Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Quiet Man 300: a Successful Disaster

How do we determine whether a cycling event we undertook was successful? Is it by whether we finish in one piece and get the time we wanted, or is there more to it? This is a question I ask myself in the wake of last weekend. Because, while the Quiet Man 300K was the longest brevet I've completed successfully, it was also the most disastrous bike ride I've ever had the misfortune to embark on.

Please bear with me, because I am not sure how to approach describing what happened. But I better do it now, before too much time passes and I find a way to smooth out the contradictions into a neat narrative that never was. Such as it is, here goes.

I learned about the Quiet Man roughly a month ago - a 304km (189 mile) brevet in County Mayo, on Ireland's West Coast. After last summer, I honestly had no interest in doing any more brevets. And anyhow, I thought the distance too great to tackle so early in the year. Nonetheless, I was attracted by the Quiet Man's location and description. Without explicitly intending to, I found myself cycling as if I were training for it - or at least testing the water to see whether it was even feasible to do so in 4 weeks' time after a winter of very minimal roadcycling. I also mentioned the brevet to my friend Keith, who has raced bikes for 30 years but has not done audax events before. If I was going to try that kind of distance again, and in unfamiliar territory at that, I wanted to ride with a buddy. Keith was cautiously interested. He too would do some testing-the-water training and see how that went.

Amazingly, as the weeks passed things fell into place and the 300K began to seem attainable. I did not put any pressure on myself as far as training. I simply rode my bike along hilly backroads in the Roe Valley and the Sperrins, increasing distances when it felt right. When I completed a 120 mile ride in 11 hours and felt fine the next day, I knew that I could give the 300K a try. Keith had been training differently, doing shorter, but faster rides to get his form back after a winter off the bike. But he too felt ready. Just days before the brevet, we signed up, secured accommodations, and prepared to go. I planned to ride my Seven roadbike, supplemented with a handlebar bag, fenders and LED battery lights (more on the setup in a separate post). And I loaned Keith my Honey CX bike, which he found more comfortable than his Giant TCR.

The brevet's start in Westport, Mayo was a 4 ½ hour drive away, so we left our corner of Northern Ireland on Friday evening and stayed overnight. The drive down along the West Coast wound through scenic stretches of counties Donegal and Sligo, teasing us with hints of the views we'd see on the bikes the following day.

But when the following day arrived it became apparent that views might not be on the menu. We rolled up to the 6am start in low cloud and drizzle, which the forecast predicted would stay with us for a good part of the day. Another thing that became apparent at the start is that I had managed to become sick. The symptoms were stomach-flu-like, with cramps and nausea and overwhelming lethargy. But I looked at the couple dozen hardened men adjusting their bikes in the town square nonchalantly, and decided to attribute my symptoms to nerves and the early morning hour. "You'll ride it off," I told myself.

Alas, my symptoms were not due to nerves or the early start. I had caught a legitimate stomach bug that grew progressively worse throughout the brevet. You will forgive me if I do not go into details. But suffice to say, I was too miserable to be upset that the very views that lured me into doing this brevet now mocked me behind a veil of thick fog. Here an outline of a gaunt brown mountain could be discerned; there a sliver of a gray lake. Through heavy use of imagination and visual memory, I could reconstruct the invisible scenes that spread out before me. And, through gritted teeth, I entertained myself with this task for the first 50 miles in steady rain, as I guzzled water and tried not to vomit at a rate that exceeded its consumption.

At this stage of the ride, I met several nice gentlemen who tried to ride next to me and chat. I apologise to all of them if I seemed less than gregarious, and hopefully the above explains why! I should also mention that I finally met David Bayley (astride a JP Weigle bicycle), the brother of John Bayley and chairman of Audax Ireland. It is a small, small world.

Despite my comically bad form, it did not occur to me to abandon the brevet. And I think this was not so much from any kind of stoicism, as from fear that getting off the bike would actually make me feel worse. At least the pedaling motion was distracting me. At least holding onto the bike was holding me together. And besides, at this point things could not get any worse.

