The 4th annual Hamster Wheel 200 hosted by The Peace River Riders Bicycle Club (PRR) of Charlotte Co Florida kicked off at 6 AM on 1/10/2016. I’m surrounded by very strong riders who are no strangers to the hard work and the suffering that awaited. One guy is on his fixie which he plans to ride for the first 100 miles. With the exception of an hour and a half of rain the day was cool and overcast, or perfect. The 6 AM start with head lights cast giant freaky shadows upon the trees and provided us with a spectacular sunrise. Sorry for the lack of photos but my hands were full and you’ve all seen a sunrise anyway.
The original goal of the Hamster Wheel was to ride 200 miles, a double century. This is not everyone’s cup of tea and so it’s become ride as long as you can. It’s something to see people you know pedaling their butts off for miles and miles piling up big numbers and while there were quite a few round trippers there were also a lot of riders turning in their very own PR.
The course was a 26 mile loop door to door and to do 200 meant 7 + laps. The 2 main roads, Riverside Dr. and Washington Loop, score high for riding even with the pickup truck parade that takes place throughout the day on Washington Loop, a road 10 miles in length subject to capricious challenging winds and you can expect at least half of it will be in your face. Hey but that’s south west Florida for ya.
I completed the 200 for the first time this year running with the young and strong for the first 156+. This was a big improvement over last year where I fell apart at about M130 and had to limp back to the SAG, NO MAS at 150. This year I made it back with the group running on empty, leaking oil, check engine blinking. As they were getting ready to head out again I was a non starter. There was some friendly coaxing and so I mounted up and left with them but…………….My fear was bonking somewhere within the next 10 miles. It hurt just trying to hang onto the bike and so I had to shut ‘er down. Not being in full control of the bike could spell disaster for all involved.
I limped back to the SAG and found a chair. All I could think about was food. I looked at what was being offered and nothing appealed to me and I was receiving strong telepathic aromas from Valerie’s kitchen. My gastro/intestinal sys. doesn’t respond well to sugar and how many bananas can one eat. Valerie tells me that when you lay off the sugar you no longer crave it. I wonder if this also explains why my stomach reacts the way it does to large doses, a low tolerance. I also struggle with electrolytes and all those energy bars, goos etc. The stuff bothers me, always has and it’s mystifies my brain as to why I insist on trying these things thinking that it’ll ever change. Give me some mac n cheese, turkey sammich, a cup of coffee.
So I’m sitting there with 156 miles in thinking I’m done. Damn it. Close but no cigar, again. This sucks! AGAIN…………It’s convenient for me to believe that the big difference between a forty year old and a sixty plus year old endurance athlete is recovery time and not being able to work harder longer.
I’m just sitting there feeling defeated, still dressed to ride helmet on and all when a friend pulls in, then another and then one more. Like me these are some of the strong old dogs and it just so happens that they’re all putting in monster rides of there own. I ask them if they’re going back out and they are. No weak sister’s here and so I decide to go with them. I added loop 7 thinking it would be easier to run Washington Loop the opposite way but the wind was howling regardless. Still our pace was good. We arrive back at HQ and I now show 182 miles ridden. Two of the three are done leaving one other who is a little behind my total miles but is determined to finish this thing, put a dagger in it’s heart. We go out for a modified loop and I arrive back with 199 miles and just spin up the road and back to complete the 200.
Everything hurt, I’m empty, bankrupt. My upper body, arms and hands, are numb. My shoulders and neck ache and can’t feel my legs for the last 50 miles already. My butt and it’s surrounding areas are really sore. If I had hair on my head it too would probably hurt. My nose has been running since 6:05 AM. But all that’s now in the bank. Cross it off the bucket list. Will I do this again? Best ask that question later. Am I an Ultra Cyclist? Not my favorite way to go out and get beat up.
Looking At My Numbers
By the time you read this the ride on the Strava Widget up there on the right will be down the list and so below is what Garmin Connect said, which I find more accurate anyway. For me the big number is the calorie burn. 4767 calories burnt over 10 hrs. or 477/hr. I did not replace much of this during the ride, big mistake. My heart rate shows that most of the ride was spent in my zone 3, a good thing. It did take some time for my HR to settle back to 65, my resting HR these days, possibly why my sleep was fitful afterwards. I stepped off the scale at a whopping 151. Way too light( see calories burnt above). No wonder I feel weak today. Next is to check my blood pressure. A good number for me is <130/80, not perfect but good enough to get away from the life sentence of taking meds. Oh and today my pee is the color of autumn wheat or good.
To Do List For Improved Endurance Cycling
- Bulk up before the ride.
- Provide a means to replace calories with carbs and protein through out the day.
- Work on upper body strength.
- Continue to work hard on the bike a couple times a week and try to increase the time spent in zone 4.
- Continue to hang out with strong, energetic and positive people who are happy to suffer.
To all those who rode The Hamster Wheel this year SALUTE! Thank You PRR for another great event ride. I applaud the Ultra Cyclist and all endurance athletes who take it to the extreme but I’m still not sure I am one. I don’t crave that level of stress on a regular basis. Give me the fast moving metric century ride and throw in the occasional Gran Fondo. Ten hours on a bike is as much mentally as it is physically challenging for me. Fish have gotta swim and birds have gotta fly. Well actually lots of birds swim and there are fish that fly and so who knows where life’s journey will lead me. Here’s to your success when meeting that next challenge.