Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Ride Across Indiana

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sarah was waiting with the car. We topped off water bottles and ate a little bit before continuing on our way.

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The hills got a bit bigger. They were still mild, but a lot of fun.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Soon I reached the second official rest stop at mile 66 or so. As before, Sarah was there waiting for me.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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As I passed endless cornfields, I wondered if this section was ever going to end. The photos just don’t capture the sweltering heat.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here is Knightstown.

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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.

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Now, in addition to the salt crystals on my shorts, there were some on the back of my jersey as well. Weird!

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Here I am with my wonderful support crew.

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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.

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Approaching Lewisville.

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An amusing sign: “CAUTION: SLOW MOVING VEHICLES NEXT 3 MILES”

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Looking back at some amazing clouds.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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At the very end, we rode through a construction zone to reach the finish line.

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The finish was at Earlham College.

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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.

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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.

21 Responses to “Ride Across Indiana”

  1. David Crowell Says:

    Congrats. There was no way I was ready to ride that this year. I’ll do it next year though.

    When you got to the point you were hurting, it almost seems you were focusing on the mileage too much. I have to ignore how far I still have left to go when the going gets tough.

    It was hot on the Siberian Century too, but that was *only* 100 miles. 😉

  2. Apertome Says:

    Thanks, David! It was hard not to focus on how many miles remained.

    I guess I separated the ride in two, in my head. A century + 60 miles. Both of which I knew I could do, I just had to string them together.

  3. Bike Noob Says:

    Well done! I thought you would ride the extra few miles to the Ohio line, to say you really did a full ride all across the state. Now, is there a 300K coming up near you?

  4. Apertome Says:

    Geez Noob, not good enough for you? 😉

    I actually did contemplate doing exactly what you just suggested, but I guess I just got lazy after 160 miles.

    I don’t know of a 300k around here. I’m not sure I’m ready for that; riding 160 miles was enough of a stretch. However, I hope to do more century+ rides. Maybe a double century eventually? We’ll see about that …

  5. Dave Says:

    Congratulations, Michael! Excellent description of the ride, as usual. This is a big accomplishment; all those miles in that heat is no easy task.

    Way to go!
    d.

  6. Biker Bob Says:

    My computer zeroed out and died right at the start line. I was bummed but it turned out to be a blessing, since I had no constant live stats to tell me how far I had to go as I rode. The miles seemed to go faster that way. I had to depend on other riders to tell me how fast I was going so as to keep a decent pace–you know, not too fast and not too slow. I also had to guess at when every 45 minutes had passed so as to ingest gel on time.

  7. John Says:

    Makes my 80 miles seem lame. My legs began to hurt simply reading this post. That and 2v2 basketball with the neighbor kids yesterday. I read where you like the century rides and maybe a double century. Good for you. Me though? I’ll stick to the 50 milers. Or less.

  8. bill Says:

    Well done on the RAIN ride – all those miles of Monroe/Brown/Jackson/Lawrence county hills paid off!

  9. katzenfinch Says:

    Nice photos and writeup! It was hot and humid, no doubt about it. I never looked at the mileage on my computer, just the clock — I wanted to make sure that I drank every 15 minutes, at least.

    I felt great and was making good time until about 10 miles west of Plainfield, when I broke a spoke on my rear wheel. I opened the brakes up as much as I could, but the wheel still rubbed on one of the calipers and the tire rubbed on one of the chainstays, which slowed me down a bit. One of the volunteers at the rest stop bent my wheel back into serviceable shape and told me not to hit any potholes, and it did make it for the rest of the trip (though with no back brake).

    By the time I got to the lunch stop most of the group was far ahead, but I had a leisurely lunch with my wife/PSV driver anyway. We gave an exhausted-looking rider her phone number in case he needed help, and planned to meet about 20 miles further along, since the next official rest stop was about 40. The ride between lunch and where we met started out fine, but became incredibly hot about eight or 10 miles out — that was the only section during which I almost exhausted all my water. I met my wife, replenished liquids and ate half a sandwich, during which time the fellow we had given her phone number to called to be picked up and driven to Richmond.

