Every year in Buffalo we have a Cancer Benefit ride called the Ride For Roswell. I had always wanted to take part back in the early 2000's, but was never confident in my cycling to do so, and eventually I fell off the cycling habit for nearly a decade before finally getting back into it last year again. I resolved to do the Ride for Roswell, and ended up doing the 22 mile route, making it my biggest accomplishment of the year up until that point.
This year I signed up for 44 miles. I know I'm capable of more distance, but after a disastrous winter and a knee injury to boot, I didn't feel like my performance would be up to anything higher than 44 by the time June rolled around. So the ride was yesterday, and let me tell you, it was an incredible ride. The weather was absolutely perfect for it too. I started the day off pretty much thinking it was going to be a complete disaster because I was not able to sleep the night before, I suppose I was too wound up with anticipation to actually fall asleep. The hours ticked away until finally at 5am my alarm went off and I resigned myself to trudging off to UB for the ride.
The ride started at 7:30, so I tried my best to get there by 6:30 to register and get acclimated, but I was a bit groggy and was a bit slow, so I didn't arrive until around 6:50. They changed where the registration was too, so I had to find my way to the new registration area after wasting time trying to figure out why there wasn't anyone at the student center. Picked up my materials and prepped my numbers to my helmet, back, and bike, and by the time I hit up the restroom and got to the starting line, it was 7:25.
I was unprepared by the sheer number of people participating in the ride. There was easily over 1000 people already in front of me, stretched out over 1/3rd of a mile (or more, in truth I couldn't actually even see the front of the line!). They had begun the 33 mile route and the 44 mile route at the same time, which was probably why there were so many people.
The ride began at 7:30 sharp, but it was a good 5 minutes before we could even move anywhere, and even then I had to walk my bike for the first six minutes due to the slow speed of the vast throng in front of me. My computer was already on at this time, and I regretted setting it up already because I wouldn't be able to reset it while moving, so walking the bike at 2mph really cut into my average speed.
Eventually the crowd started moving quick enough to actually get on the bike, but even then I was stuck at around 6-10mph for the first 15 minutes, as I slowly passed as many people as I safely could. My "wishful thinking" goal was a time of 3:10, which would put me at 14.3mph. My "realistic" goal however was 3:20, a time that I knew would be tough to achieve but definitely doable by myself, putting me at 13.6mph. Unfortunately my average speed for the first 15 minutes was only around 9mph, which in my mind meant that my goals were now out of reach. Adding to the fact that I was tired as hell I decided "screw it, I'm just going to ride for fun then", and stopped thinking about my goals.
Finally we made it to Dodge and the number of riders began to thin out, so I began to speed up to the 15-20mph range. Kept passing people, trying to make my way up to the front of the line, but unfortunately I never really found the front. Last year it was easy to do because I was only doing 22 miles and all of the really experienced cyclists were doing much longer rides, so I found my way to the front really quickly, but the 44 mile ride is where a lot of really experienced cyclists went.
Had my camera turned on for the first 45 minutes, until I got to the first rest stop. Decided to turn it off then to conserve power. Rolled right on by the rest stop though, I've been training for 50 mile rides with no stops and I was determined not to need to stop today.
Not much exciting to report for most of the ride. Made it to the 33/44 split, and I still felt great, so I continued on to the 44 route. The number of cyclists around me drastically lessened at that point as many people turned off and took the 33 route. That's where the hills began too, so it was mostly uphill for the next 5 miles. I started sipping some much-needed water from my hydration pack, but I was putting up only air. What the hell? I packed the thing full of water this morning, there was no way I could run out, especially with how cool the temperature was today. So I opened up my pack and found that the nozzle had fallen off and water was spilling out of it. I had lost a ton of water. Luckily there was some left, but not nearly as much as would have made me felt comfortable. I might need to stop at a rest stop for water after all...
I guess people were surprised to see me doing the 44, because it was around this time when people started congratulating me and telling me how amazed they were that I was doing this. When the hills started, that was pretty much when I stopped passing people though. As a large rider, I have a distinct disadvantage on hills, as it takes two to three times as much energy to get myself up a hill than the average cyclist, so people started passing me finally. I knew this was going to be the hard spot though; I've been practicing the Akron Park hill for 3 weeks now and it takes me 5-6 minutes to get to the top. There are some people on Strava that can do it in 2 minutes.
