April has been a pretty fantastic month so far. I celebrated my birthday, of course, and every weekend has been awesome. First up was the CAC2 and the next day’s gravel ride, and the following weekend featured Robby’s 5K, more gravel, and my family birthday party. While the first half of the month was hard to top, this past weekend is definitely up there too.
Friday night was the Mesa Cycles women’s bike seminar with a lot of cool ladies, delicious food (and wine!), good information, and smokin’ sales. The sale/wine intersection was not a good one for me. I set my glass (well, cup) on the sale table while I looked at a saddle; unfortunately, it slipped out of my hand, hit the wine, and dumped my drink allll over the table. How humiliating. After helping rescue what I could from the drenched table, I slunk back to my chair as the Mesa employees cleaned up my mess. So if you wander into Mesa and bring home a sale item smelling suspiciously of Chardonnay, you can blame me.
Totally worth the embarrassment, though, was spotting this sweet thing on the table. I’ve been eyeing the Selle Italia diva gel flow saddles since my friend Kim suggested it to me last year before Dirty Kanza, but the price was way too steep for my budget. I was excited to see it half price on the table, and delighted when it rang up $50 at the register.
|My sitting parts are overjoyed|
Saturday morning I finally made it to another of J’s soccer games and then came home to get his bike ready for our planned afternoon ride. After his baseball practice we rode for a little over a mile to get ice cream and then ride home. It was the first time we’ve ever ridden bikes together (instead of me running next to him), and he did great. He’s never been too interested in biking, but he got visibly better as we rode, and even when he struggled he stuck with it. I was so proud of him. Totally worth the $9 in ice cream our stop at Cold Stone cost me. 🙂
Sunday morning I left at 6 a.m. to meet Chuck for a trip to Hermann, MO. Our Dirty Kanza training plan (which he is following far better than I am!) called for 90 miles, so he took us back to part of the Tour of Hermann course, but only the easier northern section. I actually rolled into the park and ride ten minutes early, and if you know me at all you know that’s a very rare thing. The drive to Hermann went quickly as we got caught up on each other’s races and training, and before long we were loading up for our first loop.
Chuck had mapped out a 40 mile loop and then a 25-mile loop. That way we could stop back at the Jeep to restock and hopefully shed a layer. We knew those loops put us in grave danger of getting back after 65 miles and bagging the rest of the ride, so Chuck’s plan was to do some side road exploring to rack up some distance on each loop. The route started with a few miles of flat Katy Trail, and it was chilly enough that I was actually looking forward to some climbs to warm up. Of course, that lasted right until we started climbing. And climbing.
Actually, I know I need the hill practice, and maybe because I’ve been on the gravel for the past two weekends I was feeling a little more confident on the downhills, too. I mean, I didn’t savor them, but I wasn’t quite as terrified as normal. Right up until Chuck mentioned, “Oh, yeah…watch out for potholes…for whatever reason they’re hard to see on these roads and some guy broke his collarbone last weekend after hitting one wrong.” Goodbye, confidence, hello paranoia.
|Signs like this never make me happy…even on pavement|
We did a good job making sure to eat every hour or so. I had a stack of new foods I was trying out. I’ve been eating a pretty consistent Paleo-type diet, and it’s been surprisingly easy (and happily led to a 20 lb weight loss)…except for when I have long runs or rides. Then I end up falling back on the same ol’ stuff I always eat. This time I actually did some planning ahead to take real food options. Here’s what I went with:
- Allen Lim rice bars (good, but hard to eat bc of cook error…I’ll try these again with the right rice)
- Small baked potatos cooked with some coconut oil and salt (delicious!)
- Roasted salted almonds and freeze-dried peaches (delicious, but the peaches were expensive. Maybe I’ll just get a food dehydrator and play with that)
- Coconut water instead of Gatorade (gross)
- Justin’s nut butter single packs — almond butter/maple and hazelnut/chocolate — instead of GU (delicous)
- Ensure clear (OK, but full of ingredients with really long names)
I probably won’t buy the Ensure clear again; I didn’t like it that much. I was really happy with how I did nutrition-wise for the day, though. We spent about 8 hours on our bikes due to a lot of slow exploring, rode some challenging hills and fought wind, and I ended the day feeling really good. No bonks, no cramps, and I could have kept riding. Everything but the Ensure is definitely on my Kanza nutrition list.
I had to walk a couple hills because I just couldn’t ride them and a couple others because I waited too long to downshift and then got stuck. Then you’d get to the top and zoom back down again, going from sweating like crazy to freezing. And repeat. Eventually we dropped back onto the Katy Trail and headed back towards Hermann for the end of our first loop. Rather than being a nice respite, though, the Katy section was straight into a headwind. That got really old. I had to pee pretty badly but was hanging on until we got back to the parking lot so I could use a real bathroom. When we hit the last little town before Hermann I was pretty relieved and really counting down the time until I could go to the bathroom and get off my bike. My attitude, which had been really good so far, was spiralling downward. And then Chuck turned away from the trail. “Hey, let’s see what’s out this way!”
I wasn’t excited about our extra mileage program when I’d been so looking forward to getting back, but that had been our plan all around so I kept my mouth shut and followed the leader onto the new road.
