Today was a great day! Last night I had an ice bath to reduce the swelling in my legs. It really helped. I felt fresh and strong all day. I’m also paying more attention to keeping the right nutrition flowing as it gets hotter. Temperatures reached the low 90s today, with some humidity. Typically I fill my insulated bottle with ice water and the second bottle with Perpetuem/Heed (powdered whey/carbs/protein and electrolytes). This works ok, but when it is warm, I tend to drink the cold water first and avoid the nutrition bottle as it gets warmer. I have switched so now the insulated bottle has the nutrition and is more appealing to drink because it stays cold longer. The regular water gets warm but is still ok, and I am much better off energy wise. An even better plan would be to have two insulated bottles – I’m working on that.
We started in Effingham, Illinois today with 159 miles to cover. Since we were on back roads most of the day, a fairly large group of 11 riders formed up early and rode together for the first 72 miles. We averaged nearly 19 mph, mostly into an annoying 5-10 mph east wind. Len, Randy and I dropped from the group after the second stop to ride together to the lunch stop. Len is still getting his legs back in shape so he stopped after the lunch break. Randy and I rode together the last two legs and had a good rhythm going.
This bicycle wall is one part of what includes several hundred bicycles all around a local bike repair shop in Illinois.
Jon has his own perspective on how the day's ride is going.
Elite Tour is not a race, but sometimes during the day there are encounters where a little competition that emerges. Harold Trease has ridden two RAAM (Race Across America) events. He typically rides alone each day by choice, hammering along at his own pace. Harold is a fun guy to talk to, but he is difficult to catch and even harder to pass. Today we caught up to him on an uphill a few miles before the last rest stop. We passed him but he roared by us on the following downhill run-out. On the next uphill we caught him again and, with both of us working together, were able to get some distance on him before we reached the rest stop. RAAM guys don’t waste a lot of time though and before we had really settled into enjoying a nice break, Harold came into the rest stop, refilled his bottles, grabbed some snacks and was off again. We saluted him as he headed for the hotel.
We finished Illinois before lunch and are now half way across Indiana. The terrain is relatively flat, but with some rollers and the odd steeper pitch in and out of a small valley. The crops are just in and starting to show.
As we are starting to get towards the end of the ride, I have been thinking about what I have learned from this experience. From a survival perspective, the two big things are maintenance and consistency. You need to continually look after yourself and your equipment, addressing issues before they become problems and you need to take a consistent approach to each day’s ride. You need to follow a routine to get ready in the morning, focus on what you need to get to the next rest stop (nutrition, snack, fluids, sun screen, tushie care, etc.) and keep yourself in a steady state as much as possible. When I have had an off day, it usually has been the result of not preparing properly, riding too fast or not eating/drinking right. Once you get out of your consistent state, bad things happen. Sometimes you can't prevent this, with a flat or other mechanical for example, but the key is to find a way to resolve the issue and get back on track.
The other important aspect of Elite Tour is how important working together in pacelines is to help get you down the road efficiently day after day, especially when the wind blows or you have a lot of flat ground to cover. There are a few solo riders, but, other than Harold (and the departedRAAM riders), they have long days on the road. None of the solo riders have been able to ride every mile, as they are sagged up when they get tired or fall too far behind. I would estimate that we have been in a pace line of at least two riders for 80% of the Elite Tour. Some riders are in a group all the time.
Randy and I have matched up well. He is riding very strong for the past several days. I am gaining in strength over the past couple of days and will need it. After two more relatively flat days through Indiana and Ohio, we have two days of 12,000’ and 15,000’ of climbing through West Virginia before finishing in Virginia next Thursday.
Tomorrow is more of the same – hot, humid, flat with some rollers as we head to Greenville, Ohio. This is a shorter day of 142 miles. There is a chance of thunderstorms, which would be a welcome break.