Cider Mill Century 57 Mile Bike Tour (DNF) Report

First of all, let me dispel your first thought.  I am not at all discouraged or upset about DNF'ing in this one.  I'm sure that's your assumption since normally that's the reaction, but not for this one!  This was the first organized bike tour that I've taken part in.  When I ran my first triathlon earlier this month I realized how poor my swim & bike training had been, so since race day I have been working much harder on both of these areas.  Dare I say it, I've even started to enjoy cycling!  Running & swimming I still find more enjoyable, but I've definitely taken some steps towards loving the bike time much more.  I've been riding more regularly, but my miles have been sticking at around the 10-25 miles I've been at.  I've been feeling more comfortable on the bike so I've been thinking about the fact that it's time to bump up my long ride miles.  Then, as if on queue, my friend Larry Long posted that he had signed up for the Cider Mill Century since he hadn't ridden a 100 in a couple years and has an Ironman coming up in the not-to-distant future.  I jumped on the idea, but with a max distance so far of 26.38 miles I was no where near ready to jump into a 100 so I signed up for the 57 miler.   I was excited to more than double my longest ride ever!

I showed up at the ride at about 6:00 am (starting at the Louisburg Cider Mill) and headed over to check in before getting my bike down off the car.  They handed out course maps and pint glasses to everyone as they checked in which was pretty cool.  I felt pretty out of place pretty fast, but that's typical in any biking event.  My inexpensive Schwinn OR2 hybrid from Target doesn't quite live up to many of the expensive, high end road bikes you typically see at events.  Several of the people I chatted with even commented on how tough they thought it'd be to ride that distance on a bike like that, but I don't really know any different since this is the nicest bike I've ever owned.  I'd LOVE to have one of the fancy, expensive, light weight road bikes, but they are just too expensive and not really in the cards for me any time soon so I do the best I can with what I've got.

After I had gotten my bike down, gotten my Nathan hydration pack on I headed over to where the "start area" was.  Okay, it's really just the exit of the parking lot.  I was standing waiting when Larry passed by.  He stopped and we chatted for a bit about running, swimming, cycling, etc.  He's a really great guy and his attitude and all the things he does is so inspiring!  It turned out there really was no organize start.  It was just riders going whenever they felt like it.  As a runner this seemed odd, but since this is my first organized bike tour I'm not sure if this is the norm or if you would typically line up and have a start like a running event.  Either way, I headed off just after 7:00 am.

It has been CRAZY hot this summer, and today was forecasted to be the hottest day so far of the hottest year in recorded history in Kansas.  Sounds bad, but the morning was awesome.  It was about 78* with a good cloud cover which helped.  Based on the hourly forecasts I wasn't expecting it to get real hot or sunny until after I was done.  As I got started I was feeling great and everything was going very well.  I had a couple new things I thought would help me out on this ride.  I had gotten some padded shorts to help prevent saddle soreness and aerobars to give me chances to adjust how my weight is distributed on the bike.  As the miles ticked by both of these proved to be great assets.

I was really having fun.  I would pass people, get passed by other people, ride with someone for a while, then ride solo for a while.  It was great!  Things were mostly without incident until 22.89 miles in.  We were in Osawatomie when we came across a train track crossing with a train stopped.  There was already a pack of about 15 riders there waiting when I pulled up and right behind me was a pickup truck.  The truck started to turn around and hollered out the window at us that when trains stop there they tend to be there for quite a while so she told us an easy way to get around it and we all turned and headed off for a quick detour.  We went back the way came, over a bridge and to the intersection on the other side of the train.  It was only about a half mile and it certainly added a moment of excitement!  Just about a quarter mile later we came to an aid station.  I stopped for just a moment to stretch my legs and grab a cup of peanut M&Ms.  It looked like an ultra marathon aid station!  I was pretty much running on the same strategy I'd use in an ultra; S-Cap and Honey Stinger Chews every 45 minutes and it was going great.

