Yesterday I rode my Cannondale road bike 170 miles coast-to-coast across the state of Florida in 11 hours and 1 minute. It was harder and easier than I had envisioned.
This would not have been possible (for me, anyway) without the dynamic, organic teamwork that occurs within a cycling group. It would have been unthinkable in the mid-90’s heat and 40 miles of hills without roadside encouragement and support from my wife and others. They provided water, food, fresh electrolyte-laden bottles, cold towels, and lots of smiles urging us to keep pedaling.
We rolled out of Cocoa Beach on the east coast at 6:30 a.m. sharp. Only 72 riders registered – 69 men and 3 women. The entire group moved at a good pace during the cool morning hours, averaging between 21-22 mph. Our first stop was at 46 miles. That’s when the faster riders broke away.
At 85 miles Todd and I were in a nice paceline with a dozen riders hitting about 20 mph. The sun was up and it was getting hot. I found myself thinking “We’re halfway done. I think I might make it.”
At 120 miles we had lost a few to heat exhaustion. I saw one rider with an IV hooked up in the back of a van. We were still optimistic, though we were about to enter 40 miles of hills. Ouch. On some climbs we averaged 5-7 mph hitting 37 mph coasting down the backside.
At 150 miles my right thigh began to cramp and lock. Ann noticed that I wasn’t emptying my water bottles as quickly as I had been and urged me to drink more. I began opening up Endurolyte capsules and taking the salts straight on my tongue with a water chaser. “Only 20 more miles – I don’t want to quit now!” I backed off the group’s pace and went solo for awhile. I rode on. Rather than stopping to rest, I tried letting my left leg do 3/4 of the work while I did deep tissue massage on my other thigh with my right thumb. I also prayed: God of the universe who created the stars, can you prevent these muscle fibers from locking up for about one more hour?
After a few miles, my good friend Todd circled back to pull me in for the final 10 miles. Zach and Bill joined up after fixing two flats and we picked up one more stray rider. The five of us rolled across the finish line on the west coast at 5:31 pm with nearly three hours to spare before sunset. Stopping felt great. So did the dip in the lagoon.
Thanks are due to my Creator, Ann, Todd, Zach, Bill, the Eastside Cycling Club and the Spacecoast Freewheelers. I couldn’t have made it without your help.