The Dairyland Dare

So I have been putting off writing this for various reasons. I guess the biggest one is my own idiocy though, so here we go.

Sorry, this is going to be long.

The Dairyland Dare or DD is an organized group ride, not a race. As you may or may not be able to tell from looking at the DD website, although there was chip timing, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to actually retrieve my time from, so unlike every other event I’ve done, I have no idea how I did relative to other people. They didn’t post timing info until this morning (Saturday, 18 August). Full results can be found here. To find my results specifically, hit CTRL+F and type “815.”

It turns out I finished 6th in my age group (out of 7 women), or 258th out of 312 people who did the 150k. My watch time was 7:24:15.88, but my chip time was 8:31:11.

Yeah, I lost.

I originally started training for the DD back in late May/early June, right before I hurt my leg and had to stop running for a while, primarily because I wanted to do something bike-related without suffering drowning myself during another triathlon. I’d elected to prepare for the 150k, and then maybe “if things went really well” I’d do the 200k (distances go from 50k/31 miles to 300k/no one knows how many miles this is). After my injury, the PT gave me permission to do whatever I wanted for cross-training as long as it didn’t hurt, and since biking generally didn’t hurt, it seemed like a fine way to keep my cardiovascular fitness and prepare for an interesting challenge while waiting for my leg to heal so I could get to some damn marathon training.

RIGHT SO what actually happened was that I found that biking alone takes a lot longer than running (I can run 15 miles in under two and a half hours. To bike 50 miles takes at least four hours, and 50 miles isn’t even an exceptionally long training ride). Usually I do my longer runs with friends other people (haha, Noel) such as my running group, B, or even my dog. But I don’t know anyone who bikes. This makes things a bit boring. The best ride I had was where I met up with someone who needed directions and was forced to ride with me for a good ten miles.

The other thing I discovered is that I’m pretty slow. On one really good ride I hit 14 mph average, but although my goal was to average 15 mph, I was usually MAYBE around 13.x. This would always demoralize me, but also it extended the amount of time I had to spend out biking–if you’re only going 15 miles, an extra two miles (about nine to ten minutes) is no big deal. If you’re going, say, sixty miles, the difference in time becomes 4.6 hours at 13 mph versus 4 hours at 15 mph—a difference of about 40 minutes, a long time!

My training was not awesome. I did most of my riding out on the Ironman WI bike course, which is a GREAT course, but about half the total climb of the actual DD course (by which I mean the DD course has 10k feet of climb over nearly 100 mi, so 50 mi should have 5k feet; the IM course had about 2.5k feet of climb over 50 mi). I peaked at a long ride of 70 miles or 238.33 miles for the week, then took a two week taper.

Then, only a week before the event, we went through a family crisis that I won’t rehash here, except to say that it was kind of difficult and traumatic. At the time, I told B I wasn’t sure I was still up for the DD. B said he thought I should not give up, that I would be unhappy in a few weeks when I looked back on all my training and realized it was all for naught. I thought this had some wisdom to it, so I agreed that I would persevere. Under the circumstances (lack of sleep, inability to eat a large quantity of food at once, anxiety), I gave myself permission to do the 100k if things went really badly.

Waiting to take off.

The first 50k

B drove us out to Dodgeville on Saturday morning and I started out in the 7:00 wave (a bit later than I’d wanted to, but not a big deal). The early part of the course was very fast—I did the first 5 miles in 17:29.41, about 17.2 mph. I was exhilarated through the early miles, and thought that if I could keep the pace up, I would be done in way less than my estimated seven hours.

After the first rest stop (mile 16-ish) I noticed the hills were changing in character a bit, getting steeper and longer. The maps distributed to us marked most of the really steep hills, but after a while it began to seem more like the markings were just to indicate a road that was incredibly hilly. Toward the end of this section, I noticed my knees were hurting on the hills. I finished the first 30 miles in 2:13:22 [watch time; I don’t have the exact time for the first 50k because 1. My watch records a reading every 5 miles and 2. It was actually like 33 miles instead of 31]. At the end of the first 50k, I stopped briefly to take off my long-sleeved shirt and raise my bike seat (a bike seat that is too low can cause knee pain). I was feeling pretty good at this point.

The second 50k

The second 50k started with a long flat stretch going down the road between Dodgeville and Governor Dodge State Park, and I made good time. Because of some detours, we got two loops of GDSP, about which let me just say—wow, what a beautiful park. I hope I get a chance to go back and run some trails in there. I know I’m not a hard-core park-going person, but I can kind of not believe that this place is within an hour’s drive of my house and I’ve never done a race there!

The main road around the park makes a loop of just over five miles; the first half is primarily downhill and very fast, the second half is mostly uphill and very steep. About two-thirds of the way through that uphill, we hit mile 38 and the next rest stop. When I got off the bike to use the latrines at the rest stop, I noticed I was feeling some pain under the ball of my right foot. This had happened once before on a training ride and a friend had suggested it meant my cleats were too far forward. However, although I actually had a pocket knife with me, I was worried that changing anything would make the situation worse, so I just grabbed a gel and a banana and got back on the bike.

