Indian 300K, a Successful Failure

Well, I finished my 300k Brevet in record time! Two years ago I rode the same Indiana 300k in 18 hours, yesterday 17:26 minutes! It was a very successful day, but it wasn’t…

It was a early start to the day, I was up at 02:45 and out the door by 03:15 to get to Indianapolis by 05:30 to get the bike ready for the 06:00 start. All went well and after some short instructions from Bill, the RBA, the seven of us were off!

I tried to stay with the pack, but that only lasted about half a mile:) I pulled around some folks and was leading the way. Before I knew it I had company! A rider I had not met before, Joe. About a mile in we where talking and not paying attention and found ourselves off course… that didn’t take long! We should have been on the very rough bike path, not the smooth road, oops. So we were back with the pack.

About 5 miles in we were on the south side of downtown and there were three of us, Joe, Junichi, and myself. We rode together until I realized my belly needed food, so I slowed a touch to attend to it and they pulled ahead. I ran into them a few miles down at the next Control. They left about a minute ahead of me. I thought I might be able to catch them but I didn’t. Considering it was nearly a 200 mile bike ride, I didn’t try too hard. I did catch up with them at the next Control in Nashville. Here I rolled out right behind them and kept pace with them for a few miles until we hit the big hills and they were GONE!

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Mr Questions

I rolled into the Control in Freetown. I love this Control, it is called Denny’s Grocery Store. The first time I was expecting a small grocery store, but nope! It is a very old, very, very tiny gas station. Most gas stations you stop at have about 10 times the product offering this little place has, it is very cute. I got there as 11 am was rapidly approaching and a mom and dad had a table set up selling baked goods for some local charity or something. They had their son there who had a million questions! I love inquisitive minds like that so I happily answered them all.

 

At the Control I learned I was about 10 minutes behind Joe and Junichi. Being less than 15 miles from the turnaround control in Seymour, I figured we would cross paths as I was going in and they where going out, but… I got to the turnaround Control before they left. For the most part it was a really flat ride from Freetown to Seymour. After some quick pictures and a quick signing of my Brevet card, we all rolled out together.

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Left to right: Me, Junichi, Joe

While I have the power and fitness to keep up the pace on the flats, the extra 100 pounds of weight I carry slows me WAY down on the hills. Joe was riding strong so he pulled away from us as we returned to Freetown. I could tell that Junichi was also stronger than I was and pondered how much longer we would be riding together. It turns out not much past Freetown.

Most of the 25 miles from Freetown to Nashville is this beautiful road, IN135. The views are breathtaking! There is a minor problem; it is one of those roads that EVERYONE knows about. So on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, EVERY motorcycle and EVERY convertible is out doing the exact same thing I am doing, taking in the sights! It didn’t help that the winery at Story was having some big event. The result was as I was outbound the inbound traffic was crazy! It is a wonderful road, but busier than suits my fancy.

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The general view Saturday on IN135, beautiful landscape, beautiful skies, and beautiful bikes (both gas and leg powered!)

This is where I ran into my failure! Now I do spend too much time on Facebook and there are one or two cycling groups I like to read. A few weeks back someone posted a video of a cyclist and driver yelling at each other. I opined that the cyclist should have been a loving (Christlike) ambassador for all cyclists and not yelling at drivers, even when being yelled out. Well, it turns out knowing something and living something are two VERY different things!

I finally got to the end of IN135 and needed to make a left onto IN46. IN46 is one of those two lane roads with big shoulders, it is a MAJOR thoroughfare between Columbus and Nashville and very busy. On this Saturday it was more heavily traveled than I had seen it in the past. One had to wait to find a gap to make the left turn. There were times when you had to make your move without the spacing one would like to have, too. Oh, and there was a line of cars behind me.

I did something to piss off the little white pickup truck behind me, I think it had something to do with pulling past them and not turning with the car in front of them. They honked their horn at me. What did I do? Did I lovingly move aside and let them go before me? No, I turned around and yelled, “WHAT!” in a very irritated fashion. They then yelled something at me, and I flipped them off! So much for being loving and Christlike! To make it worse, when I did go, I went just slow enough that I was safe to get across but they would have to wait for the next car to pass.

