Saturday was the 24th annual Ride Across INdiana (RAIN), and my first time riding the event. The ride covers 160 miles in one day, starting just west of Terre Haute, IN (on the Illinois side of the border), and ending in Richmond, IN. I finished the ride in 12 hours 45 minutes. Here’s a map.
My wife Sarah drove our car, not only to meet me at the other end of the state, but also to provide support along the way. She spent all day doing this — I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive wife! As a bonus, she took some photos along the way.
We stayed the night in Terre Haute the night before, and got up at 4:30 am to get ready, check out of the hotel, eat a large-but-mediocre IHOP breakfast, and drive over to the start point. The sun was just starting to come up when we got there.
I had planned to ride with Bill Lambert. We had a little trouble finding each other at the start. While I was waiting for Bill, I ran into Charles, who I rode the Nashville 90 with the previous weekend. Here I am on the right in the orange jersey, and Charles is in the middle, in the blue/green Upland jersey. The lady on the left is Sarah, a friend/colleague of Charles. Anticipation, and spirits, were high.
Just as the ride was starting at around 7:00 am, Bill and I connected, and we were off! He’s in the yellow jersey below.
There were over 1500 people at the ride, so it was quite a large group of riders. Bill and I were off to a good start, passing slower riders and watching faster ones take off ahead of us. We had vowed to start off at a sustainable pace, and not jump out of the gate. I think we did a good job. A police escort made the beginning of the ride go very smoothly, as they blocked traffic to let us pass. It wasn’t too hot yet, but it was very humid — foggy, even. We were riding into the rising sun which meant we had to put on our sunglasses earlier than we expected.
Most of the ride was on Historic National Road, a four-lane highway also known as US Highway 40.
We rolled through Terre Haute. Frankly I didn’t pay much attention to the town, between watching out for other cyclists and talking to Bill, I didn’t get to see much. It was a beautiful morning.
As we got out of town, I started to realize that the ride was going to be a bit hillier than I expected. The terrain was very mild compared to the hills around Bloomington, but there were numerous long, gradual climbs. I like hills, so I enjoyed this quite a bit. The scenery was gorgeous as well, mostly consisting of fields and hills.
The first 20 miles were over very quickly and arrived in Brazil, IN.
Sarah was waiting with the car. We topped off water bottles and ate a little bit before continuing on our way.
The hills got a bit bigger. They were still mild, but a lot of fun.
It didn’t take long before it started warming up.
We passed the Putnamville Correctional Facility, and noticed guards looming in the guard towers. It looked like serious business.
More fun hills presented themselves … it was hilly enough to keep things interesting, but without being grueling. That said, as it heated up, the riding got harder. The first official stop was around mile 40 … I hardly remember it at all at this point.
Around 50 miles into the ride, I had gotten a little ahead of Bill. I looked back and didn’t see him. I waited for a few minutes, assuming he would catch up with me. I still didn’t see him. So, I turned around to find him. When I turned around, I rode into the wind … at this point, I realized that we had been riding with a decent tailwind all along. Lucky! Eventually, we connected by cell phone and Bill said he had gotten a flat tire, but he was rolling again.
Unfortunately, the fix was not going to be so simple. He got a flat tire again, with a fresh tube. He inspected his tire and discovered it had a crack in it. He talked about booting it, but neither of us had a patch kit. This bothered me, because I had been riding around for months thinking I had a patch kit, when apparently I didn’t. More pressingly, we couldn’t get Bill back on the road at the moment. He called his wife, who was in Indianapolis, a ways away. But she said she would come back with the truck. Bill said he had extra tires and tubes in the truck, and suggested I go on ahead.
Now I had a decision to make. I had been looking forward to riding with Bill, and I really didn’t want to leave him by the side of the road. But, there wasn’t anything I could do to help him, at this point. He insisted he’d be OK. I rode on.
The ride retained the same character for a while. Somewhere before we reached Plainfield, I could just barely make out the Indianapolis skyline in the hazy distance from the top of a hill. It’s very difficult to make it out in the photo, but here it is anyway.
