I had a really hard time finishing the 400k in May. But I was fine for the first 150 miles except for some minor digestive issues, probably caused by eating too much Gu at once. So I resolved not to do that and assumed that the next 200k would be easy. Ha!
The start was fun. It was a nice cool morning, and there was a big, pretty fast group at the front, and I stayed mostly at the back of it where I belong. There was one really sharp blind left turn, which led to a rider falling and hurting his shoulder and needing to quit the ride. Get well soon Jim. I'm glad that nobody else piled onto him. Several people stopped with him to make sure he was okay, and the rest of the group kept going.
On one medium-sized roller, for no good reason that I can recall, I decided that everyone was climbing too slowly and charged off the front. My solo break lasted for a few minutes before a smaller group caught me again, and it was a dumb waste of energy. I need to stop doing that.
By the time we reached the first control, my stomach was acting up a bit, even though I hadn't eaten anything funny yet. (Pasta with chicken for dinner the night before, two bowls of cereal for breakfast.) Maybe just riding too hard? I didn't want to bonk, so I ate a Clif bar and a banana, both of which are usually safe foods for me. (Though the banana was a bit on the ripe side.) I left with the second group, Chuck and Crista and Mark. I was still feeling too full of energy and still pushing too hard at the front of the group.
We went up over Mar-Lu Ridge. My bike has 50/34 compact double and a 13-29 cassette. But it kept autoshifting out of the 29 cog into the 26. So I was climbing in 34×26 instead of 34×29. That first tough climb finally cured my desire to go too fast, and I dropped to the back of the group, which had been joined by Chip and Eric.
At the top of Mar-Lu Ridge, when I shifted back up to the big ring, the chain overshot and fell off on the outside. This time I managed to get it back on while still on the bike, by soft-peddling while fidding with the front shifter.
I'm a wimpy descender, and Chuck and Crista descend like Evel Knievel, so I got dropped going down the other side. I caught up again on the flats (wasting a bunch more energy to do so) and rode with the same group (minus Chip, who had flown off the front) up the big hill after Burkittsville, but then got permanently dropped on the big descent down Townsend Road (which was bumpy, and shady enough that it was hard to see the bumps with my half-fogged sunglasses).
I almost missed a left turn at a traffic light in Sharpsburg, and had to make a U-turn and wait for the light again. Tyler caught up with me, and we rode together from there to the second control at the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop. I love that place — indoor plumbing and yummy food. Unfortunately, my stomach was still unhappy, so I limited myself to a cheese danish, a cranberry juice drink, and another Clif bar. I really should have skipped the danish and picked something blander like bread.
The weather was cool enough (mid-80s) that I thought 2 24-ounce Polar bottles would be enough. I failed to notice the 50-mile gap between the second and third controls when I looked at the cue sheet before the ride. I should have brought my Camelbak or a third bottle, or looked harder for water along that section.
I left the control with Chuck and Crista and Mark again, but C&C had a flat in Shepherdstown so Mark and I kept going, knowing they'd catch us eventually. Then I hit a big bump on MD 34 and lost a water bottle, and by the time I retrieved it and adjusted the taillight that I'd knocked into my spokes in my rush to retrieve the bottle before a car hit it, Mark was out of sight. So I rode fast, and he eventually realized I was missing and rode slowly, and I caught him again. And then Chuck and Crista caught us, before the big climb up Reno Monument Road.
I'd done that climb once before, and I remembered that I'd had to stop and rest a couple of times. So my goal this time was just to make it over without stopping. I made it up the first steep part in my 34×26, and caught back up to the others on the flat bit, but then started suffering badly on the second part and decided to let them drop me rather than to keep wasting energy keeping up. So I stopped and rested for a minute until I no longer felt my heart pounding in my throat, and got a drink, and then started moving again (which took two tries because I didn't manage to get the second foot over the top and clipped in the first time, a sign that my brain was a bit fried) and slowly climbed up and around the next curve — and realized it was the summit. If I'd known the top was so close I would have kept going and rested on the bike going downhill.
Tyler caught me again while I was waiting for a red light in Middletown. We rode together for a while, then I almost missed a right turn. I finally saw the sign before I was completely past it, but but I'd been going fast downhill in high gear and forgot to downshift while looking for the street sign, and the turn was back uphill, and I couldn't manage to pedal uphill far enough to downshift, so I had to get off and lift the rear wheel and hand-spin the pedals to downshift it. It took a while to remember how to do that; my brain was clearly a bit cooked. So while I was rediscovering things that I'd learned about bikes when I was about 6, Tyler dropped me going up the big hill on US 40, and then went out of sight up Shooktown Rd.
I rode solo for several miles, then saw Tyler on the side of the road with a flat. He had a big gash in his tire, and had forgotten his tire levers. So I lent him mine and stayed with him while he fixed it, in case he needed more help. His patch failed a while later, so I stopped again and waited while he swapped a tube. Then a few miles later his new tube blew up with a bang. The hole in the tire needed patching. He tried booting it with a dollar bill, but wasn't confident that it would hold. Eventually Eric came by with a tire boot, which held for the rest of the ride.
The cue sheet showed a 7-11 10 miles before the next control, and I was almost out of water, so we headed there at a pretty good clip. We re-passed several of the people who'd gone by while Tyler was fixing his tire. Tyler pulled the whole way and I just followed; I was pretty dead at this point. When we got to the 7-11 (featuring a picnic table in the shade!) I drank a bottle of chocolate milk and filled my bottles and used the bathroom and let everyone else go, so that I wouldn't be tempted to ride too fast to catch up. Unfortunately, the chocolate milk didn't help settle my stomach, and I was starting to bonk by this point because I couldn't make myself eat enough.
Then it was 10 miles to the next control (another 7-11, this one without a picnic table). I still felt bad so I drank a 32-ounce Gatorade and took another bathroom break, then resumed riding alone. Went over a nasty hill on Buffalo Road, then a moderately steep hill on Watersville Road, then we were done. I took this last section very slowly, coasting on all the downhills, spinning slowly on the flats, and climbing the steep bits at 4 mph.
At the end my stomach still hadn't recovered so I didn't eat any post-ride pizza. Just headed home, showered, ate a banana, and went to bed early.
The moral of this story? Don't go too fast early. Make sure your lowest gear works okay before a hilly ride. Bring enough water. Eat. Same as every time. (Except this time I didn't get lost or suffer any serious mechanical problems, other than not being able to use my easiest cog.)
I don't really know what made me sick, since I didn't eat anything weird. Maybe just riding too hard early on?