This Saturday continued a local cycling tradition of riding around Lake Murray for 65 miles and then having an afternoon picnic. Thanks to Lane and Tony for putting everything together! Of course it was my first time doing this route. I had been to the lake more than a few times, most notably earlier this year for the Tour de Lake, but never in this direction.
Turnout was great. My guess is around 30-40 riders participated, most of which also stayed for the feast afterward. With this many riders, pace was not an issue. You could ride as fast or slow as you wanted and were assured of riding with others. My primary concern was beating the scorching sun. I wanted to pace myself enough that I wouldn’t get tired, but finish up early enough to avoid the 102 degree high in the forecast. We started at 7:30AM, so we had plenty of comfortable riding weather.
We started out by crossing Lake Murray Dam and then tracing the lake counter-clockwise. I settled into a big group going at around 20mph, which is a good pace for the mostly rolling hills course. The early going was a grand old time. We went fast, the route was scenic, traffic was scant, and the weather felt great. We reached the first store stop, a little more than a third of the way through, mostly feeling great.
Somehow the pace picked up after the rest stop to around a 22 mph average. I was riding strong, keeping up without a problem, although this was probably not a pace I could have pulled. As we crossed over a scenic bridge, I slowed off the back to get a photo (below). I pushed a bit to catch the group again, but right when I had caught them, the person who had been pulling transitioned to the back and gradually started to drop. I pedaled along, not knowing of the gap ahead. When I noticed, the gap had grown quite a bit. I stood up, sprinted to get back, when another pulling transition occurred and this guy also got dropped. I saw this one coming, but traffic didn’t allow me to pass. Once I had a free moment, I was dropped and no longer had the energy to catch up. No worries. I faded back into a smaller group of 4-5. We worked together most of the rest of the way.
As the clock ticked later, the temperature got hotter. The last leg of the ride was extremely difficult. The course was rolling hills, but many of the climbs were prolonged and relatively steep. There was little shade, which for me made it even tougher. I had difficult sun experiences earlier in the week, which may have compounded to make this one even tougher. Someone suggested I might have had a slight sun stroke on Tuesday, which takes time to recover from. Even when the temperature crossed the 95 barrier, I was still chugging along, keeping a good pace and cadence, but I was definitely feeling it.
About five miles from the finish, when the heat was over 100 degrees, I was painfully exhausted. I was no longer able to keep up with any of the groups. Not knowing the way, I was worried I might get lost. Fortunately a friend waited and directed me back. With three miles to go, I started staggering. The sun was just killing me and I was feeling disoriented. For a moment I even felt I might pass out. I hated to stop again so close to the end, but my head needed a break. We found a nice spot of shade for me to recover. I took a couple minutes, gathered my strength and made it back to the lake house without incident.
After re-hydrating and getting changed, I decided to jump in the lake in my bike shorts. It felt amazing! Within an instant I felt completely recovered from my heat deprivation and exhaustion. The fun part was to come — food!
We had hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, desserts, you name it. There was a ton of food, more than enough to replace what we had collectively burned throughout the morning. It was a great time and I look forward to doing it again next year.