Thursday, July 9, 2020

Let's Take a Ride...a Long Ride

"Let's go for a ride," he said. 

It was the hubby's idea, and this ride was estimated at being upwards of 50 miles.

Oh, and this wasn't a car ride; it was a bike ride. Prior to this, my longest ride had been 20 miles on a borrowed road bike (for the Flying Pigs Duathlon, August 2015). This ride would be substantially longer, and it was on a mountain bike. 

What could go wrong?

Let me set the scene...

I consider myself a novice on the bike. Even though I have logged a lot of miles in the past year, I still have a lot to learn and there are numerous skills that need perfecting. I would never embark on a journey of this magnitude on my own, but I was nervously (and excitedly) anticipating this adventure with the hubby.

This Longest Ride Ever happened on Friday, July 3rd. With Sully Freedom Fun Run 5K happening the next morning, I wanted to get in some extra running miles on that Friday as well (since I knew I wouldn't be running after the race). Barb and I met up early and ran eight miles in the warm and muggy air, and I was back home before 8:00. I took my time cooling down, stretching, and re-hydrating. I even did a short walk. Yadda yadda yadda.

We didn't get to the trail head, in Baxter, until just before noon, so the sun was (obviously) high in the sky, the temps were warm (upper 80F's) and the air was humid (89%). I had a full bottle of water, plenty of snacks, and an open mind.

A nice feature of the Chichaqua Valley Trail, is that it's a former railroad. That's all well and good, in that there are no menacing hills. Fortunately, we'd heard this trail was relatively flat and had decent shade cover. Also, the sign indicated it was "only" 22.3 miles to our destination (where we would have lunch, then ride back).

So, off we went. Right away, things felt great! Although it was quite hot, the shade cover was great and the first 4-5 miles had a nice decline (remember this tiny detail). One of the things I like about biking is that you do create your own breeze while pedaling.

Here we go...

After we'd gone about nine miles, I was starting to feel a little hungry. Of course, it was just after we'd passed through the town of Mingo, where there had been a pull-over shelter off the trail. I wasn't famished, though, so we kept going.

It was around 14.4 miles into our trip (according to the odometer on my bike) that we noticed a spot to pullover. We parked the bikes for a few minutes, walked around a bit and I ate a granola bar. 

Back on the bikes, I noticed the odometer had frozen and wasn't "counting" the miles. I tapped through the other modes, and nothing was showing except for the time of day. Huh. I hated to clear out the 14.4 miles, but I thought clearing out the stats was my best option for resetting the computer. 

Well, that left me with the clock function...and nothing else. UGH. Most know that I'm not really a gadget gal (I wear my Garmin more for mileage than for pace), but I really like knowing my distance on the bike. I honestly do not care how many calories I'm burning, or my current speed (or even my average speed)...but being on an unfamiliar trail and not knowing my whereabouts, I REALLY wanted to know my distance. So, let's just say that put me into a slight panic mode.

Suddenly, it seemed like the shade cover had all but disappeared. We were on a constant incline. I was more thirsty than before. And, I had no idea of our exact distance. I did know that we'd been averaging approximate 5-6 minute miles, so I tried to distract myself with doing "biker's math (you know, similar to runner's math, where you try to guesstimate your remaining distance based on elapsed time).

how much farther?

After a few miles of somewhat frantic thoughts and unnecessary anxiety, I relented to just keep pedaling and we'd eventually get to our destination town, Bondurant. There were a few (possibly several LOL) curse words muttered out loud, though, as we continued our climb to town.

Once we arrived in Bondurant, it was a short ride (further!) to the restaurant. The restaurant had a great vibe...plenty of outdoor seating, great menu, and it appeared the majority of clientele were fellow cyclists (the numerous bike jerseys and biking shoes gave it away).

It had taken us about two hours, arriving in Bondurant just after 2:00. I'd brought along some Nuun, so I got a glass of water and popped the Nuun tab in to dissolve. I was extremely hungry by that point. I had a huge sandwich and ate the entire thing (and most of the fries). No guilt; no regrets.

We figured out the problem with the bike computer... it was the sensor on the tire. When we pulled over (at that 14.4 mile mark), the sensor must have gotten bumped, causing it to rotate slightly on the wheel frame. The hubby adjusted it back, and PRESTO! We were back in business.   

