When Bill R opted out of this ride (I am very familiar with the notion of "discretion is the better part of valor"), that left Joe, Frank and me to represent the Montgomery area at the Alabama Randonneurs Helena 145K (90 miles) Populaire. The weather report showing temps in the 90s, and 13 mph winds with gusts to 33 did give me some pause too, I confess, but Joe shamed me into going. "Just get behind Frank," he said. That's easier said than done, Joe. We packed up the bikes and high tailed it out of Prattville at 5:30, making it to Helena by 7:00. The ride start was 7:30, and only 11 riders registered. I think only 9 showed up. The morning was pretty and the air was calm. We actually got about 20 miles into the windward leg before it started gusting. The plentiful hills did a good job of providing some relief, although we had to climb the stupid things of course.
The first control was 31 miles out, but I needed a bathroom stop before that, so Frank and I peeled off the train at 16 miles and used the facilities at a C-store. We still made it to the control with plenty of time to spare. We grabbed a snack and re-filled our water supplies and then headed off on the middle (hilliest) third of the course. As we came into Jemison, we saw the lead group heading out. Joe was with them. As it turned out, Joe was the first finisher back on the day. Too bad the last finisher had the car keys. :)
Coming out of Jemison, we picked up a tail wind for a while which would have been really useful on a flat surface. It didn't help much on the hills. Nothing as steep as we ride here, but plenty of them and some very long ones. One in particular seemed to go on forever at 7% - 9% and about 1/2 way up, I called back to Frank that I was pulling off in some shade for a little break. The Sun was baking and my HR was getting too high. The G-rated version of his reply was that he was in complete agreement with my plan. Of course, I was even more toasted having left the sunblock in the kit bag in the car and having none on my skin. We did get some overcast later which helped tremendously. Unfortunately, the overcast was from tropical storm Lee which also brought some "PITA" head and quartering head winds.
More of an issue was the atrocious road surfaces we encountered in two or three places for many miles. Bone and teeth rattling, and bike damaging. Coming down a steep hill on a warped and patched road is the pits. The coup de grace was the un marked rumble warning strips before a stop sign that could easily cause a wreck. I assured Steve, the ride organizer, that the 300K in November that I am mapping (with Jeff Feet) here in Montgomery will have no such pavement. It was on one these stretches that Franks rear wheel had a pinch flat and we stopped to change it. After getting the wheel off, he set out to beat Mike Munk's record of 30 seconds for a tube change. A couple of minutes later, and the tire still on the rim, I offered to get my pry bars. They did the trick. (Steel beads are a pain to get off bare handed). Frank changed tubes and borrowed my seatstay mounted Topeak pump to pre inflate the tube before using his CO2 infaltor. Pump, pump, pump. Nada. "You sure this thing works?" he asked. He then just put the CO2 inflator on and let it seep in, and then full blasted it. Aha! The problem was the spare tube had a leak! No probelmo, Frank carries two spare tubes. Rinse, lather, repeat. And as it happened, the same result. Another leaky tube. Oh oh. Also 2 CO2 carts gone. We used the Topeak to pump up the original tire and were able to see the pinhole. I sanded it, Frank applied glue and then a patch. Voila! The pump pre inflated it, and the last mini CO2 cart got it up to high pressure. Then he fought with the brake that wouldn't open up and admit the wheel replacement. And a bungie cord that almost ensnared the spokes. 45 mins later, Munk's record was still safe. I looked at my watch. "I hope we finish on time, but if we don't I'm still glad we came to ride. "Why wouldn't we finish on time?" Frank asked me. Well, we missed two turns and added 6 more miles and we lost 45 mins here, and now we have a headwind. And since Steve likes to add hills for "interest" to his routes, I knew the final 12 miles would not be flat.
Steve likes to throw in funny little quirks. For example the second control was "Whitney's" store. Only there is no Whitney's. We stopped at McWright's because it was at the right mileage (and as far as we knew where we were supposed to be) and got the clerk to sign our cards. And called it good. To be honest, the last section was not super hilly, it just seemed so because I was low on salt and my muscles needed babying to avoid cramps (which I did successfully)
Frank was great company as always and I was pleased overall with the ride. I averaged 13.7 for 95.4 miles and 5,818' of climb. I'd keep that average and slow down early so I could go stronger later next time, and add electrolyte to the water. I drank 250 oz which is fine. Also, I did not eat enough. 3 "Trio" bars (date/seed/nuts) and two small packs of cookies was all I had. The Saluki behaved very well, and I had no saddle soreness at all. My sides hurt from the pounding on rough roads, but lacking a suspension frame and fork, there was no cure for that.
Yes, I AM looking forward to my first 200K next month up in Birmingham.
Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.
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