Monday, April 27, 2009
April 25 300K Morrisville NC
The heat came out of nowhere, like freshly baked bricks thrown from a great height. Here in the Tar Heel state, we can take the heat -- after all, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, mostly cooking grits. But Saturday's record-setting 92F (for you Celsius folks, the F stands for FIRE!) came on the heels of a cool, wet spring. No one was really ready for this, and before Saturday's 300K was in the record books, this sudden spike in temperature would KO several very fine riders.
An uneducated guess says about 30 lined up for the 7 a.m. start. Our little band of ragged irregulars joked about needing arm warmers or vests. Hell, it was already in the mid 60s. What we needed was zinc oxide.
A small crew worked its way off the front after the mile-long climb up Jack Bennett and we rode much of the way to the 100K control until three riders escaped at mile 45. Despite the heat, there were some frisky riders and some horsing around as fresh legs whipped up the pace. How would this play out as the day fired up? I vowed to do my reporting from the back of the pack.
There is a sizable hill on Coleridge Road, about 8 miles from the Siler City control, and we splintered once more as our climbers opened a gap. That included Lynn, a PAC Tour veteran who is a new rider to our series, and Justin, a 19-year-old student from Va. Tech who rides with great enthusiasm. Riding buddies JoeRay and Wes, who both come alive in the vertical sections, were also off the front. Those four were the first in to the turnaround.
I ambled along with JD and John M but slowly moved away from them as they chatted side-by-side. I reached the Seagrove control around 12:30 on my own.
By now, the day was blaze orange, like a hunting cap. Dean was working the turnaround and had a table set up in a shady spot of the Hardees parking lot. Lynn and Justin were there, talking with Dean; JoeRay and Wes were inside the restaurant eating a sandwich.
It did not take me long to realize that it would be a mistake to go inside, into the cool air. I did not want to put myself through the temperature swing, and I did not think I could stomach a solid meal. So I made the decision to have a few fig Newtons, a couple bananas, a little Gatorade. I would live on gels, if you can call that living, for the rest of the day. This was a little risky; it would be 30 miles before I would get another chance to eat. But I simply had to trust my instincts on this call.
I also knew that in this heat it would be very difficult to ride anyone else's pace, so kept my own company. The stretch from Seagrove to Siler City is much more difficult on the return leg. The plan was to take it easy through there, then pick things up as the road flattened out north of Siler City. Presumably, the air would be cooling by then.
As I was leaving, JD rolled in; he was a shade of green I'd seen before in heat-exhausted riders.
I was the first out of the turnaround but Lynn and Justin quickly caught and passed me. I waved at riders still heading out. The biggest smiles came from Gary and Sara, who were taking it easy in the heat. They would finish the ride in the cooler evening hours.
I fully expected to be reeled in by JoeRay and Wes, but they had not caught me by the time I reached Siler City, where I joined up with Lynn and Justin. I have learned that if you can't make up time on the road, you can usually gain some of it back at the controls. I got my card signed, grabbed a jug of water and was ready to roll in about five minutes. I left the Siler City stop with Lynn and Justin just as JoeRay and Wes rolled in.
Lynn and Justin quickly dropped me but they slowed considerably when they got on Siler City-Snow Camp Road, and I rode into their shadow. Justin's legs had turned heavy, and he fell off the pace. I grabbed Lynn's wheel for a 12-mile high speed run to Snow Camp. When we turned right onto Old Greensboro Highway, I tried to return the favor, and pulled us over two or three hills before the legs would have no more of it. Lynn is a superb athlete and rode effortlessly away on the last big roller before the turn onto Lindley Mill Road.
The death march began in earnest now. I drifted along, a stalled motorboat on a stagnant lake. I queued up the mental reel of every hill over the next 45 miles. This could prove to be a painful finish. But that's what we pay the big bucks for, right?
On a stretch with good sight lines I looked back and saw Justin closing in. He caught me around 40 miles out and we stuck together for the remainder of the day. His big challenge was still ahead of him -- an upcoming exam in differential equations. The last two hours were the highlight of the ride; the day had begun to cool, and trees now shaded our path. The conversation and company helped take the sting out of my legs. We'd both run out of water by the time we reached Andrews Store, 20 miles from the end, so we ducked in for drinks, chips and ice cream.
I took us up the small rise from Jordan Lake to 751, and Justin took us the rest of the way home. I was delighted to be off the bike, eating pizza and drinking Coke at Al's. Lynn was still there, and she was modest about her accomplishment. But congratulations were in order for her mastery of the heat and the course.
Justin had a slice and a drink, and then he was off -- another 12 miles to his home, giving him a double century for the day.
Another fun day on the bikes.
I really enjoy that so many people blog about the same events. Doc on a Bike posted his account of the 300K here, and Chuck has a post here.