Sunday, June 13, 2010

How to eat an elephant...

Ever wonder how to eat an elephant? Although I'm a vegetarian, I know the answer to this one. This is the day of the annual Superman ride in Metropolis. My goal (extreme as usual) is to ride to the ride, ride the ride, then ride home. About 170 miles will roll under my wheels before the day is done. It's now 3:30 a.m. and dark (duh). The temperature is 77 degrees and the humidity is 85%. There is sweat already dripping off of my cycling cap. Today we'll have to race against dehydration.

This tunnel on the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail is usually treacherous during the daytime. The daylight entering the far end makes it impossible to see anything while inside. Every time I've ridden through it I've nearly crashed into the walls due to a case of vertigo. I'm thinking it will be easier at night.

I've brought along a bottle of "skeeter" spray. The bike trail is wooded and damp - perfect for breeding the little blood suckers. It will be daylight soon, and they'll all be waking up and ready to feed. I'm not particularly worried about the blood loss, it's West Nile Virus that bothers me. Some of these little creatures are carrying it, and since 1: you don't know which ones and 2: none of these "skeeters" are likely to be using itty bitty "skeeter" condoms, it's best to protect yourself. I always told my daughters, you can't depend on the mosquitoes to bring a condom, make sure you use "OFF"!

This railroad trestle is nearly 60 feet off of the ground below. But I have my CatEye HL-EL 530's to light the way. We're not afraid.

I can only guess that the loved one buried here was a big fan of the board game "SORRY". Why else would they choose this style of monument? Unless it was just to make a cyclist passing by say, "What the hell is that?" Because that's what I said as I rode by.

A fake Superman will be leading the ride today. As he was drawing names for the door prizes to be given away, I couldn't help but wonder if he felt a little silly dressed in that costume. Then I found his blog site.

He wrote: "I went to the Superman ride again this year. I often wonder if all those middle aged fat people feel silly riding bicycles in those costumes. Oh well, each to his own, I guess."

Elgin won a gift certificate for something this year. I have never won anything. They always give away a lot of small stuff and one bicycle. I always hope I can win the bike. It's a TREK so I wouldn't ride it, but I'd trade it for a RALEIGH if they had one. Maybe next year.

All the riders are lined up and ready to go. I'm going to start at the front of this pack and let them pass me after we get out of town. As you know, my Clark Kent is a gas truck driver, and I hate to drive or ride in a crowd. You can never be sure about the skills of those around you.

Here we go. The pack has already begun to split up. Those who want to race the ride are motoring away. I've never understood that. Since this is not a brevet or race and there are no results to be posted, what difference does it make? But perhaps it makes a difference to some. I, however, need to ride a little more conservatively. I already have over 60 miles in my legs and there are about 100 more to go.

I submit to the jury exhibit A. There are always these "masters" pacelines in every ride I go to (even brevets for some reason). These men will ride with their heads down, only seeing the jersey of the guy in front of them mile after mile. In fact, the second man in this line will join several of these today and be dropped by all of them. I passed him 5 times today. And later, as a part of a group, he would pass me back. Then I'd pass him as he struggled solo up a hill or into a headwind. By the end of the ride, I would finish ahead of him. Go figure.

I don't know exactly what it was about this man that made me want to stop and take his picture, but I felt drawn to him. Although he's not my own dear dad, I had the feeling that I needed to send him a Father's day card. Not sure why.

Somebody forgot to plant trees out here. The temperature is about 95 and the heat index is about 105. I think a few trees would be a good thing.

This turn, as I learned last year, was a HUGE temptation for quitting. The route turns right onto New Columbia road and it's about 25 miles into Metropolis from here. But if I turn left, I can head for Marion - this is the very road I will take home. By staying with the route, I will add 50 more miles in this heat. And who will know but me? That's just it. I will. You know my motto...miles to go - promises to keep.

I wasn't expecting to face another temptation to quit so early. At this water stop about 5 miles later, several people abandoned the ride. It was about 20 miles to the park where the ride ends, and it would be riding rollers against a headwind all the way. They simply couldn't face another hour and a half of this heat. I sat in a camp chair (the first time I've EVER sat down at a water stop or control stop) and debated turning north toward home and saving myself at least 40 miles on the day.

As the temptation got stronger I picked up my bike and headed for Metropolis. Miles to go - promises to keep.

Before I could make it to Fort Massac Park in Metropolis, my "cooling" system began shutting down. I realized that I had stopped sweating and I was beginning to get chills. Heat stroke, I reasoned. I didn't have a rectal thermometer with me, so I couldn't check my core temperature to see if I was in danger yet. In fact, I asked several riders if they had a rectal thermometer, and they all looked at me funny. I guess they don't check their core temperature on these rides.

When I finally made it to the park, I went into the men's room and stopped up the sink so that I could pour cool water over me for about 10 minutes until I began to feel human again. Then I lay on a bench in the shade for another 20 minutes. I finally started the ride home. Only 56 more miles to go.

By the time I reached Vienna I was struggling with the heat. I'd had to stop a couple of times in a shady area and pour water over my head to recover. It would be good to get home.

The Tunnel Hill Bike trail offered more shade than the road, but it's 10 miles to the trail head and it's all uphill. It's only a 3% grade, but it IS uphill. Coasting for a little is not an option. You have to keep pedaling for 10 miles, and because the trail is crushed limestone, you can only make about 12 mph. That means nearly an hour of using up my dwindling resources.

I asked this guy as he passed if he had a rectal thermometer. He hurried away. I guess nobody checks their core temperature anymore.

This was the hardest part of the ride - the last 4 block to the house. For the last several miles, I had adopted the strategy of standing for a few pedal strokes, and then sitting to coast off the momentum then repeating it over and over. I was completely beat and on the verge of shutting down. But I would make it home.

Now the answer to our question. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, even if it's a fried elephant. You can always do more than you think you can, but you have to avoid thinking too far down the road. Just make it to the next stop, or even the next patch of shade. Only eat one bite at a time.