You’ve got some new momentum
You better keep on going
Tomorrow soon will be your yesterday
You’ve got some new momentum
You better keep on going
You’ve got to move to make it all the way
– Neal Morse
The final day. Well, it started out exactly as planned by having no alarm go off. Using a different phone than normal, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the alarm was for weekdays only and thus didn’t go off on a Saturday. Perhaps this undesired outcome was fortuitous in that it allowed me to get more sleep than the average five hours I had been pulling each night.
Finally up, I began the normal ritual, this one slightly more enjoyable in that I had The Warden’s company–both my host for the night and a good friend from grad school. She made me amazing oatmeal that I couldn’t finish and lent me her boxing glove wrap to wrap my gauzed and maxi padded leg when I ran out of tape. I left around 7:30 am just as the rains started. It would drizzle rain for several hours in the morning.
My biggest concern heading into Day 5 was a repeat performance of Day 4, with no energy and no power. Such output would mean 17 or 18 hours of biking for the day to be complete and with my delayed departure time, that meant getting in on Sunday instead of Saturday. But, I felt much better while pedaling than I did the day before and felt a spark of hope that I wouldn’t have to bike 20 hours to get this thing done.
Although my pace was still abysmal compared to my desired goal, it was significantly improved compared to Day 4 and that took a huge mental strain off of me. That was really all that was holding me back from completing the ride. The stress and strain of watching the clock and thinking this would never end.
I’ve Got to Hand it to You
One other interesting thing about Day 5 compared to Day 4 was my hands. They still hurt the same with the same amount of tingling and numbness but for some reason, I was able to ignore it more on Day 5, keeping the posture for longer stretches of time without issue. That really helps with rhythm and pace.
And then came the best part of the trip. No, not the end, but the middle. My pop showed up in Girard, OH, coolers packed to the brim in the trunk and the Lynch family tie-dye t-shirt. He would be my constant companion for the next 7+ hours as I finished the final leg of the trip.
The biggest cycling benefit to his presence was that I didn’t have to carry the wretched backpack anymore. For the first leg of the trip until past Erie, PA, he leapfrogged me, passing me, parking ahead and waiting, and then repeating, taking way too many pictures in the process. Once past Erie, however, he took up a more traditional stance of driving slowly behind me, 4 ways blazing. Luckily for him, he wouldn’t be stopped by the police until well into Chautauqua.
While in Erie, we swung into a gas station two miles before the designated stopping point as a rain storm started up. We waited under the awning during the downpour until the rain fell back into a drizzle and I set out again.
A Sweet Celebration
When we got to North East, we were driven through the town streets because of their local Cherry Festival. The population of North East is 4,294 people and apparently all of them were at this festival. The street was jammed with traffic and would take nearly 20 minutes to get through. People love cherries, I suppose.
As I sped through the streets on the other side of the traffic jam, I was honked at by a familiar looking van. Inside was my mother, grandmother, and nephew. They would spend the next few miles from North East to Westfield leapfrogging me, even setting up little 3-year-old Nico on his bike to ride along with me for 20 feet or so.
As a brief aside, my family is obsessed with t-shirts. They love making them every chance they get. If memory serves, the desire for cotton and polyester with logos started when my Pop was tasked with making a shirt for marching band. Being the tech savvy savant that he is, he drew a design, uploaded it to the computer and spent night after painstaking night zoomed in to 400% on Windows Paint, redrawing all the lines to make it darker. Also, one of my wedding presents from my parents were matching tie-dye hoodies with the Diggity Chops logo my wife had created for our wedding stationary on the back. So, it was not even mildly surprising to see the entire family adorned in newly generated shirts commemorating the trip I was undertaking.
The Final Countdown
My mother and company left for home after my stop in Westfield, the final rest stop of the ride. And now came the part that I had been dreading ever since I dreamed up this interesting trip. More climb in 30 miles than I had done for some of the 150-mile days on the trip. I focused on just keeping a steady pedal rhythm, never minding anything else, and got up the two major hills facing me. With just a Fredonia ride of distance left, I wanted to push the pace as much as possible.
