Did the Ohio Randonneurs 600K this past weekend. In short: Both brutal and beautiful!
The ride ran from Columbus to the Ohio River at Marietta then back to the start at Columbus, which was the 400K mark (and a convenient stopping point). A second, smaller loop of 200K ran to the south into Tar Hollow State Park, over to the Scioto River, and then back to the start/finish. The route had 18,899 feet of climbing on it (there was more; my GPS lost 10 miles' worth of data
), but it was heavily front-loaded -- 14,500 feet were in the first 400K.
The terrain in this part of the world is really amazing. It's the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains. As you head East in Ohio, the terrain becomes increasingly rolling. The climbs are short (300 feet is a big climb here) but can be extremely steep (you just might go up all 300 feet in a third of a mile). This ride had only three or four attention-grabbing climbs. Instead it was death by a thousand cuts -- you constantly rode up or down. Not individual climb would hurt, but after a half a day of climbing 50-foot rollers, you felt like you'd been on the receiving end of a Mafia-style beat-down. Ouch! The terrain is also sparsely populated. Lots of agriculture. Some forrest. Many streams. Tons of wildlife (herons, turtles, grouse, a snake, deer, groundhogs, and buzzards were spotted).
So at 0500, 14 of us started what was a fantastic ride. I rode the entire ride with others, sticking to my plan to have fun and "just ride my bike" on the brevets this year and to not even care what my finishing times were. Just ride and have fun. Save the racing for the UMCA events. Chatting with others, riding a conservative pace, and taking in the scenery sure does pass the time. We were lunching in Marietta, with 200K under the belt, before we knew it. The return part of the loop to Columbus was much more difficult than the outward-bound part of the loop, and not just because we had 200K in our legs. The wind was rockin' now in our faces, the climbs were more plentiful, and the day had grown hot -- 88F! -- and humid. Stops were liberal and increasingly long. I had rode all day with several folks but one friend and I had stuck together always. The two of us slowed down enough on this tough stretch that we picked up three more folks for the last 100K back to the motel, where we arrived exactly 20 hours after the start. Not a bad 400K time, especially given the conditions.
My plan was to sleep for 3 hours, get a good meal at the sit-down diner across the street, and then finish the last 200K in the morning. The sleep was glorious. I'd always heard about the 90-minute sleep cycle but I'd never experienced it. I awoke feeling totally rested. Breakfast was great. As dawn began to break, three of us set out to ride the last third of the distance. I had only done one 600K before and I hadn't slept at all on it. Sleeping, I decided as I rolled out, was certainly more civilized. Hey, they give you 40 hours for the ride, why not use up all of it?
Although I felt like a million bucks, the weather gods did what they could to try to change that. I warmed quickly. By noon it was a whopping 94F. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The wind was gusting to 27mph and when it wasn't doing that, it was holding steady in the teens. Since we were riding north-south, the evil wind just had to be blowing from the West. Crosswind for 200K!
Our group of three stuck together for the remainder of the ride, taking many stops to get out of the heat and eventually finishing the ride in 35:01. We thought for sure we were bringing up the rear guard, but only two riders finished ahead of us. And only 1 other person finished the ride at all. Eight of the 14 starters DNF'd, and one of them went to the hospital to get rehydrated. The conditions were just brutal. We ended up largely escaping them by riding conservatively, stopping lots, and letting our bodies get recharged with some sleep at night. I usually learn from my plentiful mistakes on long rides, but this one was a ride where -- despite the challenging conditions -- everything seemed to go right. Reaffirming the decision to slow down and take my time was that I worked a full day on Monday without feeling unrpoductive and -- more importantly! -- got in a 41-mile ride Monday evening. And enjoyed it!
Already looking forward to the Ohio Randonneurs 1000K on Sept. 8, which will feature some of the same terrain. And almost certainly some cooler temperatures!