Ah, but they could, dear readers, they could. Around mile 60, I discovered that I'd gotten my period (womenfolk, can't take them anywhere!!). It was uncharacteristically off schedule, so I had nothing with me as far as sanitary supplies or tablets for the pain that shortly followed. And we were now in the middle of nowhere, with no shop or pharmacy for dozens of miles. Again, I will spare you the details of the physicality of this situation. But yes, I kept cycling. I admit I did experience a moment of wavering. But then I said to myself: "Girl, you live in Northern Ireland now. You're supposed to be hard as nails. Stuff some leaves in your shorts and get going."

Things got a bit better after that. Yes, I was bleeding like a stuck pig and sick with stomach flu in the middle of nowhere in County Mayo. But I'd come to terms with all that now. And the rain stopped, giving way to the sort of cold but dry-ish overcast day that fills me with energy and optimism.

And besides, I had Keith for company. With a wife and two teenage daughters at home, he was completely unfazed by my lady troubles. Thankfully, neither did he try to comfort me, feel sorry for me, or suggest at any point that I should quit. He just acted like everything was totally cool. Like hey, this stuff is par of the course and you never know what a bicycle ride will throw at you. We're doing grand! A few more miles and we have this thing cracked anyway.

By mile 120 we were two thirds of the way through and still feeling strong on the bikes. By this point we'd passed through the ominously named stretch of the route called the Windy Gap, which involved the longest climb of the brevet, followed by a horrendously steep hairpin descent. Surprisingly, this part of the ride turned out to be rather benign, and as we set off to finish the last 60 miles we could hardly believe the worst was behind us.

But of course, silly us - it wasn't. Shortly thereafter the headwinds began, growing more brutal by the minute and plaguing us nearly till the finish. On flats they were bad enough. But on the long uphill inclines, things grew so dire that I began to laugh at the effort it was taking me to push even 12mph. Keith kept telling me to clamp myself to his wheel and sit super close or else I'd blow up. I did my best, and we managed to pick up the pace, riding the next 30 miles silent with effort and suppressed frustration. We had been doing well for time so far, but the wind was sapping our strength.

Darkness fell slowly, starting at 9:30 and growing pitch black by 10pm. For this last stretch of the brevet we would be on fairly big roads with white dotted lines and reflective strips along the center and sides. This made riding in the dark a non-issue; I used only one of the 3 headlights I'd brought along and it was perfectly adequate.

Under the calm cover of night, we got into a good rhythm, as if having come to some sort of agreement with the wind: "We work hard, and you lay off a bit." But with 25 miles to go, I began to feel acutely sick again, and, for the first time during the ride, to get sore and tired on the bike. My worst moment was around mile 170, when I felt especially ill and the headwind picked up at the same time. Luckily, just then we passed an open pub, where we stopped to get water. I hung around a bit, and something about the atmosphere inside felt invigorating enough for me to suddenly feel okay again once I got back on the bike.

The final miles went by in a hypnotic daze. I was so uncomfortable and exhausted, that it hardly mattered anymore. Keith too admitted to being "a bit tired." What he was really feeling I will never know, as he is one of those people who keeps cool and doesn't complain no matter what. But in any case, there was no feeling of elation from either of us as we made the turn into Westport and rolled up to the town square. In fact there were no emotions at all. We got our cards stamped at the adjacent hotel and discussed, matter-of-factly, the logistics of changing into our street clothes and commencing the drive home.

We had set off at 6:00 in the morning and arrived at 12:45 at night, completing the brevet in 18 hours and 45 minutes (the time limit being 20 hours). In the course of this we stopped at 5 control checkpoints, had two sit down meals, and took countless short breaks for food and water purchases, toilet use, etc. We had no mechanical issues with our bikes. We did not at any point go off course or struggle with the route. My fitness level for this brevet was borderline, in that I was strong enough to complete it, but not strong enough to relax and feel confident that I would do so. My bicycle felt surprisingly comfortable through mile 189, and aside from a small bruise from the saddle I did not suffer any injuries or pains. On the other hand, I arrived home with a case of stomach flu so bad, it required an immediate course of medication and 2 days of bed rest, making me miss the Tour of Ulster I had so looked forward to. It was a miserable, disastrous weekend. It was the worst time I have ever had on a bike. And I still have almost no idea what County Mayo looks like.

