-smoking requests are not preferences, but a medical necessity.  The R.A.I.N. is a big event in Terre Haute, therefore; no vacancies were available at any other hotel.  Believe me, husband made numerous calls to verify this. 

Even the Bates Motel Wasn't an Option
After returning from dinner back to the only room in the city available for our usage, we were once again informed of an additional issue the hotel allegedly had no control over, the elevators were down.  No, I don't mean down on the first floor or down the hall. I meant out of order, useless, unable to carry my luggage and bikes up the four flights of stairs to my room that someone could have easily mistaken for a smoky bar.  Usually, the night before any of my extreme physical endeavors such as half marathons, 160 mile bike rides, I attempt to reduce my physical activities and rest up for the following day.  I guess habits are made to be broken, not that I had a choice.  

Not my idea of fun! 
Enough about poor choices in hotel selection, this was my second year of riding R.A.I.N. two Saturdays ago, July 21st.  The starting line was at St. Mary of the Woods College, the same location as packet pick up the night before.  I find the mass start of any group bike ride intimidating. I hate the crowd and closeness of over a 1000 bikes knowing that it only takes less than a mere second for someone to suddenly hit the brakes or someone to forget to unclip at an intersection and cause total chaos. A bit paranoid?  Probably! 

 With this summer's heat and humidity, I expected a much warmer start than I was introduced to.  As I met up with my uncle about 20 or so miles into the ride and thankfully for me, riders had scattered, we both concurred that it was just flat out cold.  We passed each other a couple of times before we met up again at the first rest stop at mile 38, where my SUPER SAG TEAM was eagerly awaiting my husband and I's arrival. 

Left to right: Junior Sag Assistant (Youngest Gorgeous Son), Middle-
Senior Super
 Sag in his Super SAG shirt (Oldest Gorgeous Son)
Accompanied by his best friend to the right.
My SUPER SAG TEAM, or PSV as others may refer to it, consisted of my gorgeous oldest, 17 year old son, his best friend, and my equally gorgeous youngest 14 year old son. They had specific instructions, #1 being "DO NOT HIT A CYCLIST", especially me or your father. Seriously, he was told under no circumstances were you to get anywhere near a bike.  Being that my SAG driver is only 17 years old, I'll admit my confidence lacks because of his lack of experience driving around cyclists and driving period.

Senior SAG Team Member and Dear Old Dad
 routing out the game plan.
The SUPER SAG TEAM'S second set of instructions were to immediately replenish the handy dandy insulated Polar Bear water bottles with fresh ice and Powerade upon our arrival to the rest stop. While they refilled our water bottles, we would quickly hydrate, eat bananas, trail mix, and whatever else we would obtain from the R.A.I.N. provided rest stop and of course, stand in line for the wonderful port-a-potties.  

After we felt as though we were adequately ready for the next round of miles, we headed east again into the much higher temperatures than we started with. The temperature increased quickly as did the sun's ability to cook me after I was unable to find the Aveeno sunblock I was positive that I had packed the night prior.  Regardless, we kept pedaling right along on our new Trek road bikes we had just upgraded to just this late March. 

She's Beautiful. That's what I think now,
just wait until mile 150. 
Why do I mention the new purchase? HA! Just say last year's R.A.I.N. ride was not as efficient as this year's trek (no pun intended), on our old Trek bikes. Last year we purchased Trek hybrids, (yes, I said hybrids)  approximately one month before the R.A.I.N.  We managed to squeeze in a handful of short rides and two, maybe three 50 milers prior to the 2011 R.A.I.N.  I'm sure some of you die hard cyclists are thinking we weren't exactly the brightest riders in the group, but believe me....we knew what we were getting into, well kind of.....15 long hours later. 

Anybody and everybody that knew cycling that we told we were doing R.A.I.N. and those that we told after the fact that we had attempted the R.A.I.N. on hybrids and with very little proper training, somewhat questioned our mental capacity.  We did finish, just not before the 9 p.m. cut off time. It was just around 10 p.m. and very dark. 

