Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 30: Worthington, MN, to Mankato, MN

Today's Mileage: 103
Average Speed: 19.9 mph
Max Speed: 33.8 mph
Average BPM: Heart monitor is still not working 
Max BPM: See above
Calories Burned: Plenty, I'm sure
Moving Time: 5:10

Today I rode a century in five hours! So did Alex - the other honorary filly of The Geldings! Well, 4 hours and 58 minutes to be exact. Granted, it was with the aid of The Geldings' paceline, combined with optimal riding conditions. Good roads, no wind and rolling hills with overall declining elevation.

It was not an official personal best authentically achieved by completing a century in five hours, riding solo, without the energy-conserving power of a paceline, but considering that this was the fourth century I've ever ridden ... ever, I was pretty darn proud of myself.

Toronto Mark shot some video footage of the terrain while we were cycling more casually on a Minnesota backroad.

But the achievement was not without incident. An unfortunate incident that diminished the sparkle of the triumph. There were a few others who joined The Geldings today for an impromptu attempt at a five-hour century, including Edward (name changed because to protect the identity of the fallen).

Update: Edward wanted a cooler name so he has heretofore been re-dubbed Clint Eastwood.

We all learned an important lesson on when pacelines are appropriate and safe. A desolate backroad, like the one in the video featured above, is appropriate and safe - although at that point, we were riding more in a casual peloton. A busy highway with a shoulder littered with shreds of tires is not appropriate and safe for a fast paceline. In fact, if we wanted to make better and safer use of our time, we should have been pacelining on that back road and later spread the group out on the highway, but I think the video was shot before we realized that we were making good enough time to cycle 100 miles in five hours.

With less than 20 miles left on the day's route, we were pacing along at 23-25 miles per hour on the shoulder of a busy highway, pointing out upcoming road conditions at the last second, using tight, quick maneuvers to dodge debris, and a little voice in my head said: "Katie, the other people around you are more advanced cyclists, who might be more comfortable with these road conditions. You are not seeing some of this stuff until it's practically underneath you. There are eight cyclists in this paceline and your novice participation is adding to the group's overall risk. You are a beginner and barely know what you're doing. You might be in over your head and should probably pull out of this line."

Then, the Type-A personality that occasionally emerges from amongst a few multiple personalities that exist in my head said: "A century in five hours! Weeee!"

I didn't listen to my gut. Just minutes after my cycling angels of good and bad argued on my shoulder, a shout came from behind me, followed by the sound of crunching, skidding metal. The paceline immediately broke apart as we all slowed to look over our shoulders and pull off the road. Edward's Clint Eastwood's bicycle was in a crumpled heap on the pavement. I could see Dave, already off of his bike and running back to where Edward Clint Eastwood lay hidden in tall grass, nearly 15 feet from the road. As I turned around, I could feel my body purposely pedaling slowly. My heart was pounding against the sides of my helmet. I was so afraid of what I might see.

Edward Clint Eastwood was alright. Relatively. A large rock had been kicked up by another bicycle and had wedged perfectly and inconveniently under his front wheel, catapulting him over the handlebars. Luckily - if anything was lucky about the accident at all - he tumbled along the shoulder and into the grass, instead of into the vehicular traffic zooming by on the left. The sleeve of his jersey was torn to shreds. He was splattered with blood and clumps of dirt. His bicycle was practically mangled. Most noticeably, he needed new handlebar tape and a new saddle. Toronto Mark watched out for oncoming traffic while Jeff and Joe did what they could to straighten out Clint Eastwood's bicycle and make it rideable.

When we resumed our pace, it was not in a paceline. The group spread out, riding in twos. And somehow, Edward Clint Eastwood rolled onto the next SAG stop and then cycled the last 10 miles to Mankato on a broken saddle. Like a champ - even still making a five-hour century. The ABB staff was also incredibly efficient in their response to his injuries and the condition of his bicycle. He should be able to ride tomorrow.

Although Edward Clint Eastwood continued to insist that the accident was no one's fault, I could not stop replaying the sequence of events over and over in my head. What could any of us have done differently, I wondered. What could I have done to prevent the accident or lessen the risks? But Edward Clint Eastwood was right. It was no one's fault. It was everyone's fault. The most important aspect of a successful paceline is knowing when it's safe to use it.

We may have achieved a group-ride best today, but living to cycle another day was worth 10 five-hour centuries and all of their weight in gold.

More images from Worthington to Mankato:

Click here to see my entire photo album from Day 30 [TBA].

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Across America North:


Anonymous said...

Hi Katie, It's the Duchess here. No need to maintain "Edward's" anonymity. I saw the results of the incident on Skype...Ouch!!! I'm just relieved it wasn't more serious. Thanks for trying to keep "Edward's" cover story. See you in London.

Katie said...


Monique D. said...

Katie, i don't know much about cycling so perhaps i shouldn't write this but couldn't the rock have come from a nearby car? And even if it came from a bike, I guess i'd think/expect something like this happening regardless of being in a paceline or not, no? I'm glad Clint is ok :)

Katie said...

When we're moving at fast speeds in a paceline, it is harder to avoid obstacles - especially when you cannot see some of this stuff before the cyclist in front of you is already on top of it.

We point out upcoming road hazards - from potholes, cracks to debris - to cyclists behind us, regardless of whether or not we are pacelining, but at higher speeds, pacelining can become very dangerous ... as we learned firsthand.