Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cloudy with a slight chance for sleep : The Taste of Carolina 1200

After 2 good 1000k rides in 2010, my sleep deficits on PBP (brought on by difficulty managing food needs) made me hesitant about these long rides. Stomach issues since then on rides over 300k had been bothersome. So, I went into this event with concerns, but a game plan that I thought had things under control

Early forecasts for the weekend were excellent, but as it turns out, a storm moving up the coast stalled over Virginia and would sweep light rains down our way off and on, especially early in the ride

At the start, I was surprised to see some riders in light short sleeve jerseys and shorts. With a high only expected to reach 70, and with North headwinds all day, I’d opted for long sleeve wool top and knickers (thank you Mary F.!) 

We rolled out with Mary guiding us through the early residential roads in the dark to avoid missing any initial turns. Within the first hour we started getting light sprinkles. These became heavier and lasted for a good couple of hours and then off and on all day. I assumed those in light clothes would stop and add more layers, but I didn’t see them doing so. While I was damp, I stayed warm in the wool with a vest to help with the wind.

I should have kept eating like this every day

My local rando buddies, Tom & Jacob stayed together with me most all day as we battled the winds.

I’d hoped to cover the 230 miles to the Franklin overnight control by Midnight, but Jacob had correctly assumed with the winds fighting us all day that 1 AM was more likely, and he was correct.

Day 2 began with a 5AM breakfast at the Huddle House, a plan for 180 miles,  and a warning that one cyclist had crashed trying to ride across a damp metal grate bridge, and was a DNF due to broken handlebars though no serious injury.

Though these were familiar roads found on our local permanent routes, in the dark, they were all new to us. The winds were now more of a cross tail wind and there were fewer sprinkles, but temps and clouds still made knickers and a long sleeve wool top ideal for the day. 

Cute tortoise shell tabby at the first control of the day

Elizabeth City for lunch was followed by some back and forth rural roads to avoid the main route into the Outer Banks. 

One of the twin spans into the islands was closed for repairs which meant only 2 lanes for all traffic into and out of the area. One of the volunteers drove behind a pack of us to safely get us over the 3 mile bridge into Kitty Hawk. 

Joel was at the control in Nags Head with food but not as much vegetarian stuff as I’d planned for which would prove to be a mistake on my part. I clearly ate far too little and we then had to fight some bad winds to cover the bridges into and then out of Manteo on the way to the overnight in Englehard (nickname “Middle of absolutely Nowhere”) 

On the dark, desolate 40 mile run to Englehard the wheels finally came off. I couldn’t keep up with Jacob and Tom or anyone else out there. I sputtered into town near midnight and still had to figure out where the hotel was where I had a reservation (the one at the control having filled up quickly and before I could get a room) 

After getting my drop bag, waking up the hotel owner to get my key, and eating some, I went to bed MUCH later than I planned on and could not face the prospect of a 3:30 AM alarm. Since they’d (appropriately) gone on without me, I wasn’t entirely certain that Jacob and Tom were planning on waiting for me for our original 4AM start plan, anyhow. 

I felt more rested than I expected when I did wake up with the alarm just before 4AM, and quickly dressed to head over in case they were waiting. I was pleased to learn they’d waited for me though sorry I’d delayed their start due to my difficult time the night before.

We rode off with a plan for another 180 miles on this 3rd day starting in the dark near Matamuskeet  with swampy areas along the road and spooked a blue heron who must have assumed our lights were ordinary car lights until WE rolled by. 

Fog and light rain made the riding challenging again, but we got to the breakfast control and relaxed a bit.
This whole 3rd day went much better. Winds were more favorable, and, as a local pointed out to us at breakfast, the cloudy conditions weren’t pretty but they were very conducive to riding given the stable temps. Indeed, we seemed, generally to go a bit faster as the day went on. I fought briefly with some GI issues which were helped by appropriate pharmaceuticals. 

With some awesome pace setting from Jacob, we got into the “overnight” control at Atlantic Beach at the unheard of time of 9PM.

After food and an absurd of amount of sleep, we left at 5AM on the final day with 160 miles to go and a forecast of clouds but very little chance of rain. Appropriately Jacob took off to run with the faster crowds and would finish about 2 hours ahead of Tom and I. 

We stopped briefly in Jacksonville to chat with the volunteers who were still there for riders who’d begun the 600 and 1000k routes on Saturday. 

When we left, we were on a rather busy road and Tom asked me to do everything I could to not “let him die in Jacksonville!”

Both of us struggled a bit at times in the last few hours and kept hop-scotching a 1000k rider from PA. I’d hoped to get in before dark, but we managed to at least get back onto familiar roads by then which made navigation easy, as was my real intent. 

Rolling in at 7PM we finished in just over 85 hours. 

A similar time to my PBP finish, but I felt so much better than I had then, due to the amount of sleep and better food management I accomplished.

Tony Goodnight put on a fantastic event with wonderful volunteers and a well planned route. Having lived and ridden in the area for many years, I was surprised at all the new sights we experienced on this 1200k. 

With a now better handle on my stomach issues and an improving focus on adequate back-up food supplies, I’m looking forward a probable 1000k next year since the 1200k events look to be a bit too far out of the way for my schedule.

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