Random Rantings and Ravings from a Slow-Poke Runner in the Heart of the South. (A Weeekly (sort of) Blog about running and just about anything else)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tour de Bodock results

Here were my results:

Total Distance: 62 miles

Total Time: 3:50:52 (riding time)

Avg Speed: 16.1 mph

Top Speed: 32.1 mph

(See details and photos of the ride in previous post)

Tour de Bodock

Notes: Several of the race course photos are courtesy of the Shoals Cycling Club.

Saturday I completed the first annual Tour de Bodock. The “tour” consisted of a 100 kilometer (62 mile) bicycle tour in and around the small town of Pontotoc, MS. There is also a 37-mile option available for those new to cycling or short on time.
The most I had ever ridden on a bicycle was 50 miles but had completed that distance a few times. I had a 60 miler scheduled several weeks ago to prepare for the tour but a stomach bug limited me to a VERY difficult 54 miles. However, I felt pretty comfortable going into the ride. I ride with a great group of guys that call ourselves “Team Saltillo” and our goal was just to finish comfortably. I knew that someone would be there with me if I “bonked”. The only thing that did worry me was the 8 am start which is two hours later than we normally ride, making for a pretty hot finish for sure.
We all met up in Tupelo and followed each other over to Pontotoc. The registration area was very crowded so we were all a little late getting back to our cars and bikes. While a few of the guys pumped up their tires, a couple of us cycled over to the wellness center for one more bathroom break before we were off.
The start of the ride was in another parking lot about 100 yards below where we were parked and I was surprised to find a HUGE group of cyclists waiting for the start. I have not heard a number yet but it appeared to be 200 or so cyclists. However, pedaling around the parking lot I could not find the “Team Saltillo” crew anywhere. Finally, I spotted a couple of them but they did not know why everyone else had not gotten down there. The few of us listened to the pre-race instructions and prayer and it was time for the mass exit. It was a very cool experience and I hated for the other guys to miss it and found myself worried about what was going on.
Only about a quarter mile from the start, a couple cyclists went down when one of them got into some gravel on the side of the road. Suddenly, I found myself much more careful! Since we had waited for our posse at the start, we had gone out in the back and I found myself with a group only going about 14 miles an hour. Since the road was flat and fast, I passed a lot of people, especially the first 10 miles. After about 40 minutes, I found myself pretty much all alone except for Matt. We caught up with a few cyclists from the Oxford cycling group and chatted a bit. We went on ahead of them and I was a bit surprised when I found the first rest stop at about 17 miles. I was still feeling great and was excited to see that we had caught up with a big group of cyclists from the area (about 60 or so in number).
The stop was fully furnished with ice cold water, Gatorade, nutrition bars, PB & J sandwiches, fruit, and more. The porta potty was frequented but there was not a long line. I filled my bottles to the brim and used the “facilities”. I talked to a few of the more familiar faces and watched the road to watch for Team Saltillo coming up the hill. I had blood running down my leg but I was not sure why. I had not fallen and did not remember hitting anything.
The big group began to set off. While we were ready to go, we decided to wait and see if they would make it to us. We waited about 25 minutes in all but they never made it. I think we probably left just before they got there.
