This past Saturday, I completed Michigan Mountain Mayhem...the longest ride of my life.
Who's idea was Michigan Mountain Mayhem? Joe? Dan? I can't remember. But on Jan. 5th I made the choice to register for the 160 kilometer (about 100 miles) version of Michigan Mountain Mayhem! It seemed like a great idea at the time. I had begun working out again on December 31st after having been a sedentary lump since the Lowell 50 gravel road race in October. MMM would, in theory, motivate me to keep training. So...there you go. Jan. 5th was my registration date!
I have a poor history of rides that approach 50 miles or longer. Kendal and I did a 50 mile ride last year in preparation for One Helluva Ride (100 miles). I almost died. The last 10 miles felt like absolute death. So I kept on training. By the time we did OHR, I was in better shape. But I still bonked at around the 40 mile mark. After the lunch stop at 50 miles, I was good again until around the 85 mile mark. Those last 15 miles were at a snails pace. I was in agony! And Kendal had to listen to me whine and complain for a solid hour and a half (yup, that's how slow I was going). And afterwards, my body was ruined for an entire week.
I was much more prepared this time! I'd been training very regularly since the end of April. I felt so confident, that with just a hairs breadth of prodding by Sarah, I switched my registration to the longer 200k version. But...none of the rides I did were anywhere near 130 miles. I felt like I needed to get one long ride in before MMM. So, six days before MMM (Sunday the 2nd), I did a solo 100 mile ride.
See the Strava info here: http://app.strava.com/activities/57771127
It went very well! I kept a slow, sustainable pace. I also learned that McDonald's cherry pies are simply amazing treats to eat while riding. Similarly, japanese red bean mochi were also an awesome source of calories that went down easy, stayed down, and tasted great! I decided to use these plus some Hammer Gel's as my MMM nutrition. For hydration, I'd use Hammer Fizz.
After my 100 mile test ride, I felt great! My muscles weren't sore at all that night or the next day. The only concern was a slightly sore left knee. I took some ibuprofen and iced it regularly. On Monday, I went riding with Dan and Sarah...probably a bit harder than I should have but Dan was having a great ride! I can't remember him riding so strong in a long time, so I couldn't take it too easy and waste Dan's great day! Downside was that it exacerbated my knee woes. Tuesday and Wednesday, I did a couple slower rides and continued with the ibuprofen and ice.
Rest on Thursday + packing for the weekend. On Friday, after getting home from work, I did some last second packing. Loaded all of our stuff in the car. Then went to pick up Kendal from work for the 4 hour drive to Boyne.
Dan found all of us (me, Kendal, Dan, Rebeka, Sarah, Joe, Charles, Laura) a great condo to stay at for the weekend! And even though we arrived late, everyone was nice enough to give us the amazing master bedroom! One of the perks of the wife being pregnant! :)
The next morning, us riders (me, Dan, Sarah, Joe, and Charles) all attempted to arrive at the start line a little before 6am so that we could start right at 6am (the earliest time they allowed riders to begin the ride). But the logistics of getting everyone up and ready, and transported the 6 miles to Boyne City High School, made for a bit of a late start. I blame most of it on Dan, who forgot his water bottles at the condo and had to go back for them. We all decided to wait for him. And we all began together at around 6:30am.
We never really talked about riding this ride together as a group. But none of us were in a position to 'race' this thing. As a result, we ended up riding as a social group!
Dan was signed up for the 100k...but his knee was really giving him problems. At the 20 mile mark, he made the decision to turn his ride into a 50k. And then it was me, Sarah, Charles and Joe. Joe was signed up for the 160k but was considering switching to the 200k during the ride, depending on how he felt by the 160k turn off at around the 75 mile mark.
The ride was going pretty well! Some of the hills were definitely hard! But, knowing that the ride is a long one, I took it easy up all the hills to conserve energy. We were all riding strong, making our way to the first truly difficult hill of the ride (the 'Super Hill'). It's only about a half mile long. And the average grade is only around 13%-14%. But sections of it reach well into the 20% grade range. And there is a sizable stretch that is over 25%, and hits a max of 32% grade!
