Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dawn to Dusk 2018 With Silver Cyclists

I've had a fascination with endurance sports for at least the last 30 years. I used to love to watch ABC's Race Across America coverage back in the '80s, making sure my VCR was set well in advance to record it. I'd sit in front of my TV and marvel at the determination of the competitors. Sure, it was as much an act of sleep deprivation on wheels as it was a race but it captured my imagination, and I admired those who put themselves in the arena to compete. The annual Ironman Triathlon coverage in Hawaii was another favorite of mine to watch. I, on the other hand, would have to be content in my personal life to make do with an occasional marathon and longish efforts on my bike.

Over the past few years, I've moved away from the long rides I once loved, leaving me to wonder if I'd ever find the zest for them again. Walking 18 holes of golf was fun but hardly a replacement for the endurance athlete within me and neither were the hours spent on my fat-bike. I seemed to be okay with the less ambitious me.

But I wasn't.

I still had a desire to go out and do long distances and train for longer rides but I convinced myself that distracted drivers had taken the fun and safety out of it. Distracted drivers are a real problem for cyclists and they will always be of concern for me but do I want to allow them to prevent me from doing this thing I love?

I got a group email invite from a friend in early July looking for anybody interested in a longish ride the next day. I hadn't ridden with Steve in a while and I had no other plans so I told him I'd be there. The ride took us on some roads south of Webster that I'd never ridden -- roads that are the kind I expect to be waiting for me in heaven. Roads that are winding, twisting and hilly with very little traffic. It was out there riding with 7 others that day that I rediscovered my love for road riding. Steve suggested I consider riding with his group in their annual Dawn to Dusk ride, a 207 mile (333 km) ride in early September. It had been seven years since I'd last completed a double-century and to be honest, there were times when I figured those days were behind me. But he had the wheels inside my head turning as fast as those under me at the thought of training for and completing another ride of that length. Before I could talk myself out of it, I told him "I'm in!"

I finished the ride with Steve and the others that July day with a rejuvenated desire to ride. I felt like I'd been saved!

I went back to those same roads two days later and did the ride again. Within two weeks I rode up to Taylors Falls and back (157 miles/253 km), sealing the deal. I was back! Over the next month I'd complete several rides of even longer distance as I prepared for Dawn to Dusk 2018. The last thing I wanted to do was to show up unprepared for whatever effort the group had in mind.

Which brings me to last Saturday: Dawn to Dusk 2018 with Silver Cyclists

I got an early start, waking up 15 minutes before my 4:15 alarm, thankful that I was able to fall asleep within a few minutes of my head making contact with my pillow. I was fueled and on the road by 5:25 as I made my way to rendezvous with the other riders 20 minutes away, allowing time to fix a flat should I have such crummy luck. I didn't.

There's always some nervous anticipation for me before the start of something such as this, but I was feeling confident. My knees felt fine and I knew I'd done my homework. My only real concern was once we were several hours into the ride, that our collective tiredness would give way to inattentiveness, leading to a crash within the group. Thankfully, that was never an issue. Everyone in the group was a capable rider who came prepared.

And what a blast we had!

We rolled out of Eastview Elementary parking lot at 6:00, just as we'd planned. We'd need every minute of daylight and more to do this distance this late in the year with the sun rising later and setting considerably earlier than it was just a few weeks ago.

A group of riders in Northfield was waiting for us to arrive in town so they could lead us out to a point an hour south of the city. I would guess they were 12 to 15 strong. I thought that was a very cool gesture on their part.

The forecast had us expecting sunny skies with a light northwest wind but that wasn't what we were experiencing out on the road. An overcast sky grew darker the further south we rode until a steady drizzle developed, eventually turning to a light rain. The rain abated after an hour and left us with clouds to shield us from the sun. I heard no complaints from the group.

We had several stops planned along the way with Shad's parents working as our support crew, driving ahead of us after each stop to set up shop at a predetermined rest stop ahead. We'd arrive and they would be there with coolers full of drinks and food to refuel us. It was a treat to have them working behind the scenes on our behalf. They were such a valued part of our day and we made sure that they knew we very much appreciated their efforts.

Two in our group of 15 were only going halfway and were being met by their wives at our lunch stop in Wabasha leaving 13 of us to complete the ride.

The sun finally made an appearance as we wheeled out of Wabasha and crossed into Wisconsin. The road became a little sketchy for a stretch near Lake Pepin where Brian picked up our only flat of the ride; a small leak that he could never find the source of. We were back on the road in a matter of minutes.

Our final rest stop came in Cannon Falls where Shad's parents met us with a large tray of fried chicken. Oh man! It was the best chicken ever and I was in need of the nourishment it provided.

Refueled and on our way, I started doing the math and figured we'd probably finish in the dark. But not to worry -- we made good time on the final leg and arrived less than 10 minutes after sunset. This was truly a dawn to dusk ride, and then some!

Here's a map of our route.

We quickly took a group photo with what remaining daylight there was (it was considerably darker than the photo suggests) before opening one final cooler for a beer to toast our achievement. I headed out afterward and arrived home aided by my light, feeling so good about having done what I needed to do to be a part of this day and looking forward to next year's ride.

I'm in!

No comments: