It was an ambitious goal, but I knew I needed to set something agressive to force myself to improve. Â I’d heard a lot about Ride Across INdiana (RAIN), and had half-seriously mentioned a desire to do it someday, Â but always with the notion that “someday” was not “later this year”.
Then Ann convinced me to sign up. Â And I did.
When I signed up, I had not yet joined Team Nebo Ridge and planned on doing it unsupported and hoping for the best. Having experienced and completed the ride now, I can honestly say I’m glad I didn’t experience it that way. Â I would not have made it. Â Here’s a recap on the ride.
It really started Friday afternoon, when I met the rest of my teammates at the shop and we loaded up our bags and bikes into a couple of trailers and hopped in some vans to drive to Terre Haute. Â We stayed in a dorm at St Mary of the Woods College, where I found I had absolutely horrible cell reception. Â Thankfully they did have open wifi, so I was able to communicate with Ann.
We all went to dinner where I was able to get tips and pointers from my teammates who had done the ride before. Â This proved to be helpful later as it gave me an idea of what to expect. Â We also discussed strategy and tactics such as regroup points, amount of time we would spend at Support and Gear (SAG) stops, and pace line. Â Our plan was to do free for all to the first SAG (38 miles), where we would regroup into our different groups (race group, Agressive group, Less agressive group. Â I was in the Agressive group). Â Once at the SAG my group planned on doing 8 minute stops at future SAGs (20 minutes at the lunch stop) and maintain a steady 20-21mph avg pace. Â Dinner consisted of chicken, chips, onion rings, spaghetti, lasagna, green beans and dessert. Â I ate all of it.
After dinner we headed back to the dorm and all went our separate ways for the evening. Â It was almost 10pm and I knew I needed to be up early, so I went to bed. Â I woke up every hour on the hour. Â Nerves suck.
At 4:30 I finally got out of bed, washed my face and brushed my teeth and got dressed. Â I headed down to the dining room as breakfast started at 5am and I had a lot to do before the ride. Â I ate a light breakfast with my teammates and further discussed strategy, then changed into my team kit and meeting the team.
The beginning of the ride was barely controlled chaos. Â Since there are 1500 riders involved, you know that at least some of them will be ill-equipped. Â Some of the bikes people were riding were rickety and falling apart. Â Some of the riders were new and unaccustomed to riding in groups. Â This results in a start that is chaotic and dangerous, but also fast and to some degree fun. Â It’s also the reason why we did a free for all until the first SAG – trying to organize into a cohesive pace line in that environment is impossible. Â I saw quite a few riders drop their water bottles (causing instant danger to everyone around them), Â and experienced first hand newbies who apparently don’t realize you have to tell other riders when you’re slowing down – which unfortunately resulted in a wreck about three riders behind me (which I heard, but did not see). Â It sounded bad, and sounded as if quite a few riders were involved. Â I made it unscathed.
At the first SAG we re-grouped, fueled, and took off for the second SAG, Â approximately 30 miles away. Â We immediately got our rotating double pace line going and I had a lot of fun. Â When we reached the SAG I found myself surprised – it didn’t FEEL like we had gone that far – and certainly didn’t feel like we were over 60 miles into the ride. Â One of the other riders asked “do ya feel like doing a century now?”. Â My answer surprised me: “Actually, yeah – I do”. Â I meant it.
After a quick 8 minute stop to refill the bottles and get some food, we were off again and headed this time for lunch. Â We were off the highway so couldn’t go quite as fast, but still maintained good speed. Â The pace line was effective when we could keep unpredictable riders out. Â We made it to the lunch stop around noon and took a 20 minute break to eat and refill water bottles. Â My legs were starting to cramp up so I ate some salty foods and drank gatorade to try to replace electrolytes. Â I also ate a banana hoping it would help. Â We were 91 miles in, and aside from the minor cramps I was feeling ok.
After lunch we had a short 24 mile segment that would take us to the next SAG. Â It started out alright, but around mile 105 my entire left leg cramped up, Â forcing me to drop off the back of the group while I tried to get the muscles to relax. Â The group continued on, Â probably not even realizing I was gone.
A few minutes later a teammate of mine – Phelgar – caught up to me. Â He had been riding in the same group as I was, but had dropped off earlier than I had. Â When he realized I was struggling due to leg cramps he asked me what speed I could maintain, then moved up in front of me and held that speed and allowed me to draft behind him. Â We had 8 miles to go to reach the SAG and he pulled the entire way – into a 10mph headwind.
Once we reached the SAG Phelgar, and another rider I don’t know, gave me some electrolyte capsules to take. Â That, combined with a refill on gatorade (I had run out) helped immensely. Â Our other teammates long gone, Phelgar and I set out alone to complete the ride – we had 48 miles left. Â Â Along the way we met up with his wife who was doing personal sag for him, Â where they gave me cold watermelon (which tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten), coke (surprisingly helpful), and advil for my knee which was hurting.
We made decent time to the last SAG – it was only 18 miles from the previous one – and I was happy to find they had a misting station spraying a nice fine cold mist, Â and popsicles. Â Both were nothing short of amazing. Â For this segment of the ride we took turns pulling and letting the other rider draft and rest. Â It’s by far better than attempting to ride it alone as you end up using much less energy and getting a chance to rest without sacrificing speed. Â This was especially important as there was a nasty 10-12mph headwind the entire way. Â And most of it was uphill.
At this point both Phelgar and I were exhausted, Â suffering from cramps of varying severity, and ready to be done. Â All we had left was a 28 mile ride to Richmond and the finish line. Â We set out and continued our strategy of leap-frogging and taking turns pulling. Â It felt like it took forever, Â but finally we saw the sign “Welcome to Richmond”, Â and “RAIN FINISH LINE AHEAD”.
And then we were done. Â I crossed the finish line, Â my time was recorded, and Phelgar and I fist bumped. Â I saw Ann (and Teddy) waiting, and she snapped a picture of us before we parted ways and headed home.
Some stats from the ride:
- The total time on the bike was just over 9 hours.
- The total time including stops was around 10 hours 20 minutes.
- The east side of the state is apparently higher up than the west side, as I ascended over 5000 feet over the course of the ride and descended around 4000 feet on the downhills.
- I burned over 9000 calories during the ride.
- I averaged 17.3 MPH over the course of the ride, Â with a maximum speed of 35.6 MPH.
- The route was 160 miles.
It was definitely a difficult ride… but I already am looking forward to next year.