Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Am I So Sore?

Probably about mile 150 Saturday it occurred to me that my Lynskey is the greatest bicycle in the world. I felt like I could ride it forever.

Of course, I didn't.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. I was going to tell you about the Little River 24-Hour Challenge, which I raced Saturday (and a little bit Sunday ... it's a 24-hour thing, remember?) up in Lafayette, Kentucky.

To summarize (for those who don't want to read this whole thing), it was great. Kevin Warren and his friends at the Little River Cycling Club -- as well as a few other folks that he managed to pull into this thing -- put on a great ride. The route was beautiful, the fall colors marvelous, the weather was ... well, it was what it was. And most of the dogs were pretty well-behaved ... at least, for Kentucky dogs.

(Parenthetical note (in case the parentheses did not give it away): Riding a brevet in Kentucky a few years ago I made up a song about Kentucky Dogs -- sung to the tune of Elvis's "Kentucky Rain" -- which made my feelings clear. It's easy to find words that rhyme with "cyanide.")

Always Start a 24-Hour Race with a Good Night's Sleep

That is great advice. I really should take great advice.

Instead, I got to bed about 11 pm, and then woke up every hour or so to look at my watch and make sure that I hadn't slept thru the alarm (set for 4:30 am). When I woke up and checked the watch at 4:25, I went ahead and got up.

Racing thru breakfast, shower, dressing, and final loading, I drove to the parking lot of the Target's on Old Hickory Boulevard, where I met Jeff Bauer and Peter Lee. We loaded up their bikes and gear, finishing just as Fredia Barry arrived, and hit the road at 5:30. Right on schedule.

We made good time most of the way up I-24, until we hit the accident about 10 miles short of the state line. Traffic was stopped dead, and we waited for over half an hour before they finally opened up the road. This kept us from getting to the start until after 7:30 am. This would later prove costly, since I then had to park the RAAMinator a good ways down from the road.

We quickly unloaded everything and suited up, trying to find the right clothes for the weather. We had left Nashville in a light drizzle, but did not have to bother with any rain during the race itself. Roads were pretty wet, however, and a few corners had gravel and mud wash into them that caused problems for some riders. Mostly, though, our only challenge was the chilly morning air, which was supposed to rise into the low 60s when the sun came out later.


We had a few minutes to greet some fellow randonneurs before the start, too. Chris Kaiser, with whom I had crewed on RAAM the summer of 2008, was there. He would later later have a slight crash on his recumbent on one of those muddy corners, but survived mostly unscathed. I also saw Jeff Sammons, our local RBA, who was doing the 12-hour race.

Kevin Warren then gave us brief instructions regarding road markings and explained how the race worked. He described the tie-breaker system to be used, as well (which factored into my tactics). Then, at 8:05 am, he started the clock.

A Bevy of Bacchettas

We rolled out with three Bacchetta recumbents setting a fast pace. Larry Graham, who would eventually win the 12-Hour Male Recumbent Division, Kaiser, and Allan Duhm swapped off pulls for the first 20 miles, keeping our average above 20 mph. As the road became hillier, they fell off and a group of Paul Carpenter, Tom Gee, Dave Buyens, George Hiscox, Jeff Sammons, and myself went on.

George was the only other 24-hour racer in this group, but I knew going into the race that he would probably be the winner. He is fast, and he does not stop. George told me in August that he had already ridden 15,000 miles so far this year. That's a level of cycling ability that mere mortals cannot top.

We kept the pace up through the first lap, dropping Jeff Sammons about the halfway mark. As Carpenter, Gee, Buyens, George, and I came back to the starting line, our average speed -- in spite of a cold north wind -- was just under 20 mph.

In case of a tie on overall mileage, the win would go to whoever first finished that first lap. As such, I started sprinting for the line about 200 yards out. Gee came with me, setting us up to win our divisions by just hanging on to our competitors. For Gee, this almost came to pass; for me, it was pure hubris.

Mistake Number Two

I had one mostly full bottle, with others in the van ready to go, so I quickly pulled off and pedaled over to the back of the RAAMinator. As I was grabbing a bottle, George called back, "Grab me a bar or a banana," so I stuffed two bananas in a back pocket, and then grabbed one of my sandwiches from the cooler and stuffed it into another pocket. Properly fueled, I then rode back thru the grass and onto the road to chase down the pack.

Which I never saw again.

About a quarter mile down from the start, the road turned east and into the wind. I rode hard, trying to catch up. After about seven miles, the road turns more northward, into more wind. I kept riding hard. Finally, after an hour of this, I realized that I was not going to catch these guys and slowed down.

That was when I realized just how tired I was. I had been riding four hours now at a pretty high level, and my legs were sore. I ate the sandwich and one banana (yes, George, I saved your banana ... at least for another 30 miles), and slowed down. A lot. Like, about 15 mph slow, until the checkpoint at the edge of Hopkinsville, when the route finally turned off the wind.

