Tour De Willowmere, July 3, 2015 – 152 Mile Day

The Tour de France started today!

When goals are made on a cold winters night in December they seem so much more reasonable… now at mile 130 of a targeted 150 mile ride, my body is rebelling. My feet are literally on fire with hot spots and sharp pain like 1000 needles being jabbed into them…   At the same time, my ability to hold 18 mph is in doubt and I have only one goal…make it to the rest stop over this last hill. If I make it that far I know I can make the finish…

Enough about the finish, let’s get to the start…

In 2013I set cycling goals for 2014 that included a 150 mile day, but I did not check that one off my bucket list; instead I did back to back 100 mile days.

So in Dec 14 when I looked out to 2015 ,I wrote that goal down again…150 miles…one ride one day.

It was not until a few weeks ago I decided to do something about this goal when I developed a 50 mile route out of a local park the Fredericksburg Cycling Club often rides from close to home.  I modified the standard route to stretch it to 50 miles with about 2000 feet of climbing per lap.

About a week out I picked July 3rd as the date because I had it off work and then reached out pretty late to my cycling partners to see if I could garner any support.  Many thought I was nuts, a few were intrigued, but many had other cycling and non cycling commitments on the 4th. I decided to advertise it as a FCC ride about 4 days out and I am glad I did as it garnered me some strong partners for a couple of laps.

An event like this requires some preparation to ensure you have all of the right equipment, it works as advertised, and you have enough food and fluids to last the entire day.

Lots of water bottles for the cooler

And food!

And more energy bars!

I was planning on starting early …6:00am as I knew it would take about 10 total hours… so I told everyone I would be at the park at 5:30am.

At 4:37 am first things first!

I was at the park at 5:30 and found the gate was locked with a sign that says “Park opens at 8:00am”… EPIC FAIL on my part…at the same time a new rider named Mark pulled up on his bike.  I quickly improvised and found a place to park on a  nearby street and Mark and I cycled back to the park…where the gate was now open!  🙁 Mike and Pete were already there and saying bad things about me as they thought I was a no-show. 🙂 Back to  the car I rode, threw everything in the back quickly and drove back to the park..not a great start for the leader!

Mark was a new rider, but any doubts I had early on were erased as he kept pace with us as we started the first lap in the fog.  Riding on these country roads in the fog is not the safest option, but we all had red blinking LED tail lights.  I think riding in the fog makes everything easier;  you cannot see the entire route and much like hiking at night, you seem to make progress while time stands still.

Pete, Mike and Mark as the fog lifts on the first lap

The first lap went well and we averaged 18+ mph as we neared the start /finish @ 9:00am. First lap down and 50 miles in the bank!

At that point, Mark was leaving us but Paul arrived to bolster our pace line.  We hung around until the advertised 9:30 departure time and a few minutes shy of our departure, Nora shows up.  Nora is a new FCC member, a strong rider, and was a welcome addition to our quartet for lap 2.

Preparing for lap 2 … Mike, Pete and Paul

Bob checking his bike over.. yes it was still there…

As we start out it becomes obvious to Mark and I that we need to slow the pace down to even think about starting lap 3.  I had not considered this factor when planning this ride. There is a difference between fresh legs and legs with 50 miles in them already and this caused some confusion as we tried to keep the pace even through this lap.

Mark and I found we could better regulate the pace at the front so we did this for some of this lap as we continued to slow down knowing we were going to try for the third lap. Finally the fresher riders simply went off the front alleviated any stress.  🙂  Nora is strong!

After our rest stop we ran into John who was riding the route in reverse to find us and he was a welcome addition as a friend and rider!  We continued  into the start/finish at @ 1230pm with 101 miles in the bank.

Lap 2 down!

At this point Pete and Nora were departing so we were back to a  foursome with John, Paul, Mike and I.  It was getting hotter and more humid and I decided we had no new riders showing up at 1330 for the next advertised start so we left on our last lap at @ 1:00pm. 🙂

The final four… and yes I changed my jersey for the last lap  🙂

Start of final lap

Everything was like a bad deja vu, except slower.  Legs lacked the power from previous laps, especially on hills,  and everything seemed in slow motion to me. I made the classic mistake of starting this lap out with two frozen water bottles which got me behind in my hydration which also degraded my performance as the lap continued.

Mike and I kept taking our turns at the front because in reality, everyone was hurting. As we passed mile 120 my feet were on fire as already mentioned…serious pain, and Paul offered moral support as we climbed the last hill before the last rest stop.  Reaching that rest stop was a WELCOME relief, and I immediately took my shoes off to alleviate the pain.  Everyone needed liquids and food at this rest stop and we lingered just a bit trying to revive ourselves for the final push.

Final rest stop… no smiles here

Serious look here too…

And here also…

Leaving the rest stop there is a short incline and Paul’s Specialized bike decided at that moment to make a very loud mechanical clunk sound and he pulled off to examine the cause.  John told me to keep peddling to the top which I dutifully did and rested at the stop sign. Expecting to see them any minute come over the hill I determined after about 8 minutes there must be a larger problem and rode back to them where they were declaring victory on an unusual problem of the chain coming out of the derailer pulley cage.

Thank goodness for Mike…as he had the right tool, knowledge, and leadership and managerial experience to direct John and Paul how to get their hands dirty and fix it.  🙂  We were back on the road in short order!

The last 10 miles into the finish..Bob and John

The final 10 miles went fast as John peeled off directly for his house while Mike, Paul and I finished up at Willowmere Park. We were all pretty toasty, but satisfied with the accomplishment as we packed up to head home… would we do it again?….maybe in 2016 as everyone seemed to enjoy the format, the course, and certainly the accomplishment.

maybe 200 miles should be the goal in 2016…


Final Tally

Bob – 152, Mike – 152,  Pete – 101, Paul – 101, John-85, Mark-60, Nora-50 Miles

Lap: 50.3 miles

Lap 1: 2:46:30 – 18.14mph
Lap 2: 2:41:57 – 18.71mph
Lap 3: 2:50:25 – 17.73mph

Total: 8:18:52 – 18.16 mph

Full ride data recorded on Strava and is posted here.

All pictures here!  pictures provided by  Bob, Debbie, Karen and Mike

Thanks Mike…you were the strong man…