    I took off again, rejuvenated, and was elated to see the 47-mile sign — I knew I was going to make it. The only question was whether I would make it by 9 p.m., so I stepped up my pace a bit. I had been told that there was a brutally long hill shortly before Richmond, and indeed there was. Forewarned was forearmed though, so I was mentally prepared for it. After that, it was pretty much smooth sailing into Earlham, where I finished at roughly 8:50 p.m. Four more people came in behind me at 8:59, and I saw some other riders still pedaling in as we were driving away at least half an hour later.

    For the most part, I felt great and didn’t doubt that I could complete the ride, though I was worried about my wheel. My new padded shorts and gloves performed well, but I did have to get off the bike several times to give breaks to my feet, which felt like they were on fire. Shimano sandals and SPDs work fine for commuting and shorter rides, but I’m going to have to come up with a different combination for longer distances. (And new wheels, too — sounds like the old ones have had it.)

    The distance made me a bit apprehensive about this ride, but it turned out to be a really nice one — I already look forward to doing it again next year!

  10. Greg Says:

    Fantastic description of the ride! This was my first pass as well and the description and photo’s are what I experienced also. This is great for anyone thinking about doing it next year. Thanks for the memory! Oh, congratts as well!!

  11. Tracy W Says:

    Congratulations on a HUGE accomplishment! I’ve never attempted anything like that, but I cannot imagine adding another 52 miles to the 108 that is my longest ride ever. Good job!

  12. Bill Lambert Says:

    Excellent write up and photos. I enjoyed riding with you the first 50 miles. I appreciated your interest in wanting to stay with me while Alex drove back, but I’m really glad you moved on. I had no doubt you’d be able to finish and take a bunch of photos on the way. Maybe next year I’ll have better tires.

  13. Warren Schacht Says:

    Great ride and tour Dave. This was my second year. Last year the temperature was 70 degrees. What a difference. I struggled around mile marker 115 when I ran out of water and my cellphone was dead. Thank goodness for Gas Stations. I restocked and went on my way. (Coke, Snickers and 2 large bottles of cold water) See ya next year.

  14. Jim Harness Says:

    Congrats on finishing RAIN.My wife and I along with a friend of mine from work finished RAIN last year.I can so relate to the story that you wrote.We were lucky because it was very cool last year.I don’t think the temp ever reached 75 degrees which is unheard of in July.I had a flat tire at mile 156 which was a real bummer but I fixed it and finished it with time to spare.Your pictures are great and ALMOST make me want to do it again.LOL

  15. mike J Says:

    way to go. 160 miles in a day is tough. Congrats.

  16. Chandra Says:

    Michael,
    That’s quite an accomplishment! Bravo!!

    Peace 🙂

  17. Errin Says:

    Great job Michael! Next up is a 300k right? You know you can do it now, it’s only another 20 miles or so. Then after that a Double Century!

    You are right about the pics. They just make it look like a beautiful day. The humidity must’ve made it tough. We don’t get much of that here in sunny so cal. We do have smog though, so maybe it evens out?

  18. Dan Says:

    Great description of the ride! Thanks so much for sharing the pictures.

  19. Merlin Says:

    Thanks for the travelogue. I’m sure we all had variations on the same theme(s). This was also my first RAIN, which was twice as long as any of my earlier rides. But I felt prepared and was also blessed by having my wife supporting me along the way. (She was in the yellow pickup truck shown in one of your pictures of the later portion of the ride.) I took 13.5 hours, somewhat slower than I’d anticipated, but the extended rest stops were worthwhile, even probably making finishing possible. Thanks again.

  20. Danno Says:

    Thanks for the trip report; I completed RAIN in 1992, and again in 1994. Your report brought back some great memories. Best regards …

  21. Michael Says:

    Excellent log of your ride. I just started riding a few months ago. I plan on riding in the RAIN next year. My longest ride thus far was a 30 miler through very hilly terrain. Finished in about 2 hours. I hope to finish the RAIN in 9-11 hours. Training is the key I think. Any tips on how to prepare?

    Congrats on your finish. Do it next year with the goal of improving your time.

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