Yesterday morning my friend Scott and I participated in a charity bike ride to benefit Parkinson’s research. Information about the ride can be found here. We chose to do the 50 mile ride even though neither of us has done that sort of mileage yet this season. The most either of us had done was 35 miles about two weeks prior. But we decided that if we could do 35 we could do 50 though we might suffer some, plus it was for a good cause.
This wasn’t anywhere near as large an organized event as was the Tour to Tanglewood that I participated in late last summer. The website indicates it is just in its fourth year. I would estimate that there were roughly 50 riders at the start, and of those the majority were doing the 25 mile ride.
The ride though was great. The sun was shining, it was cool to start, but warmed up at around the halfway point. I was fine with a cap on under my helmet and some arm warmers.
The course was pretty standard to start, some rolling hills that are common in this area, but as we headed south they became more sweeping. There were some longer descents followed by some really steep, although not that long, climbs. And then finally we reached the base of the mountain after a long descent to the bottom of a valley. The race organizer had marked the route with orange spray painted arrows along the way, and at the base of the mountain there was an arrow pointing the direction and the one word, “UP”.
I haven’t really done any riding in a mountainous area so I found it very interesting. The grade wasn’t necessarily any steeper than some hills I do around here on one of my usual routes. The difference is that it just sort of keeps going.
Anyway, there was a meet-up at around the 23 mile point. The organizers had arranged for someone to be there with refreshments, water refills, orange slices and things like that, and there was a convenience store across the street whose facilities we were allowed to use.
Judging from those standing around and bicycles lying about I would estimate that maybe 10 or 12 people did the 50 mile variant. Understand that we don’t necessarily all ride as a group. We end up in little pockets all across the route dictated by whatever average speed we are comfortable maintaining. So there were a few people there already when I arrived. Scott showed up a few minutes later and then a few others trickled in.
And then Scott and I got back on the bikes for the second half of the ride. There was some beautiful scenery, lots of farms with horses and cows, and silos, and painted fences. The grass was very green and probably the most common sight of the day was people out mowing their lawns, so there was the smell of fresh mown grass for almost the entire ride.
We were doing pretty well and keeping a decent pace until near the very end. I think the last ten miles were pretty tough. Sun may have started to play a role, and definitely a head-wind for a big chunk of the return played a role, and if you haven’t been riding those distances much your butt really starts to hurt from being in the saddle, and your upper arms, neck and shoulders start to ache from leaning over the handlebars, and not to mention your legs that turn into jello. It’s all pretty normal stuff that you are familiar with if you are a cyclist, and you just have to remind yourself that this is the suffering part of the ride, and is the price you pay for the beautiful scenery and the fun time in the earlier part of the ride. But next time will be that much easier. You just keep pushing the mileage out a little bit every so often.
Right near the very end of the ride we witnessed a sad sight. A couple of cars were stopped in the middle of the road. At first I didn’t understand what was going on, but then I saw the deer lying dead and the bashed in fender of the car. That put a downcast tone on our final push back to the local High School where the ride began and ended.
Still, despite the tragic sight right at the end, it was a terrific ride, and confirms what I’ve been telling Scott, that we underestimate our ability sometimes. The people doing these rides aren’t all super athletes and we are completely capable of doing these distances, and we should participate in more rides of this sort. It is especially nice because you know that you contribute a little cash to a good cause, but in return you get a marked route and usually some sort of support out on the road so that you know if you have a mechanical or an injury there is someone who can pick you up, and there is a rest stop arranged where someone provides free gatorade and water and some snacks to help keep the energy up.
Now for the stats. Nothing too impressive here: The first 23.28 miles to the rest stop I averaged 15.4 mph, with a max speed of 36 mph. I ascended 1095 feet. The second 26.57 miles the average dropped to 13.4 with a max of 27.6 and a total ascent of 1177 feet.
It’s interesting to note that there was actually more climbing in the second half of the ride. After looking at the profile for the course I see why. We begin the ride at the highest total elevation. most of the first half is a gradual descent with some ups and downs along the way, but overall the trend is down, until just before the mountain when we take a steep and long descent into a low valley before then climbing back out and up. The point at the end of our big climb isn’t actually any higher than where we began our ride, it just starts much lower in total elevation and climbs out. And then we drop off the mountain for the second half and begin a long slow steady ascent all the way back to the beginning.
Grand totals: 49.85 miles, average speed of 14.3 mph, and total ascent of 2272 feet.