But I do have a vague memory of the drive home with Keith, when, with curious detachment, we discussed the possibility of organising a brevet series out of the Roe Valley in Northern Ireland. And he such a quiet man. It must have been the stress talking.

84 comments:

  1. Yeh... er... Thought I fancied an Audax, but no, changed my mind. So not doing that now. Ever.

    Well done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try a 100K
      on a dry day
      and you'll be okay!

      Delete
  2. Well, congratulations on your success!
    One nice thing about brevets is that all that counts is completion. It is not a race. And now you have done a 300K successfully; you know what it's like.
    I keep a few medical supplies with me -- analgesics and maybe loperamide. Also a trauma pack, in the case of disaster, or coming upon one.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear me, if only my disasters could be so good. You should take enormous pride in yourself that you can ride 180 miles with minimal training and a viral infection. I am very impressed. Chapeau!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh my. Sounds like you had a memorable weekend! You certainly have my sympathies WRT the stomach bug and lady issue. Been there, done that!
    But actually it sounds like fitness-wise, you were in pretty good shape. Even aside from what you feel like from being sick, stuff like that has a way of eating up a fair amount of time that you didn't plan for. The fact that you had it in you to keep riding anyway and make the time limit with three hours to spare sounds like while you weren't *confident* you had the fitness ready to go, you really did have it.
    Anyway, congratulations on persevering, and at least you can probably figure that those misfortunes probably won't collide on *every* single brevet. (Although my experience has been that organizers of 1200k's an 1000k's have an uncanny ability to schedule them when I'm due for my period, and it shows up right on schedule.....)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Logistically, a big challenge is that I had to nearly double the amount of water I would normally drink, which meant more frequent stops & time spent procuring it.Thankfully I brought extra electrolyte tablets. Oh and my dealings with the lady issue were to a large extent inspired by your stories : )

      Delete
  5. The cycling trip was successful if you had fun. Did you?

    Time limits, organized events, others - who cares?

    Another advantage of riding such a distance outside of any organized events is that you can pick a day when you're not sick.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you asked me right after the brevet, I would have said NO. But as the days pass I'm no longer sure.

      Cycling outside of organised events does not necessarily solve the problem of getting sick, since you still usually have to choose a day (or several days), take the time off work, etc. For instance, imagine you get sick on day 2 of a two-day mini-tour you've planned.

      Delete
    2. "If you asked me right after the brevet, I would have said NO. But as the days pass I'm no longer sure. "
      It is called "randonnesia."

      Delete
    3. Gotta say I don't like these notions of "randonnesia" and "type II fun" !!

      Delete
    4. I know this is old but I have been thinking about it and I think you're right. Its the rare ride that goes as badly as yours did -- I would have abandoned -- I'm guessing the pressure of being a high-profile bike blogger made you stay in the race. Mostly, even when there is some problem, or your butt starts to feel uncomfortable after five hours, you also feel joy. It is scary before, planning for a long ride, surprisingly scary -- clear your bowels first if you can -- but once you get on your bike all that fades away. You are on your bike planning to spend the whole day or more riding, and things are perfectly fine. You have no other responsibilities other than getting through the course and getting your controle card signed by folks who will be impressed that you are riding so far. I tend to be a solitary rider, partly by preference and partly just because I'm slow, but for those who prefer company there is camaraderie, too. It is a very pleasant way to spend the day or more, all in all.

      Delete
    5. "I'm guessing the pressure of being a high-profile bike blogger made you stay in the race"

      Oh god, not at all. I hate feeling like I "have" to do something because of the stupid blog, so that has never been a factor.

      As I replied to one of the other comments below, it was simple logistics:

      "...They were not good circumstances in which to start the ride. But the thing is, once I was 50+ miles in (which is the time it took me to realise how badly I was feeling) the alternatives were not much better. Waiting on the side of the road for 5 hours in the cold/rain/wind for a rescue would not have been preferable to continuing to ride. I actually felt better on the bike than I did during stops, the pedaling motion somewhat alleviating the cramps. I was responsible insofar as getting enough fluids and electrolytes in, and checked for signs of dehydration regularly. On the bike or off, there was not much more I could have done at that point."

