I held the Natchez Trace 300k yesterday. Alan and John from Memphis and Pat and Steve drove down/up for the ride. Actually, Pat drove down Thursday and rode my Roosevelt Rough Rider 200k Perm. He is on a major K tear. His goal is to get 10,000 k this year and he will be 1/3 of the way through by the end of April.
Anyway, Friday night we were all watching the weather closely. We were having major tornadic storms all over the state. Steve got a real late start and got mixed up in the mess having to drive 30 mph on parts of I55. We could not figure out what the weather was going to do for Saturday. It looked like lows in the low 50s and highs in the low 60s and windy. Some forecasts called for rain and others indicated that it would be over in the early am. Knowing that there was a good chance for rain, I bought a Showers Pass rain jacket hoping that I would not need it.
The wake up call was for 4:30 and at 5:00 the temp was already 59. If I wore my wool, I would burn up so I unpacked my ss jersey and arm warmers and put them on. At this point, it looked like the day would be sunny and warm, but it would cool down after dark. I added my wool underlayer, tights, gloves, extra socks and chemical hand/foot warmers to my bag. 5:45 it starts to rain - ugh. We stand around and debate if we should start or see if it will pass. It is still raining at 6:15 and we pull out anyway. At least I would get to use my new rain jacket. We opt to take the bike trail up to the trace instead of walk through the field. At the left turn on Agency Way a possum runs out and I almost hit him - not sure how I missed him actually. We accessed the Trace at the bridge and were on our way. The first two miles are little rollers that help you get warmed up and I get hot fast! I feel like I am cooking and I know I am sweating in the rain jacket. I remembered that they recommend releasing the wrist velcro so that air can funnel through the arms of the jacket and back out the venting in the back of the jacket. It worked perfectly. I was instantly cooled. Looks like this jacket is worth the $ I paid for it.
It continued raining for about an hour - not hard, just a slow steady rain. Once it stopped it warmed up really fast. I was riding very well and felt great. I was having problems pacing behind anyone as the rooster tails would hit me in the face. I felt like I was getting wetter from the rooster tails than from the earlier rain. Regardless we were making great time. We passed up Ratliff Ferry and opted to get bathroom water if necessary on the way back.
The Trace was absolutely beautiful. The dogwoods were in full bloom the whole 90 miles to Jeff Busby. Everything was greening up, there were still a few red buds blooming and a few patches of wisteria putting out the most glorious aroma. These are things you can't enjoy from a car. At one point a funny looking bird flew out of the trees. I got a real good look at him to see that he was an owl. You don't get to see owls very often. With all of the rain we had this past week, the brooks that usually run dry in the summer were all full and flowing. You could even hear some of them trickling.
John and Alan were riding ahead of Steve, Pat and I. When the inclines started near Kosy, I was dropped and rode into town by myself. I knew Pat and Steve would eat at Subway and I was going to just stick with Hammer products so I opted to go to Parkway Pure. John and Alan were still there, so I felt good that I was only 10 minutes behind them. I was up 1.5 hours at that control. I am pretty sure that this is the fastest I have ever ridden the 60 miles. My batteries in my GPS had crapped out and I did not feel like stopping and changing them out, so the last reading I had before I lost power was 15.5 mph. I fixed my perpetuem and ate a Hammer bar and left just after 11:00. The next few miles I started feeling really bad. I became nauseated and extremely tired. I caught myself drifting all over the place. I could not stay awake. I pulled over on a bridge to take a caffeine pill. Steve and Pat were riding up as I attempted to take the pill. I told them how I felt and tried to swallow the pill. That was not going to happen. I choked on the pill and spit it up. At that point I could tell I was not going to keep anything else down. I walked to the edge of the embankment and hurled. Everything I had in my stomach came up. I tried to keep it off my shoes. The weird thing was that as soon as I puked, I felt alert and ready to go. We debated for all of 3 minutes whether I should continue to Jeff Busby or go home. I probably should have gone home, but I continued. I actually felt good. Although I ended up slowing down on the hills, I don't think the hurling effected me to any great extent. Maybe I was more sluggish, but I don't really know.
