Yesterday I had the chance along with 16 others to revisit the Lake Okeechobee circuit ride. The weather was beautiful, but the sun got a little intense in the afternoon.
I first rode this route last September, and it was beastly hot. The mosquitoes were having a field day on the 50 riders that showed up. Yesterday's ride was much better. There were no mosquitoes to greet us, and the weather was cool and the air was dry and calm. We got started at 7:35 am because we were waiting on Jay. That was the theme of the day. He was 15 mi late arriving at the meet point to carpool to John Stretch Park.
We slowly cranked the pace up to about 21 or so. The ride was billed at "18 - 21" no drop, so we had to cater to the weakest link. We did ok for the first 38 mi and we all make it to the first rest stop together.
The lunch stop was 27 mi ahead and we set out. We were now on the west side of the lake, and on county roads since the levee here is not paved. We started to string out as some of the weaker riders were fading. We again mounted the levee and regrouped.
We got to the lunch stop, but in dribs and drabs. Jay was already having problems. We had all put in our sub orders in advance so we just had to pick up and pay. I ate 1/2 of my Italian sub, and drank plenty of fluids and took a few electrolyte pills. Jay did not look good, but by the end of the break he looked better and said he felt fine. There was a lot of discussion about having him stay at this place and either having his wife pick him up, or getting him after the ride. The ride leader decided to let him continue.
We had 20 mi on the levee, then a big bridge, and then 8 mi to the last rest stop. Since we had 20 mi of straight and narrow, I took off with the lead group of 3 others and we were pacing at 22 in an echelon formation in to the wind that developed. I was keeping my HR in the 78-80% range but when I pulled off the lead at 87% the next guy dragged it up to 23+. I decided to drop off and wait on the rest of the group.
About every 10 mi there is a little shaded bench. I pulled off and waited. It was gorgeous in the shade. There was a cool breeze off the lake. After about 5 mi the next group came along. I rode with them a few miles until we came to a control gate. We decided to wait for the rest of the pack. 2 more riders came along after a few min, but the rest of the pack, about 5 riders including Jay, were no where to be seen. After a few phone calls (cell reception is quite spotty out there) we found out they were about 15 mi behind and doing about 12. Jay had puked up lunch and his HR was high.
WHen they caught up, we poked along trying to keep Jay's HR about 130. We were about 4 mi from the bridge and getting off the levee when he had to stop again. He was getting close to heat stroke. We had about 12 mi to the next rest stop, but we had to use our water to cool him down. We got him into the shaded bench and waited about 20 mi. THe lead group was under the bridge in the shade waiting.
We finally met back up under the bridge and after much discussion it was decided that 3 riders would stay with Jay and get him to the next rest stop. The other 14 headed out again but we got stung out on the bridge. We later found out that one of the girls went down on the RR tracks just afte the brige, but she was OK. We waited at a turn off for the group since they didn't know the route. WHen the arrived, one of them waited on Jay and the others to give them directions.
After the rest stop we headed out to the next levee entrance. It proved to be a false alarm. The levee in the Pahokee areas was all torn up for resurfacing, and there was no entrance. We had to back track. We finally got on to the levee again just after the Pahokee air port. It was newly resurface, and it was great. While it lasted. After a few miles, we were at a point where the pavement stopped. We had to travel several miles over gravel, but we got back to the old pavement. The extra effort required to ride on the gravel broke us up again. Just after we got off the gravel we had our frist flat. It was pretty hot out there, but I found a bit of shade under a telephone pole. It helped.
Once the flat was fixed we were on our way. We had about 8 mi to go, and in the distance we could see the water tower that marked the start. We paced in a doulbe line into the wind counting out the miles. Soon we saw the final gate in the distance. I still felt pretty strong and thought of sprinting, but I settled for picking up the pace aback to about 22.
When I stopped at the car, the Garmin read 115.4 mi, 6:30:14. I was suprised at the time. I had hoped to finish under 6 hrs, but with all the problems with Jay, this time was only 15 min longer than my first ride.
I forgot to bring a change of clothes, so I took off my jersy and hung it on the antenna. I pulled the movers blanket out of the van and layed it out on the hill in the shade of a palm tree. I watched the locals play criket while I ate my cold yougert and drank my last water bottle. Jay and the others arrived about 45 min later. It was now almost 5:30 PM. 10 hours elapsed time! None the less, it was a great ride, and we finished safe. Ironically, the ride leader called to say he was about 8 mi away with a blowout and cramps. He wanted a ride. He was the only non-finisher!