      On the other hand, this bit you wrote describes my state of mind pretty well -

      "things are perfectly fine. You have no other responsibilities other than getting through the course and getting your controle card signed…"

      Randonneuring, like other forms of challenging cycling, is a form of escapism from life's real, complicated problems.

      Delete
  6. Sounds like your first truly "Epic" Ride! I think many including myself have strangely fond memories of epic rides in our past. You toughed it out, very good for you :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. "But then I said to myself: 'Girl, you live in Northern Ireland now. You're supposed to be hard as nails. Stuff some leaves in your shorts and get going.' " Perhaps my favorite quote in quite some time. :O)

    Congratulations on the completion of this goal, despite some setbacks and obstacles along the way!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I applaude your efforts and you frank documenting of them. Please continue!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I could not do what you did, leaky fluids and all.

    This is the driest account of an epic ride I've read from you. Must be NI rubbin off.

    Of course you've either hidden or I've forgotten you have a Honey, which apparently you don't ride, which worked out in this case.

    Just another case of the bike don't matter. Much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It didn't feel epic, just felt miserable for most of the time, with everything but the pain a blur.

      I rode the Honey fairly often until I left the US; it was unridden only until I smuggled it here during the latest trip back.

      Delete
    2. I used to do all my rides amongst folks about as hard as they come - I know we've discussed it elsewhere. Even a 2-mile trip to the store had a chance of becoming an epic. (Usually it involved a 25-40 mile detour up and around the back of Mt.Tam, because Nicasio Reservoir. Sorry, can't be helped.)

      You would have dropped half of those very hard folks on this run.
      My smelly cap is off to you, V. Bravo.

      As for the Honey, I am very glad you were able to get it over to NI. It is a real testament to the bike's inherent design strengths that it worked well on such a long ride for someone it was not built for.

      It's a tossup for both me and Herself between one of these and the equivalent steel Rock Lobster as the next N+1.

      Delete
    3. FWIW the Honey was not built specifically for me either; the frame is a standard size that happened to fit me. Luckily, Keith rides the same frame and stem size as I do, only sets his saddle much higher.

      What's interesting about the Honey CX bike is that it feels nice over long distances despite not being designed for that. So you get the go-fast, maneuverable CX racing characteristics AND the long distance comfort in one bike. I have not properly tried their All Roads and the other models designed for distance specifically, but I cannot imagine them beating this.

      Delete
    4. Oh, and as far as your N+1… I am biased toward makers who are local to me, which is why in your shoes I'd explore the RL options before going with a brand on the other coast.

      Delete
    5. Um. It's a cross bike with relaxed angles, it will be more comfy. Not interesting, obvious.

      Delete
  10. LOL! I love how you talked yourself into continuing. Girl, you ARE hard as nails, and beautiful, too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I know this must be embarrassing to talk about, but I would like to know what you did about the bleeding. The unexpected period in the middle of nowhere scenario is one of my worst nightmares!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not so much embarrassed as I didn't want to needlessly disgust people. But here you go:

      I followed Emily O'Brien's advice from her earlier experiences and just let it bleed into my shorts. While messy, this is not as bad as it sounds. The chamois pad acts as a sponge and keeps the blood away from your skin. This, plus stopping every so often to wipe off excess buildup and apply chamois cream kept the area surprisingly comfortable, under the circumstances. Stuffing tissues, napkins, leaves, grass or anything else in there feels worse, as it introduces friction and bunches up uncomfortably as you pedal.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for answering this question - I wasn't sure if you would. I've been mulling the problem over myself, since reading Dina's Q last night, and came to the conclusion that simply letting the shorts deal with it was probably the only viable option.

      Delete
    3. Perhaps this is stating the obvious for most women, but an easy way to avoid this scenario in the first place would be to take hormonal birth control pills starting 2 days before the brevet and continuing through the day-of. I know several women athletes who keep bc prescriptions handy for this purpose, even though they don't use it actual contraception.