We spent about 45 minutes at the restaurant. It felt great to be off of that bike seat! There was a nice breeze, and for those 45 minutes, I forgot how hot it really was.

Anyways, back on the bikes. The first few miles, on the return trip, felt incredible! Since the final miles going into Bondurant had been on an incline, we now had a very welcome decline to enjoy. 

We stopped for a few minutes to take notice of the corn in a field alongside the trail. We have a saying about the corn (Iowa is the corn state, don't forget)..."Knee-high by the Fourth." It appears the 2020 corn is doing quite well. 

The first 10 (or so) miles back felt nice. Not only was there a decent downhill grade, but we had a slight breeze and the return of some intermittent shade cover.

I did notice a few more inclines, but they weren't menacing. It wasn't until we were near the 13th mile that I realized my legs were starting to feel some fatigue. After all, I had run eight (decent-paced) miles earlier in the heat. Although I had re-hydrated, the odds were really good that I may not have re-hydrated enough, given the long bike ride that happened a few hours after said 8-mile run. I drank plenty of water, and had a bottle of water with Nuun, but I still was feeling tired and thirsty.

Also, I was getting more cranky by the mile. We pulled over, near the 14-mile mark, and dismounted for about 10 minutes. I wasn't hungry, but my thirst was pretty evident. I had a full 20-oz. water bottle (with Nuun) for the return trip, and had drank about half at that point. We were more than halfway back to our end point (about eight miles remaining), so I figured I wouldn't need to ration my water. Besides, eight miles would probably take us less than 45 minutes, so that wouldn't be a super long time if the water ran out before our ride ended.    

As we pedaled those remaining miles, my mind was a flurry of conflicting thoughts. The trail was beautiful. There were several cute (and chubby) chipmunks entertaining us along the way. We'd seen a few deer. But my legs were getting tired. I was feeling robotic, and just going through the motions. And let's not forget those first miles on this ride...that were on a gentle downhill? Well, we had to ride "up" them on the return trip. No, they weren't steep, but they were long. Also, the sun had shifted over the course of four hours, so our intermittent shade was now at the minimum.

And, did I mention how tired my legs were feeling? Although there weren't any steep hills to climb, there also weren't any hills to coast other words, we pretty much had to be in constant pedaling motion.

Finally, the odometer said we'd gone 21 miles. I (momentarily) felt a bit ecstatic. One mile remaining, and I could get off the uncomfortable bike seat and relax on the comfy seat of the car for the drive back home. Only, we weren't seeing any signs of civilization yet. We passed the 22-mile mark...and still nothing but trail up ahead. What the WHAT? The trail head sign had said 22.3 miles, so why weren't we there yet?
finally, back in Baxter!

We kept pedaling and pedaling...finally seeing the spot from where we'd started, almost five hours ago. When we reached the parking lot, it was all I could do to not lie down on the ground. I couldn't believe how exhausted I body, and my mind. Turns out, it was actually 23.37 miles between our starting point and the restaurant. I'd not taken into account the distance from the city limits to the restaurant since my odometer hadn't been working on the trip going into town (all together now...#duh LOL).
the return trip

Anyways, despite my grumpy attitude in the final miles (both to Bondurant, and than also back to Baxter), I did enjoy the challenge of this ride. The weather was hot (and quite humid...duh, #JulyInIowa), and my legs already were a bit compromised from the morning's run, both of which certainly added to the difficulty of the task at hand. Like with running, it's the tough experiences that show us our grit, as well as our endurance and perseverance. I never felt like quitting, but I really had to dig deep at times. 

Now that I have this big (almost) 47-miler under my belt, I am eager to see what else I can do. I don't have my sights on a century ride (yet), but possibly next year?

Something I'd like to invest in is an actual road bike. All I have is Gustavas, my mountain bike, and I have been told that a road bike would make a ride like this much more bearable. Also, I should probably up my gear game...padded shorts (ugh, they totally creep me out) and maybe gloves. I could do with a couple more bike jerseys, too. I'm still not the least bit interested in clip-in shoes, so don't anyone try to convince me otherwise.

I mentioned my 5K road race, which happened the following day. I was a bit concerned there would be some DOMS making an appearance, but they never showed. I felt fine the next morning, and the race went well. All's well that ends well, right?

So, that's the story of my first long ride. I survived and can look back with a definite feeling of accomplishment. I also can see myself going back to this trail that I've done it once, I know what to expect in terms of terrain and distance.