The next 13 miles can be best characterized as rolling hills. The hills were not that bad at all and I found myself passing several of the cyclists who had left before me at the previous stop. I felt pretty strong but let Matt, the stronger cyclist, pull me on several of the hills. Then we came to a flatter section and Salmon road, an area known for the Amish community in this area. The roads here were terribly rough and the vibrations were getting to my hinder parts! Still, we managed a nice pace of about 18 miles per hour through here and enjoyed seeing the Amish houses and barns. Three Amish boys waved from their yoked mule. A horse and buggy loaded up with an Amish family passed going the other way and a young Amish girl complete in a long dress and bonnet looked just like a postcard playing bare foot out in her yard. The smell was pretty bad through here as "horse apples" filled the road.
We came to the second rest stop at 30 miles. Even though I was still feeling strong, I was ready for a short rest. After about 10 minutes, the other guys finally caught up to us. We would learn that they had a tire issue at the start of the race and experienced two more flats out on the road! It was no wonder they were delayed but had worked hard to catch back up. Although the big group of cyclists was at the stop when we arrived, they left just after Team Saltillo arrived. We waited another 10 minutes to give them a good break and then we all set off together.
Matt wanted to catch the big group and took off at a pace no one else wanted to match and everyone settled in at about 17 miles an hour. When Matt began to slow down, Marcus and I raised the pace to try and catch him. We did, but the others in the group decided to stay at a more comfortable pace. We split up into, essentially, two groups and after a little while, I looked back and did not see them. Mechanical problems can take a major mental toll and I am sure they had worked hard to catch back up to us before.
At around 45 miles, I was beginning to feel the heat. I thought there would be another rest stop at about the 48 mile marker but would not find one. 50 miles went by and still no rest stop. My pace had slowed considerably because the heat was taking its toll. I was managing 16 ½ but any hill slowed me way down. I figured out that the final rest stop was the same one at the 30 mile marker and it would be another 5 miles before we got there.
The 5 miles didn’t seem to come fast enough and we finally stopped at 56 miles. The rest of the guys caught up in a few minutes and I called my wife who was already waiting at the finish. Although I wanted to all finish together, I struck out ahead with Matt so I wouldn’t keep my family waiting too long. Moreover, there was thunder and a storm cloud that appeared to be headed Ponotoc’s way.
Matt appeared to want to race to the finish but I was comfortable with a much slower pace. It was pretty flat to the finish, all except the last couple of miles. The two steepest hills in the entire tour were both in the last mile. Neither was long but I had to go to the granny gear on both. The last hill, I decided to walk the last 50 yards for fear that I would fall from a lack of momentum.
Once I turned left on Main street, I could now see downtown Pontotoc. I knew I was home now. Sam caught up with me right as I made the turn. We rode in together to the cheers of my family. I went back to chat and they took a few pictures. Marcus rode in a few minutes later and they took our picture. We decided to head back to the parking lot but, when I clipped in and stood up on the pedal, the chain flew off the front ring leaving me with no momentum and resulting in a fall to the pavement! 62 miles and I fell right there in the middle of downtown Pontotoc and right smack in the middle of the Bodock festival! Nothing like a little humble pie at the end of a nice accomplishment!
I felt good at the finish and know I had prepared myself for the ride. I would have liked to have finished stronger but I actually had very little drafting opportunities throughout the ride. I look forward to this ride or a similar one next year so I can have a chance to stay with the big group again. Hopefully, mechanical issues won’t slow us down again!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Come to Jesus Moment