I only ran track for a year in 8th grade, but D and my prowess for ridiculousness actually started with running. We would run home from his piano lessons every Monday, a 3-mile journey. When I ran track, I ran the 1600 and I was terrible in the sense that I never even came close to winning. I did accomplish my own personal goal of ending the season with a time below six minutes, so I guess that’s something.
My favorite part of that race was the end, though. Heading into the final lap, you strain as you push your muscles just a bit more, increasing speed. As you round into the final 200, you start to stretch out a bit more, pushing even harder and getting into position to put everything out there as you round the corner into the 100 meter stretch. The stretch was always my favorite and I remember Pop commenting on it the first time he saw me run because it wasn’t something I had ever really been taught or been coached explicitly to do by him. But years of watching his athletic prowess taught me that you have to leave it all out there when you compete.
I left all aspects of organized sports by the time I was 18 but I still feel a certain desire to compete, even if it’s just against myself. I wanted to end strongly on this ride, even though things hadn’t gone necessarily according to plan and even if my pace and total times were much lower than I had hoped for or anticipated. So I pushed it in the last 30 miles and sprinted the last mile, pulling into my driveway at 10:41 pm EST on Saturday, July 22nd. I had left on July 18th at 2 am Central, resulting in a total time of 112 hours.
Statistically the Best
Here are my predicted stats for the ride:
Total miles: 755
Average miles per day: 151
Estimated total hours: 112
Estimated pedal hours (at 12.5 mph): 61
Estimated calories burned: 21,000
Amount of granola eaten: Too much
Here are my actual stats:
Total miles: 776.7
Average miles per day: 155.3
Actual total hours: 112
Actual pedal hours (at 12.5 mph): 59 hours and 17 minutes
Actual calories burned: 24,792
Amount of granola eaten: gratuitous amounts
All in all, I was pedaling just about 213,420 seconds out of 403,200. My total speed for every hour of the trip averages out to about 6.9 mph. In terms of my moving time–time actually spent pedaling–my average speed was 13.1 mph. Not as high I would have liked, but not nearly as bad as I thought. The longer total times for Days 3 through 5 were mainly a result of longer rest stops due to certain maladies and eating issues.It doesn’t matter much what the numbers come out to for two reasons:
- I finished, so who cares how poorly I did time-wise
- It feels a whole lot longer when I’m actually on the bike.
Getting Better all the Time
There may be a few things I would want to improve on the next time I do something like this. I would want to schedule in either a buffer day or more time for sleep. I think the back-to-backs of little sleep caught up to me by Day 4 and that was mitigated with a bit more sleep heading into Day 5, albeit accidentally. If I had the luxury of more time off from work, I would have liked to do this trip in 6 or 7 days and not feel rushed to get in, eat, shop for the next day’s provisions, and get to bed as soon as possible while also doing laundry, talking to my hosts, charging all of my lights and nonsense, and stretching (which I probably didn’t do enough of).
I also wouldn’t mind having a car to tail me like I did for the last half of Day 5. The opportunity to not have multiple pounds strapped to my back, the need for fewer rest stops for water and the like, and the ability to have a buffer between myself and traffic would be incredible. With Pop following behind, especially as the sun went down last night, I found a certain freedom in not having to be as concerned about dodging potholes and coasting down hills. Of course, having that companion for several hours a day for several days might be hard to come by (AHEM…ask and ye shall receive, my dear). They also have to have a strong affinity for being able to listen to 4-ways blinkering for hours on end. As Pop put it, though, “I’m retired.”
Coming Up Next…
So what is next? I did the thing I thought about doing on a 12-degree January day. My wife put together this blog that night and we raised more money for the Flutie Foundation than I thought possible, given the last minute nature of becoming associated with the foundation as well as the very recent round of asking for donations from the same people for the Great Cycle Challenge just one month before.
I worked 7-ish months training to get to the point where I could make it and faced several moments over five days where making it wasn’t necessarily in question but was a whole lot more challenging. If I do something bigger the next time around, which I undoubtedly will given my track record, I’ll need to train even more and take even longer to finish the ride. That’s a rather tall order, especially with another human on the way.
Any ideas people have for my next great adventure would be greatly appreciated. In the short term, though, what to do now that the ride is over? I have to catch a ride back to Iowa City but that’s not for a few more hours. Just looking at the weather app now…not too hot or windy…could be a good day for a bike ride…