Here’s a bit of a brain dump about the Ohio Double Century this past Saturday. It was damn hot. OK, maybe a bit more information.
First off, kudos to the ride director for putting together a great event. It was very well organized. Other than one minor Subway change of plans that worked out just fine, I thought everything worked like clockwork. The route was fun, the routes markings were easy to follow and the food stops were well placed and well stocked.
The format of the ride was an outbound route to a town called Urbana, 2 loops out of town and back to the same stop, retracing the outbound route back to the start for 155 miles and then a 15 mile loop you rode 3 times.
The ride started at 6:00am with 30 riders. We rolled out of Plainview Christian School, south of Plain City, and quickly had a group that would work together for the next 5 hours or so. There were 5 riders I knew and a few I’d get to know. Doug was from Salem, OH and western North Carolina before that. One guy I called The Pizza Kid (his real name escapes me) was riding a bike that didn’t fit all that well but he hung with the fast group for 60 miles. He started riding in March. Yes, March of this year. He rode 750 miles in May and had completed 2 centuries before Saturday’s ride. He was still on the course when I left for home but it sure looked like he was going to finish. And, there was Matt, the Argyle Viking. Dressed in an argyle jersey and shorts, Matt was a Norwegian looking guy, big enough to make him, hands down, the guy you want to get behind when the wind blows. Turns out he’s 26 years old and used to play football for Youngstown State (at 300+ pounds). Now, he’s a lean, strong bike racer. He doesn’t go uphill all that fast but he can ride.
The group of 8-10 of us rode on mostly flat roads through Mechanicsburg and then into the rolling hills north and west toward Urbana and the first food stop. It was good to see a few roads I knew but much of that stretch was unfamiliar to me. Our average speed was just over 20.2 mph getting into the stop. It was still reasonably cool at 7:45 and the group was in good spirits heading out for Loop 2. We had a little SW wind, but it wasn’t bad at all. The 2nd loop worked its way counterclockwise through Rosewood, past Kiser Lake to St Paris (following the route I did on a 300k brevet earlier this year) before heading east (with a tailwind) back to Urbana. We still had the group together and the average speed was still at 20.2. Frank, the ride director and a good friend, had Subway subs waiting for us at this stop and we refueled and enjoyed the shade. It was now a little after 10:00 and the temperature had started to climb. One guy had a wedding to attend, so he said his goodbyes and headed back to Plain City
The group rolled out on Loop 3, heading south on the bike path for ~7 miles before looping NE of Springfield, near Buck Creek State Park, through Catawba and back for one last food stop in Urbana. We passed the 100 mile point at 5:00:18. As I expected, that was when it started becoming tougher and tougher to keep everyone together. Small hills and rollers became harder for more riders and the pack slowly broke down until we were scattered into small groups. Doug and I decided that we’d regroup at the stop and we upped the pace back to the park in Urbana, pulling in at 115 miles with a 20mph average. At the very least, we were consistent. The heat had gotten pretty bad at this point, but I felt like I was hydrating well and I still felt pretty strong. The wind had picked up as well and we knew we’d have some stretches of headwind going south but much of the route back to Plain City was eastbound and the wind would be some help.
Doug, Matt the Viking and I left Urbana together. The rest of the group seemed to be in various stages of preparation but I was starting to stiffen up a little so we rolled on. We kept a good pace but, when the route turned south, Doug dropped off and by the time we got through the town of Cable, Matt was also falling behind in the rollers. I knew I would be done with the “hills” once I reached Mechanicsburg and it would be tailwind after that so I kept my pace steady and did the last 25 miles of the 4th loop solo. I got back to the start with 152 miles and a 19.9 average. It was at this point that I knew that the route was going to be short by a few miles and that I’d need to figure out the least painful way of adding on 3-4 miles after the ride was “officially” finished.
The Plainview School stop was indoors and was a little cooler, which was a welcome relief. Another friend was working this stop and we chatted while a few other riders rolled in. I decided to wait until I could have some company before setting out on the three 15 mile loops because the wind had gotten much stronger and we’d have to start and finish each loop with a headwind. I plugged my Garmin into the charger to make sure I’d have enough battery power for the entire ride, toweled off with cold water and tried to take in as much fluid and calories as I could handle. With the heat and the time on the bike, it was getting harder to eat and I’d had about as much Hammer products as I could take for one day. There were, however, some leftover cinnamon rolls from breakfast that went down just fine.
At this point, the pros and the cons of being back at your car with 45 miles to go became evident. I could leave things behind, change clothes, etc. but for a lot of people it also meant they could stop riding. We started seeing riders decide that they’d had enough and, frankly, I can’t blame any of them. Just getting back to the start was a very tough day.
I rolled out on the 1st 15 mile loop with Doug and Matt. Matt took the first pull into the wind and I kept waiting for him to pull off as we headed south. But, 15 miles later, he was still out there. That loop had 3 miles of riding 14-16 mph into the wind, 4 miles of riding 20 mph with a crosswind, 5 miles of riding 23-25 mph with a tailwind and then 3 miles back at 14-16 into the headwind again.
We decided to roll on through without stopping at the start of the 2nd 15 mile loop. I took the headwind pull and when we turned for the crosswind stretch we realized that Matt wasn’t with us. Turns out that he decided he was done at 170 miles. So, as Doug and I continued, he hammered the tailwind stretch and I finished up with the headwind back to the start. In case anyone thinks I was being overly studly, on the 3rd 15 mile loop Doug took the headwind stretches and I took the tailwind legs.
Doug and I took one final stop before the last loop. The skies had started to get darker but we were pretty sure we’d finish ahead of any rain that might pop up. We worked our way through the loop and got back to the parking lot with 196 miles. Since I don’t think you can call it a Double Century without riding 200 miles, we kept going to make up the difference. Doug was actually just being nice. He had taken a wrong turn on his way back to the school the first time and he’d gotten extra miles while I was waiting for them to get back. But, I wasn’t going to turn down the company. We did the 4 miles I needed and I finished the ride with an elapsed time of 12:19, a riding time of 10:18 and an average speed of 19.4mph.
In general, I felt pretty good. I was tired, had a little foot pain and I wasn’t too willing to put my butt back on a saddle, but it was a good day.