July 2006 Bike Odyssey--Virtual Trip to Traverse City, MI--Day 6--52 miles (156.5 total)
Today was going to be the longest part of the journey--52 biking miles. I hadn't done this route since late last year, and by this time last summer had done it twice, so while I was ahead in other areas of my training, my biking miles were behind--until this week. It was predicted to be hot--record heat for the day in fact, but that did not dissuade me from my plan. I was getting closer to the goal now, so it was just a matter of sticking with it for a few more workouts.
I had hoped to start early, by 7:30 am, to avoid some of the heat, but with one thing and another (kids needing rides; talking with my sister about dad issues; and then trying to find the mid-point of the Musketawa Trail trailhead, it was 10:30 before I got started. Just suck it up and take it as it comes, I told myself.
I decided on starting at the midway point to make it easier to get cold water and take breaks. That would be 13 miles out, 13 back. Stop, refuel. Thirteen miles the other way, 13 back. There were only a few cars in the lot when I arrived. There were 4 bikers on breaks under the shade of the trees, but absolutely no shade to park in. Whatever.
So I headed west, toward Lake Michigan. This part of the trail runs through the backyards of mostly farms and rural homes, and it is pretty much wide open with no shade or trees to break the wind. Today I felt that fully! No shade was one thing, but the wind was strong and a total headwind. Oh yeah, this was going to be interesting! And while the trail appears to be mostly flat, there is at least a 1-2% grade change throughout, especially on this section, so I started out at 12-13mph and often times dropped to 10 and finally down to 6 when the winds were the strongest! So my first 13 mile section was 59 min. So much for hoping for less than 4 hours!
I took a break at the end of this stretch. Its a deceiving point, because you keep thinking you are going to be done, and then there's another crossroad to go over. And I had forgotten that the end of this part was near the county prison. Its such an ominous place to see, as I am freely wheeling along, with a grim reminder what lived beyond those walls, where people were caged, for years or life. Made me very thankful for what I am and have. I decided I would eat something now, as I was at least 1 hour behind my planned starting time and wanted to keep up the energy.
Turn and go back and immediately feel the difference with a tailwind. 17-19 mph easily, yeah! Make up for some lost time hopefully. One thing about this part of the trail is that is is marked in half mile increments so it was easy to keep track of where I was and how much farther to the end again. I was surprised at the lack of people on the trail, but I suspect the heat kept them away. It was hot, no doubt, and with no shade if you weren't moving it would be unbearable. I have become quite accustomed to the heat over the past few weeks, and with no air conditioning at home, it wasn't that big of a deal. As long as I had my cold water! But even well planned things go awry, and my frozen bottle was the same temperature as my non-frozen bottle. It tasted okay though.
Close to the end of this 13 mile stretch, there were 2 things that made it interesting. One was a young woman out "walking." She was swinging her hips so much I thought she might throw her back out. And as I got closer, I got an eyeful! A tank top so tight you could see everything, and shorts so short her cheeks were hanging out! Ewww. Watch out honey, you're going to get sunburn where the sun shouldn't be shining! Next, I saw ahead what looked like someone riding a lawnmower or some other sort of 3 wheeled vehicle. As I approached, I could see easily that it was someone on a riding lawnmower. Probably borrowing it and going to his house ahead. Who knows what really was going on, because as I approached, the guy swerved from one side of the path to the other. Okay, this has to stop. I was directly behind him and I yelled "coming through!" He turned and looked quite surprised that anyone would be coming up behind him on a bike. In fact, he appeared to have the IQ of a marble. It was obvious he was mentally challenged and probably was out joyriding. "You need to get over! Get over! Why are you out here anyway?" I yelled. No acknowledgement. Oh, well, just let me by.
Back at the car, and still no shade anywhere except near the picnic area. Two bikers on a break, just staring at me like I was some sort of freak. Switch water bottles, get something else to eat, and pack up to head out. Hot. No shade. 26 more miles. My mind was calculating and recalculating again. Maybe I should just do 39 and finish this up tomorrow? That would be to the next stop 5.5 miles out. It really is hot. No way! I do not want to do 35 miles again tomorrow! Okay, just do the first loop and see how it goes. Once you get to the end, you will have to come back and you will be done.
This went on and on as I started on my third loop. This loop was mentally hard, because no matter how you did the whole route, this was the end, and it always seemed to go on forever. At first, I was cranking along at 16-17 mph, but then it suddenly hit me, and I was dragging at 10 mph. I must have a flat! Get off and check, and no, no flat. Just "flat" legs. This was one of those imperceptible inclines and it was kicking my butt. I seriously was rethinking again what I wanted to do. Fortunately this part was short lived and I was able to pedal through it. By the time I made it to the first stop on this section, where I told myself I would stop, I rode on through. I wanted to get this done! As expected, the next 7.5 miles dragged. Lots of cross streets, but thankfully very little traffic, so no waiting. Again, a deceiving part of the route, because someone has marked the last 2 miles and it seemed a whole lot longer. You keep thinking it has to end but it keeps on and on.
Again, I noted very little other people out and about, and this part of the route is almost half shade, so apparently other sensible people were beating the heat in pools or lakes, or whatever. But not along this path, however. Of the 4 really nice pools I saw in people's yards, none were being used. I'm not beneath begging, I thought. I'd jump in if you'd let me!
The end of loop 3 was done and this time it was 50 min., as was my second loop. I figured I was going to get a face full of wind going back, so figured another 55-60 min. at least, but mercifully the wind has died down, or else the tree cover was blocking it, because I never noticed it and kept up at least a 15 mph pace. The last two miles again are marked with trail markers, but I'm not really sure how accurate this is. I was just hopeful they were right, because I was cranking a little harder to get done. With my figuring of the other loops, I might be able to pull off getting done in 3:45, which would be at least 4 min. faster than any time last year! The end came finally: 3:44! Yes, get off this bike, clean up, head for the lake or someplace cool!
Headed out to Lake Michigan and the water was 75 degrees! A real treat. Relaxed for a couple of hours before heading back home to the hot box. Only 19.5 miles to go! Tomorrow's another day.