Last weekend was heavy on the events. Not only did I have the Get in Gear 10K, but there was also the Ironman Bike ride. This was my 4th time doing the ride and my 3rd time in a row. This ride is infamous for it's brutal weather conditions. It seems that every year, the weather figures out new and creative ways to beat the crap out of us. In 2002, I did my first Ironman through 6 inches of wet snow. In 2009, it was torrential downpours. Last year, we had freezing rain.
This year was the most difficult of all. The word of the day was "Wind". This was no Spring breeze mind you. This was 20-30 MPH sustained winds with gusts that could peel the skin off your face. Sure, the temperature at the start was in the low 30s, but it felt closer to the mid-teens. Yikes.
Now, if it had just been me, I would have considered wussing out and just doing the 30-mile ride. But, there was a crew of 10 riders from the Twin Cities Spoke who had come out to tackle the 68 and 105-mile routes. Well, shoot. I wasn't about to let them have all the fun.
The wind was blowing straight from West to East, so naturally, the first 23 miles were predominantly straight West. Ugh. We started out as a cohesive group, but with a few different ability levels we were soon spread out. For the first 10 miles or so, I didn't know if I was going to make it to the first rest stop in Jordan. My legs were still sluggish from the 10K on Saturday and the wind wasn't helping.
Then, at about mile 12, while I was plugging along, I started getting passed by a large group of cyclists. There were about 40-50 in the peleton. My first thought was "Holy Crap! Look at all of those delicious wheels to suck on!". I shifted over into the pack and immediately my speed when from ~15 MPH to ~18 MPH. It was great. It really helped me appreciate the impact that drafting can have on speed. I was able to ride this wave all the way into Jordan before stopping for some food and to regroup with the rest of the team.
At that point we had a decision to make. As much as I wanted to do the 105-mile route, I knew that it was probably asking too much from my body. Sure, I probably could have finished it, but really, that just seemed like unnecessary abuse. So, as the group split up, some of the he-men continued on their way into the wind and the rest of us turned South.
The good news was that the wind was no longer in our faces. The bad news was that it was now trying to blow us into the ditch. I saw a guy riding with a disc wheel who I'm pretty sure is still airborne somewhere over Wisconsin. Soon though, we were in for a treat. A few miles before the next rest stop, we turned to go with the wind. Holy Moley! For the next 5 miles, I cruised along at 28 MPH. WOO HOO!
We made another pit stop in Lonsdale and grabbed some more grub. If anything, the ride organizers did a great job of stocking these rest stops with all sorts of goodies. I didn't realize how cold my body was until I tried a cup of hot chocolate. I could feel ever drop going down my throat and warming me from the inside out. Plus, there was a fire pit in the parking lot for us to warm our buns. Man, that felt good.
The next 23 miles were interesting to say the least. The route was a North and East zig-zag back into Lakeville. The wind had picked up, so it's impact was even more significant. There was one particular stretch where we turned back into the wind for about 1 mile. I was going all out, downhill, and hit a blistering 10.5 miles per hour. I was scared that if I stopped pedaling, I'd get blown back up that hill.
Fortunately, that didn't last too long before we were back to alternating between leaning into the wind and shooting across the countryside like a rocket. Soon, we were back in Lakeville and on our way back home. When it was all said and done, I had ridden 67.4 miles in 4 hours and 22 minutes. That gave me an average speed of only 15.4 MPH. Sure, it wasn't fast, but I earned every one of those miles.
Will I do this ride again next year? Eh, probably. I figure that after snow, rain, sleet and wind, what could possibly be left for the weather to throw at me?