My plan was to take it as easy as possible to save my strength for the rest of the ride. However, I'd never climbed anything even nearly that steep. And I didn't realize that there is no such thing as going easy when hills get that steep! You either mash like a mad man...or you fall over! Those are the only two options! The hill got so steep that if I wasn't careful, my rear tire would lose traction with each pedal stroke. But the most disturbing part was that the steepness caused me to inadvertently pop a wheelie! I had to make a concerted effort to maintain a smooth but strong pedal stroke, so that I didn't lose traction. And I had to deliberately put more weight over the front tire, to make sure I didn't flip the bike over backwards! And I just kept mashing...mashing...mashing. For brief periods, the hill would lower down to around a 4%-10% grade where you could "rest." But then it'd be back in the 20's. Mash, mash mash. Finally, I got to the top and started heading back down the hill!
Once I reached the bottom, I got off my bike, took a McDonald's cherry pie out of my bag and inhaled it while I waited for my crew! After the ride, upon uploading my data to Strava, I would find out that I placed the 3rd fastest time on the Super Hill!
And off we went for the rest of the ride! We still had around 93 miles to go. Fudge.
Again, we all rode together and we were all feeling pretty good! If I got to the top of a hill before anyone, I'd slow up to wait for everyone else. Or if I fell behind, everyone would wait at the next stop sign. And eventually, we'd be a group again!
Sometime before the 55-mile mark, I got up one of the hills and waited up for the rest of my peeps. All of a sudden, Charles comes flying by at the back of a group. I really wanted to latch on to that small group and benefit from the draft. Sarah and Joe were still making their way up. I was all by myself in between, with Charles getting farther away VERY RAPIDLY! I made the decision to time trial up to Charles and wait for Joe and Sarah at a future natural stopping point.
Let me tell you...it is HARD catching up to a group when you're a solo rider. I had to kill myself to latch on. But once I did, the draft was GLORIOUS! I was averaging around 19 mph at the back of a group of 8-ish riders. And it was effortless! We cruised along with them for a while. Then, we came to a rest stop and waited for Sarah and Joe. And we were a group once again!
Soon after, Joe made the decision to do his 160k as planned and not extend it to 200k with us. And then we were three.
At some point, we ended up at the back of a different group. Again, it was amazing! I ended up moving up near the front of this group because the hills broke the group up. I rode with this group until the next rest stop. Charles was starting to bonk and got spit out the back of the group. And Sarah was a bit behind Charles. I used the time waiting for them at this rest stop to eat a bag of Cheetos and an bag of Combo's!
Let me take moment to say that this ride was amazing! The route was gorgeous, marked well, 99% smooth roads that are not well traveled, just wonderful. And the food stops had the nicest volunteers who laid out all sorts of freshly cut fruit, various flavors of electrolyte sport drinks (HEED), snacks and candies, typical nutrition products, sandwiches...it was just amazing!
Anyway...Charles arrived at the rest stop not long after me. And Sarah shortly after Charles. We all refueled. Sarah wanted to take off quickly, so as not to get too stiff...so she took off before us. I decided to use the restroom. And I was ready to go! Charles decided to use the restroom as well. But then...there was a huge line that wasn't there one second ago! It seemed like it took a good 30 minutes! In reality, I think it took about 10 minutes, maybe a hair more.
We took off after Sarah. I thought that we'd probably not see Sarah on the course again. After Sarah left, the group I was drafting departed shortly after. Charles and I were still using the restroom. I thought Sarah would latch onto the back of that group when they went by. And there would be no way that Charles and I could catch that group by ourselves with such a large time gap.
But the two of us headed off and did what we could. I pulled since Charles was feeling fatigued (on a ride this long, you go through ups and downs with your strength). We rounded a corner and started climbing yet another hill. When I got to the top, I looked back and found out that I had gapped Charles by quite a bit.
We were at around mile 87-ish...something like that. I made a decision to see if I could time trial up to Sarah. If I found her before my odometer hit 100 miles, I'd try to slow us down for Charles to catch up eventually. If I didn't find her before the 100 mile mark, I'd just wait for Charles myself.
It ended up being a mountain time trial! I just buried my head and mashed like a mad man. Hill after hill. I'd see a rider in the distance. I'd use that rider as my carrot. Sarah? Nope. Is that rider Sarah? Nope. I picked off rider after rider. Then, in the distance, I saw a rider with a black jersey...and what I thought was long hair. I gritted my teeth and made a push to catch her sooner rather than later. At last! I caught her!