The slow inclines are prevalent on this part of the Trace. The hill slug that I am just could not hang with the guys. Now that I had stomach issues, I was afraid to eat or drink much for fear it would happen again. I am guessing that the issues may have been caused by my hammer bar, but I have eaten one on the last 3-4 long rides without any problems at all. I was riding pretty slow, but the guys had stopped for me just before French Camp and we decided to wait and stop on the way back. From French Camp to Jeff Busby is only about 13 miles, but it gets really hilly here. Last time through, I had to walk the hill at mile 90 and Lil Mtn. Both hills are over 200 ft elevation gain. The hill at mile 90 is really not that bad. It is longer that Lil Mtn, which is much shorter and steeper. I have never gotten up Lil Mtn on the recumbent and was hoping to do so today. When I got to Jeff Busby, I could not see the guys so I figured they were already atop Lil Mtn. so I started straight up. There were people walking up the hill and I was gaining on them, so I was able to pedal faster than they could walk. This is comforting to me. I actually make it up to the "switch" (not really a switch back) on the mtn. This is the farthest I have made it on the recumbent. So now up to the really steep part. I am determined to make it up. I am noticing how much windier it is up on the mtn. It is very noticeable since I was in my granny granny and only going 3.3 mph. At that moment a car starts down the mtn. I am not afraid of it, but it does cause me to lose my concentration. I am still pedalling ever so slow. Just after the car, a Sheriffs car, passes a big gust of wind hits me and bloop over I go! It was really funny. I was going so slow that it did not really hurt. Both feet were still clipped in and I was in a very awkward position. I heard a car coming and knew there was no way they could get around me and get up the hill, but it is not easy to unclip lying on your side. Fortunately, it was the sheriff. He had seen me fall in his rearview mirror and turned around to check on me. That was really nice as if I had a broken collarbone, I would have had a good escort. Once he knew I was okay, I could tell he was trying not to laugh. He did comment that he couldn't ride a bike 10 miles and asked if I would like to have him sign my brevet card. I chuckled to myself as I knew that he had talked to Steve and Pat. I walked the last little way up the hill to find Steve and Pat going through there stuff.
I am starving at this point. Pat has a salmonella bar - peanut butter cliff bar that the "best by" date was in early February. I am sure it is on the do not eat list, but I am starving and I was afraid I would puke my food, so I figured it wouldn't hurt if I attempted to puke his too. It is actually really good and I am able to eat it and keep it down.
So, as is our fortune, someone almost always has a birthday on one of our rides and this year it is Steve. Dougie had just so happened to be able to route his way from North Carolina back to Jackson via Jeff Busby park. He wrapped a gift and hid it in an old hollow log just on the other side of the restrooms. I did know that it was there and did tell Steve about it the previous night. I know he worried for 90 miles that Doug had left him the 5lb weight (see the Mardi Gras blog). Doug of course has not been around Steve and Pat long enough to become that evil and the present was along the line of Stuckeys crap. As I recall, the gift was funny looking sun glasses, a towel and toilet paper. I don't remember the saying on the towel or toilet paper, but it was funny! I think that Pat may have taken a picture of us on top of the Mtn. I will see if I can get a copy of it for the blog.
It was very cold and windy on top of Lil Mtn, so after I got my stuff together, we took off down the mtn. The hill at mile 190 is much longer but much less steep than the other side. It actually starts from mile 192 ish and ends at 190 or so. I have never had to walk this hill, but I am very slow. I had averaged 11.5 from Kosy to JB, so I was hoping to speed up on the way back. I kept reminding myself that it was "downhill" from there and technically it was, but there sure seemed to be way more inclines on the way back than I remembered on the way to JB. The guys would pull ahead and turn around and circle back to get me. I got really lucky with this as at one point I was still just behind Pat when I could tell my front tire went flat. I had always wondered how I would tell if I had a flat on the front and it is very obvious. I was perturbed that I had a flat because my tires had less than 300 miles on them and should not even have a nick yet. Pat came around and made a very fast tire change. I got "lucky" as the flat was pinched and not a puncture. I guarantee that Pat had my tire changed in less than 10 minutes. So we were back out on the road again. The pattern would continue, I would hang on as long as I could (not long), the guys would get ahead, they would then turn around and come pick me up. At some point along the way before French Camp, I took another salmonella bar. I ate it up real fast w/o throwing up. It kept me fed until close to Kosy. So, we actually did this ride only stopping at Kosy both ways and Jeff Busby. Had I we stopped at all the normal stops, we would have never made it home before daylight Sunday. I would love to know our off the bike time as I guess it was less than an hour.
