Monday, September 12, 2005

Fixie Century (loooong)

I took the Julep on our first century ride yesterday.

By the way, Autumn’s presence was sorely missing yesterday. I know that it was at least 90 degrees outside. Whenever we stopped, the heat was damn apparent and suffocating.

Anyway, the local bicycle advocacy organization, The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (CBF) had its second fundraiser ride of the year, the Boulevard Lakefront Tour. I had never done this ride before. Normally it is a 35-mile tour of the park-like boulevards in the city. This year, however, there was also the option of a 62-mile route. So, of course that is what Paul and I signed up for.
As we discussed it, I mentioned that I was thinking about riding my fixie, since we knew it would be relatively flat. Earlier in the year I took the Julep on a 50-mile ride, without too much trouble, so I figured that 62 miles would be fine. Paul immediately, excitedly agreed that we doing the ride on our fixies would be fun. After we agreed, we realized that we left out the distance to and from the start/end point in Hyde Park. This I know is approximately 25 miles round trip.

62 + 25 = 87

When I realized this, I was a little nervous. 62 miles is a nice, comfortable long ride. 87 miles however passes into different territory that often involves discomfort. At the same time, 87 miles is not too far away from 100 miles, which is the hallowed century.
It was obvious that Paul and I had passed the point of no return when we agreed, "I’ll do it if you will." Translation: "I am worried that this will be horrible, but I will NOT be the one to chicken out first."

The Julep has two ‘problems’ that I thought I could overcome: her seat is too low, and not particularly comfortable, and; her bars remain raw, unwrapped metal. I knew that my Bianchi had a longer stem, and my super-comfy Terry Butterfly seat. My eyeball inspection told me that the seatstems looked to be the same diameter, so I thought this would be an easy swap. Wrong. The Bianchi is just a wee bit too wide. I learned this the night before the ride, so I just plopped the Julep’s regular seat/stem combo back on. I then also forgot to bring my gloves to compensate for the metal bars. Nice job.

On Sunday morning we woke up at 4:45am and Paul made us smoothies. We dorked around a bit and then biked South against the wind to Hyde Park for the BLT which started at 6:00am. I got us a little lost in Hyde Park and then we also dorked around getting registering as I chatted with different CBF employees/friends. Then we heard an announcement, "the 62-mile course is now closed." Oops. We jumped on our bikes and pedaled towards the start and announcer half-heartedly tried to make us stop, but ended up yelling "well pedal fast to catch up!"

Catching up wasn’t a problem. We quickly flew past group after group of spandex-clad ‘sausages’ on fancy bikes. We were headed NW, so the SE wind was mostly at our backs. We rode fast and easily. There was another fixie rider that we chatted with for a while, but obviously was struggling to keep our pace, so we dropped him pretty quickly.

Now, as much as I giggle at the over-geared Spandex, I look pretty ridiculous in my ‘long bike ride’ outfits, too. I braid my hair in low pigtails and then take the tips of these braids and stuff them into my helmet vents. It ends up looking like something that one of the Star Wars princesses would do. My current favorite skirt to bike in is made of two layers of gauze; when I’m riding I tuck it into my underpants to keep it from getting in the spokes. As I ride it flutters around me. Also fluttering are the Julep’s long, metallic streamers. Basically my get-up looks like it is purposefully meant to defy the aerodynamic principles that roadies live by. Plus, the Julep’s step-through frame and fixed-gear nature don’t look like an appropriate road bike.

Paul, too, doesn’t look like a ‘serious’ rider. He bikes in button-down polyester short-sleeved shirts, ripped off Khaki shorts and hiking shoes. His fixed-gear has upside-down, sawed-off drop bars, too. Together, we don’t at all match the sleek roadies and all of their fancy gear.

After about ten miles, we were looking ahead and saw another rider, who we foolishly followed. He lead us off course and we wasted a lot of time trying to figure out where the course was and how to get back to it. He was very ‘thankful’ that we were there, because he lived in the ‘burbs and didn’t know the city well. He kept falling behind, so we slowed our pace a bit so he would keep up without panting. When we got back on course, we had to repass a lot of the people we had earlier passed. At the rest stops, Paul kept scarfing down Cliff bars, but I wasn’t very hungry.

