March 20, 2010
About two months ago my friend Martha asked me if I would do the Clean Air Ride with her. Oh, but of course! Basically anytime anyone asks me to do a ride, I'm there. This particular ride raised money for the Key Training Center, a very worthwhile cause.
Martha and I had done the Rails to Trails ride at the same location last year, the Withlacoochee State Trail, to help raise money for the trail improvements. The Withlacoochee is the longest paved rail trail in Florida with a one-way length of 46 miles. It's a beautiful trail kept in pristine condition and I love coming to ride it.
When Martha and I did the Rails to Trails ride last year we opted to do 50 miles on the southern part of the trail. Because Inverness, where the ride start is, is about an hour and a half away, we ended up leaving at around 3:30 a.m. to travel to Inverness. Not advisable! This time we decided we'd get a motel room and stay over Friday night. We knew we were going to be doing a long ride and didn't want to add little sleep plus travel time to our agenda today.
After the truck broke down last weekend, I decided to finally act on something I had been pondering for a while. Red has been a transportation problem for me. I tried putting him on a trunk rack, but he ends up sitting higher than my car, so he was always blowing around in the wind and never seemed stable enough, plus it was a chore to get him on it. So I've been carting him around in the truck without any kind of rack in there and he hasn't been too secure there either. So this past week I had a hitch installed on my car and got a platform type hitch-mounted bike rack so that it would be easy for me to transport the Ranger and he could sit right behind my car instead of above it. Here's the result:
Red has a new home!
Friday afternoon I headed over to Martha's, Red in tow, to pick her and her bike Princess (I know, we're a little nuts) up and we made our way to Inverness. Upon arrival we checked into our hotel and then hit the town and saw some familiar sights.
Near the lake we bothered some kids hanging out on top of a picnic table to take a picture of us.
After exploring the vast Inverness downtown area, we headed over to a new restaurant that got rave reviews from the local bike shop owner after being open only two weeks called McLeod House Bistro for an early dinner. The small-town look of it from the outside was so enchanting. I couldn't help but snap some photos.
We both had grouper with jasmine rice and white and green asparagus. Yum!
After dinner we made the tour of all the grocery stores in town (two) and picked up some delicious fruit for dessert. We made our way back to the hotel, which sat right next to the trail, so we could get a good night sleep.
This morning we decided not to mess with parking near the ride start and we rode there instead. It was still dark outside and FREEZING COLD! 42 degrees. Ugh. I really wasn't prepared for the cold. I knew the forecast was for a high of 78 and sunny with no chance of precip, so I didn't have multiple layers on. I did the best I could, but was frozen for a couple of hours.
The early morning predawn hour was just beautiful. This is the same lake I photographed the afternoon before.
And I couldn't help attempting to take a pre-ride picture of the two of us with outstretched arm.
So off we went in the early morning hours. The sun started breaking through and there was a lingering fog.
I wasn't sure how long of a ride I was going to do today. I decided to make a game-time decision based on how I felt. My longest ride recently was the Tour de Cure at 61 miles, and my longest ever was 71. Today I was just going to keep at it until I didn't feel I could go anymore, whenever that ended up being. Martha and I a couple of months ago had planned on doing 100 miles, but life kind of got in the way of our training plan, so we weren't sure how long we were going to go. We figured 100 until we changed our minds!
The Withlacoochee is 46 miles long, so in order for people to be able to do a century, or 100 miles, they needed to add an eight-mile loop. We fortunately decided to head north on the trail first and get the loop out of the way, fortunate because all eight miles were rolling hills and I don't know if we could have done it at the end of the ride.
After completing the loop (thankfully!) and getting to the first SAG (supply and gear) stop at the 26-mile marker, we earned our blue wrist band for getting to the northernmost end of the trail.
If you made it back to the finish line with different colored wrist bands from both ends of the trail, that proved you completed your century!
It was a picture-perfect day on the trail.
One of the things I love about riding the Withlacoochee, there are so many recumbents! You see all kinds out there...two wheels, three wheels, racers, long-wheel bases, short-wheel bases, tandems...it's amazing! When I ride near home, I'm typically the only recumbent rider. All the bent riders are so friendly, like we're all part of a secret club or something.
At one of the SAG stops I pulled up and there was a group of guys all riding Bacchettas. They saw me and asked me if that red Bacchetta over there was mine, which of course it was. We started talking and then for the rest of the day, until they forged too far ahead of me, I kept seeing them on the trail. They'd pass me by and then I'd see them at the SAG stops and then I'd leave first and then they'd pass me again. At one point they caught up with me...again...and rode with me for a while, giving me tips on my bike, on my riding style, and just in general cutting up and having fun. They pretty much adopted me from that point on. This is a great group of guys that I'm now calling my Bacchetta Boys.
Larry, me, Bryce, Kim
I love these guys! I feel sad we don't live closer.
Anywho, back to the ride.
As I said before, I really didn't know how far I'd go today and was just going to base it on my body. The problem with that is there's a carrot hanging there called the south end of the trail where the green wrist band is given out. Each SAG stop that carrot gets closer and closer. By the time I was about 15 miles from the end of the trail, I really felt like I had had enough and my back really couldn't take much more.
**psssst...carrot here...I'm close...come on**
So I kept going. The problem with that concept is the carrot isn't the end of the ride, just the end of the trail. Once you get there, there's still another 30 miles to go. There was one more SAG stop where I could have turned around and cut off about 10 miles of the ride, but at that point that damn carrot was only five miles away. FIVE MILES!!
**psssst...carrot here again...I'm ridiculously close...COME ON!**
So guess what I did?
I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the rest of the ride was a struggle for me, and that's pretty much the understatement of the year. My back was done. Had it. Kaput. At that point though the SAG stops were closed or closing and there really was no more support even if I asked for it. I was going to get back come hell or high water. And get back I did. I passed the motel where the car was parked right after hitting 100 miles, but I kept on to the finish line to collect my prize for completion of the ride. Martha and one other rider (waiting for his wife and her friend, about ten miles behind me, the last two on the trail) were the only ones cheering me on because everyone else had left!
She's pretty much holding me up in this picture!
After that I begrudgingly got back on my bike...BACK ON MY BIKE...because we had to ride back to the motel. Oy! When we got to the car, I tried to take a picture of my bike computer but couldn't get a clear one.
Just in case you can't read it, it says 104.14 miles.
Sorry. Wrong tone. IT SAYS 104.14 MILES!!! WOO-HOO!!!
It's been hard to celebrate the accomplishment just because I keep thinking how stupid it was for me to risk injury just to hit a particular number. But now that a little bit of time has passed and I'm pretty confident I didn't cause major lifelong damage, I realize how big of an achievement it really was. I'm a strong and capable and amazing woman and I can do anything I set my mind to.