It’s a beautiful day for math!

It is a perfect day. Too bad the century ride is tomorrow. The sun is out, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful and so are you…wait,

The title comes from the kids’ algebra teacher. I rode past him on the footbridge on the way home from the co-op, buying supplies for the camping weekend…

As I set up camp, the front blew in. The sky turned dark and the wind kicked up. The temperature began dropping. I closed up the tent before going to Sister Bay to pick up my ride packet. The threatened rain (whose chances and number of hours forecast kept shrinking as the week wore on) never came, but it will be a cool ride tomorrow. I’ll be getting up at the usual time for work due to a 7 AM start two towns up the road from here. Carbo-loading tonight with pumpkin tortelloni covered in pesto I made this morning.

I got up in the dark, normal at home but a little different when camping. Breakfast and coffee and off to Sister Bay at 6:20. First decision – what to wear. The temperature was in the low 50s (11 C), with a forecast high in the mid 60s (18 C) and it wouldn’t get to 60 (15 C) for a few hours. I opted for a long sleeve jersey, figuring it would be good all day, and shorts, figuring they’d be chilly at first but the right choice later. In a variation on the old bike racer trick of stuffing newspapers down the front of the jersey, I used the plastic bag we got our swag in. No ink on your chest, and no peeling off the disintegrating newspaper when you sweat through it. I needed that for the first 25 miles. My knees were cold in the morning and the sun felt pretty good when we were in it.

I avoided the mass start, not liking anything with “mass” in it these days. I rode out with someone I would see off and on all day. We started at a comfortably slow pace. The other advantage to avoiding the mass start is avoiding the adrenaline rush of the big crowd, which makes me ride faster than I should with 100 miles ahead of me.

At the 28 mile rest stop they served brats – only in Wisconsin (at 9 AM). I passed. A few miles on, I saw topiary in the shape of a camel. I wanted to stop and take a picture, but there were barking dogs on the other side of the fence. I figured they’d go nuts at someone stopping right outside their gate. It didn’t matter, since 100 yards later I came upon a couple of real camels grazing.

Camels? in Wisconsin?

At 46 miles I was hoping for some substantial food, but there were only melons, donut holes, and cookies. I noticed I was riding faster than I intended to, so I thought I’d slow down a bit to save strength for the end. A few miles on from there, R from Milwaukee rode up beside me. I had seen him coming and figured he’d pass me, but he settled in and started talking. The next 15 miles flew by – both because I don’t notice them while chatting, and because we were riding faster than I intended.

At mile 64 his family was waiting to meet him. After saying hi to them we started off with 5 more of his friends we met at the rest stop. From there to the mile 80 rest stop was easy going as a result. At that stop, all the talk was about the big hill coming up.

We hit that hill at 85 miles. It was pretty much like the average sort of hill we climb several of on every local ride. The Milwaukee crew disappeared behind me on the way up. I didn’t see them again. At mile 90 I talked to a couple of Ironmen (I don’t know why we don’t call a woman who completes one of those an “Ironwoman”, but we don’t.) I didn’t plan to keep up with her or her partner. They hadn’t done our local Ironman last week, but were planning two others this fall. This was just a warmup.

The miles were starting to take their toll after that as we rode into a headwind. A group of about 8 passed me with 6 miles to go. As they were young enough to be my children, I wasn’t tempted to try to keep up, even though it would have helped with the headwind. Miraculously, they did not disappear up the road and I followed them into Sister Bay after 101 miles and 6 hours and 6 minutes in the saddle. I had expected it to take 7 hours. The free beer was a welcome sight. Even better, they had several choices – all from One Barrel Brewing. It was a perfect day for the Oktoberfest while wading in Green Bay.

It was, by the way, a great ride – well-organized, through beautiful country, and less crowded than the more famous ride up here a week ago (which I did once and will now avoid). In a week, we’ll see if I can do it again (though close enough to home to sleep in my own bed).

Not an Ironman

Wednesday night’s ride covered some of the ground of Sunday’s Ironman Wisconsin. We periodically saw orange route arrows taped onto the roads. We climbed 100 feet/mile, which doesn’t sound like a lot but is about the same rate of climbing as the Horribly Hilly Hundreds or the Death Ride. We rode 30 miles instead of over 100, but then, we did it after work. When Ironman participants ride these roads, they will do it after swimming 2.4 miles in open water. After riding 112 miles on these roads, they’ll run a marathon.

On the way to work the next morning, I saw green arrows marking the run route for Ironman. When I take a different route to work, I see swimmers (accompanied by kayaks) practicing on the swim route.

Will the Ironpeople have time to watch the sunset over these soybean fields?
I saw this sign on last Sunday’s ride. It captures the half-fast cycling ethos, even when we’re training for a century.

Sunday’s ride was a reminder of where the white people who settled this area came from. We met in Verona and rode through Frenchtown, Belleville, Monticello, and New Glarus. Of course, before them were the Ho-Chunk and their ancestors, the Mound Builders. The meet-up point was inaccessible due to road closures for Ironman, so I wandered a bit before finding a place to start. A few miles in, I joined the planned route. Twenty miles in, I saw the ride leader. Forty miles in, I stopped at a christian classic car show and saw a few more riders I recognized, but mostly I rode alone. You might wonder what christianity has to do with classic cars. I do. Old cars were parked at an angle around a one-block park. Very few people were looking at the cars. Most of them were in folding chairs listening to a preacher. I found the deep purple 1957 Chevy much more interesting.

I never tire of looking at contour farming.

ADude I follow wrote about riding alone and riding in groups, wondering which we prefer. My answer is “yes”. Riding in a group has the advantage that someone else can plan the route and you can follow a cue sheet. Riding alone has the advantage that you can go where your heart takes you and follow no plan; or have the fun of planning a route. A group lets you talk to people. Alone lets you be with your thoughts. A group give you the opportunity to draft behind someone and save energy. Alone means you can watch the scenery and not pay attention to the person in front of you. You can ride at your own pace. A quick pause here to run outside. The laundry is in the back yard but:

The laundry is hanging in the basement or in the dryer (and the rain has stopped), so back to riding. Somewhere in between those two is riding with a friend or two. I’ve been riding with this guy for about 45 years. This picture is from the 80s, when I was visiting back home from California and riding a borrowed bike. So ride alone, ride with a friend, ride with 100 friends. I don’t care. Just ride.

Half-fast in the mid 80s.
Can you spot them here, 25 years later?