If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
Another week, another bike ride. Except that this wasn’t just any bike ride. This was Cascade’s Flying Wheels Summer Century, which I originally only did because all my friends were doing it. I don’t like big rides with lots of people, and most of the time, Cascade rides are that exact thing. However, I duly registered because, as I said, I succumbed to peer pressure. Happily, the weather cooperated and stayed cloudy, dry, and right around 60°F.
Last year, those same riding buddies averaged 21 mph on this ride. That’s a sub-5 hour century. There’s no way I could begin to touch that, and I was hoping this year they’d maybe take it a bit easier. Ha, ha, ha! This century was flatter than the average Earthdream or RTS ride, and we spent a lot of time in the Snoqualmie/Snohomish Valley areas, which have rolling hills and long, flat sections that are perfect for people to get in a paceline and fly (this is called “putting the hammer down,” or “hammering.” That’s your bike vocab lesson for this post).
The first 30 or so miles, I managed to stay with the fast people, but I could feel my legs burning up their reserves way too fast. We averaged just over 20 mph to the first rest stop. I knew it was way too fast for me, and that I wouldn’t be able to sustain that pace for another 70 miles.
After that, I felt really exhausted, and fell back from the very front people to ride with the next group. Even they, hanging out in the 22- to 25-mph range, were eventually too fast for me. I stayed with them through to the rest stop at mile 56.
At that rest stop, the fastest people were just leaving as we arrived. We waved them off and then Dad and I joined some other people we knew who wanted to go a bit slower (like 20 mph). We had an excellent 30 miles together, taking turns pulling and maintaining a good average on the flats in the valley. My legs recovered from the earlier hard hard hard push and started feeling really strong and good. I was able to pull at 20 – 21 mph for sustained periods of time, which is super good for me. We passed all sorts of people on the last climb up the from the valley to the plateau.
We paused at the rest stop at mile 85 just to regroup. Much to my delight, my buddy Dean was there with his Pedal Dynamics van doing the mechanic work. I said hi, Dean! and we were off. …But not for long. At mile 86, I heard PINGGGGG! and suddenly my rear wheel was dragging, bad. At first I thought it was a flat. I pulled over and we established it was much, much worse than a flat. I’d popped a spoke in the rear wheel, which was now so badly out of true that it was jammed against the rear brake and couldn’t even turn.
Crap (I’ll admit to using some rather stronger language than that at the time). Some mechanical issues you can fix on the road. A popped spoke, especially on a Dura-Ace wheel like mine, is not one of those. While everybody else rode on, Dad and I returned to the Pedal Dynamics booth, where Dean confirmed that he could neither fix nor jury-rig the wheel. My ride was effectively over at that point. Except that Dean had his own personal 10-speed cyclocross rear wheel in the van that would work on my bike. When he swapped the wheels — including putting my tire on, since his was too wide for my frame — my gratefulness basically went off the charts. The wheel felt weird, and the gearing wasn’t my first choice, but it worked. I’m so incredibly grateful that my spoke went out within walking distance of a stop, and that it was Dean at that stop. Amazing, really.
So Dad and I finished the ride together, taking turns pulling up East Lake Sammamish. Sadly, our friends were long gone, and my magical happy legs feeling evaporated not long after we resumed. I was very grateful to finish those last miles at all, since I’d just about given up hope when my spoke popped. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to eating and drinking during those last 13 miles, and by mile 90 was starting to feel weak, lightheaded, and alarmingly loopy. I hung on to Dad’s wheel and let him pull me the last eight or so miles. I haven’t bonked that hard in a long time, and it did not feel good.
Upon finishing, I found the free chocolate milk and immediately downed three little containers of it, hoping to recover quickly. That turned out to be a terrible mistake, as I spent the next half hour riding slowly to 60 Acres park with terrible stomach cramps. Mom met us at 60 Acres with the car and dropped me off at home. Eventually my stomach recovered, I ate a sandwich, and here I am. Dean has my broken wheel and hopes to have it fixed before my ride next Saturday.
Despite everything, Dad and I averaged 19.2 mph over 98 miles, with about 5200 feet of climbing. It took us 5 hours and 2 minutes of riding time. That’s significantly a faster average than I’ve ever been able to maintain before, even on shorter, flatter rides. I really enjoyed the teamwork aspect of taking turns pulling to maintain a good average. It was, in a word, fun.