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An old barn on IN135, south of Story

I find it sort of funny how God will always convict you when you are out of line, but only when you are ready to receive the conviction and change your ways. I clearly wasn’t ready yet! As I left this little exchange, I was clearly not ready to receive what God had for me, so he simply did what all good parents do, give me just enough leash to learn, but not too much to get into serious trouble…

About 3 miles later I rolled into the Nashville Control. Since I was hungry I opted to make the Subway the Control. I was at a T in the road. The route called for a right turn into Nashville. The Subway was on the other side of the road on the right. I could have simply gone straight into a parking lot shared by the Subway and a few other businesses. I thought I was going to make the light so I was going to go straight, but I didn’t, so I thought maybe a quick right and cut over.

Well, as I sat in that area between the lines of going straight and turning right another gentleman starts yelling at me, “WHERE IN THE HELL ARE YOU GOING?!” Considering I was tired, hungry, had been up since 02:45, had cycled 134 miles and was already annoyed with the encounter at the last intersection I did what was natural – I yelled back. I don’t recall the exchange, I just recall Jesus stepping in. At some point he yelled in that swearing way folks do: JESUS CHRIST! That got my attention. I didn’t turn into an all-loving Christian, but it brought my defensiveness to an end. He moved on and I, more than likely, broke a few traffic laws by making the right and than cutting over.

The nice thing about these long rides is that God has a long time to slowly work on ya. As I left Subway, I thought: Dang, there are simply a TON of folks out here! Nashville is this small historic artist’s colony in the mystical blue hills region and it was HOPPING with a million people. Two years ago when I road the 300k Brevet, there was a festival with roads blocked off. That wasn’t the case on this occasion, and it was still packed! It’s most definitely a place I want to take my wife, I think she will love it. But at this point, I just wanted to get out of town, back into nice quick country cycling even though the next thing on the agenda was to climb up Greasy Creek Hill.

This hill seems to be legendary; lots of folks have mentioned it on the ride and on FB. It defeated me twice two years ago on both the 200k and 300k. I finally climbed it successfully on the 200k last year. It is one of those hills with a LONG slow climb up starting at 1% and slowly getting to 6% over the course of about 2 miles just to make sure your heart rate is up a bit and legs are a touch fatigued. Then you start to really hit the climb, about 1000 starting at about 6% and in the last 100% it hits well over 25%!

This year was different; I knew without a question I was capable of climbing it. There are hills steeper and longer in Ohio that I climbed early in the year, the question was really: did I want to? I figured why not, it was quicker than walking, but I didn’t feel the need to kill myself doing it. I got to within 20 feet of the top, doing 2 mph, huffing and puffing. Than it happened, a truck came up behind me. I had my excuse: I didn’t want to fall off and end up on the under-side of some big pickup truck. I jumped off the bike and walked the last few feet. Truth be told, I simply didn’t want to kill myself knowing all the riding I have scheduled, with the 400k next weekend followed by Devil’s Week. The 60-second break was nice. When I looked at Strava, it seems I still climbed the hill only 9 seconds slower than last year when I did ride to the top so I am happy!

My favorite thing about cresting Greasy Creek Hill is not getting getting to the top, but knowing that I only have about 1.3 miles on the IN135, which is pretty busy on this stretch before I am finally back on Spearsville Road, a quiet country road!

Folks always say, “Go with God’s speed”. Let me tell you, that doesn’t mean FAST! God has all the time in the world and his speed seems to be way slower than many of us like…

I made the right turn onto Spearsville Road and almost immediately had three cars pass me. I was NOT happy – this road is supposed to be a nice, quick, peaceful road! I thought to myself, what is wrong with these people! Than I realized, oh… maybe they like a scenic drive just like I like a scenic ride! And then God started working on me about the second driver, how I was really completely out of line and how I was fully aware of that fact and simply did not want to admit it to him. I should have been humble and apologized rather than yelling back. I played the encounter back in my head a few times. Each time I imagined myself more apologetic and forgiving. I chuck that up to God letting me practice for next time. You know what they say, practice make perfect. Hopefully next time I will not be so quick to fly off the handle. More than likely I will need a lot more encounters of me doing dumb things before I learn to reply with a humble heart. I know God will be with me every step of the way, helping me become that humble servant I was created to be☺.