      Delete
    4. Another trick in a pinch is to make a tampon out of rolled-up TP. Yeah, it sounds kinda gross, but it does work moderately well. Yeah, it's not sterile, but actually neither is a real tampon, and after all, the reason you need it is that your body is doing a pretty good job of flushing stuff out.
      Generally I prefer a menstrual cup to tampons for a variety of reasons, but especially that you can go a bit longer, you don't need to carry anything else with you (and end up with soggy/sweaty stuff because you left it in your jersey pocket), and it's "greener" because it's not disposable. Kinda sucks when you drop it into a porta-potty, though! :P
      My experience is that on very long rides, whatever other method(s) I'm using, since I don't go for the hormonal one, I'll be making use of the chamois too at some point!

      Delete
    5. Ah the artisanal handcrafted tampon trick!

      Delete
    6. LOL Thanks gals! You are hilarious :)

      Delete
  12. really inspirational IMO. to complete something like that with all that was working against you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. My god. A nightmare. You're a gamer for finishing. Tougher than even Maureen O'Hara's character! Deserving of a pint or two, and some much needed rest. Congratulations ... I think. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Impressive, congrats to all the finishers. You must be strong if you can laugh at yourself for only managing twelve mph while going up a hill. I celebrate when I make it to the top of my daily grocery store ride and manage to take the final turn at 10 mph....and it's only a two mile ride.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Last time you did one of these it was on a different bike with regard to design and set-up. Have your thoughts on bikes changed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I rode this bike on that last 300k, mainly because it had lower gearing than my Seven did at the time, as well as the convenience of built-in lights, a handlebar bag, and wide tires for a route that I knew would include some unpaved stretches.The choice made sense given my options at the time. In truth I don't think the bike had anything to do with why I bailed on the Boston 300K last year.

      Delete
    2. No, I didn't get the impression the bike had anything to do with stopping last year...at all. Just wondering if your preferences have changed.

      Delete
    3. I prefer fat tires for unpaved riding, otherwise I'd rather be on my Seven. This has not changed since 2011.

      As far as unpaved, I like the low trail handling and 650B Hetres on the Rawland, but I also like the faster speed and lighter weight of the Honey CX bike. My ideal would be if their best qualities could be combined.

      Delete
    4. Yes, seems to be a constant series of compromises. Mostly, I hope to have something I'm happy to sit on for hours at a stretch. So saddles, handlebar positioning, etc seem like something I might especially want to think about.

      Delete
    5. "As far as unpaved, I like the low trail handling and 650B Hetres on the Rawland, but I also like the faster speed and lighter weight of the Honey CX bike. My ideal would be if their best qualities could be combined."

      This is like asking for a Jeep cj5 to run like a rally car. Only in cars it can be done if you add money. With bikes just add more engine.

      Delete
    6. First, you are one tough lady. Congrats.

      You can easily combine the best qualities of the two bikes. Rebuild the Rawland as a 700x35 and you have it. I finally had the opportunity to do a longish 60-mile test ride on Hetres. For comfort, damping, general road manners they are remarkably similar to unbelted Jack Brown 700x33 (stretches to 35). The Hetre is easily better in soft stuff and rough stuff. The Jack Brown is good enough for anything called a road and is much faster. Trade up to Challenge Grifo XS 700x32 (stretches to 35) and that tire is much better shock damped, just as good in the rough as a Hetre, noticeably faster than the Jack Brown. Either tire has the bonus that once stretched they flop on and off most any rim no tools no strain. Wide rims preferred, probably squirelly on your Ksyriums.

      Or you could go all the way and mount CX tubulars.

      Delete
    7. Nope, Seven decades of r&d > Sean's.

      Delete
    8. Did you see a variety of bikes on this ride (if you were even looking) or were most high end machines like yours?

      Delete
    9. Quite a variety of machines on show. Some audax specific steel with full mudguards. Some older steel (80s)adapted race type framed machines. But not all high end at all.

      Delete
    10. The funny thing is, the price tag of my Seven does not qualify it as a high-end machine here, at least not with the roadie crowd. The number of times I've gotten disappointed looks when asked the price of my bike! ("But I paid more for my Giant!")

