They say the third time is the charm. You just have to work the kinks out here and there and adjust the schedule and keep working on your endurance.
The date for this challenge was August 4th, 2017.
So I decided I needed to leave a little earlier to get out of the city before traffic gets to bad, so I got up at 12:30 am, had a little breakfast and coffee and got on the road by 1:45. Needless to say it was really nice, no traffic, no people, just the road and me. I have a headlamp on my bike which works surprisingly good, it has 3 settings of low, medium, and high. I keep it on low to conserve the battery which only lasts about 4 hours and I figured that is about how long I would need it. Actually you can see pretty good half hour to 45 minutes before actual sunrise. The morning was decent temps around 65 so I didn’t need extra clothing. Because of all the flat tires I had on the previous attempt, I brought 5 extra tubes with me. I have a basic road bike, the kind with those skinny tire that roll real easily. Also I bought new tires for the bike since the other ones were getting bald and thin. All the trash on the sides of the road can go through a thin tire in a second so I think that was an important upgrade. I also brought 4 large bottles of water, 10 snickers bar, 8 Clif bars, a change of clothes, and all the essential safety and comfort items needed for a solo trip. I didn’t do any workout the day before so I was feeling really refreshed. Also I had made homemade pizza a couple nights earlier and had just finished the leftovers the day before so I was full of long lasting energy. Pizza is really my go to workout food. I have consistently strong workouts the days following a good pizza meal or two.
The first part of the trip in the dark seamed to go pretty quickly although I was glad when the sun finally came up and I could see more of the countryside. When you are out in the country, where it is dark, and heading west and look back to the east, the bright lights of the city can look like a false sunrise and this did throw me off at first until I realized it was only 4 in the morning. I was drinking plenty of water early on for good reason and also to lighten my back pack. I carry almost everything in my back pack and this is one thing that I can improve on for future long rides. I am just an amateur but I believe they make large packs that you can attach to you seat post and hang out over your back tire. I have seen them before on long distance endurance race bikes. I don’t like the idea of the saddle bags on each side of the tire because I think that is just to much weight and you have to keep things light if you want to keep your speed up.
After the sun came up it really felt like I got a jump on things, everyone else was just going to work and I was already probably 75 miles down the road, so it was a good feeling. Also it was nice to be able to pick the day to do this as the wind can be a real factor. If you were to bike across the United States, you would just bike everyday and hope to go as far as possible, with some days maybe 70 miles and others maybe 200 miles. With this particular challenge I wanted to be able to travel a great distance all in one day and try to eliminate as many variables and hindrances as possible with the weather being a big one. Traveling was really good but there are always jogs in the road and periods where I would have a side wind or be heading into the wind no matter how much you plan. So I plugged along town after town usually 10-20 miles apart which works really good for water. I didn’t take too many rest breaks until I got to about 150 miles. My back was hurting worse and worse because of the weight of the pack. I finally decided I was going to have to do something about it because I was getting a open sore on my lower back along with the muscles hurting. So I took the pack off and strapped it to the crossbar and handle bars of the bike. It made it a little harder to balance and turn, but once you got going it was alright and I had to do it in order to keep going. And boy did it feel better after that, problem one solved.
As I trekked further I was really starting to get fatigued. I was eating the Clif bars and the Snickers bars but they really don’t give you everything you need, so at the next town which I believe was 170-180 miles I decided to stop for a real rest break and some real food. I found a Dairy Queen and sat down and ate a cheeseburger and a chocolate shake. I was there maybe only 15-20 minute but just wouldn’t believe how much better I felt after that. I got back on the bike and headed out and within a half hour I was like a new man.
From there the road got a little more difficult with a gravel shoulder which I had to pull off into as cars would pass by. You wouldn’t think this would be a big deal, but that gravel is soft and it takes a lot more of your energy. It also slows you down and then you have to pedal harder to get back up to speed once your back on pavement. Also about this time I was really starting to get a sore rear end. The more time you have on a bike in your workouts the better when it comes to this and I had quite a bit, but lets just say I didn’t get enough Vaseline applied in all the right areas. No pain no gain, I plugged along. Next I had the big hill to go up, not really steep but 10 miles long and it was a job, but I didn’t stop, the scenery through this part was really nice. After that little achievement the terrain got really flat and I probably had less than 100 miles to go. I started to do the numbers in my head and with the daylight remaining I must just be able to get there before sundown.
The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful, I stopped at a gas station about 50 miles out and called my brother to let him know when I would get there and see what the plans were for supper. I probably wasn’t thinking straight about then because by 8 or 9 o’clock they would have already had supper, but maybe he might have a beer on hand for me when I got there. And get there I did, 8:10 pm, 300 miles, apprx. 18.5 hours. My hands weren’t completely numb but it did take a good 10 minutes to get my helmet chinstrap unlatched. Pretty helpless feeling. It was like in the winter when your hands are really cold and you have to use the outdoor nature bathroom except you can’t get your pants undone.
Not a very good mug shot, but this is at the finish. Of course I still had to ride another 7 miles to my brothers house, but who’s counting. I was happy.
I rested the next day, but really felt pretty good considering. Now I had to get home. My backside was pretty sore and blistered so I went looking for a cushion that I could sit on that might help with the ride home. I found a soft pad that I thought might work. I took off for home about 6:30 in the morning after a day of rest and tried that cushion. It didn’t work at all and I was just going to have to endure the pain. I figured if I could make it most of the way back my daughter could pick me up and take me the rest of the way. The trip started out pretty well with a foggy morning which burned off by 10:00 as the wind started to pick up. It was again in my favor and I wasn’t complaining. Since the seat felt like fire when sitting down I decided to stand up and pedal to offset the sitting down. I would go sitting down for as far as I could stand it then stand up and pedal for an equal time, just alternating back and forth. Come to find out it’s not that hard to stand up and pedal and I could keep this up for miles and miles.
Too make a long story short I new I probably wouldn’t make it the whole way and so after 150 miles of this the pain was getting more than I could bear so I made the pick up call. I made it another 31 miles to a decent sized town where we met at a Dairy Queen. I was happy to be done with this little challenge and even though it was difficult and painful I would do it again if the right circumstances came up (someone else wanted to give it a shot). So I had 307 miles there and 181 miles back for a total of 488 miles in three days for an average Joe, or maybe even a little below average. I am not a very fast biker, I get passed up a lot more than I pass people on my daily bike rides, so I would encourage anyone that has an physical challenge to give it a try. You might be surprised what you can achieve, it is very worth the effort.