As I zipped along on this stretch, the brisk wind taking my speed back up to near 20 again, I realized what had happened with the lead pack. The 12-hour racers in that group needed to keep the pace high, since the winner would be whoever did not fall off. George just needed to stay with that group in the heavy wind, and his ability to ride fast with relatively little fuel set him up perfectly for this.

Like Shane, I Ride Alone

The first 60-mile lap had taken exactly three hours. The second 60-mile lap took 3:45. I stopped to grab another bottle and take off my glove liners -- I had originally "layered" thinking that I would be going down to just a long-sleeve jersey in the afternoon, but as the temperature never got above 57 this was not the case -- and started my third and final lap.

During which, again, I did not see another rider. Fortunately, I expected this, so I pulled out my iPod (ear bud in the right ear only!) and just did my own pace this time. Although I was still sore from the first very hard 75 miles, I was able to loosen up and have fun on this lap. It still took 3:45, but as I got back to the van again just as night was falling, I felt really good.

After three laps on the 60-mile route, the plan was to change to a short and level eight-mile loop, so I quickly put on reflective gear and lights, and headed out. The wind had stopped at sunset, and so this loop was very fast, and I got back to the van again in time to see the end of the 12-hour race.

As it turned out, George and Buyens had fallen off the pace that Carpenter and Gee were setting. Near the end, Carpenter was able to gap Gee, so that he managed to do one more short lap. He crossed the line three minutes before the cut-off time to win the 12-Hour Male Solo Division. Buyens took third, followed by Bryan Kortness, Tom Casson, Tom Benim, Michael Frazier, and Jeff Sammons. Graham won the 12-Hour Male Recumbent Division, followed by Kaiser, and then Duhm. Jennifer Galvin won the 12-Hour Women's Solo Division.

As I was eating a sandwich and watching the show, Jeff and Fredia showed up on the tandem, followed by Peter, Jeremy Miller, and Rick Whaley. George looped past the finish line a couple of times during this period, piling on the miles. Since it was obvious, now, that I could not beat him, I decided to wait and do my night riding with the gang.

Night Moves

Somehow, the stoker seat on Jeff's tandem had been adjusted before the ride began, so that Fredia had ridden the first lap in a bad position, injuring her knee. After 180 miles, now, it was really hurting, so we decided to break the night riding into sets of four laps, with a short rest period between.

The clouds had finally cleared off about sunset. While this made for a lovely star-filled night, it also made for a cold one. We all piled on more clothing and headed out, and then spent the first few miles shivering. Fortunately, we also set a fast pace, which quickly warmed us up.

The route was simple, with only five right turns, so Jeff and I started singing Bruces' Philosophers Song from Monty Python to keep everyone awake. George finally slowed down enough to join us after a couple of laps, and Kevin came out on his new fixie.

After the first set of laps, Fredia needed to take some Ibuprofin and take a break. Peter got on the back of the tandem with Jeff, and we started out for another set of four about midnight.

Halfway through the first lap on this set the long day began to catch up with me, and I realized that I was now nodding off while trying to hang onto a tandem wheel at 22 mph. I slurped a gel with caffeine, but half an hour later I knew that I needed to wrap up my ride before I wrecked and hurt someone. As I was almost to 250 miles by this time, when we got back to the van I turned into the park.

After changing into dry clothes, I tried to sleep in the van. If you've ever tried this yourself, you probably know that it's hard to sleep under a steering wheel. Nonetheless, I somehow managed to nod off -- in spite of Peter coming in and Fredia going back out, and then Fredia coming back in and Peter going back out, and then Peter coming in and Jeff riding out (once on the tandem by himself and then on Peter's bike).

When the sun started up about 6:30, I crawled out of the RAAMinator and watched Jeff, George, Rick, and Jeremy finish their laps. As 8 am finally rolled around, George had ridden 367 miles, Rick 333, Peter 265, and Jeremy 214. Jeff ended up with 333 miles and Fredia 231 -- which is probably going to always puzzle people reviewing the results for the 24-Hour Tandem Division for this race.

At this point, there was tired cheering from a lot of exhausted people, and then everyone climbed into their vehicles to either sleep, drive to a hotel for sleep, or drive a short distance home. Jeff, Fredia, Peter, and I headed for McDonald's, and then back to Nashville. Not far south of Clarkesville, everyone else in the van was asleep, so that I was riding pretty much by myself again. Just like old times.


  1. Makes me tired just reading it! You all are an amazing group.

  2. One other thought: you could have climbed on the back of Jeff's tandem and finished up. You wouldn't have to worry about steering, just falling off if you fell asleep . . .

  3. Best case scenario of arduous exhausting efforts through deprivation of sleep/food/shelter may bring a glimpse of divine ecstasy. Mere mortals are lucky to mentally retreat into an inner sanctum, and tune out the corporeal pain.

    Then there are also those experiences on a bicycle.

  4. It was a great ride. My stoker Fredia, Peter and Jeremy followed the wrong arrows (left over from a previous ride) on the first 60 mile loop and we added 7 bonus miles. I would love to do this again next year!

  5. You make this sound like lots of "fun", Rob! Count me in for next year!