Lately I have been doing some long rides with a friend on Fridays, a day off from work for both of us, from 125 miles to my longest ever, which was 140 miles. Since those rides were coming to be easy and I actually felt good when I was done (little to no soreness), I thought about doing a 300K (183 miles). Looking it over I came to the realization that by only adding 17 miles I could do my first double century, and my riding buddy wanted to do it, too.
Two days before the ride my buddy said he couldn't go. That was a mental let down, as lately I've done all my long rides with him. I decided to go for it solo. He said he would still be able to ride about the first 30 miles with me, and we decided to meet up at 5AM.
I arrived at the meeting spot shortly after 5 and he wasn't there (he always gets there before me, so that was weird). I waited until 5:10 then called him. He had a flat on his bike that was going to take some time to fix, and he told me to go on without him. At first I said I'd wait. But about a minute later I thought I had better get on the road, as I did have a meeting at 7:00 that night. I gave him a call back and said I'd leave without him. Plus that way I could say I rode the entire way solo.
After that slightly delayed start, at about 30 miles into the ride I noticed the 4 mph tailwind I had enjoyed had given me about a 1.5 MPH faster average speed. But then I remembered the wind was suppose to pick up to 10 MPH sustained later in the afternoon, when I would be returning in the same direction directly into the wind. That wouldn't be as bad as the 20+MPH winds we have in the spring, I thought, but I figured I would probably be cursing my riding partner at some point on the return trip since I'd loose the benefit of the draft half the way home.
My route took me to a state park where a deer ran across my path at about 7:30 as I entered the park. I continued south with the tailwind. Just before mile 95, as I was climbing a steep bridge, I noticed my rear tire was low on air. Fortunately there was a shoulder, so I stopped on the incline to change the flat. It took me at least 5 minutes to figure out what caused the flat -- I finally found a piece of metal about a hair's thickness and maybe a cm long lodged in my tire. I didn't have tweezers so took the smallest tool on my multi-tool and from the outside of the tire had to push to get the metal to come partway out on the inside of the tire so I could grab it with my fingers. I finally was able to replace the tube and get things going again. All total I probably lost 30 minutes with that stupid flat.
At least the weather was nice. The day started at about 65°F and ended up in the low 70's by afternoon. Skies were overcast, but the rain chances were reduced to 10% for the day, and it never rained on me or threatened rain. 2 days earlier they were predicting rain at 60% chance. The wind kept things cool, but it also became quite a challenge on the way home.
I'm at mile 101 at the last break point for about another 25 miles so I stop to wash my hands after the flat, have a snack, and call the wife. It was about 11:50, and I had already taken way too much time off of the bike. I start heading back right into the wind, which by now was about 10MPH sustained, maybe 15-17 mph gusts. At times I dipped to 12-13 MPH due to the wind. I was going so slow that I thought I had missed the turn onto one of the roads I had planned to take (much of the ride was on roads I had been on before, but this road I was not familiar with.) About a half hour later I come up to the road and remember thinking "this is all the farther I've gotten?!?" I had been riding on mostly 2-lane highway with nice with shoulder. This road is 4-lane with no shoulder. It is route/hwy 2004, which seemed to be the main road between Galveston and the trash dumps as there was semi after semi coming with full loads of Hurricane Ike storm debris, and then traveling back down the road toward Galveston for more. I decided to skip this road and go back to the route I came in on, which at least gave me a decent shoulder. Later I found out from a non-cycling friend that 2004 is a dangerous road with several deaths a year, and he used to hate driving it at night when work required him to. Cutting out 2004 would shorten my route by about 25 miles, which I could make up on the Braes Bayou trail near my house -- in the dark, if I needed to. With that headwind slowing me down more than I thought it would, it was apparent I was going to need more riding time in the dark.
Since I lost all that milage, and I was drained from the headwind, I turned south a couple miles toward a town to find some food. McDonald's double cheese, fries, and coke gave me the energy I needed. After that nice rest, now I was conquering those headwinds at 15 MPH! Yeah!
I ended up getting back to Houston and I called my wife about 6 miles out to tell her I planned to come home and change into clean cycling clothes and eat before riding to my 7:00 meeting, then I would finish the ride in the dark on the Braes MUP. That worked out great. I got back on the bike about 6:30 and rode for 30 minutes to my meeting. At that point I was at mile 175. The meeting ended just before 8 PM, so I was back on the bike for the home stretch. I got to 183 miles, a 300K, right at 8:30, which was exactly 15hr 30 min since I started my ride. When I got to the 200 mile mark it was 9:45 or 16hr 45 min total time, with 12 hr 40 min riding time. I was EXACTLY at 200.0 miles at the end of my driveway, so I decided to go around the block once just to get the extra half mile on my odometer.
My legs, knees, and back were pretty sore the next day, probably because of my poor form the last 20 miles with slower cadence and tired body. But by Sunday night, 2 days after, pretty much all of my soreness was gone.
If I've learned one thing from this double century, it is to plan these uber-long rides with a tailwind on the way home. My riding buddy always does that with longer rides, but I figured with only a 10MPH headwind and two of us sharing the load it wouldn't be so bad. Well, it was worse than I thought, especially going solo. It sure would have been a lot smarter to start the ride going into the 4 MPH wind when I was fresh and then having the nice 10 MPH tailwind most of the way home. My route was planned for south winds. Guess what -- I just planned a 200 mile route for north winds. Can't wait until I get a chance to try it out!