When I was in high school, my friends and I would often engage in activities that we knew we shouldn’t. I am sure I am not alone in that statement by any means. I remember one night on a July 4th when I was only about 16. My best friend and I decided to go out and hit mailboxes. Understand, we lived in a small town with absolutely nothing to do except really stupid stuff like, well, hitting mailboxes. The only problem was we had heard about people hitting mailboxes and heard reports of how fun it was, but we did not know exactly how to engage in this crazy endeavor. But my friend got an ax handle from his dad’s shop and we went out huntin’ a mailbox, nevertheless.

Now, we would learn later that the trick to this mailbox hittin’ thing is to do it on the go. That way you can’t get caught. We didn’t have that little tid bit of information. We go out at about 8 pm that night (awful early for mailbox hittin’ we would come to understand) and picked out a mailbox on a lonely road in my own neighborhood. Well, you can guess that we weren’t the most skilled at these kinds of stupid ideas. In addition, I drove a bright yellow GMC stepside truck that was a one-of-a-kind in the small town in which we lived. Getting the picture? Considering all this it is a wonder how David and I figured out anything in the way of a career but we managed.

Well, we stop, yes I said stop, in front of this mailbox and take the time to roll down the window. David climbs halfway out of the window and is pulling back the ax handle when I look over to the left and see several individuals looking through the storm-glass door of their living room. I see them begin to get off their couches and immediately yelled to David, “NOOOOO!” It was at that moment that I hear the unmistakable clang of a wooden ax handle hitting a tin metal mailbox with full force. I put the pedal to the floorboard, almost slinging David out of the window, so we could get out of dodge!

We drove around our little town that night for all of about 30 minutes and then made the clever decision to return home, just one street over from the mailbox we just caved in. We pulled into my driveway and had not even shut the doors to the truck when a car slung into the driveway and a man twice my age jumped out along with his twenty-something son. Now to get the full effect, you have to read his quotes in your best redneck twang: “I seen what you done and you ain’t getting away with it neither!” he yelled pointing his finger in my face. “We got you now. Uh huh. We got you now!” He nodded confidently, got back in their automobile and left.

My 15-year old best friend and I went into our house and into my back bedroom and sat on my bed, hands in our lap, staring at each other with wide eyes. We sat there for a long time and said nothing. In those days, I had a big ceramic Mississippi State Bulldog lamp that sat on my night stand. I still remember looking past David, staring at that big bulldog lamp. The bulldog looked back, standing there, hands on his hips, menacing look on his face. We just knew that, at any moment, the police were going to be ringing the doorbell and taking us away in handcuffs. It was a moment best characterized as a “come to Jesus moment”.

Unfortunately, I did not learn effectively from this experience and would have several more “come to Jesus moments” during my teenage years. It became an expression we used for those times when we knew we were caught or close to it and we sat there thinking, “what have I got myself into?”

I had another one of those “come to Jesus moments” this weekend but it had nothing to do with hitting mailboxes or, fortunately, any other sort of bad decision-making that brought me into a world of trouble. I planned a five-mile trail run Sunday evening to get back into the swing of running. I have run this trail numerous times and was not at all worried about completing the distance. Oh, I knew that it was going to be pretty hot and I would have to take it slow. But still, I was pretty confident that I could complete the distance without any problems. It didn’t strike me that I have really been relying more on cycling to stay in shape and have been running less and less. In fact, the extent of my running for the last several months has been a 2 or 3 mile “jog” in the air-conditioned comfort of the gym just a couple days a week. Nevertheless, I loaded in the car and headed out to the start of the trail.

The run started off great. I had a great playlist set up on my ipod and was enjoying running through the woods. About a mile and a half in the run I began thinking, “Hmm. This is kinda hard.” Five minutes later I was taking a walk break! I was only able to run a little more than two miles before walking. My pride was hurt. I quickly started back running but had to continue a walk break about every five minutes. I was a long way from the shape I was in when I ran a marathon last year! It was a “come to Jesus moment”! I have lost a LOT of my running shape from my focus on cycling.

My run ended at four miles that day and I am embarrassed to say how long it took me. It was hot and I haven’t run a trail in a while. But really, it just goes to show you that cycling fitness does not translate into running fitness and vice versa. Now that I have been awakened from my running slumber I realize I have to really get working to complete the half-marathon this December. Hopefully, my body at some point will remember how to run again and it will come more quickly that I realize. But at this point, I have been humbled and realize that this “awakening” has taught me a valuable lesson. At least this time I didn’t have to worry about being led off in handcuffs!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bonked by Bug

Subtitled: Why you should not bike with a stomach virus.

Ah, the joy of cycling! Building your mileage each week, pushing yourself and your cycling buddies with an increased pace, spinning up the hills. It can be a really fun sport. Which is why I was worried about missing out on the big ride on Saturday when I became ill on Thursday of this week.

I left work early Thursday with all the classic signs of a stomach bug: nausea, weakness, did I mention nausea? We had small, rather cold, missle-shaped pills at home to keep the nausea at bay (if you know what I mean) but what I worried about as I lay on the couch watching Oprah is, 'Will I miss out on the big 60 mile ride Saturday?'

