The Ten Thousand

A few weeks ago, I rode the Ten Thousand.  We had anticipated having a group of 5, but then the weather forecast suggested it would be really severe weather…and our group dropped down to Lenny, Tobie and I.  In contemplating whether riding was a good idea or not, Lenny said that, “To suffer is to live.”  (I realize that in the original Nietzsche, it is “to live is to suffer”, but I think Lenny said it better).  I was in.

As we rode up to Freeport the night before the ride, we were talking about the most memorable rides we had ever done.  I talked about the muddy sufferfest that was Brown County last year.  Lenny talked about a myriad of other similar experiences he had.  We both agreed that the rides which are the hardest, in the worst conditions, are the ones that are often the most amazing.

We briefly partook in a pre-ride gathering at Freeport Bicycle Company, and then hit the sack for a good night’s sleep before the ride.  In the morning, the weather forecast suggested that we would hit rain first thing in the morning, and then would either perish in a tornado, or would have moderate weather all afternoon.

We signed the incredibly well-drafted waivers, and prepared for the ride at scenic Krape Park in Freeport.

There were two ride length options–about 75 miles, and about 125 miles.  You know which one we picked.

The Moots was packed with 3 bottles (I had a 4th in my jersey).

I also had a small Tangle bag (you can see below, about 45 miles in).

For food, I had a mixed bag (literally).  I had a bag of salted cashews, a few energy bars, a few gels, and a packet of roasted and heavily salted yukon gold potatoes that the Mrs. had made for me.  (Brendan had turned me onto that option a week or two prior, and it was wonderful).  Immediately before the ride left, I downed a sandwich and a few pickles.  On the ride, I had a gel at mile 20 and started eating potatoes at mile 30.  (The picture above is at the mile 45 rest stop, where I was refilling water bottles).  Note on water: there was a water stop at 45, and gas stations at 80, so I only had to bridge 45 miles max.  I took four bottles, anticipating that I’d use 2-3 (weather dependent) and have a fourth for emergencies and/or to help other riders.  As it turned out, that strategy was perfect, and I never touched the fourth bottle.

On the rollout, it did start to rain moderately.  No wind, no lightning…just a moderate, warm rain.  Nothing to frown about.

I should note…pics are by Chad Gregory.

When we got to gravel, it was wet, but not unduly soft.  The going was good.  Here, you can see Team Axletree–me on the left, Lenny second from right, and Tobie on the right.

I brought a camera but no memory card (d’oh) so I didn’t get any pictures.  As it turned out, that was a good thing…it let me focus on the ride.

By the rest stop, we had established a good pace and knew what to expect from each other.  I had (as noted above) eaten a gel and a few potatoes.  Shortly thereafter, I finished my potatoes and had a energy bar.  I had a gel around mile 65.

We spent a good chunk of miles 20-60 with Andrea from World of Bikes.  WoBAnd was an incredibly strong rider, and held her own when we were with her.  She was also pleasant company to ride with.  She endured our karaoke and questionable humor, and held a great pace.  Her goal was to finish in 12 hours, and by the end of the day, she had done so.

The roads were amazing.  I had done a preview ride a few weeks earlier, but the 125 mile course had even more to offer.  The route was truly majestic, and had inspired choices.

Around mile 70, I started to feel like death.  I wanted nothing more than to get off of the bike.  At mile 78, I could see the town that had a gas station in it, but it really seemed like a good idea to get off of the bike and look at that town from 2 miles out for a while.  I didn’t stop or get off the bike, but only because Lenny and Tobie were pushing on.  We got into town, and I saw a gas station to our left, about 1/4 mile up the road.  I wasn’t sure if that was our stop or not, so we turned and went there.  I was desperate to get off the bike.  (On a related note, had I mentioned that most of my training rides were no longer than 70miles?)

At the gas station, I must’ve looked pretty bad.  Lenny looked at me and asked how I was.  I told him the truth–I said that I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, and I wasn’t sure what was on the other side of the cliff.  He gave me a concerned look, and suggested that I not go over the cliff.  I downed a gatorade, a bar and a bag of salted nuts, we paused for about 5 minutes, and then got back on the bikes.

As soon as we were back on the bikes, I felt immensely better.  Much, much, much better.  In retrospect, I believe that is what they call “bonking”.  Having never done it previously, I can say that it sucks.  A little sugar and a few more calories in me, I was recharged and ready to roll.  We got back on route, and rolled past the Casey’s that was the intended stop for riders.  Since we had just stopped, we rolled past (and watched the jaws drop on other riders as they assumed we were just going to finish without stopping).

The temps were in the 80s, light wind, and relatively overcast skies–the weather was pretty ideal for riding.  (The only downside is that we were soaking wet all day from the morning’s rain, which left some weird skin abrasions on my legs, under my bibs).

We reached Hanoi Road, and rolled through under pretty good conditions.  By this point, some 95 miles in or so, we were all pretty quiet.  We would ride our own pace up the hills, and regroup at the tops.  If Tobie or I dropped off, Lenny would go back and mother hen us back together.  I can genuinely say that it was pretty amazing seeing how unfazed he was by the day’s riding.

With 15 miles to go, we saw a few other riders in the distance.  Recognizing them, it mustered up all of the remaining gusto I had left.  If we could see them, we could pass them.  I got down in the drops and poured out the rest of my energy into the pedals.  We passed them, they grabbed on for a few miles, and then they dropped off.  The last 10 miles was essentially Lenny pulling us back into town (with Tobie offering him a few respites).  I did not contribute anything to the group effort for the last 10 miles.  I was cooked.  But we did finish the last 15 miles at over 20mph average speed.

We finished in just under 10 hours elapsed time, with two five minute stops (rest stop at 45, gas station at 80).  The route was fantastic, and the ride was incredibly challenging.  I learned a great deal about myself and about what it feels like to bonk.  I also learned more about how incredible my friends are.  The Moots, in ever typical Moots fashion, was flawless and perfect all day–I couldn’t think of a single thing to change.

I don’t know how to conclude this ride report.  It was incredibly challenging–far more challenging that Almanzo, and many times harder than the Gravel Metric.  It was also incredibly rewarding.  I am unbelievably grateful that I decided to ride, and that my friends persevered and rode as well–and thankful for Chad Ament’s fantastic efforts in finding and devising such an incredible route and event.

How to finish this?  I’m already thinking about how to do it better–and faster–next year.

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