I tried to keep this short, but I was unsuccessful.
We rolled out of Blue Ash, Ohio at 5:00 with 34 riders and the promise of a dry, sunny and very hot day. The first 300k was a repeat of the first part of the 400k from a few weeks ago so I knew what to expect. Much of the 2nd 300k would be on roads from the 200 and 300 this year so I had a pretty good idea what the latter part of the ride would be like as well.
After the 400k, I added a small mount for my light that raised it above the handlebar and got it out of the way of my GPS. Very quickly on this ride,I realized that it wasn’t tight enough and my light would rotate toward the ground on every bump. I tried to adjust it while riding but, eventually, ended up just holding it in place with my left hand until sunrise.
The group separated on a tough hill a few miles from the start and the faster riders settled in to a brisk, but manageable, pace for the first 56 miles to the control in Georgetown. I think the whole group was concerned about riding this 56 mile section on the way back. It would be very hot by then and there just weren’t a lot of options for water in that stretch. One of the local riders in our group pointed out a small park with bathrooms and a water fountain. I marked the distance so I knew when I could expect to get back there later.
After Georgetown, the hillier roads started and the groups of riders began to thin out. I saw Steve Glowacki in the group and knew that the pace could get fast anytime he decided to make it fast. Steve is a tall, skinny kid in his 20s. Joe and I chased him up the hills of Tar Hollow on a brevet a few years ago and he’s just a natural rider who doesn’t seem to have many limits. He holds the Calvin’s Challenge 25-29 record at 257 miles and the 20-24 record at 261 miles. I was also riding with Chris Scott, who I’ve been with on almost every mile of the previous 3 brevets, Jim Sarks and a few other riders, on and off. A few weeks ago I rode Chicken Hollow Rd and Suck Run Rd. in the rain and didn’t really get to enjoy them, This time it was dry and sunny and, I have to say, they really are incredible roads. It was great to see Don & Phyllis at the top of a hill on Chicken Hollow. I knew they’d be out there with a secret control at some point and I knew the odds were good that it would be at the top of one of the hills on that road.
We rolled into West Union, made a reasonably quick turn-around and headed out into the worst of the heat. Out-and-back routes have their pros & cons, but it was fun to see the other riders and see who was riding well. By that point, we could see riders that were obviously going to have a tough time finishing. We took a little longer at the Georgetown control and had some solid food. I had 3 water bottles and knew that we should find some water at the park in another 27 miles. As Steve and I pulled up to the park, the pavilion was filled with parents and kids at a birthday party. They had the water fountain covered with presents and decorations. We asked them if there was any way we could get to it and one of the moms said not to bother and started pulling bottles of ice cold water out of a cooler. We stayed there 10-15 minutes, trying to take in as much fluid as possible. I, like a lot of people, had been having really bad hot-foot problems and was having trouble standing up by the time we got to the park. I took off my socks to give my feet a little more room and spent the rest of the ride back to Blue Ash pouring water on my shoes to keep my feet cool.
Not too far from Blue Ash, the route climbs a tough hill. As Steve, Chris and I were going up, a local rider pulled up next to Chris and asked how far we were riding. I don’t think he believed the answer because he rolled up to me and asked the same question and then did it again with Steve.
The 3 of us got back to Blue Ash at 5:47pm. That was 17 minutes later than we’d done the same route on the 400k. Since we didn’t stop at the park on the 400k, I figure we rode almost exactly the same overall pace for that stretch of the ride. We ate at Subway, then went back to the hotel to change clothes, pick up fuel, add lights, chat with Don, Phyllis, Bob and Patti and rolled out toward the sleep control in Xenia. We rode through Loveland, made a quick stop for water in Morrow, rode down Oregonia hill and into Corwin before sunset. We turned on our lights and had a great time riding, with a little tailwind, toward Xenia. At one point I was riding down a slight decline when I glimpsed something dark out of the corner of my eye. Steve pulled up and said “Man, that raccoon missed your wheel by inches”. At least it would have been the rear wheel. Not long after we left Corwin we were treated to the most amazing lightening show. It seemed like it was a long way away but there was almost constant lightening for close to an hour. Finally, as we neared the bike path, outside Xenia, someone flipped the wind switch and we had 30mph crosswinds. Large things were blowing across the bike path and 4-5 miles from the control we got some light rain.
