I can't believe how good this weekend was!
I don't remember when I decided to go for the 400 and 600. I know I was gaining confidence riding at night and that was probably a big factor. The fact that I was riding stronger and better because of the Lake Michigan trip played a part in it too.
I drove down to Pat's in New Orleans Friday afternoon and as I was the only one from out of town (only Pat and Steve did the ride with me) I had the cassita to myself. Got to bed early but was concerned about a very howling wind. The forecast had the wind dying down by 6am, but at 9 pm Friday night it was whipping up really good. I woke to a nasty wood against sandpaper sound of a tree limb hitting the cassita rooftop because of the wind. It was pretty ferocious sounding. It was also pretty durn cold. Only 48, but with the wind, I was struggling to figure out how to dress. I layered up really good. Steve even mentioned that I would be glad once the headwind hit me in the face on top of the levy. I was still pretty chilly as we left the house heading for the levy. The wind was strong and throwing us around. Not as bad as some of the Arizona winds I have ridden in, but in the dark and cold it was not much fun, especially since I knew we had 200k of it. At mile 3, yes 3, I was burning slap up. I don't know why I am having so many problems regulating my temp, but I am. I had to stop to take off my neck buff and I traded my jacket for my wind vest. This was a little better. The guys had stopped and waited for me for this layer. But another mile or two down the road I started trying to take my gloves off. With the wind, I dropped back and rode one handed while biting the long fingered glove liner and pulling my hand out of it then putting the half fingered glove back on. This finally got my temp right, but this time the guys did not wait up for me. I struggled in the headwind to catch back up. About the time I was going to latch back on something would come up - debris, curvy part of the levy, to slow me down. I was getting discouraged way too early in the ride. The guys were waiting for me at the end of the Levy. Once we got onto River Road, we stayed together for the next 40ish miles. I am not sure why but the next 100k was a struggle for me. I don't know if Pat was riding stronger today than the 400 or if I was just slower, but I could not keep up. I was never so far back that they had to come looking for me, but unlike the 400, I was not on Pats wheel the whole time. It bothered me that I couldn't hang on, but it did not mess with me mentally. I was enjoying the beautiful day. I had on a lightweight long sleeve undershirt and a short sleeve jersey and was absolutely comfortable. The temps were perfect. The wind was heavy but not demoralizing. I was really enjoying myself. Plus with the riding I had been doing, my body is comfortable with 300k - beyond that, not so much.
We got to Baton Rouge, stopped at the control for a quick dinner. We were behind schedule and concerned about not making it back to one of the stores about 30 miles out before it closed at 8. Just seconds out of the control, Pat hits a really bad pothole - more like a crevasse - I should have noticed it but from my vantage point it did not look as bad as it actually was. We both hit it hard and I heard the tale-tale hiss of a pinched flat. Luck was with us and we had it changed in 7 minutes! For the most part, I was able to stay up with the guys on this stretch - tailwind maybe? They would pull away, but I was never too far back. We pulled into the store at 7 - gaining back some time! However, the next 30 miles would really challenge me. I got sleepy and was having trouble staying awake. I was sipping 5 hour energys, but they weren't working. I got dropped really bad - I could see Pat and Steves taillights but they were just blinking lights. This was when my mind started conjuring up negative thoughts. I just don't like riding at night alone. About that time, I lost the taillights all together. The night was beautiful, the stars were shining and the moon was a beautiful crescent giving out a lot of light for such a small sliver. But something jumped out of the ditch just ahead of me - cat, rabbit, coon, I don't know but it scared the bejesus out of me! At that moment I decided to DNF. No way was I riding out here in the middle of the night by myself - damn it. I was just going to get a motel in Sorrento - the next control. I could easily ride back to Pats alone the next day. Dang warewolves out here in the middle of the night on Halloween weekend. Only stupid idiots would be caught dead riding a bike at night in the middle of no where! Right!? Anyway, I worked up a pretty good lather from the spooking and stomped up to the control. The guys had not been there very long. They still had not made it into McDonalds yet. I blasted that I was tired of this ride, was going to find a motel and ride back in the morning. I was not going to ride at night alone and I can't keep up so I was going to pack my toys and go home!!! Well, little did I know that there was no motel in Sorrento, not even a Super 8! Steve knew this and told me later that he slunk off to the bathroom to let me blow off steam. He said he knew I would be okay once I ate the magical wonderfully delicious McDonalds oatmeal. So, I did walk into the Micky Ds and walked up to the counter, ordered the magical wonderfully delicious McDonals oatmeal, asked the young lady to sign my card (I really thought this was funny because I was DNFing so why did I ask her to sign the card?) and then I asked her where the nearest hotel was. Well, she had to think a minute and answered "Gonzalas". Well that is in another town. So I pouted my way to a seat with the magical wonderfully delicious McDonalds oatmeal when I heard Pat tell someone on the phone that I was considering DNFing. I spat at him that there is no motel in Sorrento so I would have to just keep riding. I then sat down and relished my magical wonderfully delicious McDonalds oatmeal as pixie fairys sprinkled rando dust on me.
