“Oh, yes! Wisconsin! With the birds and the bees and the flowers and the cheese (sic)”
– adapted from Amex, Seinfeld and Superman Short
Rain and more rain and then no rain. That about sums up the weekend adventures for biking.
I headed out Friday with plans to finish a minimum of 150 miles and with hopes to get all 200 miles in as I made my way northeast to Madison, WI. Instead, I finished at 107 miles and rode the rest of the way in the car with my wife, happily dry.
I think if this weekend taught me anything, it’s that I need to ignore weather reports in the Midwest. When I left Friday, I figured on 2 hours of rain followed by temperatures in the low 70s. I knew that I could withstand that amount of rain and dry off in the sun for the next several hours so I didn’t bring bunches of extra gloves, pants, or a proper rain jacket (that I don’t really even own). I did put on my waterproof shoe cover but they didn’t really help at all given how much rain I got pummeled with. Being so woefully ill-prepared and ill-suited, it took only a couple hours of constant rain before the shivers started to seize me and I realized the rain was not planning on letting up anytime soon. At that point, I called my wife to say that after five hours in the rain, I wasn’t going to be able to finish the ride. She changed her route and drive 2 hours out of her way to get me.
We made it to Madison and my clothes spent the better part of three days pretending to dry out and turning the lower garden flat we occupied into a gym locker room with the pervasive smell of grossout.
The ride started out decent with no rain and a good rhythm. Twenty miles in and I figured I had the 200 made, doing the calculations in my head, arriving in Madison by 8pm following my 6am departure time.
The first rainfall started soon after that and then dissipated. It wasn’t until about 50 miles in working against a bit of headwind that the rain would start again, but this time it wouldn’t stop. I could see blue skies ahead for a short time, thinking I was closing in on the end of the weather. Instead of ever reaching the blue patch of sky, the color was drained, turning everything around me gray except for the lightning flashes.
When you are that wet, you can’t really focus on much else, which is not good when you need to eat constantly and pay attention to all of things around you. This rain nonsense sparked in me the need to finally get a legit cycling rain jacket, which should be arriving next week so that I am not so ill-prepared come July. You would think I would have learned that lesson from RTYD III when I had to stop and buy clothes to warm myself up. That rain was nothing compared to the onslaught that I went through on Friday.
This post was going to be about my stomach before the rain never stopped. This ride was really the first where my stomach and I did not get along. In the past, I have had several issues with my stomach on bike rides. However, this year, I have not had a bad ride in the stomach department.
This ride on Friday changed that. I think I ate too much to start the day by having cereal, raspberries, and a yogurt before leaving. That started me off on a bit of an upset stomach as I started pedaling and I never really recovered. I couldn’t get my eating on a good schedule, often eating after I started feeling hunger pangs, which isn’t good. This is something I have worried about for some time, given my history, and I put a lot of focus early on in the training on eating breakfast and giving myself time before getting on the bike. However, the long ride will not allow a long period of time between breakfast and biking so I need to get used to the quick turnaround and limit my food intake accordingly.
I was planning on biking a bit more during the weekend even if I had reached the 150-200 mile goal on Friday. However, given my Friday failure, biking during the weekend became imperative instead of just bonus. So, on Saturday, I woke up early and headed out towards downtown Madison, WI.
I was blown away by how bike friendly the entire city is. Bike lanes were everywhere and not these weird, slightly larger sidewalks inset from the road like you find in Iowa City, but actual real-life bike lanes incorporated into the road. They also had bike paths that went for actual miles in more than one direction. I weaved my way to the tune of 29 miles to start my day hitting as many of the trails as I could. The weather was great and I could have biked all day, exploring all the different trails.
After my short exploratory ride, I met my wife downtown near the town hall building, we had a great breakfast, and then walked several miles of a trail around Lake Monona before heading to a diner rehabbed from an old gas station for lunch. We then went back to the AirBnB we were staying at for some downtime before heading back into town for some pizza and a improv comedy musical about snowblower pants at a super tiny theater below a pizza shop.
Madison’s ultra-bike friendly environment reminded me a bit of Philadelphia, which surprisingly is a decent bike-friendly city in terms of bike lanes. I want to end up in a city like Madison where the infrastructure is set up to promote biking instead of inhibit it. I would go to Madison again just to spend more time biking around all the different trails for a day.
On short sleep, given our late arrival back to the AirBnB following the comedy show the night before, I got up to bike 55 miles north to Wisconsin Dells. Brace yourself for the rain theme again. The day before, I spent several minutes looking at numerous weather sites, all claiming that rain was coming in the form of scattered thunderstorms in the morning. Given the abysmal ride on Friday and how ill-prepared I was for the constant rain, I tried to rig up a situation to keep me warm for as long as possible, even if I would still get soaked through because I did not have waterproof equipment. This rigging included wearing flannel pajama pants under my spandex pants and a regular jacket with no breathability. I headed out just after 7am to no rain on that cool morning and started north.
I never once got rained on.
By mile 20, I had to stop and strip off the jacket and double pants layer. The day turned out to be marvelous and the ride felt great. I pushed the pace, surprising myself with how good I felt for the entire ride. I even hit up a pretty intense hill at one point along Route 12.
My wife and I spent the day in the Dells with friends Wizard Questing, Ripley’s-Believe-It-Or-Not-ing, mac and cheese-ing, boat touring, and general Dells shenaniganing. It’s an eyesore of a town with all the glitzy tourist attractions every which-way, but also kind of appealing in that it is essentially in the middle of nowhere.
All in all, a failed start to the weekend of riding turned out two of my most enjoyable rides of the year.
The month of May ends on Wednesday, which means that the Great Cycle Challenge starts this week. I’m still planning on 1,000 miles minimum and still hoping for some more donations as the month progresses. The weekends in June will be fun and interesting because it will begin the back-to-back century ride experience, something I have never done before.