Sunday, June 14, 2015

No woulda, no shoulda, just coulda

Sometime in January I signed up for the Westside Dirty Benjamin--a 107 mile gravel grinder outside of the Twin Cities.  My mom doesn't live far from the course, and I actually have an old cycling friend who lives on the course, so I thought I'd kill a few birds with one stone.  Ride my heart out, check.  See my mom, check.  See an old friend, check.  Well, sometimes things just aren't meant to be, and that's when it's important to switch gears and make the most out of what's in front of us.

As many of you know, I hate being in cars--especially for long periods.  Even though there was a pot of gold colored gravel at the end of a five hour drive, I just couldn't wrap my mind or body around being trapped in a metal cage for a total of ten hours just to ride 107 miles.  The older I get, the more absurd it seems to drive long distances just to ride.  I'd much rather ride from home, or very close to home, and make the most out of my precious time off.

Amacher Hollow Road--one of my all-time favorites!

The only thing which made me doubt my decision to ditch the Dirty Benjamin was the weather.  While it's been raining cats and dogs here, it's been quite sunny and summer like up near Minneapolis.  When I decided not to do the DB, I thought "hell, I can get 107 miles of pure bliss riding from home to Mineral Point and back--some of which would be on gravel".  Sadly, those dreams were dashed by a steady rain which flooded Mineral Point (I was told they got 5 inches in a day) and made the Military Ridge Trail mush (I won't ride on really wet trails because a) it damages the trail for future riders and b) it's like riding through a nasty mix of cement and oatmeal).

Towards the end of Co.Rd. T
This left one option, I had to ride roads if I was going to get out in what turned from a 10% chance of rain to a 40% chance of rain within minutes.  You all know I LOVE riding the driftless roads with the hills upon hills and beautiful pastures between the hills, but I needed something a bit epic--something that would make me feel okay about my decision to stay in Madison.  This gave me two choices (well, there are hundreds more but two came to mind right away), I could ride all roads to Mineral Point and back or do a friend's loop to Spring Green and back adding a few extra hills and miles to get over 100--hopefully hit around the 107 mile mark (yes, I may be a bit obsessive).

Spring Green won over since I'll want to do the Mineral Point loop later with partial path riding.  I woke at 4:30am, hoping to get on the road by 5:30 since rain was moving in.  Of course I dawdled on my day off and didn't get rolling until 6.  All was good until the third hill--Zwettler road--when the skies started to spit and then piss on me.  Slowly but surely, it turned into an actual rain and I had to climb two more hills in it and do one long descent before hitting Spring Green.  Because I was soaked, I chose not to go into the General Store for lunch and instead opted to eat my lunch at Tower Hill state park.  The problem was the mosquitoes there decided I was their lunch and in a fury of swatting, itching and swearing, I chose to ride on without nourishment.  My nice little bonk climbing out of Spring Green told me I was an idiot for not consuming at least something and I was forced to huddle in a convenience store in Arena, eating their processed food, and hoping it wouldn't come up again on the next climb (some of us jokingly call this TransIowa training).

All was good though, nothing came up, the hills raised my core temp again, the sheep and goats were plentiful, the landscape looked like a Dutch painting and I was just so damn happy to be out on my bike with thoughts rattling around in my head.  Happy to be in my head, that is, until a buck naked man strolled up the driveway while I was climbing Reeve hill, and proceeded to get his mail.  Needless to say, it startled me a bit.  I could care less that someone is walking around naked, it just isn't what I thought I'd see on this ride.  I giggled to myself knowing I'd be doing the naked ride next week in Madison and thought about people's reactions when they don't expect to see our group go by.  I couldn't really speed up since the climb is steep, so I just gave him the good 'ol cyclist's wave and said "morning".  If that's what it takes to get me out of my head and be a bit more aware of the details around me, then so be it.

I won't lie, those last few hills and miles hurt a bit (more out of not remembering to bring extra chamois cream vs. my legs giving way), but I got a cool 105 in when all was said and done.  A little bit of me thought about tacking a couple more on to match what I would have done on the gravel ride, but honestly, I decided to leave it "as is" purposely since I'm trying to teach myself to just be okay with not hitting specific goals.  And you know what?  There is not one ounce of me that feels guilty or that "itch" to finish off the final two miles.  Right now, the thought of food and a beer have completely taken over any part of my brain that thinks of cycling...and that's a great sensation!

Always nice to know views like this are within riding distance of home!

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