Alas, all is well in the world and we start the 4th 100k on the way back to Pats. It seemed to have dropped 30 degrees in the 20 minutes or so we were in McDonalds. I put on everything I had with me donning the jacket instead of the vest. Steve would later take the vest. My teeth chattered for sometime but eventually I adjusted to the cold and I think it became warmer as we continued toward New Orleans. The one thing that did bother me on this leg was several times I started to fall asleep on the bike - just close my eyes for a second and then jerk awake. I was sipping 5 hour energy at the control, slapping myself, pulling my hair. The only thing that seemed to help was singing childrens songs - Old McDonald, Knick Nac Patty Wack, and at least a dozen more. I even sang 100 bottles of beer on the wall but started at 32 cause we had 32 miles to go and I sang it all the way to no more bottles of beer on the wall. The other thing that kept me awake was playing the memory game with Pat and Steve. Ya know the game - I am going on a bike ride and taking my bike, flat tire, full bladder, Perpetuem, flag, red light, edge bike computer - each person has to recall the list and then add to it. I just love that game and it really helped to concentrate. Unfortunately we, (I?) slowed down on this leg and we did not get to Pat's until 3:15 a full hour later than the 400k. It took an hour to get a shower and get everything ready to do all over again and my head hit the pillow at 4:15. Pat would give me a wake up call 1 hour and 10 min before we were to push off again.
The phone rang 2 hours and 15 minutes later. It seemed like meer moments. I asked Pat if I could DNF, he responded with a sharp no, so with that I got up and got ready. We pushed off at 7:48, 1 hour and 45 min later than the original plan. This is where I really had to pull myself together. My knees and ankle hurt (ankle?! I did not even know ankles could hurt), my legs were sore and heavy and I was tired (whine, sniff, sniff). Pat and Steve were really pushing hard - we had a ferry to make and that put us on a pretty strict time schedule, plus we had a terrible headwind (probably wasn't that bad but seemed it at the time). I just could not do it. I just wasn't capable of keeping up. This was the lowest moment for me and I was ready to give up. Steve and Pat stopped to wait for me and I told them just to go on without me. There was no way I could do it. They put me behind Pat and Steve whispered encouragement to me for the next 15 miles. He said the wind would be at our backs when we got off the ferry and that this is the hardest part of the day. Once we left the familiar territory of the levy, he told me what to expect up ahead. This was the reason I was able to push through and make it to the ferry. Once on the ferry, I thought I would burst into tears. 400k down 200k to go.
The next 100k was not very eventful. But it seemed to take FOREVER!!! I enjoyed riding in new territory. What amazed me was that I did not fully understand where we were going. I thought we were headed in the exact opposite direction of day one which would have been east, even though we were going to ride on the "west bank". I had not seen a map of the route, but after looking at the map on Monday morning we would have ended up in Mississippi had we gone the way I thought we were. 10 miles off of the ferry we come up to my favorite bridge in the world, the Huey P Long. When Pat told me there's the Heuy P, I was really confused. I asked what was on the other side and I know I confused him. It probably took two miles for him to explain that we were riding parallel to our route from yesterday. This made no sense to my now very addled brain. We were on the "west bank". So the rest of the trip Pat would point out the west bank side of my very familiar east bank landmarks. Mind blowing stuff after 250+ miles!
