Ramblings, musings and generally boring stuff. Mostly about bikes...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Stupid Century 2008 - Short story made excruciatingly long...

Background: Phil and I have done some great rides with Mary Kay, David, Ed, Jim and Todd. We wanted to "give back" by organizing a century ride. Over several days, I created and revised probably 8 different century routes. Each time, I came up short - 83 miles, 89 miles, 93 miles. Though emails with Mary Kay, we determined that Sunday 8/17 would work best for everyone's schedules; however, 8/17 was quickly approaching. I'd nearly given up when I scheduled to meet with Mary Kay at SLBC to discuss it further. Mary Kay advised that in the past, the August Century had been dubbed the "Stupid Century", due to previous rides featuring 105 miles in 105 degree heat, or the 120 mile ride lengthened by a wrong turn.

The planning:
Weds. 8/13, Phil, Mary Kay, David, Todd, AJ (MK &D's son) and I met at SLBC. As we ate dinner, we discussed our recent frustrations, but conversation soon turned to the century ride planning. With the designated date fast approaching, I was concerned about finalizing the route. We'd brought along Phil's lap top to complete the route on Mapmyride.com; however, we couldn't get connected to the interwebs. Despite this, we started throwing around ideas. Another feature of the conversation, Todd mentioned that he and Vicki were planning to do the moonlight ramble. As a joke, some one (maybe me?) suggested starting our century with the Ramble and riding all night. We continued to joke about this, altering the plans a little here and there and soon, we found ourselves planning our first night time century ride.

The Ride:
The Ride began at 7:30 pm at Maplewood Bikes. Mary Kay, Phil and I drove to the shop, so we could end there and drive to breakfast at IHOP. When Ed rode up (from home) on his bike, we immediately started trying to figure out how to fit all of us and bikes in the two cars, to get to breakfast. This was a priority; the ride was contingent upon it.
We also discussed phase two of our route, since in my haste to get to the start on time, I left our beautiful cue sheets on my desk at home.
We left a few minutes late, due to some strategic placement of lights/glowsticks that we would use as nightfall approached. The route started down Big Bend, with Phase 1 featuring the Maplewood Saturday morning South County route. The sun stayed with us, just until we approached Weber Hill Road. Of course, my companions gained some ground on me on this climb and were the first and only one's to notice and subsequently scare off several deer at the top of the first hill. After darkness had set in, it took a few minutes for my vision to adjust. After a few miles of blinking front light, I decided I might have a seizure and switched it to solid illumination. There were a few scary spotsL: I got stuck in a crack in the pavement right after St.Anthony's and nearly crashed myself. Extreme darkness on the rolling hills off Bauer, Keller; we all quickly learned how important senses other than sight were and had amazing "feel" of the road. I dropped my chain on Mattis and to put it back on by feel. The decent on Theiss was made more challenging by a few on coming cars with their brights on, leading to temporary blindness! Phil found the tire sized hole on Von Talge that I had fallen into last week. We made it safely to Mary Kay and David's house after 2 hours.
After a quick rest, refill, relieve, we started on our way back to the shop, adding David to our motley crew. 5 short miles later, I noticed the clock at Big Bend and Manchester read 10 and commented that we were rolling back to the shop at the same time we usually do on Saturday, only PM instead of AM. At the bike shop, we grabbed extra batteries for lights, extra lights and strategically placed glow sticks. (Don't borrow David's)
Phase 2. North on Big Bend we go. It was curious to see a police vehicle slow to give us a long stare and eventually a friendly wave. I think scheduling the ride on the night of the Moonlight Ramble helped us avoid looking Totally strange.
Phase two was not without it's challenges. Since I had left the cue sheet safely on my desk at home, we had to go by Phil and Ed's memory of the ride. Keep in mind that they have always done this route in the daylight, pretty much starting at the person or wheel in front of them. Ed commented that he noticed entire buildings that he never saw on previous rides. We turned off North & South into a neighborhood of very mixed demographics, and soon found ourselves doubling back and trying another street. As we approached a deadend, dark street, we realized we were indeed lost and David announced he had a flat. Ed optimistically stated "no you don't" but he really did. We pulled under a street light and I vacillated between feeling safer being under the light and feeling like a sitting duck. While flat changing ensued, Ed rode off and found how to get us back on track.
Flat fixed, we rode off into the night again. At this point, we headed up 82nd Street to Midland. From Midland we turned on Link and again found ourselves in extreme darkness. Off link, we climbed some good hills in a neighborhood and came out on Ashby. Some light changes were necessary as batteries were running low and the realization that we still had 25 miles to go and 1 hour to make it happen was setting in. One of the rules for Stupid Century: Be flexible. We cut our Second phase short and headed back down Midland toward the Moonlight Ramble.