The rest of the ride in was, for the most part, uneventful. The sun was starting to stretch itself out making for a nice late afternoon ride. I finally rolled in to the finish at 19:26.

The course was not new to me. The first 2/3rd of the course is the Indiana 200k, so all told I have ridden most of the course three times. One thing was very different this time: I now have a Garmin Edge 820 GPS rather than using my phone. When the Garmin Edge is loaded with a course, it can show you elevation profiles of what is to come. I tend to look at it when going up hills and I am going slower than I like.

For example, when I turned off IN135 onto the Spearville Road I was not maintaining the cruising speed I expected. I flipped over to the elevation profile. Holy cow, I was climbing and doing a LOT of it! That explained why I was going so slowly! All in all, I really like this feature because when I have cycled 140 miles and have 47 to go, it is nice to see that it is gravity holding me back, not the fact I was beat into the ground. Later when it was flat I was able to keep cruising at my normal pace even into light headwind. The elevation profile feature is a very helpful little feature of the Garmin!

All in all, it was a wonderful ride. I made a stop at Chipotle for dinner and headed home.

Along with God reminding me that I am really a developing Christian and have a long, long way to go when dealing with high-stress situations, I also learned that I don’t have the strength I thought I had.

As I mentioned in my last blog, starting Memorial Day I am riding in Devil’s Week. That is a complete series (200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k) in the span of 7 days! The plan had been to bike camp the whole thing. The 200 & 300 are in the same basic place, then there is a gap of 90 miles to the 400 and another gap of 90 miles to the 600. I was going to cycle those gaps on the off days. I have realized that I really will need those days to be super light cycling, an hour or two to keep the legs loose, but otherwise I will be car camping, not bike camping.

First Brevet of the year

Hey folks, it’s been a while since I have blogged. It’s been an interesting first 4 months of the year. I looked over my last blog and my goals I set for this year. Of the six, four are already a bust. The two that remain are completing the P-12 challenge and Super Randonneur (SR) series. I have also added a new one, complete the first ever International Devils Week.

The Huron Chapter of Ontario Randonneurs, Canada, along with the Detroit Randonneurs, USA, is hosting a week long series of rides: Monday a 200k, Tuesday 300k, Thursday 400k, and Saturday 600k! It is coming up fast: it starts on Memorial Day. The 200k and 300k are both in Windsor, Ontario. The 400k Brevet starts in Port Huron, Michigan, while the final 600k starts just west of Detroit in Canton.

Well, part of this new challenge is NOT counting it towards the initial goal of getting a SR, so I still need to get a complete series of rides in for the first goal. Saturday I completed my first ride of the year in the quest for the first SR, the 200k.

I was planning on riding the Indiana 200k Brevet the previous weekend. As part of my prep work the night before, I looked at the weather report again. Mind you, the ride goes on no matter what, the only thing that cancels a ride is ice. The weather called for 100% chance of rain. I was down with that, I love riding in the rain! Crazy, I know, but what can I say… But I also saw that there was a 100% chance of thunder. I concluded that when Jesus tells us to be the light of the world, he was NOT telling us to offer ourselves up to the Randonneuring gods as human lighting rod, so I opted to bail on the ride.

It turns out that the Detroit Randonneurs had a 200k Brevet the following week (this past weekend) so I signed up and started making plans. There is only one reason I didn’t ride in the Ohio 200k earlier in the year: it was the distance it was from home. I have this strange quirk, I HATE, simply HATE paying for a hotel room when it is just me. It seems like a huge waste of money for a bed for one night when there is a perfectly good piece of ground somewhere that simply needs a tent to make a good place to rest. Thus I decided I would camp.

