The Eleventy is an annual event–a capstone on a season of riding. A memorial to another summer spent in the saddle. My Eleventy ended up being 113 miles, 4,323 feet of climbing, 4,000 calories burned, an average speed of 17.3mph, and 14 great friends along for the ride.
It was a chilly start to the day, at about 55 degrees, overcast, and windy. We had a constant headwind, all day, of about 15mph. So as we prepared to roll out of DeKalb, we knew we had wind, climbing, and miles to go.
Bikes were ready outside NCC, including a pretty Sworks bike with some Edge carbon clinchers…
And in the distance, the Ridley (with another Ridley)
Through the graciousness of Team Spam, we had the Other Pink Meat-mobile again this year.
Riders got ready in the parking lot, preparing for the rollout.
There, you can see Super-Feller, Gore-man Gecik, Matt-who-has-no-nickname (formerly GMatt), and the edge of BPaul.
Frank the Tank, Chris Jensen, the edge of Nevdal, and Pittsley.
After a pre-ride libation, we rolled out of town. Skies were just starting to break as we headed out.
For me, it was shop kit + arm warmers + gillet (wind vest) + gaiter (Buff) weather. And I was perfectly comfortable.
We started the day out with 14 riders. Here are some, but not all.
If you were on the ride and do not have a picture above, apologies. Perhaps you are taken elsewhere.
My ride planning started a couple days before the event, with meal planning. Heading up into the land of dairy and fried foods doesn’t leave me a ton of options. Fortunately, I have the world’s most awesome wife, who prepared me for a day of hard riding.
If there was a way to quantify and measure love, this cooler would be a good start. For breakfast, pre-ride, I had a can of Coke, a hard-boiled egg, and a protein shake. Over the course of the ride, I had:
- 2 egg + dijon sandwiches.
- 2 GF/DF apple muffins.
- 1 Larabar.
- 1 bag of GF/DF chex mix.
- 1 chocolate almond milk protein shake.
- 1 small container, dill pickles.
- 3x Honey Stinger honey packs.
- 1 pack of energy gels.
- 3 bottles of Gatorade.
- 3 bottles of water + Gener8 powder.
- A couple scoops of watermelon.
Nutrition would not be a failing of mine on this ride. I learned from Night Bison that if I can manage my exertion (try for steady efforts instead of sprints) and food, I am a much better rider. The Eleventy proved that theory yet again.
The ride setup would be to ride as a group of 14, and intercept the bus every ~30 miles to grab water and a snack.
The Spam Bus was manned by Peter.
You ride for moments like this, with clear skies, good friends, and a ribbon of asphalt that extends north, over the horizon.
And for views like this:
And friends like this:
Those pics are BPaul, laying it down, and in repose, respectfully.
As the day went on, temps moderated to around 72 degrees–perfect cycling weather. We still had a headwind, but we had a good group to rotate through pulls, and on the whole, amazing weather. Some of the guys–predominantly Frank, Chris and Tobie, took more than their fair share of pulls. Frank, in particular, was indomitable. He would just go, and go, and go. It was really and truly impressive. I would make a comment here about hoping that I can ride as well as him when I’m as old as him…but won’t, for fear of what he’ll do to me on the next group ride.
The first ~100 miles of the ride have a lot of rollers, but not big series of repeated climbs. The last 15 has what seems like the most significant climbing.
My theory on the climbing…
The last 15 miles of the ride include County Highway X, which has a couple of relatively big (for the midwest) climbs. The climbs start with a few rollers and then more into full repeats, starting low and pushing up to the top, rolling back down to the bottom, and repeating a climb to the top, several times. My guess, going into it, was that I was looking at about 45 minutes of significant climbing effort.
When we got to the first couple of rollers, the group I was riding with stood out of the saddle and pumped up the hill. At that moment, the Spam bus was watching, and I really wanted to hang on to the group. But as I remembered the hills to come from last year, I decided to gear down and hold a pace that I could maintain through the climbs to come. I dropped into the little chainring and spun the biggest gear I could ride while maintaining 90+rpm. On the steepest of climbs, I was in my smallest gear combo (39×28) and dropping down to ~85rpm, or about 9.3mph. That was about as “slow” as I let myself go.
I knew that I had a pretty substantial weight advantage (between 20-55 pounds, depending on the other riders in the group), and hoped that by keeping my spin on, I’d be able to catch back up to the group as the climbs repeated. My theory worked, and about halfway through the hills, I picked up the tail of the group. By the end of the hills, I had worked my way up towards the front, although I never did quite get to Frank and Chris. There’s a huge advantage in climbing, in being light. On the inverse, there’s a huge advantage in descending, in being heavy…and it was amazing to see guys blow past me on the descents, coasting, while I was pedaling. But I’d reel them back in on the climbs, and eventually work my way forward.
According to the Garmin, my max 20 minute average during the climbs was 307 watts. That’s about 4.65 watts/kg, for you power geeks out there.
The Eleventy isn’t a competition. But in the hills at the end, everyone pours on whatever they have left. I felt good about how I had ridden all day–taking appropriate pulls (although I was apparently having some problems surging, as was related to me on the Spam-mobile later in the evening), and riding a good pace. Other than the breakaway at the start of the hills, as related above, I hung with the lead group all day. And the hills are something of a friendly competition. I felt, and feel, really good about my riding. I was with a strong group, and held my own. I was aware of my strengths and limitations in the hills, and used them to my advantage to let an early ‘attack’ go, and to reel it back in later, in the steepest areas–I wasn’t exhausted from trying to hang with the first dash up the hills, I was at a power output and cadence I could sustain, and I had a pretty good feeling that I could pull back up to the group. Honestly, because of my competitive nature, it was really hard making the conscious decision to let the group go on the first hill, in the sight of the guys on the bus. But it was the right decision. I get slayed by the monsters in the group on the flats around DeKalb all of the time. It felt good to be riding my best, and to be gaining on them. It felt good to finish the ride with a few drops of gas in the tank, rather than rolling in dead, or rolling in after having been dropped.
It felt even better to finish with them, as a group, and know that we had all ridden our best.
There’s a corny ring to saying that everyone who rode was a winner. I’ll live with that corniness. Everyone who rode was a winner. No matter if they finished the ride in the saddle or in the bus, we all had a great time. No flats, no mechanicals, no injuries. Everyone pushed their limits, everyone rode magnificently, everyone ate a big dinner.
I smiled all day. Yeah, there were times when I grimaced…pics will probably start to surface over the next few days…but I smiled. Sincerely. Out of joy. It was a joyful day. A fun, challenging, great day.