The return trip down Midland was largely uneventful, except that Phil thought we were going to stop at a quick trip and when this didn't happen, he watched his water supply quickly dwindle. We made it to Forest Park around 12:15, where the streets were being blocked off. Clearly, this was to be the Moonlight Ramble route and we were headed against the flow of traffic. Fortunately, we made it just in time to avoid running into anyone, but we did get some strange looks from the organizers stationed on the route - as we rode backwards on their course! We turned off at West Pine to continue east to the Moonlight Ramble starting location at Soldier's Memorial. Some one commented "oh that must be more of the route" as we passed more police cars and a cross street roped off with some police tape. But there was something odd about this sight - as there were also those little numbered cups that usually mark bullets/shells. Yikes!
Soon we were headed down Lindell on our last leg of Phase 2, soon to start Phase 3: Moon light Ramble route. Our plan was to head down Lindell to 20th and over to the Soldier's Memorial; however, at Jefferson, there was a flood of Ramble riders. We quickly assessed that we could not cross this flood. We also quickly noticed that our timing was amazing, as we ran into our friends Deeds, Doc and Jason. Phil and I stopped to say Hi. While this was going on, Mary Kay was assessing the situation and figured we could merge into the ride, then turn left to head to the starting location, as the rest of the ramblers headed right. As she turned onto Market, I saw her and navigated the turn. Behind me, David soon turned, then Ed, then no one.... no Phil! We waited a few seconds and then road back to the corner, thinking he was still talking to Jason. We waited some more, then called his cell. No answer.
We were not sure if he turned left else where and was headed to the start location, if he was still waiting for us or if he turned right and went along the route. More phone calls (we later learned he couldn't hear his phone). After much debate, we agreed to head down the route, thinking he was riding with Deeds, Doc and Jason.

The Moonlight Ramble:
Wow, Chaos. We tried to pass as safely as we could but the roadway, all 4-5 lanes in some places, was full of every type of rider, bike and speed. I got stuck behind the bubble blower on some ladies bike and ended up eating bubbles for a while. It was very cool to ride on Forest Park Parkway; however, as we reached the off ramp to forest park, most of the riders were stopping (SUDDENLY) to walk up the ramp. More Chaos! Then there was a bottle neck at a rest stop/turn around point for the short route. The route then took us through Forest Park, passing the Visitor's Center, Grand basin and UP ART HILL! - Lots of walking here too, but fortunately everyone stayed to the right. Near the zoo, we caught up to Doc, Deeds and Jason - NO PHIL ?!?!. I asked Jason what happened and I heard him say that Phil knew were we were and went to catch us. We asked if he turned left and went back to the start adn he said yes.
We continued on, thinking Phil had been at the start all along. We did a loop around the zoo and headed back toward the parkway to go back down town. Somewhere in there I heard my phone ring and (don't tell anyone) answered it while riding 'cause it was Phil! He was at the start/maplewood truck and sounded angry. I told him I'd round up everyone else and we'd call him back. We stopped in the park, trying to figure out what happened; however, due to vivid imaginations, childhood guilt and poor cell reception, we thought Phil had gone to start to wait for us....and waited. When we talked to him, we thought he hadn't gotten to do the Ramble route 'cause he was waiting for us! We bolted back to the start/finish (no small feat with thousands of people around). We even heard some heckling from the crowd -people calling us "Lance" for wearing "the shiny shorts" (As Monica called them)and jerseys.
We finally reunited with Phil, each of us sure that he would be angry with us.
Stupid century Rule #2: Contingency planning is key!
Phil was NOT angry at all. He explained that he did not see us turn left at market and thought we had just jumped on the route right away, so he rode as if he was behind us, trying to catch us! All was good, until we realized it was 2am and we needed to get 22 miles in before the Stupid century would be complete.

Phase 4:
Down to Broadway we go, thinking we can go up Holly Hill and back to the shop. Even in our sleep-deprived stupor, we start to realize that this will not equate to 22 miles. We immediately start to devise additional route options. We ended up taking Ed's cool, super secret short-cut to get to Holly Hill. We dropped off Ed and David at Ed's house (remember, Ed had ridden from home and already had 15 miles on us). The brains were working overtime as we tried to figure out how we would get all the people, cars, bikes to the IHOP, while ensuring that Phil, Mary Kay and I completed all 100 miles. At this point we were doing everything we could to add miles here and there. We rode to St. Louis Hills, and headed East on Jamison, then came back up River Des Peres, back to Jamison, over to Arsenal, southwest, machester, sutton, through Sunnen business park (twice), finally ending with exactly 100 miles! It was just after 3am!
We packed up and drove over to IHOP, where we enjoyed large amounts of food. From there we went our separate ways to home, to bed.

The Aftermath: Phil and I hit the sheets around 6am. We awoke around 9:30 (?)
I felt dizzy, hung over-like. We watched TV, ate a little and went back to bed around 12. Slept a few more hours. As the day wore on, we felt better and even managed to clean, cook and prepare for the work-week. We were in bed by 9:45.
Mary Kay reported that she slept about 3 hours and felt the day was getting away from her. She was up and going, took a short nap later and early bedtime. By Tuesday, she indicated she felt good.
Ed didn't say how much or little he slept. He did say he rode again on Sunday. I am begining to think he's doping....

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