You see, cycling is much different than running. Missing one long run in a 12 or 16-week training program is not a huge deal. But missing a long ride can make you the slow guy the very next week in cycling. At least that is what I have found to be true for a newbie like myself. That's why we have lost a few guys along the way this summer due to really unimportant things like babies being born or family vacations. :-)

So when I felt a little better by Friday afternoon, I figured I would be A-ok for the big Saturday ride. We planned a big dinner out with friends that evening at Olive Garden. The plan was to load up on carbs for the next morning. Only problem was, I got a bit of an uneasy stomach less than hafway through my entree. You have to understand, I don't leave leftovers at a place like Olive Garden. It just doesn't happen. I declined a post ice-cream sundae at my friend's house later in the evening. Again - doesn't happen. I laid out all of my cycling gear, put the Gatorade bottle in the freezer, and set the alarm for 5 am.

Disclaimer: The remainder of this blog entry contains references to my potty problems so proceed carefully.

Five am came early as it always does on a Saturday morning. I began to gather my gear but waited to get my morning “business” completed before heading out the door. I noticed the “business” was a little more “fluid” than usual but did not think too much of it. I also remember not being too interested in finishing my Clif bar en route to our departure site but, again, did not really think anything of it.

I felt pretty good as the ride started off but 10 miles into the ride I began to feel my stomach turn over a bit and had what felt like acid reflux. “Hmmmm”, I thought, “I hope this has nothing to do with my stomach problems this week.” Our first stop came 14 miles into the ride. I had mentioned my stomach acting funny to the other cyclists and had gone into the convenience store we were stopped at to experience a very brief episode of the “squirts”. Well, it is pretty early in the morning, or so I thought, so this is probably just a passing problem (pardon the unintended pun.)

However, 10 more miles into the ride my stomach was doing flips inside my body and the acid reflux was flaring up with each hill. Being a guy, I guess, I felt like I could tough it out. The only problem was, eating or drinking made the stomach problem and acid reflux even worse. A break at 27 miles did not seem to help me feel better at all and I began to struggle more and more, causing our small “peleton” of cyclists to be split up into two groups.

Somewhere after 40 miles we came to an area called “Brice’s Crossroads”, site of a historic civil war battle. I needed an extended break and felt like lying down because my stomach was seriously cramping by this point and my chest burning. The heat did not help matters any and I poured water down my back and over my head, which felt a lot better than drinking it. I decided at this point to continue on, even though a couple cyclists offered to go a shorter route with me.

A few more miles into the ride, the cramping and, especially, the acid reflux seemed almost unbearable. I stopped at a store at about the 48 mile mark and decided I did not want to go on. However, not knowing where I was, I called my wife and told her to meet me in a town just off a major highway that is called “Guntown”. Guntown turned out to be another 6 miles down the road and I only averaged about 14 mph as I pedaled through the discomfort of stomach pain. I stopped at a church at the 54 mile mark. I had bonked but could care less. It was only 6 more miles to the finish but I could care less. I wanted a nice shady spot to sit down and wanted the burning in my chest to stop. Thinking back, I probably should have just finished. It would have only taken another 20 to 30 minutes but, I really don’t have much regret. 54 miles with a stomach virus is not all that shabby after all.

I spent a lot of time in the bathroom later that day. Once it hit me, it HIT me, with sounds my words cannot express. Let’s just say, at one point, I fully expected for some alien-looking creature to come from within me snarling and growling telling me I was doomed. DOOMED! It was not pleasant at all and I am sure I owe much of that to pushing myself on the bike. Now I must redeem myself on some future ride to all of my cycling buddies for seriously bonking on a ride. I slowed a couple of them down but they were still great about it. Maybe I can do the same for them some day. And although I did bonk on this day, at least it WAS by a bug!