A Cycling Story
May 23, 2010
Total mileage: 721
The lady mixing the drinks at the rest stop kept dumping scoop after scoop of Gatorade powder in my water bottle. I would have stopped her, but I was distracted by the sight of a young woman vomiting into the ditch.
Cyclists love telling stories about tough rides. This is one of those stories. Saturday we went on the Cycle CASA ride out of Manhattan, Kansas. Mr. Spoked and I had hoped to get in some challenging miles this weekend, and Cycle CASA promised to take riders on a hilly circuit around Tuttle Creek Lake. While unloading the bikes in Anneberg Park, we noticed there weren’t many other riders congregating in the parking lot, only around 50 or 60. We didn’t have to wonder why for long. As we rode off to the north, we realized it was easy, way too easy. That could only mean a fierce tailwind. The riders who stayed at home must have listened more closely to the weather forecast.
We had a gorgeous ride north through the hills around the reservoir. It was a beautiful morning, the grass was green, and the wild roses and other spring flowers were blooming profusely. We climbed to a scenic overlook on a high plateau in the Flint Hills, then enjoyed a long, sweet downhill. Mr. Spoked topped out at over 45 mph, and my maximum speed was 44.3 mph.
Our route next turned west, and we crossed the northernmost dam of the reservoir where a road sign wisely cautioned us to beware of crosswinds. Most of us stayed close to the center line, as there was only a low railing protecting us from a plunge to the water, and the winds were indeed gusty. It was about this point that a young woman and her riding companion blasted past us, riding hard and fast up the hill on the other side of the dam. Now, I don’t like being passed by women, but in this case Husband and I had decided to take it a little easy because we knew the ride would be difficult once we turned south. So I gritted my teeth and kept to our pace.
We caught up to the pair in a mile or two at the next support stop, and it was there that I saw her doubled over, puking into the ditch. Oh, dear. Vomiting only halfway through a 60-mile ride does not bode well for finishing. As I was wondering if I should intervene and say something, the Gatorade lady was ladling way too much powder into my water bottle. Sports drinks are great for athletes on hot and humid days like the one we were riding, but they upset my stomach so I use them only sparingly. I realized what she’d done too late, on the bike, and I needed that liquid to get me to the next support stop. I drank it despite my better judgment.
We turned full south after that, with about half the ride to go, and everyone slowed to a crawl. We learned later that Manhattan’s winds clocked in at a sustained 31 mph, with 44 mph gusts. To my shock, the young woman and her riding companion passed me again. I came upon them after about a mile. She was sprawled across the shoulder, and he was massaging her cramping leg muscles. What made them think that she could ride an additional 30 miles after vomiting so violently? Must have been the sun. The last time I saw them, a support van was pulling up, undoubtedly to transport her and her bike into Manhattan.
I wish I could say the rest of the ride was uneventful, but it was a struggle. The crosswinds while heading west and east were ferocious, and several times they nearly blew me off the bike. Seriously. Turning full south, though, was the worst. Most of us crawled along, trying to take turns drafting off each other but not very successfully because the winds were too strong. It was just a matter of dogged persistence. I’m afraid I gave up less than six miles from our destination. The two bottles of Gatorade I’d drunk–one of them the overly sweet concoction mixed by the support lady–did a number on my stomach, and it began cramping. My cycle computer stopped at just under 55 miles for the day.
Here’s a short video I shot on the road, when we were heading full south. It’s shaky because I wasn’t able to hold the camera steady due to the wind. If you look closely, you can see the grasses blowing almost flat to the ground. What does not kill us makes us stronger.