I signed up for this ride in the middle of winter and selected the longest ride they had – 100 miles. This race started in 1967 and predates the triathlon so they can still use the name. I wasn’t aware of the reputation this event has for experiencing bad weather however. Minneapolis just went through one of the worst Aprils on record so I didn’t train as much as I would have liked but fortunately, it warmed up two days before the event and by the day of the ride, the snow was gone, the roads were dry and the weather was spectacular.
I prepared my gear the night before and had a big spaghetti dinner. The next morning my alarm rang at 5am. By the time I arrived, the traffic jam was already forming. While getting ready, I observed other riders who seemed to have the routine down. I tried not to make it too obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. I also made a couple of risky decisions at this point such as switching to clipless pedals even though I had never worn them before and I decided to ditch my jacket even though it was 45 degrees. I really had nowhere to store it later on when it reached the upper 70’s.
With about a half dozen energy bars in my jersey and two 25 oz. bottles of Heed, I approached the start line. A mechanic about 20 feet away noticed that my tire was low. It is rated at 120 psi and was only filled to 30! After he properly inflated both tires the bike rode better. I’m convinced that he saved me from getting a flat or possibly damaging my rims on the massive potholes in the route. I later thanked his shop on Facebook.
At 6:49, I set out on the first 50 mile loop. Everything felt great the entire way. There were two or three rest stops but I rode past them. At the 30 mile mark my overall average speed was 19.8 mph and I had passed at least a hundred riders. I ate an energy bar and drank about 12 oz of Heed.
After 50 miles, everything was going well as turned into the next loop which was 25 miles long. The wind gusts were now over 20 mph and we were riding directly into them. I was glad that I had left my jacket in the van because the riders who wore them looked like parachutes. Compared to other riders, I felt like a knife slicing through the wind with zero fabric flapping around. There was a rest area at 60 miles so I stopped to stretch and have a snack. They had a table filled with nutrition bars, candy, fruit and just about any kind of snack you could imagine. I figured I would make another risky decision and eat some Salted Nut Rolls and Slim Jims instead of nutrition bars or fruit. This one was a mistake.
Shortly after leaving the rest area the course turned into a massive hill extravaganza. After climbing for a mile, it leveled off and turned into another smaller but steeper hill. Then it was a short downhill before the steepest hill of all. By this point about half of the riders were walking up the hills but we weren’t done yet. There were countless smaller hills over the next ten miles after that. By the 70 mile mark it seemed like I was one of the few people still riding uphill. The overall ride involved over 4300 ft. of climbing.
As the 75 mile mark approached, the terrain was more level but my stomach began to feel awful. It seemed like I was going to get sick so I pulled into the next rest stop which was also where the start/finish line was. It seemed like eating would be a bad idea. I wondered if I should just call it at 75 miles but decided head out on the final loop. By 80 miles I felt horrible and stopped at a bench along the trail. Maybe if I forced myself to throw up I would feel better. When nobody was around I tried but couldn’t seem to do it. At 90 miles I decided to eat something even though it really didn’t feel like a good idea. It worked. After eating a nutrition bar, I picked up speed and rode to the finish line. My overall time was 8:02 but the time I actually spent on the bike was 6:49.
By then my stomach felt awful again but thankfully they had some real food at the finish line. I grabbed a ham & cheese sandwich and within 5 minutes I felt a lot better. That was when I realized the mistake I had made by eating the junk food at the 60 mile rest stop. It provided little fuel and after the ten miles of hard hill-climbing that followed, I had bonked. I then stopped eating for fear it would make me feel worse but I really should done the opposite and forced myself to eat as soon as I started to feel ill. Lesson learned. Next time I’m bringing a sandwich or a bean burrito and having a real meal half-way through.
Once I got home, the ill feeling was back so opened the fridge and whipped up another ham & cheese sandwich and in no time I felt fine again. My Garmin said that I had burned more than 3200 calories so when my wife ordered a pizza, I ate like a fiend. After that I felt really good so I sat down and enjoyed one of the best beers I ever had.