Most of the forecasts on Friday showed a high chance of rain, ranging from around 70-90%. Things did not look good for my second attempt at Lexington Medical Center’s Colon Cancer Challenge. I reached out to an organizer, asking if there would be a contingency plan if storms were to occur. There wasn’t one, but she assured me that they would monitor the course and bring people off the road in the event of dangerous riding conditions. That was good enough for me. I joked that I would pray, cross my fingers and even do a rain dance, hoping for clear skies in the morning.
One of those things worked. When morning came, that chance of rain diminished to around 10-20%. This ride was happening! On the way, I encountered a strong storm pocket, which actually reassured me. The storm was moving on. Fortunately the weather would turn out to be oddly similar to last year’s event, maybe just a little warmer.
Despite the threat of bad weather, turnout was great. I estimated between 75-100 people lined up for the 65-mile route. They had a nice pre-ride ceremony with a testimonial from a cancer survivor (get those colonoscopies, people!) and a nice rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by a young vocalist.
Then we rode. I have come a long way in the last year and wanted to take a step forward this time. Last year I hung with the lead pack until the hills of Wash Lever Road. This time I planned to stay with them longer. Originally I wanted to ride without stopping, fueling myself along the way, but the potential for rain changed that.
I felt good early, hanging with the big pack with my heart rate steady. The pack would gradually get smaller. When we hit Wash Lever Road, we kicked it into another gear. I was still feeling good and able to hang on. When the hill came, I braced myself and buckled in. The heart rate crept upward and I let out a few gasps, but clung to the pack without a struggle.
We descended into the little town of Peak and around the hairpin curve. This was exhilarating cycling at this pace. I was a little worried about the curve because of wet roads and the handful of raindrops we felt on the way up. It turned out to be no problem. We glided through the curve and soon began the climb up to Little Mountain, maintaining a blistering pace.
It was around the 25th mile where I started to feel fatigued, which was probably more to do with my lack of fueling. I had downed one bottle of Gatorade and that was it. My body needed more. A friend was also beginning to tire, so we decided to drop at the Little Mountain rest stop. We had gone 30 miles at close to a 23 mph pace, leaving the group of about a dozen by that point. It felt good knowing that I could have continued if I could eat along the way.
At the rest stop we were greeted by a full moon. Dr. Ben Dover had his colonoscopy patient ready for the procedure. The kids were in costume and having fun with the theme while promoting a good cause. As I remembered from last year, the volunteers were more than supportive. This was again a very well organized ride.
A few others who had been dropped near the same time grouped together. Fortunately this was a group of people that I knew well. It is always nice to ride with friends. We took turns riding into the wind and maintained a constistent pace around the Dreher Island loop until we were back at Little Mountain and ready to take Wash Lever Road back home.
Coming out of Mike Stuck Rd (more on that in a future post), we saw a group of riders. At first we thought this was the lead pack adding some extra, difficult mileage. As we got closer, we noticed no bib numbers. This was a random group of fast riders who just happened upon our route. “Sit in,” Scott suggested. No worries there. We rode their wheels most of the way down the road. As we reached a big hill, a few of us sprinted. I still had some gas in the tank and caught up with the fast group, most of whom were also sprinting. That felt pretty good.
We arrived back to sunshine, a catered lunch and camaraderie. So much for the rainy day. I ended up averaging right at 21 mph, which is the fastest metric century I have done.