It was a long chase. According to my data, the moment I decided to catch her to the moment I actually reached her was approximately 10 miles...took around 40 minutes...and was over 1000 feet of climbing. Over 1000 feet in 10 miles?!?! We don't have anything like that near Ann Arbor! It didn't help that I was trying to go "fast" at around mile 90 to 100 of this journey!
But...I made it! I was pretty tired when I got to Sarah. I just tried to ride whatever pace she rode and regain my breath. I didn't really know how much that effort took out of me until around mile 105. I was really starting to suffer. I had 'bonked'. Which meant that Sarah had to hear me whine just like I whined to Kendal during OHR. I'm pretty sure I uttered, "My life sucks", and "I hate the world." As well, I probably uttered many other similar statements. I simply cannot properly convey how totally cooked I felt during this stretch.
We finally made it to the last rest stop at around the 120 mile mark. We quickly refueled and used the restroom. Charles got a second wind and arrived very soon after! Just 10 miles left and one big hill called, "The Wall." As we left the stop, I remember saying, "Just 10 more miles! And then I'm never going to ride bikes again!" A guy near us almost spit out his drink trying not to laugh at that moment. But I was serious.
I think all of us, including myself, felt our energy renewed with the knowledge that we were almost done. We just needed to get over The Wall! But the annoying part was that there were several pretty tough rollers before the The Wall! If The Wall had been right after the rest stop, it would have posed no issues. But instead, I felt like I was using up my last reserves of energy on these smaller but still challenging hills! Ugh!
Closer and closer. And finally, the The Wall was within site. There was a sign on the side of the road that told us there was no shame in walking The Wall. Sarah had pretty much made up her mind that she was going to walk up this last stupid hill. I had prepared myself for the possibility myself.
Funny thing though. I'm not saying it was easy. Because it was not easy. My legs were weary. My body was low on glucose for my muscles. It had been a long day. So the dumb hill was hard. BUT...it was sorta easy at the same time. After the 'Super Hill' at mile 37-ish, all other hills were judged against that hill. And relative to the Super Hill? The Wall was barely a speed bump. Seriously. Not so bad!
Once I got to the top, I turned around to see Charles still riding, coming up to me. And then there was Sarah just behind! Still riding! I'm so glad she decided to give it a go! We all made it to the top without walking!
I like the picture of me climbing The Wall. It shows people walking it behind me! Oh yeah...I forgot to mention that I decided to be a dork and wear a small backpack. I wanted to be prepared for anything...so I had a spare tire (yes, tire), spare tube, tire iron, pump, CO2 cartridge (yes, both CO2 and pump), cell phone, drivers license, complete patch kit, arm warmers and gloves (it was cold in the morning), four McDonald's cherry pies, three packs of mochi, four Hammer gels, and a tube of Hammer Fizz. Did I over do it? Probably. I only saw three other people with backpacks...and at least one of them was using his solely for fluid, not a portable storage closet! lol
Anyway...after that, there were a couple more small hills and then...finally...we were back in town, turning in to the finish at Peninsula Beach!
We weren't fast at all. We averaged about 13.5 miles per hour if you include all our stops. And only 15.5 miles per hour if you take out all our bathroom stops and such. Our time put us in the bottom third of all those that did the 130 mile (200k) route. But you know...I think we did great!!!!! Charles was going on 6 hours of sleep total over the past two nights. And he hadn't gotten any really long rides in yet. Sarah also had not gotten in any rides over 60 miles this year, most rides being in the 30-ish mile variety. And I had only gotten in one slow century before this...and had really only been working out and exercising since late April. Plus...we rode most of this course either solo or only with the three of us (in the beginning it was five of us total).
Here's the Strava log for MMM: http://app.strava.com/activities/59302606
All things considered, I feel we did an amazing job! And I'm proud of all of us! Plus, it was just a great time with a really great group of people!
"Wow, that moist hobo sure can squirt!" ;)
Next year, Kendal wants all of us to do the 60 mile version together as her post-pregnancy workout motivator! I can't wait! :)
Not long after the ride, Joe and Charles had to leave to get back to their families. And the rest of us went out for dinner. And you know what? My muscles weren't very tired or sore at all. But my knees were killing me! Once we got back to the condo, it was back to the ice and ibuprofen.
The next morning, my muscles still felt fine! Not tired at all going up and down stairs, no real soreness. So I decided to take the bike out for a solo 10 mile recovery ride before everyone got up. It felt great though I had to take it easy on account of my knees.
Next up? Cherry Roubaix!