On Saturday, I rode the Nashville 90 route with the Bloomington Bicycle Club. By the time I got home, I was looking at 98 miles on my odometer. I rode around the neighborhood for a few minutes to get to an even 100 miles, thereby completing my third century ride. Here’s the ride, not counting my trip to/from the ride or my trip around the neighborhood.
This was a lot different from my other two century rides, since it was a club ride. For some reason, I was struggling more to keep up than I should have. My legs just didn’t have the juice to keep up, or even to sustain the pace we rode at last week. I haven’t figured out why I felt so sluggish. That problem was exacerbated by a lack of planned stops: only two in the whole 90-mile ride. I did find a couple of other riders who were riding at a similar pace to ride with, but I still had to push it to keep up.
The route was quite beautiful, and had a nice mix of hilly and flat sections. I didn’t get to enjoy the scenery as much as I would have liked, because riding was intense.
We started out riding south on IN 446. We were moving at a good clip, but some conversation was still possible. I spoke with a couple of interesting people. 446 took us toward, and then across, Lake Monroe.
After crossing the lake, we climbed up the hill on the other side. The group started to become more fragmented during the climb.
I did pretty well on the climb but shortly thereafter, dropped off the back of the faster group. That was fine, I didn’t really intend to try to stick with them for the entire 90-mile route anyway. When we turned onto IN 58, there were a few other riders going a more comfortable pace, so I tried to stick with them. Overall, the first 30 miles of the ride just flew by.
However, around this time I was nearly out of water. There had not yet been any planned stops. At about mile 35, we rode by Kurtz, which has a perfect opportunity for a stop, but we rode right past it. I thought about stopping, but figured I should stick with the group. By this time our group was down to me and two other riders, Charles and Doug. We turned onto IN 135. It turned out there was a stop at around mile 40, so I didn’t have to wait too long, but this meant that within the first 40 miles I was already a little dehydrated. Also, we had trouble finding the stop. Not a good way to start a long ride.
I tried to rehydrate and eat the best I could. I had a little trouble because I was trying to use mostly Clif bars and gels, rather than normal food, an experiment that didn’t work out well for me. Real food works much better. But, it’s better to reinforce this now, than during the Ride Across Indiana next Saturday.
Once we were back on the road, I still had to push it a little bit to keep up. But I knew that if I fell behind on my own, I would end up going much slower. It was worth it to push it a bit. And this was supposed to be a training ride anyway, so I wanted to make sure it stayed that way.
135 is absolutely beautiful, there are a few hills to climb but often it skirts the edge of various fields with lovely views, sometimes from above.
Eventually I started lagging behind. For a while I thought about catching back up, but as it got hotter, I got slower. I was trying to eat, but I’m used to stopping to do so. On these club rides, stops are rare. As I slowed down, I saw a hawk sitting in a creek bed, and a lizard ran across the road. Pretty wild!
Soon after that, I stopped to douse my head in water and eat something while standing still. This short break in the shade helped significantly. I got rolling again and when I got to the intersection of 135 and 46, I saw that Doug and Charles were waiting for me. We rolled into Nashville together, where we found the lunch stop at mile 65 or so. Doug didn’t want to eat lunch, so he went on ahead. He said we’d probably catch up with him, but we never did.
Charles and I rode on, I encouraged him to go ahead at his own pace if he wanted to, but we continued riding together for a while. It turns out he’s interested in doing gravel rides, it was great to meet another local rider who shares my interest in mixed-terrain rides — or “adventure rides,” as he calls them, perhaps a better term.
The climb out of Nashville was tough, but after that, Helmsburg Road was wonderful, relatively flat and shady. As we made our way back toward Bloomington, I could feel my energy level falling. We rode across Lake Lemon, and the climb up South Shore Drive was really rough for me. It’s always a hard climb, but I was running out of steam. From my perspective, it looked like Charles just flew up the hill. We regrouped at a church to refill our water bottles. At this point I let him know that I was going to be really slow the rest of the way, and suggested he go on ahead. He did. It was fun to watch him take off into the distance as I struggled to get my legs going again.
But from here it was only a few miles back to town. I made it and took a meandering route home, as I intended to keep riding until I could get 100 miles on the odometer. I neared home and still had two miles to go, so I rode around the neighborhood until I hit 100 miles. It was very rewarding to a three-digit readout on my trip odometer again!
I did a few things wrong on this ride. First of all, I should have paced myself better. I was trying to keep up with the club, so this was a problem. I’ve been doing club rides for training, and to experience a different side of cycling, and I wanted to stick to both of those goals. However, ultimately, I pushed too hard. I finished the ride, but I was really having a hard time toward the end.
Second, I had trouble eating. This is normally not a problem for me, but I was experimenting with more Clif bars and such; I usually use them somewhat but aside from lunch that was all I ate. At times I just couldn’t choke them down. That said, some flavors are better than others. Also, the lack of stops meant trying to eat on the bike, which I’m not very comfortable doing.
The flip side is that on a few recent rides, I’ve had success with “Endurolytes” electrolyte capsules. I take about two capsules every hour and they really do seem to help with electrolyte replacement. This also frees me up to experiment more with food and beverages, since I don’t have to depend on a drink for electrolytes. In practice, I still usually use one bottle with water and the other with some kind of sports drink.
Ultimately, this was a good ride, but overall it was more of a workout than it was fun. I didn’t get to enjoy the scenery as much as I would have liked, or take photos, or explore. I just rode, intensely. This is not what I’m usually looking to get out of my rides, but in preparation for RAIN, I think it’s a good thing. Also, I did manage to get to know some other riders, which I enjoyed.
It’s hard to believe RAIN is this weekend. I feel pretty good about it, though, because I know that Bill and I will pace ourselves better than I did on this ride, and I think I have nutrition/dealing with the heat figured out well enough.