Have you ever embarked on a long bike ride the day before a road race? What's the longest distance you have gone? Mountain bike or road bike?

I'm also linking this with Meranda and Lacey for the Friday with Fairytales and Fitness link-up. 

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  1. I loved reading about your 47 mile adventure. Would you believe that I've only been on a bike once in my adult life? I stopped biking when I was 16 b/c my family moved and we left our bikes behind and I just never had a reason to get another one. Flash forward 25 years and we stayed at a hotel in Puerto Rico that had bikes for the guests so my husband and I went out for a spin. It's true that you never forget how to ride but it felt so strange.

    1. I had a very long biking sabbatical from childhood to recent years. I was amazed at how quickly it all came back, but it DID feel I was sitting up so much higher on the seat? I'm glad I have been reunited with biking,'s been a fabulous recovery vice for me on my non-running days ;-)

  2. Sounds like long ride! Great job! I biked a few weeks ago with my cousin and I thought 20 miles was alot!

    1. Well, 20 miles is a lot, so don't feel bad. The hubby reassures me these miles would be a lot easier on a road bike (he has both a road bike and a mountain bike)...but, where's the fun in that? LOL ;-)

  3. Yes a road bike is way more comfortable for long rides that like. I love to do day trips on my bike as well.I am always amazed at how hungry I get! Nice job out there and glad you had fun

    1. One thing I didn't realize is how much heavier a mountain bike is compared to a road bike. Knowing that makes me feel a little better about the effort this ride took, especially in the final miles. I need to bring my bike the next time I venture to DC?

  4. Wow, epic lady! What's wrong with the padded bum shorts, though?

    1. The padded bum shorts...just look awkward LOL I have never tried them, and every cyclist assures me they make a huge difference in comfort. But, I just don't know if I can get past the "functionality" over "fashion." If I start doing more long rides like this (20+ miles), I might change my perspective ;-)

  5. I do have a bike but it's still in the basement but maybe once my NYS challenge is over.

    I do need biking short (cuz ouch) and a bike rack for my car.


    You are lucky to have your hubby as a partner in crime.

    1. OMG...there definitely was an "ouch" factor LOL I kept trying to stand as I was pedaling, and that hurt even worse, believe it or not.

  6. Wow! An 8-mile run AND a nearly 50-mile bike rice the day before a race? You are amazing! Hubby and I have mountain bikes too - no road bikes, cause I'm afraid to ride on the roads. I thought we would be doing more bike riding this summer, but I can't convince him to go. Maybe a lunch at the turn-around like you guys did would be enough to temept him.

    1. The lunch turn-around was key. There's no way I could have sustained 4 solid hours of pedaling, even with a few breaks factored in. I wish I would have had a few long rides under my belt before undertaking almost 50 miles. I do a lot of 10-mile rides (which take less than an hour on the mountain bike), so it's hard to fit in anything longer.

  7. Alas, no bike but a stationary bike (well, actually, I'm ok with that) so no advice for you. Great job, Kim! So great that you & your husband are active together.

    1. A stationary bike will give you most of the benefits of a road/mountain bike, I'd assume. I am thankful the hubby likes doing these things. He's more of a seasoned cyclist than I am, but lately, I've gotten him hooked on stair workouts LOL

  8. I just went on a long hike yesterday so kinda doing an active rest day for today, but I've been meaning to go biking again! (I have a mountain bike. :] ) Props to you for covering so many miles!

    1. Thanks! I've been told that mountain bike miles count double LOL

  9. How fun! Congrats on the long ride! I used to have a bike odometer and mine messed up all the time. I love that my Garmin tracks all of that stuff. My husband and I used to do a weekend ride (it's a fund raising event) that was 75 miles each day! We did that on our hybrids (which are still hanging in there almost 20 years later). It was a super slow ride, but we had so much fun! I am loving it that my husband and I are getting back into biking. I had no interest in clip in shoes for the first years I had my road bike, but once I got them, I really love them! They are not as hard as it seems. I think the transition was easy because we have to clip into our downhill skis and the concept is very similar. I'd love to get a tri-bike someday because I know you can buy speed with a more expensive bike. but right now, I'm good :) and heck, people would think I have a problem if I owned more than my current 3 bikes. haha!

    1. Well, I'm still very apprehensive about clip-ins. I know my abilities, and coordination and agility are NOT part of the package LOL