We pull into Kosy and somehow I make it into Parkway Pure before Pat and Steve. I go for the fried burrito. I could not wait - there were two left and I was getting one of them. I ate one of these on the 400k in 2007 and it was the best crappy burrito I had ever eaten. I am so starved that I wolf this one down. I decide to buy some nutter butters and rice crispy treats for the ride home. I am still concerned about puking my hammer stuff. I really don't think the hammer stuff caused me to be sick, but I wasn't taking any chances. At this point, we were still 1.5 hours up. I had not lost or gained any time for the last 100k. I only averaged 11.5 mph, but with only a little time off the bike, we still were not down any time. Hopefully, I could speed up some on the way home.
Well as luck would have it, I did not speed up. One of my problems was that I remembered one of the two reasons I like to drink Hammer products on the bike. I can't eat and ride at the same time. I have to slow down to fish a cookie from my pouch and then eat it. This just won't work for me. I know that I will have to work harder to figure out exactly what Hammer combinations I need, but I just can't eat solid food and ride at the same time. I can see eating real food on occasions, but not in between controls. So, as I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, Pat is trying to become a K hound (see Lone Star Ranndonneurs). And as any good randonneur that rides with their slower counterpart, panic, well maybe not panic, but certainly stress crept into his voice. He reminded me several times that we might not make it at our current rate of 10 mph. I just could not speed up. I was hungry and I don't like eating or drinking anything when someone rides behind me at night (neurotic, I know). So knowing that my goal is not to be a K hound this year, my goal is to get faster and stronger, I did not have any qualms stopping and DNFing the ride. I decided to call David to come pick me up at Red Dog road - 40 miles from home. The guys still had 5 hours to complete 40 miles - very doable without me. However, Davids phone decided not to work. After calling him for several minutes and just getting voice mail, and since it was very cold off the bike, I decided to call mom and dad as they were only 10 minutes away. I send Pat and Steve on their much faster way!
Imagine getting a phone call from your daughter who is on a bike on the Natchez Trace at 9 pm at night! I know they think they switched me at birth with some sane child. What a boring life they would have had with their real baby! I asked mom to come sit with me until I could get ahold of David. Well, even though my parents have lived off the Trace for some 20 years, apparently they are not familiar AT ALL with the north Trace and the mile marker they access the Trace from. Of course, if I was not a cyclist, I probably would not know that I live on mile marker 100 either (exactly .7 miles off mile marker 100). I knew that I was 5 miles from the highway 16 exit at the Red Dog Road pull off. Well, my parents thought I was in a dangerous part of town near Thomastown, some 20 miles further north. Dad freaks that I am out here all alone, blah blah and I try to humor him because it is REALLY cold when not riding. So he agrees to come get me and I get back on the bike and ride towards him to keep warm. In no time at all he is calling me asking if a car with funny lights just passed me. I tell him I have no idea, but a car did pass. Well, what he was seeing was Steve and Pat. They really do look like a car when they are riding abreast, but it really freaks you out when Steve drops behind Pat. I think Dad calmed down when he realized that the funny car was the two guys. You can really see us at night. So moments later Dad and I were attempting to load my bike into his SUV. This is really funny. The whole day is really funny. Rain, puke, falling over, flat tire, Davids phone on the fritz and being rescued by my Dad. It really was funny. So, Dad gets me a hamburger from Wendys and we make it "home". I think mom is really pleased to have me over. We talk about everything until 1:30. It is really good to have time to talk to her. I don't remember the last time we had any alone time. Now that Aidan is around, we always have family time.
I try every so often to get David to no avail. At 1:00 I call and get Pat and they had just gotten in. He wakes up David and I get to tell him everything that had happened. He had not gotten any of my text updates or phone calls all day. We make arrangements to meet at the Dollar General on Hwy 25 at 10:30 in the morning. I should have ridden the 50 miles home, but I was tired and my knees were sore.
So, I have a lot of work to do. Since my last blog, I was able to make arrangements with Michelle Grainger to be my coach. I will blog more about that later. So hopefully by September, I can do this 300k at 17 mph. That may be a long shot, but I do hope to be able to do it in less than 16 hours. We will see how it goes...