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

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!


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