      But to answer your question, the break-down of types of bikes went something like this, arranged in order of popularity:

      . contemporary big name race bikes
      . older (80s-90s) big name race bikes
      . light touring type bikes with rear racks
      . Ti bikes
      . classic steel bikes

      Out of 24 or so riders only a few had fenders, dynamo lights, or tires wider than 23mm.

      Delete
    11. People ride the bikes that are sold to them. Function is tertiary.

      Pro road racers currently use tires 24-25mm wide, same as V has. Two or three years ago all the pros were on tires @ 21-22mm wide and it had been that way since the mid 1970s. Early 1970s the pros raced 24-25mm same as they do now. The conclusion could be that the pros were dead wrong for 35 years. Or make up your own conclusion.

      Apparently all these different styles of bike work.

      As far as tires go, I preferred the 1960s. Back then silk tires and tubular wheels were dirt cheap. Everyone had a rack of wheels mounted with a large variety of tires. Everything was tubular, widths anywhere from 25mm to 32mm were equally 'normal'. The plan was always to pull wheels off the rack suited to today's ride. We all rode variety, so our knowledge of tires meant something. All the wheels fit into all the bikes, no clearance problem.

      V is a lightweight rider. She gets more flotation from a 25mm tire than I do from a 28. There comes a point where the best-informed opinion is just an opinion. I can't ride a bike while weighing 125 pounds and there are many things about how a bike would ride at 125# I will never know.

      Delete
  16. Congratulations on your finish! You did indeed have the challenge trifecta for a brevet, and you managed to rise above it!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Way to go! That's quite the epic.

    Also, perhaps there should be jerseys. The Red Flag Randonneuse Society. If you have to ask, you don't want to know...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies


    1. I would wear one. In wool. On the 205km route for L'Eroica.

      Delete
    2. "The Red Flag Randonneuse Society."

      I'm on board!

      Delete
    3. This is a fabulous idea! Someone needs to make these, post haste.

      Delete
  18. You're tough as a coffin nail... I'm sorry you were miserable, but very impressed by your fortitude.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I second Ms. Babble's thoughts! Total unstoppable Energizer Bunny. I am in awe and jealous!
    My map eyes are still bigger than my legs but DNF is still better then Did Not Try. YOU da best !!

    vsk

    ReplyDelete
  20. bravo, well done, you have the mentality for PBP (as I mentioned before). Maybe you should do some more wheel-sucking (not a nice expression) in a group of 3-5 riders. With the same energy you will be faster at least 20%. So you would had been over finish line even before darkness.
    Keep on cycling, you will be able to reach all your goals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is, if your goals for yourself are the same as the ones I have for you. All of the above subject to change imminently, of course.

      During this hypothetical PBP, though, you may have bled to death. There are trees with big non-toxic leaves in the Loire to stem the tide, tho.

      I can see you doing it - you are good at functioning while hallucinating, nothing disparaging meant by this.

      Delete
    2. "you are good at functioning while hallucinating"

      story of my life

      Delete
    3. it's a very good story, v.

      Delete
  21. A gutsy performance all around. No doubt you were wearing your lucky hat.

    ReplyDelete
  22. In the time we've known each other I've gotten to know your grit and determination. Sometimes it's like looking at my own reflection! I had no doubts that you would overcome any obstacles thrown in your way. Sorry you had so many of them this time. But you conquered them all, and now thanks to randonesia you are planning the next one. There is a belief among some that a chemical is released during childbirth which causes the new mother to forget what all the screaming was about! Otherwise, we'd all be only children. Same thing must happen on brevets! But I will say that they don't always go so poorly. Sometimes everything falls into place, and the ride is uneventful. But you finish and then sit down in front of the computer and have nothing at all to write about! It's the ones that don't go well that you remember, and learn from and make for great stories.

    So glad you've reached a new milestone. I'm so proud!

    ReplyDelete
  23. All I can say is darn good job. Completing that kind of distance is hard enough when feeling well, that you accomplished it when feeling so bad is nothing short of amazing. Obviously you have become an intensely strong cyclist.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Chapeau, V. 99 percent of people would have bailed.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I don't see the point of such long cycling slogs.

    Cycling to me is either utilitarian, enjoyable or both.

    I know I could do a 300k ride at a modest pace if I wanted to but I don't.