Only owning a 9 person tent, I borrowed a friend’s 2 person tent. I was at the camp ground with everything laid out on the ground trying to figure out how to put the tent together, in the dark! Well, some texts, some pictures, and a phone call or two and before I knew it I had a place to sleep for the night! I fell asleep quickly and slept well! I woke 15 minutes before my alarm so was able to ease into the day. In short order everything was back in the Bug and I was off to brevet.

I love it each time I camp, this time has inspired me to do more of it! I think I will start looking farther from home for Randonneur rides!

Stopped for some breakfast and headed to the start. There where 10 of us riding the 200k and another 5 riding the 300k. The weather was GREAT. The two days leading up to this I was living in constant downpour of rain 5 hours south in Cincinnati. But it was dry and sunny up in Lansing. A bit cool, it started out in the low 40’s, but otherwise everything was perfect! For this out and back route we where blessed with a wonderful 16 mph tail wind… to start…

Last year in the spring I rode the Indiana 200k. I walked away very discouraged. I went in with high expectations and was sorely disappointed with my finishing time. A bit later I hired a coach. He trained me on how to properly train and get fit. I have continued that training on my own since that time and added a power meter which has enhanced the training even more. So this year, heading out on my first Brevet, I knew I would be on the faster side of the riders.

While I tried to pace myself, I failed… I started off a few moments after others because I had to stow away my camera after the group picture, but within the first mile there where only two folks in front of me and I had not turned on the steam yet! Within about 2 miles I was side by side with Greig. We chatted for a few minutes, about 30 minute in he stopped and said he would catch up with me.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

There is great truth in the say ‘the Devil is in the details’, because he is! I say we chatted, but truth be told, I felt like I was doing all the asking of questions and he was answering to being polite. As I rolled on solo, my mind goes where it always goes unless I keep control of it. The mind is a funny thing, while it is part of us, it isn’t, all at the same time. There is a very good reason why St. Paul instructs us to take every thought captive.

What my mind told me was: “Sam, you are bugging this nice gentleman and he stopped simply to get away from you! You wanted to ride this ride at your own pace, so simply ride!” As he stopped, I increased my speed to my solo riding pace knowing more than likely I wouldn’t see him until a Control. Of course this was all a lie, which would slowly be revealed to me over the course of the whole ride.

Having spent the vast majority of my life in Ohio, I have this very negative view of Michigan. I think it all started when I was coming of age. I living in Columbus, home of OSU Buckeyes where I learned to love football. In that era I learned why all birds fly upside down over Ohio… to save it for Michigan. Well, this is my second ride up in Michigan and it is simply beautiful! The Brevet took us from Lansing down to Ann Arbor and the whole thing was just breath taking. I am glad that the I am finally starting to learn the truth about this state! It makes me look forward to Devil’s week all the more!

As I was riding along, I had one of those moments: The light was perfect, the road dipped a bit and turned into the sun, with the trees beautifully lite. I thought to myself, “That would make a GREAT picture!” Then it hit me: Sam, you ARE a photographer with a nice camera, stop and take the picture! So I did!

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The route took us into Ann Arbor on Huron River road. It is one of those simply perfect cycling roads. It is covered in trees and has very minor rolling hills next to the Huron River. The hills are mostly 30~50 foot range with very wide lanes, four lane worth, but it was only a two lane road. On the way into Ann Arbor I must have seen 12 other cyclists going the other way. When the route turned off it went up to climbed this little hill into this wonderful neighborhood. The lots were heavily wooded. What I really loved seeing was how they managed their yards. In Geneiss 2:15, one of my favorite passages, it say God took man and put him in the Garnden of Eden to work it and take care of it. I really got the sense that is what these homeowners were doing was learning what was natural to the land in which they lived. Thay worked it to the true natural beauty that God intended rather then ripping everything native out and laying down a big green lawn. This was a reoccurring theme through out Ann Arbor.

