Today was an excellent training day (see more about that at the bottom of this blog). We opted to take the "hilly" end of the Suncoast Trail because we suspect there might be a few hills once we clear the Florida border. It's tough to find hills in Florida but we lucked out that the north end of the Suncoast trail actually offers some challenging climbs.
When we first ventured to the north end of the trail about a month ago, the three of us panted and shifted into the lowest of gears just to make it to the top of each crest. Today, as we pedaled up the overpass to get onto the Suncoast trail, we all 3 noted how that climb is getting easier and easier. In fact, Frankenbutt stayed in the highest gear he has ever attempted on the overpass hill.
As we entered the trail and I fell into my cadence, I couldn't help but feel good. The air was crisp and the sun was shining and I pedaled along sorting out in my mind all the things I need to take care of at home. I heard my blackberry ding a few times but I was glad not to be able to look at it as I rode (I keep it stashed in a zippered front basket bag when I ride).
I found myself lost in my thoughts and taking in butterflies and cows and pigs along the trail side. There was even an adorable little jack russell mix pup just sitting in the grass on the side of the trail. I smiled at him and pedaled on and then noticed out of the corner of my eye something moving. I looked over my shoulder to find the sweet little dog tearing a path in my direction, with teeth bared. I was pretty far ahead of Frankenbutt and the Beast and recalled that the Beast had our emergency Pepper Spray. I shouted at the pup but it didn't deter him and he was soon taking jumps at my leg. I threw on the brakes and skidded to a halt and he ended up shooting past me, startled. At that moment, I noticed that I just skidded to a halt at the bottom of a slope, where I had built momentum, and was facing one of the bigger climbs on that end of the trail.
Crap! I hate when I don't get the advantage of momentum I've built up to use on a coming climb because of something dumb! This dog was the "dumb" of the moment. I found myself cursing the dog out which evidently must not happen at his home, because he froze and tilted his head side to side, looking stunned. About this time, Frankenbutt and the Beast catch up to me and from their perspective, I was harassing a sweet little dog who looked terrified. As they approached, the dog shot off into a field and disappeared.
Once I explained the incident, Frankenbutt instructed the Beast on the easiest way to use the pepper spray that sits in an easy access pocket on her handlebar bag. That was our first chasing dog incident and I'm sure it won't be the last. Note to self: get pepper sprays for Frankenbutt and me, too.
As the ride continued, we all discussed how much easier the longer distances are getting. Mind you, we did all have individual aches and pains but we made it 24 miles to the end of the trail, looking forward to a lunch break. Much to our surprise, the trail ended at a dead end and there was no access to local roads. We took a break at the picnic table and Frankenbutt looked up the closest place to eat while the Beast and I cracked and ate Pistachios.
Frankenbutt discovered that the closest restaurants were about 15 miles back from the way we came and would require getting off the trail for another 1-2 miles. We decided not to let our muscles cool down too much. We put our helmets on and headed back up the trail, feeling pretty good. When we reached the turn off into the town of Brooksville, there were no restaurants in sight. We got into our standard road riding formation, Frankenbutt at the rear, the Beast safely between us and me out front. We rode beside 3 lanes of traffic on our side and managed to maneuver around a substantial amount of road debris. I spotted a Panera Bread about a mile from where we left the trail and turned in.
Again, there were no bike racks anywhere to be found in the area. Finally, we gave in and hooked our bikes to a sign pole in front of the plaza. We ordered sandwiches and asked if we could refill our water bottles with ice and water. Frankenbutt recently purchased Camelback water bottles that provide terrific insulation and the water stays cool and good for hours. When our lunch order was ready, we sent the Beast to pick it up at the counter, laughing that we could ride so many miles and be too lazy to walk up to the counter ourselves.
Following lunch, we had to cross six lanes of traffic to get back over to the trail. We follow the national bicycling rules and recommendations and ride with the traffic, following traffic signals as if we were a vehicle, er, an automobile. I'll admit that the sound of traffic whizzing by is unnerving but it's a fact of the ride ahead.
We found our muscles had cooled down and we did a nice slow pedaling warm up as we got back on the trail. We also found that we were feeling a few more aches and pains. When I start feeling that way, I holler out to the Beast, "How many miles so far?" To my amazement she said "43". I asked Frankenbutt how much further, and he guestimated 7 miles. I did the math and realized that we were likely to hit 50 miles on today's ride.
WE DID! We rode 51 miles and lived to talk about it! I can't wait 'til we get out 65 mile per day, 3 day ride started. That's the training point we agree we need to reach in order to launch the ride prepared.
After resting for a half hour or so, I got up and was surprised to feel fine. Frankenbutt is a bit more achey and the Beast is just fine. We rode lots of miles, breathed fresh air
and smelled flowers in the air and moo'd at cows and shoo'd at a dog ... and we are ok.