With new bikes and a tad more training under our belts, I had every intention on cutting off some serious time this year.  I didn't remember the exact time of our arrivals at each rest stop the year prior, but I was well aware we were on the tail end of the majority of the riders. It's a good indicator when there are few riders remaining at the stops and the volunteers are cleaning up.  

Dear Husband and I leaving rest stop number 1, I think. 
So, when we came out of the cornfields and headed into more commercial civilization and arrived at our second rest stop at mile 63, I knew we were significantly ahead of last year's schedule.  Numerous riders were still present and the volunteers didn't appear to be packing up anytime soon. Woo Hoo! Once again, we hydrated, consumed calories and made sure our bottles were refilled prior to heading out for another 25 miles or so prior to our next stop, lunch. 

Dear Husband leading the pack. 
As we pedaled vigorously, O.K.....just pedaled, around the south side of Indy; we came to the same gas station we patronized last year and replenished our ice and water.  It was getting hotter by the minute and more difficult to keep hydrated properly.  We had sent our wonderful SAG crew home for the time being, as our next stop was just less than 2 miles from our home which was only a block or so off the R.A.I.N. route we were taking. 

Prior to leaving the gas station, I called the Senior SAG member and informed him of our whereabouts and told him to ensure that our lunch was ready on time, he needed to leave the house in fifteen minutes to place our O'Charley's carry out order and get it home.  Our plan worked flawlessly. As we turned the corner to the last  main street prior to our home, Senior SAG boy was right behind us in the Super SAG van.  I yelled out to my husband and pointed "There's our food!".  Just as I did, I noticed the very nearby roadkill and seriously hoped that the other riders didn't think that was what I was referring to. 

Better than roadkill, everyday! 
My Cajun Chicken Pasta and bread from O'Charley's was one of the most beautiful moments of the day.  After surviving off of the hotel breakfast, then bananas, trail mix, cereal bars  & cheese sticks from rest stops and the back of van, our lunch was pure bliss.... that and the house air conditioning. Of course, with ONLY 73 more miles to go, I could use all the additional carb loading I could get.  

With ONLY 73 more miles to go, I quickly finished my lunch and headed out by myself this time. Dad a.k.a. dear husband took over SUPER SAG duties from my 'very eager to surrender' SUPER SAG TEAM and called his cycling "over" for the day.  

When we had arrived at home for lunch, I noticed it was around 1:30ish. Remembering that we were just coming upon the actual lunch stop last year right around closing time, 4:00, I knew I was on schedule to at least cut off a couple of hours from last year's finishing time.  If I could avoid any issues, wrecks, flat tires, etc., I would succeed! 

I passed the middle school where lunch was being served and continued my trek alone.  At this point, I was somewhat invigorated. I had just had a yummy lunch and an ice cold Diet Dr. Pepper. What more could a girl with a serious diet soda addiction ask for? Well, besides a permanently attached I.V. seeping Diet Dr. Pepper into my veins.  

I rode mostly alone for awhile, with the occasional rider passing and squeezing in a "Hi!" or a quick attempt at a conversation.  I did keep more than a minute conversation with a friendly gentleman who informed me this was his first R.A.I.N. or any ride over 100 miles for that matter.  I'm all too familiar with that scenario.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Ok, fine...maybe I
watched Children of the Corn one too many times. 
I think he highly considered my intelligence and judgment less than average after my attempt at becoming one with the front of a sedan passing though an intersection that I made the mistake of thinking it was a four way stop. Guessing by the passenger aggressively throwing his arms in the air and the driver giving me a less than lovely  look, I don't think I they thought I was a genius either.  Hey, I never claimed perfection. Remember? I did this crazy thing on a hybrid and with little training last year. Oh, and did I mention our pedals  were not clipless or caged?  What do you expect? I never claimed to be Einstein! Besides, he never brushed his hair and I couldn't get away with that. 

After reclaiming my heart that just fell into my stomach and somewhat gaining my composure as my ninth live passed before my eyes,  I ventured forward on my own.  I think he was glad to see me go......away; before I got him killed. 

I pedaled on alone, once again, meeting up with my husband a.k.a. substitute SAG every so many miles or so for fresh ice & water along US-40 East. I had skipped the last stop in Greenfield at the golf course. It was only drinks and ice and with my new SAG, he was never too far behind or ahead if I needed either.  