When we reached Plainfield, the route diverged from US 40, we would take smaller roads through some suburbs and across the south side of Indianapolis. We passed through the Plainfield Correctional Facility — on roads marked “Authorized Vehicles Only,” which they had opened up just for the ride. It was interesting riding ride by another prison.
Soon I reached the second official rest stop at mile 66 or so. As before, Sarah was there waiting for me.
The stop was at a high school, which was fine but the bathroom situation was a little unfortunate. They asked you to remove cleated shoes before entering the building, which meant using a public restroom with no shoes on. Gross. And only one stall had a door on it. Not great. But it worked out OK.
It was heating up. I filled up on food and drinks, talked to Sarah for a few minutes, and headed out. The next segment had us taking some smaller roads across the south side of Indianapolis. We rode through some residential and commercial areas, but none of the roads were very busy. As someone who’s not a fan of urban riding, I was pleasantly surprised. Eventually we hit more rural-looking roads again. I rode with some other riders for a while, including a guy on a gorgeous Titanium Roark frame with leather handlebar tape and a couple of other interesting people. Riding at my own pace afforded me the opportunity to speed up or slow down as desired to talk to different riders.
At around mile 96, I reached the lunch stop at Franklin Township Middle School. It was really getting hot, and I took an extended break to try to lower my body temperature and eat and drink as much as possible. I thought I had eaten all I could, but once I took the time to go to the bathroom and come back, I was hungry again, so I ate some more. I felt the more I could eat, the better off I’d be. On some recent long rides, I had trouble eating enough and consuming enough calories to continue to ride strongly.
After lunch, I headed out. Almost immediately I saw two guys trying to fix a flat tire. I asked if they were OK and they yelled back, “Know how to use a CO2 cartridge?” I didn’t, and rode on, but then I realized I had a pump and could probably help. I went back and helped them pump up the tire. They had a pump, but it was a high-volume one and there was no way they could get the pressure high enough with it. My pump did the trick. These two obviously weren’t very experienced riders. But they were just having a great time, and their enthusiasm was contagious. They were not riding the entire length of the ride; they were planning on stopping in the next 15 miles or so. This would net them 110 miles for the day — still a very good ride! I rode with them for a couple of minutes, but ultimately picked up the pace and went ahead.
Soon I reached the century mark in the ride. It was odd to see 100 miles on my GPS and realize I still had 60 miles to go.
The next 15 miles or so were the most difficult of the entire ride, for me. It wasn’t hilly. There was no headwind. But, the heat was incredible. The sun was agonizingly hot. I passed some riders who had passed me when I stopped to help with the tire. Once I got ahead of them, I hardly saw anyone in the next stretch of road. We were still on back roads, these weren’t even on my GPS for some reason, and I had little sense of where I was. The route made several turns, so sometimes we had a crosswind and other times it was a tailwind, but either way the heat was nearly intolerable.
As I passed endless cornfields, I wondered if this section was ever going to end. The photos just don’t capture the sweltering heat.
Things got worse before they got better. For quite some time, as I rode along, I saw cyclists collapsed on people’s lawns. Some were laying on their backs, others were working out cramps in their legs, others were attempting to eat. They were all clearly suffering. I decided that the only way I could make it through this was to push through it. Somehow I ran out of water, even though it was only 20 miles or so from lunch to the next meeting point with Sarah. I just kept riding, no matter how strong the temptation was to find a spot in the shade.
Physically, I was exhausted, even though I felt strong when I left the lunch stop. I tried to eat something, a gel packet. I managed to get it down but the gel was hot and really gross. But, real food wasn’t any better.
Mentally, I was not in a good place, either. I started to have doubts about whether I could finish. I just kept pedaling, and told myself not to even consider any change in a course of action until the next segment. I had a feeling that things would get better, although I also suspected I might be fooling myself, in thinking that.
I also realized, once I passed mile 106, that this was the longest ride I’d ever done. And each pedal stroke meant that I was setting a new personal record. That was some motivation, at least. It was funny having to play mind games with myself to keep moving.