One guy caught up to me and shouted "You are awesome, man, just awesome". Well of course I am, I'm on Team Awesome, after all. Turned the camera back on for the hills, because I wanted to catch the climb and the descent, the fun parts of the ride. There was another rest stop at the top of the hill, but I decided to skip that one too and keep on trucking; still had water left and there was another stop in another 6 miles. On the way back down the hill I hit 38.2mph, a tie with my all-time maximum speed. Caught up with a lot of the people who had passed me on the way up, so it all evened out.
Some lady started talking with me for a few miles. She was amazed that I was able to keep up with her and said I was an inspiration after I told her how much practice I put into the ride; I'm up to biking 150 miles a week now. I felt kind of bad though because I had to slow down to talk with her, so after the conversation ended I sped up again and left her behind.
Around this time I noticed my average speed had raised to 14.5mph, faster than my "wishful thinking" goal, and my determination was suddenly renewed. While the way back was into the wind, and the wind was pretty stiff, I was determined not to let that stop me. I really wanted to hit 15mph average, so I started hammering it. I brought one extra gel pack in case I bonked badly, but ended up eating it anyway to see if that would give me some extra energy to finish the ride strong.
We joined back up with the 33 mile riders, which suddenly meant I had a lot of people to pass again. It was somewhat comforting to see all of these riders, having ridden 11 miles less than me and climbed 1/3rd of the height that I did, whom I was now passing for a 2nd time. There were another 2 rest stops but I still seemed to have water left, so I skipped those too.
Kept on going until we hit Transit again, at which point my hopes dropped. The 15 mile ride had caused a huge backup at Transit as there were easily 700 riders waiting to cross the street, 20 at a time. When I hit the end of the queue, my average speed was all the way up to 14.8mph, and 15 was within my reach. By the time I made it across the street, my speed had dropped to 14.5mph.
I tried my best. I started becoming delerious; I was losing it- fast. My heart rate was too high, I was too tired, I was out of food, nearly out of water. But with only 5 miles left to go, there was no point in slowing or stopping. Halfway over Dodge, speed hit 14.6. At the end of Dodge, speed hit 14.7. Halfway into Millersport, speed finally hit 14.8, but at that point I knew I was so close to the end that I was not likely to see 14.9. Finally made it to the finish line with a total time of 3 hours, 4 minutes, and 39 seconds. If not for the long delays at the start and at Transit, I'm certain I could have done the entire thing in 3 hours flat.
I don't know what it was that got into me. Maybe it was that there were so many people in front of me, it inspired me to catch up to them, or maybe all my practice finally paid off. This ride was my fastest loop ride ever, beating last years Roswell 22 by 0.6mph, and last months 50 miler by 0.8mph.
I'm paying for it today. Every inch of me hurts, but it's that good kind of hurt, where you know you accomplished something remarkable. Next year I will do the 62.5/100k ride and shoot for 16mph. This year was just an absolutely amazing ride though. Strava says I hit a new personal record on the Akron climb too; 4 minutes and 46 seconds, beating my old record by over 20 seconds.
Channel 2 news had a segment on the Ride For Roswell last night at 6. They had video of me crossing the finish line. It's funny how disheveled I look; when I'm on the bike I have no concept of just how ridiculous I look because I feel lithe and svelte. In actuality I look like a giant hairy ox, out of its natural habitat.
So what's next? The National MS Society is having its first ever BikeMS event in Buffalo this year in September (http://bikenyr.nationalmssociety.org...NYR_Ride_Route "Head For The Hills"). I want to do it, but I'm not sure I'm strong enough at this point in time. Roswell is nice because it's a relatively flat route, with one hill. That was 800 feet of climbing over 44 miles. The BikeMS event is 2 days long; 50 miles each day, 3100 feet of climbing the first day, 2800 the second. That is far more climbing than I've ever done before, and at my current weight I do not think it's possible. Maybe if I lost 50 pounds, but that's certainly not going to happen in 2 months. So I have no idea. I really want to do it because it's for a cause that's very personal to me, but I may have to wait until next year. I'm going to be training on hills for the next month to see how much better I can get before I make a determination. We shall see.
Anyway, that was an incredible ride, and I can't wait to do it again.