At another point we met up with a large group of roadies. These boys were hot and deserved to wear spandex. Had these boys gotten into the drops and seriously started to pedal, I am sure they would have dropped Paul and I easily. The members of the group were constantly leapfrogging with each other. It didn’t seem competitive, and we were all talking while riding fast. No one seemed to be trying to prove anything. My impression was that this was the fast group made of roadies who train together, but that this was a longer ride just for fun. Again the group got lost and no one but Paul and I had any idea of where we were and how to get back. A lot of these men seemed pretty nervous about being off-course in Chicago. They hugged our rear wheels as we cut back towards the route. Dudes, it was probably 9 or 10am on a Sunday morning, and NOT in a bad part of town. Don’t be such chickens.

Just as our route joined up with the 35-mile route, I started to feel less peppy. The roadie boys peeled off at the first rest stop while Paul and I kept going. At the next rest stop I discovered that my period had started, so I got to experience the fun of tampons and port-a-potties. Yippee!!! By this time I had eaten two of the baby Cliff bars, and I choked down another one, along with more water. I started feeling worse. Paul was mentally getting spacy and made a few bad traffic judgments before he decided to ride behind me for safety.

I hate to have felt this way, but in my crappy-feeling mood I was extremely irritated by many people on the 35-mile route. Lots of families and lots of ‘sausage’ type people. There were several people completely geered up, including Gell holster/belts, and riding less than 15 mph. Seriously. Several people we encountered had very poor bike-handling skills. Not just the kids, who are excused, but adults who had a hard time biking in a straight line – especially starting from a stop light. Lots of dangerous wiggling & wobbling. Plus the Sausages encountered on this leg were both slow and really aggressive in not letting people pass them. Miles 65 to 77 (the end of the BLT) were very frustrating and I felt very crappy. My hands, back and neck were aching and couldn’t find a comfortable position. Plus, we were in downtown traffic, which meant stopping and starting at almost every block for a few miles. This takes a lot of effort on the fixie.
I was feeling nauseous and very crappy.

At a rest stop about 5 miles from the end I sat in the shade and tried to eat an apple, but couldn’t eat more than two bites. I was also cold and goose-bumping, even though it was very hot. Paul scarfed down a bagel and fruit and felt much better, but the idea of eating made me feel worse.

Hmmmm..... 70+ miles on a smoothie and the probable equivalent of one regular Cliff bar.... Any thoughts on what my blood sugar was at this time?

I don’t really remember the last five miles, but I do know that I wasn’t feeling well. When we finally reached the end, I chugged a bottle of vitamin water before again flinging myself in the grass. Unknown to me, I chose the spot right in front of Paul’s ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend. I’m sure Paul must have been somewhat uncomfortable, but I was too out of it to feel it myself.

I started to feel less sick, but still completely lacking energy. We biked to a restaurant for ice cream soda floats and ordered pizza. By the time the pizza arrived I actually felt like eating it, and overall felt much better after the meal.

Back on our bikes we realized that in order to reach our century, we’d have to add another ten miles to our trip home. I showed Paul some neat places in Hyde Park, he ate a candy bar, and then we took a lingering, meandering ride through Northerly Island and the UIC campus to get back to the ‘hood. We logged 100.03 miles by the time we pulled into Paul’s alley.

We were filthy and the shower felt great, but my back was just aching and it kept me from napping. I think there were two main contributors to me being so wiped out. First, the small amount of food that I ate in the first 70 miles was definitely a problem. Paul figured he ate about 15 of the mini Cliff bars, while I had three. I never felt hungry, but somehow passed a crucial point that was hard to come back from. Second, the lack of gloves or bar tape. My hands were all red and tender after this ride and I just was damn uncomfortable. If it weren’t for these two things, I think I would have finished the fixed-gear century in much better shape. My knees definitely felt like they had been working, but that slight discomfort was far down on my list of complaints.

So even though I wasn’t feeling well during the end – I still did a fixed-gear century ride. WooHoo!

1 Comments:

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Frick said...

Just out of curiousity, how were you on drinking water for the day? I sometimes have a hard time telling the difference between low calories, and dehydration. The problem is that if you're dehydrated, and try to eat, the food just sucks more water out your muscles to digest.

 

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