At Greenfield, the route rejoined 40. This was my next meeting point with Sarah. I rolled up, I think she could see the pain in my face. I had thick layers of dried salt crystals on my shorts. Sort of gross, but an indication of how much salt I was losing through sweat. It looks a little exaggerated in the photo, it wasn’t quite as bad as it looks here. I was glad that I had sports drinks and Endurolytes to help replace lost electrolytes.
I took some time to douse myself in water and eat as much as I could. Most things were difficult to chew. We had some grapes in the cooler in the car, and those were great. I wasn’t sure how much they would really help, energy-wise, but they were about all I could eat. I did manage to eat half of a peanut butter sandwich. We sat in the shade and I tried to get myself back to feeling decent.
After the last segment — which was difficult for others as well — I was nervous about what was next. I hoped that being back on the main road, with a tailwind most of the time, would give me renewed energy. But I was worried that I was being overly optimistic.
However, I found that I did, in fact, feel better. I saw a sign that said 47 miles to Richmond. Now 47 miles is significant, but I know I can ride 47 miles, and I thought they would be relatively flat.
The miles started to go by faster again. It was fairly flat, but there were a few hills. I actually felt strongest on the climbs, where some others struggled. It was still hot but somehow I wasn’t quite as bothered by it now. I was pretty much riding by myself most of this way, but that was fine. There were some groups I was leap-frogging. It seemed like we were just enough out of sync that I didn’t want to try to ride with them. I seemed to ride faster than some of them, but I took longer breaks.
Here is Knightstown.
By the time I reached the last official stop at the fire station in Dunreith, I was getting pretty tired. I overheard someone say it had been 92 degrees for 4 hours, earlier in the day. No wonder I had so much trouble! Fortunately by this time it was cooling off … slightly.
Now, in addition to the salt crystals on my shorts, there were some on the back of my jersey as well. Weird!
Here I am with my wonderful support crew.
I still needed a break to eat and cool off. I tried to eat as much as I could — it felt like the next section was the home stretch, but I actually still had some 30 miles to go, and I’d need energy to finish. It was tough to get back on the bike after this stop, given how sore I was.
My main problem now was soreness. I was sore all over — especially the contact points (hands, feet, butt) and my ankles were hurting too. I was still riding well for the most part, and doing especially well on the climbs, but there were some false flats that were quite demoralizing. The road looked flat, but had a very slight upward slope, for quite a long time. These sections felt slow and painful. And there never seemed to be enough downhill after them to get to coast. Actually, riding on the false flats wasn’t bad, but they made me feel awfully slow. Fortunately I had one more stop planned between here and the end so I only had to go roughly 16 miles, and then 16 more after that. It was a good way to break up the last segment of the ride.
An amusing sign: “CAUTION: SLOW MOVING VEHICLES NEXT 3 MILES”
Looking back at some amazing clouds.
The last unofficial stop I had planned in Cambridge City. I was feeling very sore. It hurt to put too much weight on my hands, my butt, or my legs. I felt best when I was riding up a hill, I guess my legs took the brunt of the weight then, but that hurt too. I was anxious to be done, but I had to sit for a few minutes to rest my legs. I couldn’t really eat much by this point but I was so close to the end that I wasn’t really worried about that. I just needed to keep turning the pedals for another 13 miles.
I felt better after that and rode more strongly for the last few miles. It was finally cooling off and I was very excited to be almost done.
There weren’t really any false flats after this point and I just ate up the few remaining hills. They were small and not difficult, but I enjoyed them.
At the very end, we rode through a construction zone to reach the finish line.
The finish was at Earlham College.
As I turned into the campus, I could see the finish line, and I was elated that I had made it. There was some very nice cheering and applause — quite unexpected, and exciting. I zipped up to the finish line. I think they thought I wasn’t going to stop. I did, they read off my number and handed me a pewter “finisher” keychain. Awesome! I finished at 7:45 pm, the ride took me 12:45. I had estimated at some point that it might take 12 1/2 hours, so my guess was pretty close.
I later heard from Bill, who finished at around 8:30. He ended up with a total of three flat tires that day. The fact that he finished only 45 minutes after I did, with the extra delays and challenges he faced, is quite impressive. Way to go, Bill! Too bad we couldn’t finish together.