Just getting out of the headwind was a nice change, and the day, though cold and gloomy, was also really pretty. We followed this road around between fields until we came to a turn that went over the levee.
|That’s a nice road.|
Chuck dropped his chain as he started up the hill, so I took the opportunity to cross over to the other side and go to the bathroom. That, combined with eating some food, dramatically improved my attitude. We rode the crappy road until it turned into swamp and then headed back in the other direction. Our detour along the gravel roads was fairly flat and gave us an extra 10 or so miles, so we were at 52 when we got back to the car and more food.
Just as we’d been finishing up on the extra gravel, the weather took a subtle but noticeable turn. All of a sudden there was a definite warmth in the air, so after we ate we both shed a layer. After leaving my arm warmers at the car and shivering for 55 miles last week, I was too gun-shy to leave my fleece at the Jeep, so it spent the majority of the ride in my pack.
The first loop had been fun, but the second loop was pure awesome. We had a short flat Katy ride to our turn and then some smaller hills, and then some serious climbing. At the top of all that climbing, though, we entered the Daniel Boone Conservation Area. The road through the conservation area isn’t all that long, I guess, but we hit just about every side road and trail we saw in the interests of adding mileage. Our time:distance ratio was probably pretty week, but we had a blast exploring.
|Cross bikes are fun because they can go on crappy trails as well as crappy roads.|
|Horse trail? No, bike trail!|
We did laugh about the fact that the well-signed horse trails had far less horse damage than the shared use trails we’re used to. And we, or at least Chuck, laughed when my crappy bike handling skills landed me off the edge of the road on a u-turn. “What the hell are you doing in that ditch?”
Unfortunately, the conservation area fun had to end eventually, and then we were dropping way down again. “It looks like we’re riding off the edge of the world,” Chuck called back as he started downhill. Yaaaaayyyyy. I took the hill much more slowly. We had to hit the pavement for a while, and though boring it was a blessedly smooth ride. Missing our turn gave us even more bonus miles, and when we finally figot back to the correct road (right where we’d stopped for a snack and discussed whether this was our turn) it was of course a sketchy gravel downhill.
Chuck hit the bottom waaaay before I caught up with him, and as we came to our turn we saw the coolest little building on the side of someone’s driveway. I don’t know if it was a gatehouse or what, but it had a door shaped like a boat, and it looked like someone was covering it with stone and plaster. Hard to describe, but trust me, it was cool. The property had another shelter-looking building on it, too, and as we made the turn I was rubber-necking to check out what else might be over there. There was a very pretty creek to our left, a very scenic property to our right, and we were riding on gravel riddled with big potholes. “This road is not conducive to sightseeing!” I complained.
One of the great things about these gravel roads is that they’re often really scenic; another perk is the lack of car traffic. When we did see a truck up ahead of us, it was creeping slowly across…something. As we got closer, we saw the reason for the driver’s caution: the road crossed a creek. Fun!
|Chuck made it all the way across; I didn’t get far at all.|
This was only one of many creek crossings on this road, some of which were up to our knees as we carried our bikes across. Others were paved low-water crossings.
This was another slow section because the dry road wasn’t much better than riding on a creek bottom, but this stretch of was incredibly fun. And scenic
|This picture doesn’t even come close to showing how pretty it was down in the valley.|
The road wound along the creek and through the valley. Occasionally we’d see crazy steep roads leading off to the side and my heart would sink until we got near and realized they were driveways. My hands were definitely starting to feel beat up by all the gravel. Thankfully (unlike last weekend) I’d remembered my gloves, but towards then end my left pinky and ring finger were starting to get numb. I’m hoping adding a layer of thicker bar tape will help with that, because numb hands could be a real problem in Kansas if they kick in too bad before I’m finished. Last year Becca had to cut my steak for me the next day because I couldn’t hold my knife tightly enough to do it, so this is definitely something to figure out.
|Getting a picture with our new favorite road.|
|Cool old barn, taken way too close up because I was too lazy to move further back.|
Leaving Massas Creek road left us with just a few more miles and a couple more hills before we were back to the parking lot. The climbs were a little demoralizing because I was so over hills, but I think I made it up both of them ok. Riding back to the Jeep with the wind at our backs was pretty awesome, too.
We were at 84 miles when we made it back, and both of us were just fine with that. Not quite the planned 90 miles, but Chuck and I both felt like we could’ve kept riding. It was definitely a confidence booster for me to finish a challenging day and know that I had more miles in me. It was the best long ride I’ve had all year. The only think missing was the rest of our friends, and all day long we kept talking about how much fun they’d be having if they were there. No fear about missing out, though, because I’m pretty sure we’ll have to repeat this ride.
Right now I’m at around 650 miles for the year, which really doesn’t feel like much when I think about the 200 mile race I’m tackling in just over a month. At the same time, I spent way more time on the gravel than I did last year, I have a different bike, I’m in better shape…and at this time last year I hadn’t even registered for Dirty Kanza yet, let along started training. While anything can happen, I’m feeling like finishing the race this year is a definite possibility.
Up next, though, 100+ miles of gravel at Cedar Cross on May 4…and I’m excited about it. What’s wrong with me? 🙂