I hit the turn around control at Subway. Ordered a sub, and ate. As I am wrapping up Greig walks in. One of my dark sides that Randonneuring really brings out in me is my lack of confidence in social environments with strangers. Still under the impression I am more of a pest than anything, I am polite but distance, as not to be any more of a bother than I naturally am, or at least that is what I am telling myself. Besides… he was coming in, I was about to head out. I am simply continued to go about my business. As I was finishing up repacking for the return trip, he came out. Nothing really was said, so I simply continued doing my thing.

The info control was about 8 miles into the return trip at the top of a hill. I am of the nature to stop and fill out the info control question right on the spot since the odds are I will forget the info by the next Control! I had another da moment: Man, those tulips would make a pretty picture! So I wiped out the old Sony a6000 and click another shot. As I did so, Greig passed me, he said hi as he rolled passed.

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When I got to the bottom of the hill I ran into Greig checking his cue sheet. While the route was an out-n-back route, there was about 16~17 miles of it in Ann Arbor which was a little loop. We where at the end of that loop and ready to head back on Huron River road, but… We both have the Garmin Edge 820 and it doesn’t do so well on out-n-back routes. It was telling both of us to make another loop. I was not new to this area. This part of the ride was on the first segment of both the 400k and 200k loops of the 600k I rode back in 2014. As I came up on Greig he told me his Garmin wanted him to make another loop. I laughed as I passed and said mine did too, but I wasn’t game. I turned right and headed back.

Well, I was back on this wonderful cycling road, cruising along. It had been a while since I checked to see how far back Greig was, so I was just enjoying the ride when all of a sudden as I climbed this hill a gentleman on a mountain bike and his lady friend on a road bike pass me. I think to myself: That is a GREAT way to get a workout with someone slower, ride my mountain bike! Well, I am a big boy and big boys tend to go down hill very fast, so before I knew it I am passing them again. The yoyo with other cyclists on the road gets under my skin, especially when there are only two groups. I also know that I am not going full steam, so… I turn up the steam! Once I think they got within 15 feet of me, but with each downhill I increased my lead and charged up the next hill fast enough to continue to take more of a lead!

Remember that voice I heard back when Greig initially stopped, “ride your ride”. Well that is what I thought I was doing, lie! By the end of Huron River road I noticed my right thigh was bothering me just a little and I was also burning up! I stopped to adjust my clothing and as I expected Greig passed me. A number of miles later I saw Greig stopped at another turn and I passed him. I got the next control and got what I needed to go inside. As I started to head for the door Greig show up!

As we roll out of the control a few minutes later, my thigh continued to bother me, but not too bad. With only about 27 miles to go I keep riding hard into the 16 mph head wind. But about 17 miles out the thigh changed from a not too bad to bad enough! I opted to stop riding hard into the wind and save my legs for the coming weekends (one Brevet each weekend until Devils Week). With 6 miles to go, I stopped for the final picture of the day. The clouds had really rolled in, in a very dramatic way. As I was stopped Greig passed me again.

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I had been thinking for a while Greig was ahead of me, he had passed me a while back when I made a quick stop to get some food out of my bag. But it turned out he took a wrong turn.

Well, I finally got to the finish as Greig was packing up. As I started to packing my stuff up he came over and very warmly said his good byes and told me it was good riding with me. And I heard this very loving, kind voice say, “Sam, maybe all day long you were wrong about being a pain, rather you might just have actually been a pleasure. Next time have more faith that I (Christ) truly am in you and you are truly in me.”

I learned two very important lessons, one in which I will act on and one I will need to relearn and relearn:

A) I learned I cannot ride 200k and longer rides as hard as I ride a 100~150k ride, or at least not yet. This weekend I am doing a 300k and I am going to try to pace myself better as not to fry my thigh like I did. Today, two days later I am fully recovered and 100%, so we will see.

B) I need to have more faith that Christ IS in me and I AM in him. That I am not, by default, a pain, but am someone folks actually want to hang out with. Living in a culture and loving a sport that really encourages individualism make it all that much harder, which is why it is so important to have a good community around you.

It will be interesting to see what God has in store for me in the 300k this coming weekend and the 400k next weekend. It will be a learning experience that is for sure!