Bliss on a hot day! 
I remembered the next stop Dunreith Volunteer Fire Department from last year.  They had the best ever in my 38, ok almost 39, years of life; flavored ice pops.  Yes, I said flavored ice pops. You go sit on a bike for hours on end in 90 degree weather and blazing hot sun and see if you can deny those ice pops.  With the relentless heat, they were better than my Cajun pasta. 

While still at Dunreith, I made extra effort to cool off with an ice cold, drenched wash cloth. I wrung it out over my bike helmet. While any other time, it would have been frigid and caused me to screech, it was refreshing and the beginning to my next set of miles. 

Prior to arriving at Dunreith, I had rode closely behind a group of about 10-12, 2 abreast in what I call synchronized cycling and what I think others refer to as drafting. It was not my intent, or is it ever my intent to intentionally synchronize, ok..draft. To me as mentioned previously, I'm not comfortable with such close proximity to any moving bike. Since most of the time, my pace was right in line with theirs, it was difficult to pass without them attempting the same very shortly thereafter. Therefore;  I stayed in my dutiful place and maintained the pace.

After Dunreith, I sporadically kept with the group of matching jerseys off and on.  I was once welcomed by one of the riders who stayed towards the back who had informed me they were a group from Indy that trained together at one of the YMCA's.  Either their pace picked up or mine significantly dropped, because right before Centerville, the R.A.I.N. route detoured off of US 40 and into the land of cornfields,  my ability to keep up was all but totally lost.  

Right about the time I had seen the mile marker informing R.A.I.N. riders we were only 10 miles from the finish, my pace significantly decreased, my legs started shaking and just like during my  first half marathon 5 years ago, I wished for spontaneous combustion.  I was in serious bonk mode and had hit the wall that most runners refer to in about mile 20 or so of the full marathon. 

I stopped my bike to the side of the road for a quick break and to see if some Powerade would help alleviate my issues to no avail. I could barely get off my bike, my legs were shaking so bad, I thought I would fall. I drank quickly and with much effort got back onto my bike.  My condition didn't change at all as I continued to pedal with as much effort as humanly possible at this point. Obviously, my efforts at fueling and hydrating all day had failed.    

I continued to watch my bike computer for the change in distance, but like watching water boil or paint dry, not much happened.  It seemed as if every 10th of a mile was 10 miles, I felt that bad.  I was determined to finish dead or alive, preferably alive.  Finally, the marker for 2 miles was up ahead.  Even with only 2 miles until finish, I seriously contemplated calling sub SAG or dear husband  who I knew was probably at the finish line eagerly waiting to take pictures, to come back and stay near in case I fell over flat. 

I overcame that thought, knowing I would rather be dragged to the finish and him snap my finishing photo than him to come hunting me down and miss my photo op.   Finally, I started to see the finish line behind through my delirious eyes as the crowd cheered on the finishers to the end.  Like last year,  I secretly declared my love to that Earlham College sign that marked the end to 160 miles.  There was nothing more beautiful than the finishing marker.  

Me, as dear husband takes my finish line photo.
 Obviously, I couldn't wait to get off the bike. 
I climbed off my bike as they recorded my finishing time at 8:12 p.m., 13 hours, 12 minutes after the start and roughly 2 hours less than last years unrecorded time.  I was handed my prized finishing medal as the R.A.I.N. photographer took my picture.  Yes, my husband was there to get it also.  

After dear husband snapped my less than smiling picture, I handed him the bike and told him to take it away. I handed the approximate 2 ounce finishing medal to my cousin and told her it was too heavy, take it.  I was that exhausted, had the overwhelming desire to vomit; which I was capable to suppress and only wanted to find my way to the car that was taking me home.  

When my uncle and cousin asked if I would be back next year, I only remember giving them the glare of death. Of course, cousin had to remind me that I had given her the same response last year 160 miles later, only to have booked next year's hotel within a week later of the finish. 

Yes, dear cousin Kelly, the hotel for next year's R.A.I.N. is already booked. I know where I won't be staying.

Don't they say the third times the charm, right? Somebody had better be right! 

                                                       PLEASE REMEMBER TO

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