I knew I was going to try and sleep for 3-4 hours at the control but Steve and Chris were both planning on riding straight through. We stored our bikes, found Don to get our cards signed and I said goodbye and good luck to my riding partners. I got a room from Don, who told me that I might have it to myself, based on the number of riders who had dropped out and the fact that many were waiting out the rain at earlier points on the route. I got to the room, dumped my wet things, grabbed a welcome shower, tried to get prepared for leaving in a few hours and was about to crawl into bed when there was a knock on the door. Steve and Chris had looked at the weather and decided to sleep for a while instead of facing the storm. Steve curled up on the floor and was asleep in 30 seconds. Chris and I each feel that we may have gotten an hours worth of sleep over the next 4 hours but at least we were clean, dry and resting. We got up at 3:00am and were ready to roll out by 3:30am. We picked up Taylor, a young rider who had grabbed 2 hours of sleep, and the 4 of us rolled out. We had to walk around downed trees on the bike path leaving town, but the rain had stopped and the roads were mostly dry.
We rode through Wilberforce, where the control would be on the way back, did the up and down on Grinnell Rd., through Yellow Springs and saw a lone taillight in the distance. Don had told us that Steve Phillips, the RBA from Alabama had rolled out of Xenia ahead of us. We caught up with him and the 5 of us rode together until sunrise. As soon as the sun came up, Taylor dropped off the pace. I think he just wanted company during the night riding and he liked having a couple of GPSs to follow instead of trying to read cue sheets in the dark.
This was the point where I was really starting to have problems. Physically, I was great. Nothing hurt, I had good legs and I was doing well with food and fluids. But, I wanted to close my eyes so badly it hurt. I looked for places to pull over and sleep. I was taking in caffeine but it just didn’t help. I was still riding well but all I could think about was sleeping. We got to the turn around in Urbana and I sat down in front of the store and then just put my head down and closed my eyes. I figured that if I heard the other guys leave, I’d join them. If not, I’d sleep until I woke up and then ride on alone. Another rider, Jim House, appeared from out of nowhere, made a quick stop and rolled out ahead of us. We hadn’t seen his lights behind us at night but he caught us and was now ahead. I heard Chris, Steve and Steve get on their bikes so I got up and caught up with them. Steve Phillips dropped off and it was back to just the 3 of us heading back to Wilberforce. We started seeing other riders on their outbound legs. First Taylor, then Scott and Amanda, then Fred and Tom. It was good to know Tom was still riding but I began to wonder about who had dropped out.
We rolled into the last control with 56 miles to go. I wanted solid food and didn’t care too much what it was. Even though it was still only mid morning, I had a couple of hot dogs and a Pepsi. I knew the other guys didn’t want to wait much longer so I sent them on, knowing that I’d probably be riding the rest of the way alone. I was still fighting to stay awake and knew that, by myself, I could make the decision to sleep somewhere pretty easily. I made it down the bike path to Spring Valley and through the rollers to Corwin before I caved in. I saw a shaded picnic table in a small park and I pulled over, set my alarm and took a 15-20 minute power nap. After that, I felt much better and knew I’d be ok to the finish. I rode up Oregonia Rd at the 354 mile point and was surprised at how good my legs still felt. I rode to Morrow (20 miles to go), knowing that there was a convenience store there where I could get something cold to drink. Steve Glowacki was at the store when I pulled up. He’d been there about as long as he wanted to wait and rolled out as I was heading inside. The girl behind the counter saw me and immediately turned to the cooler and pulled out a gallon of water. She didn’t charge me anything. I suppose the 3 riders ahead of me had explained our craziness and she felt like making a small contribution. I had some Chips Ahoy and another Pepsi before knocking off the last 20 miles.
I finished in 32:40, 7 minutes behind Steve and 32 minutes behind Chris and Jim. We did 17,835 ft. of climbing. Out of the 34 starters, only 17 finished the ride. If could have handled the sleep issue better, I would have had almost no complaints. I had no major pain, I finished with decent legs and something left in the tank and I managed my calories and fluids well. But, now I know why they use sleep deprivation as a kind of torture. I’m quite sure I could have ridden on Monday if my schedule had allowed it. I’m not sure yet whether I want to do it again but, I’m glad I did it.