Well… for my riding group anyway. I’ll get to that later. Here are some pictures I took today:
This morning we were up and out by 7am. The ride was planned to be 87 miles and in fact, we rode 88! Today we got to pick our ride groups. When this happens, certain people always clump together. One of them is known as the Quad Squad. This is them in matching tuxedo jerseys from a while ago:
The Quad Squad consists of Jeremy, Dan, Matt, and Brad. They are the fastest riders on the team and are known for being silly and goofy, but having a no-nonsense cycling attitude. They get to the host first, fast, and often unsupported by the vans. I was fortunate enough to join them today! We stayed with the team and the vans for the first two water stops which took over an hour each due to mechanical issues.
Right before the second water stop, we had to stop because of a bridge that was unsafe to drive over due to it being made of rotten wood. But cars are heavy and bikes are not, so we walked across it and made sure to take a selfie:
We saw some little tree frogs and also two big ass spiders. Ass spiders are native to old, untraveled, and closed wooden bridges near Rayne, LA. They spin webs about 5 feet across and primarily try to trap dragonflies to eat. Their bodies are about an inch and a half long and with their legs included, they total around 4 inches. (Thank you to Maggie for getting me hooked on the “ass” joke. I’m in the process of getting my team hooked on it too!)
At the second water stop we had only gone 31 miles in 5.5 hours. So we decided to ride the rest of the 55 miles unsupported. There were small towns every 15 to 20 miles on the road we were taking so we knew there would be plenty of chances to stop for water. In true Quad Squad style, we booked it! The reason the Quad Squad is so fast is that they set up a paceline where the leader drops to the back every 2 miles. That way everyone has a fair share of breaking the wind, and no one gets too tired out.
Our pace was 18-20mph for 23 miles. Then we stopped at a gas station for water. The weather was hot and really humid. Probably around 3000% humidity. Riding at 20mph with wind in your face did NOTHING to evaporate sweat. Therefore it ran into our eyes and stung like crazy ALL day. My eyes are actually bloodshot right now due to this. There were points in time where I almost couldn’t see. My sunglasses got in the way of wiping sweat from my eyes so I couldn’t wear them and wiping sweat away was hard to do because EVERYTHING was sweaty. My fingers, hands, arms, jersey, you name it. Everything was wet. But we pressed on! At the stop, I made the mistake of not eating the protein bar I had packed. I wasn’t hungry, so I just drank a lot of water and we rolled out again. Our next target was the town another 23 miles away.
After about 19 miles (around mile 70), I hit a WALL. All of the sudden, Tyler couldn’t bike faster than 14mph. It was awful. I slowed down the paceline and even got dropped for a little bit, but I made it to the next little town without stopping (I had no choice, there was nothing between towns). Most of the time in our riding groups, the leader always checks back to make sure everyone is there an no one got dropped. Since all of us today are pretty strong riders had been keeping the pace for 40 miles, we didn’t check back so much and I got dropped a little. This was my first experience being the slowest one in the group and let me tell you, it is not fun. Watching everyone else pedal away from you with no struggles while you’re giving it your all, but still falling behind is really tough. The feeling that you’re slowing everyone else down is terrible and you feel really guilty. The good thing is that even though you feel guilty, the other riders don’t mind because they know you’re giving it everything you’ve got. It’s hard to believe them when they say not to worry and that you’re doing great, but what they say is genuine. I’ve been on the other end, motivating a rider who is struggling, and have said the same exact things. Knowing this, it made me feel a lot less guilty for slowing down the Quad Squad. Dan gave me an energy gu, which I reluctantly choked down, and then I ate a protein bar and we were on the road to our host, only 12 miles away!
After the food kicked in, I felt a lot better and we rode at about a 16-18mph pace. We were all getting tired, so the pace naturally slowed a little. We arrived at our host after 88.1 miles which took 9 hours and 38 minutes including stopping time. We got there around 4:30pm which was about an hour or so before the next group. Here’s all the GPS data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/531432029. You can even see where I hit my wall at around the 8:10 hour mark! You can also see the team’s obnoxiously long water stops and the Quad Squad’s perfectly short ones. In total, the Quad Squad plus Tyler had zero mechanical problems today. None. It was SO liberating!
When we got to our host (First United Methodist Church in Lake Charles, LA) we showered in a shed. Yup. Most awkward place for a shower to be, but there it was! It was a relatively nice shower too and even had an air conditioner in there. After showering, we ate some snacks and I found the piano and played to relax. By that time the next group had rolled in and I promptly took a well deserved nap! Actually I napped at both of our hour long water stops today, but still needed one after the ride! I woke up for dinner (props to Brianne and Heather) and threw some laundry in the washer.
A couple of other things. First, two new mail drops were added in Austin, TX for July 4th and 5th, and in Clovis, NM for July 12th. You can find the addresses on my Mailing Locations page! Second, today we rode at an elevation between 0 and 43 feet above sea level. Our wonderful hosts in New Mexico commented on my blog post the other day and reminded us that once we get there we’ll be at 7000 feet above sea level. 7000! We have to climb 7000 feet! The highest we’ve been so far is 1272 feet and that was between Atlanta, GA and Carrollton, GA. Lastly, we as a team have biked close to 1700 miles so far!
Tomorrow is a 97 mile day to Beaumont, TX! So many long days! We have mail and showers and food and laundry at our wonderful host! I think there should be some tubes in the mail as well! Thank you to all who mailed them! Actually, since I stuck with the Quad Squad today, I’m not sure how the rest of the team fared mechanically. I know one rider had to get in the van due to a broken spoke, and I know there were a few flats, but I have no idea about the details.