I was still comfortable and feeling strong when I hopped back on my bike and got going again.  This was at about 23.75 miles so in just 3 miles I would tie my longest ride ever!  At this point it was still pretty cool and cloudy.  The sun would pop out from time to time to warm us up for a few minutes but then it would tuck right back behind the clouds again.  Again things were mostly uneventful.  From time to time I'd pass someone that was taking a break and I'd slow down to ask if they needed help but none of them did.  I was paying close attention to hitting 28.5 miles because that was half way.  I was still feeling great so I was confident that I would finish the back half doing great.  Then the unexpected happened.

I was riding along when I suddenly noticed it was taking a little more effort to keep moving and the back tire was making a bit of a funny sound.  I glanced back at it and it was a little low.  Not real low, but certainly lower than it should be.  I pulled off to the side of the road and stopped.  I looked at the tire and didn't see anything but a few small rocks wedged into the grooves of the tread so I decided I'd just try to pump up the tire and see if it was really a problem or just running low on air.  Not long after I started pumping I heard the air whistling out.  I looked over the tire again and found where the sound was coming from; a small rock had punctured the tire but was still in.  I had some patches in my seat pack so I started to take the wheel off.  The front wheel is a quick release, but the back wheel is not.  I got the bolt on the side without the chain off easy enough but when I tried to take the bolt off on the chain side it was so tight the wrench kept slipping.  Plan B.  I had a can of the tire flat filler stuff so I got it out and hooked it up to the tire and it started flowing.  The tire was building up pressure as it should quickly, but not long into it I saw the rock pop out and the filler stuff started bubbling out of the hole.  No choice now, if I want to keep going I'd need to get that wheel off and patch the tube.

It just wasn't happening.  Several bikers stopped and tried to help with no luck and then a helper motorcycle showed up.  They had some better wrenches, but wouldn't you know it, they didn't have the 15mm I needed.  they called the nearest aid vehicle and they showed up fairly quickly.  It was two guys named Dave (one of whom turned out to be my friend Rachel's step-father).  Both tried SO hard to help me with the wheel.  SO hard.  They were awesome.  I'd been trying for a while at that point so I had accepted that it wasn't coming off and my day was done but they tried and tried and tried.  Finally we decided to load my bike up on their rack and call it a day for me.  33.85 miles in 2:19:07 for an average speed of 14.6 mph.  That is my longest distance by 7.47 miles and my second fastest avg speed ever (I did a 14.63 miler at an avg 14.7 in March so it wasn't slower by much).  I HATED having to drop when I was feeling SO good, but how can I be upset about this?  My farthest ride, almost my fastest ride, and every single rider that passed by me stopped or slowed to offer to help me.  It was a great day in spite of falling short of the final goal.

I hope that Rachel passes this on to her step dad so he can read it.  He said that he normally rides in the event every year but he had broken his ankle just weeks before so he couldn't this year.  He was obviously very upset about not getting to ride.  I'm certainly not happy that he is hurt and definitely not happy that he couldn't ride, but I am so glad he was there to help me.  It was great to have people that understood how much I wanted to continue.  They could have very easily just grabbed the bike and loaded it up and gotten on their way, but they fought hard with me to get that bolt off.  They were unwilling to give up.  Although none of us were successful, I will forever be grateful for all of their efforts.

For my future long rides I will bring an extra tube rather than just patches, a better wrench so I can get those bolts off and I will bring the confidence I developed during this ride.  I was planning on doing the 72 mile Sunflower To Roses ride the next weekend but then remembered that a friend is having a party the night before so I don't think that's a good plan.  I'll continue my rides on my own and hopefully continue to increase my distance.  My next organized ride will be the Bike For The Brain 72 mile on Labor Day (not a bad way to spend a paid day off work).  My friend and one of my inspirations in triathlons is going to ride it as well.  Should be a great time!!  I know that when you have a DNF it is expected that you are disappointed and maybe even a little sad or dejected, but that simply isn't the case.  I learned so much about long distance cycling, and more importantly about my abilities that I can't feel anything but excitement.  I wish I could have finished, but what an amazing day anyway!!!


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