    Why make cycling a chore?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Pete,

      Remember all those pleasant days when you were a kid, enjoying the sunshine and whistling a tune while walking to the drugstore on a warm but not uncomfortably hot afternoon, for a soda that, while you were going to enjoy it, you were not desperate to have due to being distressingly, tongue swollenly(I know, not a real word) thirsty?


      Me neither.

      It's the easy 4 hour ride that turns into hellish 7 after we get an enraged Bumble-Bee up the nose that we remember. Time spent in misery seems to be necessary for some of us to feel validated and alive. It's why we have musical theater.

      Anyway, you obviously know this or you'd be on Pintrest right now.

      Spindizzy

      Delete
    2. "enraged Bumble-Bee up the nose"

      appropriating that one

      Delete
    3. Yeah, it's a good one.

      Spindizzy

      Delete
    4. Coddled vs. enjoyment.

      Delete
  26. Really, success without disaster seems empty.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Impressed beyond words you endured this ride and finished the 300K's.

    ReplyDelete
  28. You are a freaking VIKING.

    Did you ever hear of a John Cleese movie called "Clockwise"? It's all about a journey that goes all to s#@t. Cleese's character perseveres against increasingly horrible odds on his way to a speaking engagement. I don't remember much but in the end he comments forlornly that it's not all the adversity that beats you down and makes you feel wretched, "It's the HOPE".

    You keep waving all these accomplishments away with an admirable determined modesty that could just as easily be a yawp of triumph and 2 fingers to the universe.

    You crushed it. High five...

    Spindizzy

    Although, cuz' of you I can never use the "unexpected period" excuse for bailing out ever again. Curse you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't be silly Spin! Surely you're post-metapausal?

      Delete
    2. Oooh, well played.

      I will definitely be using "post metapausal" sometime today and desperately trying to make it sound like it's mine...

      Spindizzy

      Delete
  29. Wow! Congratulations! That is a story that brought tears to my eyes. A major achievement that will make future such events seem easy for you (if you ever decide to tackle one again). Great, inspirational stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I don't really ride a road bike anymore as local conditions and health issues make it too daunting to take seriously. However, I haven't spent more than a day or two off a bike in 44 years except for a couple of weeks on injured reserve here and there. I have had my share of misadventures and mishaps, but those days are rare and I have had a charmed existence as a cyclist compared to most. I am absolutely sure that if I had a ride only partially as harrowing as you describe, I would have quit without hesitation or regret. I feel like I should express admiration for your courage, but I wouldn't want to encourage you to possibly abuse yourself again like that in similar circumstances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with your last sentence. They were not good circumstances in which to start the ride. But the thing is, once I was 50+ miles in (which is the time it took me to realise how badly I was feeling) the alternatives were not much better. Waiting on the side of the road for 5 hours in the cold/rain/wind for a rescue would not have been preferable to continuing to ride. I actually felt better on the bike than I did during stops, the pedaling motion somewhat alleviating the cramps. I was responsible insofar as getting enough fluids and electrolytes in, and checked for signs of dehydration regularly. On the bike or off, there was not much more I could have done at that point.

      Delete
    2. Forgot about the fact you were in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Of course I admire your courage and fortitude, but not as much as I admire your writing.

      Delete
  31. Well done. Next stop - REK 400 ?http://www.audaxireland.org/calendar/gazetteer/rek-400/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "one of the most demanding routes in the Audax Ireland calendar" and it's in 3 weeks? Oh sure!

      Delete
  32. You are one tough cookie!

    ReplyDelete
  33. What size are your tires and how did they feel on Irish roads over a 200 mile distance?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since last August, I've had Clement Strada LGG tires on my bike. They are labeled 23mm but in reality are closer to 25mm. They feel very pleasant on local roads over long distances and are puncture resistant. Will be sticking with them on future rides.

      Delete
  34. Glad you're back safe and sound. Congratulations on a superior effort.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Soon you'll be ready for RAAM!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Adventure is discomfort recollected in tranquility. Thanks for sharing your recollections.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Nietzsche comes to mind: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." You are mighty, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  38. And I was worried about the trauma of meeting my brother! Well done!

    ReplyDelete