In retrospect, this was stupid—any change would have potentially been an improvement, and if not, well, considering how things came out it would hardly have been worse. BUT I couldn’t have known that at the time, I guess.

On my second circle of the park, my knee (left knee) started acting up again, so I stopped and raised the seat again. This time it didn’t help, which should have been a clue for me…

I got to mile 50 at 3:44:11 and took this picture:

I was feeling good (the pain was going away when I got off the bike, so I assumed it was nothing serious) and even jauntily texted my mother to let her know I’d call her in another 47 miles. I did ask the medic on duty at the rest stop if he had anything to help me, but the best he could do was offer me an ice pack. Not too helpful.

At mile 57-ish (officially 58.4, but that’s not what my watch said), I came to the turn-off for the 150k. I still kind of wonder why I did this, because it was pretty clear that my knee was not going to get better, and my right foot was hurting every time I pushed down on the pedal on that side.

And, you know, I could have turned around, too, because it seemed like almost as soon as I got off the 100k route, things went directly to hell. Between miles 60-62, there was a hill—just a long, slow grinder that went on for the better part of two miles and left me in pain and exhausted with nearly forty miles to go.

I reached mile 65 in 4:25:08.

The third 50k

Looking at the map for the 150k, I noticed we were running out of hill markers—three remained before the first rest stop, then two more, then another two and we were done. At the point I stopped to look, I had already ground up that long hill I already mentioned (County Z), so I really had only six hills left! Huzzah. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as all that.

Here, in case you are curious, is the elevation profile for miles 60-97.

Do you see how between miles 70-75 there’s a dip, then a really strong rise? That was one of those hills that sort of rises up in front of you like a wall. It was at least as steep as any of the really big hills out on the IM course (like the one on Old Sauk, or County highway Jj going into Mount Horeb, which I know is not on the official IM course but 92 was closed this summer), and quite long. I saw a number of people getting off to walk (including one tall man in a blue jersey [Mr. Blue] who I’d been trading places with over the hills for five miles), and the guy ahead of me in a red white and blue jersey that said “Brooklyn” on the back was progressing up it in a series of switchbacks. Of course, it didn’t look <i>too</i> bad compared to what I’d been training on, so I dropped to my smallest chainring and went right up it.

If I hadn’t already been in pain, I actually don’t think it would have been too bad. It was definitely the steepest hill of the day, though, and I was more than a bit demoralized when I got to the top (another rest stop, around mile 74) and realized how long this was taking. I was not going fast, nowhere close to the 15 miles per hour I needed to hit 7 hours…and of course I actually completely blanked on how long I was spending at rest stops, because I was stopping my watch. At the mile 74 rest stop, I texted B an apology. He said he was fine, happy to wait, and he’d see me at the finish.

At this point, I figured—eleven miles to the next rest stop (about 40 minutes?) plus another twelve or so to the finish after that. Totally do-able. Only four more hills. So I took off.

The next rest stop was near mile 85 (at the time I texted B. that I was at 84.23, so that must be it). At the time, my average speed was 13.2 miles per hour. I hit mile 85 at 6:26:37, which is a long time to be on a bike. I was also pretty demoralized by this point, but there were only two more hills between me and a hot shower. I said as much to Mr. Blue, who happened to be returning to his bike at the same time as I was.

“Two more hills, that should be easy for you.”

I laughed.

The first hill (Farlook Road) was a grinder, nothing too terrible. Slow, but I managed it. But then we came back to County Z and County Z at ZZ. This was not so much a single hill as a series of hills similar to the one I’d ridden up on County Z during my first visit. It took me a while and several short but steep climbs to realize where I was. Finally I hit a section of downhill. I was flying and there were no more big hills between me and the finish line. I reached down to grab my water bottle.

Suddenly, a bee flew into the gap between my sun glasses and my eye. With one hand holding the handlebars and one holding my water bottle, there wasn’t much I could do. I screamed in an undignified manner and flailed uselessly. With my left hand, I managed to steer the bike to the side of the road and stop. Almost simultanously, I unclipped a foot so I wouldn’t fall over, return my water bottle to the water bottle cage, and grab my glasses off my face. By this point the bee, being fed up at being trapped, had stung me. On the eyelid.

Suddenly the bad mood, fatigue, and low blood sugar I’d been fending off for the last twenty miles came down around my shoulders. I stood at the side of the road and cried.

Another rider I’d passed earlier went past: “Are you okay?”

I couldn’t answer. As she rode off, I heard her say to her friend, “It must be some kind of insect bite.”

Yup. That was at mile 88. I reached 90 at an average speed of 12.1 miles per hour and finished (96.62 miles total) in the times mentioned above, average speed of 13.0 mph. Not awesome, but at least I crossed the finish line under my own power. B met me, by the way, and very kindly brought me my stuff so I could shower; then we went home and I crashed on the sofa for a while.

I look sad and chubby here. In reality I am neither most of the time.

And that’s everything that happened and nothing that didn’t.

Well, onward and upward.

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