So Sunday was my big 61 mile ride with the Venus de Miles charity ride!
Saturday I was excited and also nervous for this ride, as I’ve never ridden more than 36 miles before, and this seemed to be an event that might draw slightly more
serious fast cyclists than the Bike the Drive event I did back over Memorial Day weekend. Erin was picking me up so we could go up north and spend the night with Kim before we headed to Lake Forest for the actual VdM ride on Sunday morning. Working on a puzzle was a great way to distract from the nerves of what could be a very interesting & potentially painful day to come!
Sunday came along and we headed over to the Lake Forest College campus for the ride. There was a blogger meet-up before the ride, where we met up with some other lovely Chicago Running Bloggers and chatted before the ride.
Sidebar/remember this for later: On Thursday last week I had my hardest ride ever. I assumed it was hard because of me (not sleeping, eating well, riding in the heat, etc), but Mike the hubby alerted me to some potential issue with my bike not rolling smoothly enough when he was helping to take it out to Erin’s car. So before the ride I got one of the event’s bike mechanics to take a look, and he adjusted the rear wheel/derailleur so that it wouldn’t rub against the brake pad while riding. That sounds like a legit cause for excessive slowness on a ride, right?
Kelly & McKenna had gorgeous matching outfits with tutus & angel wings!
So the ride started! I had a small “omg” moment and left the blogging ladies when I didn’t start immediately when the ride began. I took a moment and began when the crowd had cleared out a bit, but not exactly at the end. We had a police escort to get us to the first major bike trail we’d be riding on, and while some people probably wanted to go faster, I found it comforting that we were still in a group. I was finding it hard to even get up to this slow speed… still struggling to maintain 13 mph, and I was beginning to get dropped from the pack. There was someone else I knew who was also toward the back, which personally helped me to have a familiar face, but I did want to be riding with a bigger group.
Those miles toward the first aid station were rough for me. After we left the bike path, the crowd thinned out on the open road (no more police escort), and I was struggling. I felt like I was working harder than I needed to, and beginning to doubt my ability to complete the full 61 miles. I decided that I’d get my bike checked out again at the 1st rest stop, and make a decision to drop to the 25 mile ride if we couldn’t get my bike to ride more smoothly. That first aid station did not come quickly enough!
I met up with the blogger ladies at the first rest stop, and promptly took my bike over to the mechanic there and explained my problem. He took a look, jiggled my bike around, and then made some adjustments on the front braking system and wheel. Apparently the quick release on my front wheel was not tight enough, and my front brakes were not tightly enough attached to the fork. So lots of jiggling, or otherwise rubbing while riding. This was the only “rub” I experienced, thankfully enough! No chub rub for me on the ride, and when I got off riding again, it was so smooth! Now cycling didn’t even feel like work!
The rest stops were amazing – food was catered by Whole Foods, and there was plenty of water, electrolyte drink, cookies, pretzels, chips (!), Cliff shots & blocks, etc. In a very odd juxtaposition to running, I felt comfortably full the entire time I was riding, even though I took just a bit each rest stop and skipped some at the end!
After mile 15 and that first rest stop, things felt smooth sailing from there! I caught up with a group after leaving the rest stop after most of the pack, and we navigated our way through some missing signs on the ride! While I couldn’t really figure out where we were on the cue sheet (this is the map that also has written instructions of key turns & intersections… only suggestion would be to also include total mileage on these so we can locate ourselves easily!), I did actually call the event hotline and they were able to direct us properly back onto the route.
Once we were back on track, it was smooth sailing! Rest stops at miles 30 and then again 40 & 50, and I appreciated each one! Toward the end I didn’t need the additional food or water so much, but definitely was happy to have a spot to stretch my legs for a minute before continuing on.
I did also get an impromptu rest at an extended break we had waiting for a train to cross the tracks. We were maybe chilling for 10 minutes, but we started making plans to hike our bikes down the track and cross behind the train. Luckily it started moving again!
I’m surprised that I didn’t ‘hit the wall’ or have any major upsets on this ride. As you’ve probably learned, I’m not the most confident at my cycling skills, and this was a great opportunity to get more time in the saddle, practice my skills, and also stretch myself to a new level!
Post ride festival was amazing! First, I was just so happy to be done and off my bike! Second, it was actually a great time! There was some delicious catering of a Mexican fiesta lunch, with taco filling options like sirloin braised in Negra Modelo, or pork in Stella. We also refreshed with some specialty cocktails from North Shore Distillery, and margaritas that McKenna blended by cycling on a trainer! It was nice to just sit and relax! Overall I was incredibly impressed with the ride organization, not only at the rest stops and post-ride festival, but also in the directions & signage that the organizers posted along the course.
I was also happy to see a surprise friendly face – my friend Linda from Madison! She was dressed up as a bumble bee, and is the sweetest lady around! I can’t wait to see her again in a few weeks when we go to Madison for the Madison Mini Marathon!
Overall ride stats:
- 61.96 miles
- 4:22:15 ride time
- Average speed: 14.2 mph
- Average speed to 1st rest stop: 12.6 mph, effort level: 8
- Average speed post 1st rest stop: 14.8 mph, effort level: 5-6