This 100k, the 5th, was the eatingest, stopingest 100k ever. We stopped for meat pies about 20 miles past the ferry. I walked in to the meat pie store and they had BANANAS!!! Yeah!!! Just what I wanted. The guys ate meat pies. 10 miles further down the road we stopped for chicken fingers. Nothing sounded good, but they guys said there would be no food at the turn around so I bought one chicken finger. It was really good. We pushed on for the next 30 miles to the turn around only stopping for bio breaks in the pretty corn fields (erh cane fields, they look the same to me until you realize there is no corn on the cane stalks). I was falling behind again. Pat and Steve were a good bit in front of me. Pat stopped and fell behind me and started squeeking orders to me in a funny voice. Sharon Stevens from LSR had been texting us back and forth from her 600k and Vickie Tyer had sent me a message to "pedal, pedal, pedal", so Pat was telling me things like this encouraging me to sprint up to Steve. I realized that I did have more energy in me than I thought, so I pushed. I would try to coast for a minute and Pat would squeak, "Pedal Pedal Pedal", I would try and coast and he would squeak other words of encouragement to me. I don't know why, but this really helped me mentally and physically. We finally made it to the control, but were still and hour behind our new schedule with a headwind approaching our last 100k.
The Last #$%^#@ 100k, the 6th, was my favorite 100k. As we pulled away from the control into a headwind I immediately started to fall back. I started to get discouraged. Then remembering Sharon/Vicki/Pats "Pedal Pedal Pedal" and the surge I had earlier, I thought of training for my transcon. To train for it I had to get angry, had to push myself to do the drills. I have not pushed myself that hard since getting back from the transcon. So I gritted my teeth and caught back up with the guys. There was no way I was going to be out to 10 pm finishing this thing. I told the guys the only way I was going to be able to do this was to get angry and that I needed to scream some cuss words. Irreverent as it may seem, it pushed me and pulled me to keep up with the guys. I yelled at every Parish line sign and every landmark and I rode harder and better than I have in a long time. No way was I going to loose Pat's wheel this 100k. I kept up!
We were going to finish!!! We stopped only once at the chicken finger store to get the final supplies to finish this ride off. I bought Powerball tickets - it is up to 245 million ya know and that would buy a lot of bikes. We had plans to meet Pat's wife Cindi at Steve's house at 7:30 and we were pretty much on track. Steve's wife, Candace, was going to order us some pizza and I could not wait. We slowed down in the dark having to cruise back on the levy path and then the winding streets of Gretna. The traffic was heavyish and the threat of potholes tremendous. Just when we thought we were done I heard a weird siren. It was the drawbridge, damn! I don't know how long we had to wait, probably no more than 10 minutes. We finally crossed the drawbridge for the final 2 miles to the control! Yahoo!!!!! We pulled into the Circle K 38 hours and 8 minutes after starting the ride!!
Riding with Pat and Steve about 90% of the time sure made the time pass. They would sometimes ride ahead but always waited at turns or controls. We fought wind for the first 200k and were too tired to take much advantage of little tailwind left for the ride back. The second day, the wind was not as bad, but it still slowed us down a couple mph. The guys have done this ride a couple times before and finished 2-3 hours earlier. It is very flat. If you have not completed a 400 or 600 New Orleans is the place to get some confidence.
It is amazing what your body will do. I did have a good time and did not "hate" the experience. I am still not comfortable riding alone at night. I am very pleased with my food on the bike. No nutritional problems at all. I made sure I sipped on SE and Heed the entire ride, especially when I felt the least bit hungry. When we stopped to eat I ate meat of some kind but not much of it or some fruit.
I hate to admit it, but I can't wait to do some more 400s and 600s. I am going to take the next 3 months and just train for Sebring trying to get faster. Then in March I am going to head over and work up to a full Texas series.
I could not have completed this ride without the encouragement of my riding companions Pat and Steve. They both shepherded me through this ride challenging me, encouraging me and proding me along. I am very appreciative for their patience especially putting up with my off key singing of childrens songs on Saturday night! Thank you guys!!!