7am roll outs can be brutal. Thankfully the trailhead off of 10th St. in Kalamazoo is under 30 minutes from my house. I loaded up the Defy and headed out to meet Jay, Lisa, and Jeff. Temps were in the 60's and it was hazy.
Off we went. The first stretch is always the best...downhill. It is pretty fast do the first stop sign. Faster to the second. Knowing this was going to be a long day on the bike I was still finding it difficult to find a pace that wasn't "hard" or "fast". Eventually we settled in.
|Courtesy of Jay B.|
We always start in Kalamazoo and head to the North Shore Pier in South Haven before heading back. The pace was comfortable. In typical fashion it would always feel like right when you hit your rhythm that there is a stop sign. Then you take off again and find your rhythm again, stop sign. It is one of the things that makes this such a difficult ride. In the pic above we were probably holding 19mph or so...and Jay was riding no handed. lol. The trail is an old rail trail so it is pretty wide and straight. The chances of hitting something are slim....but they do exist. There was a tree down across the trail on the way out, but someone cleared it by the time we were heading back.
The first leg always goes fast. Everyone has good legs and it is downhill the whole way to South Haven...at least it feels that way for a relatively flat trail. We rolled into the trail head with an average speed of roughly 15.6 mph. My goal for the entire ride was 15 so we were right on target. We headed to the beach and I was surprised by how many people were out enjoying the Southwest Michigan sunshine, especially considering it was only about 9:30am.
We piled up the bikes and took the obligatory "we are here" pic of the light house. After a quick break we were headed back to Kalamazoo. Mentally I was doing alright...not really dreading the 34 miles back. Legs...well....not the best....but doing alright considering the lack of miles I have this year.
Jay was stamping out a solid pace and I was doing what I could to hold on, but then we hit just a little riser and I could feel my heart rate creeping up. The speed was solid and I was holding his wheel but my heart felt like it was gong to explode. This is where my brain started to get the best of me. I let up...and fell back. I had no choice...my brain wouldn't force my body to go hard anymore. I eased up and watched the group ride away for a bit. I just had to settle into my own pace. Knowing I still had 25 miles to go.....that was my only choice. 25 miles....TO GO. ugh.
I had one bottle of Infinite with me and started to sip off it. Eventually my legs came back some. But then my feet started to hurt. Stupid shoes. I switched brands last year and have never been comfortable in the new shoes. I have wide feet and the constant pedaling was making my toes hurt. I plugged along and eventually rejoined the group. Reaching Bloomingdale they stopped for a minute. I slowly pedaled on. Wondering how much more my feet could take. I was listening for tires behind me because Jay was on his fatty but I never heard them...until he was right on my wheel. Strange how those tires can be so quiet when all you are hearing is your heartbeat in your ears.
|Courtesy of Jay B.|
I had recovered pretty good but my feet were still killing me. We cruised past Gobles and I knew we were 12ish miles from the end. Just keep going. By this this point I was visiting every emotion a person can deal with.
doubt....can I finish
happiness.....man it is gorgeous out here
tiredness....legs don't fail me now
confidence....I can do this
fear....what if I screw up my fee
excitement....only 11 to go...10...
frustration.....why can't i keep up
elation....I see them
I couldn't do it anymore. I had to stop. I stopped and basically shook my foot like people shake their hands when they go numb. Instantly it felt better. So I stopped for all of 15 seconds....but when the group is going 17-18 mph it doesn't take long for them to be out of sight. We were close enough to the end that I didn't expect anyone to wait. I know my way back and they know I will be there eventually. I got back on and found some resemblance of rhythm. I could see Jeff up ahead and I slowly closed the gap on him. He asked if were towards the end. We were, the worst part of the entire ride in my opinion. The trail tilts upwards away from the Kalamazoo River and after 70 miles of flat the small inclines hurt.
I just kept plugging away and eventually saw Lisa and Jay heading back down the trail. Go Go Go! They offered encouragement as I smashed the pedals up the last climb. Finally the parking lot and 73 miles of riding. Longest ride of the year by double. Happy to be done we all went about the rest of our days. Might not have been the fastest ride we have done out there, but we did it. Thanks to my friends and teammates for hanging out!