We coated exposed parts in sunscreen, buckled on helmets and easily fell into riding formation, enjoying the cool air running over our bare arms. Our muscles were fully warmed up and ready to tackle the semi-steep overpass about 2 miles from home that we have to climb in order to get to the Suncoast Trail entrance on the other side. Again, we all felt that the climb has been getting easie, that we are making some real progress.
We entered the trail and I felt so good on my bike that I rode substantially farther ahead, letting my mind wander to packing my personal clothing pannier. I know I plan to take both pairs of my compression style mid-calf length riding pants, 2 sleeveless pullover wicking material tops with built in bras, 2 long sleeve wicking material pullover tops, lightweight cotton sleep pants and cotton t-shirt. Originally, I planned to take one pair of pants, a pair of board shorts style swim trunks (to pair with one of the sleeveless pullovers and function as a swim suit). Yesterday, I stumbled on a multi-purpose item that I'm thrilled about! While meandering through Gander Mountain sporting goods store in Ocala, I was surprised to find a pair of Mens super lightweight pants with the "zip off" legs that converts them to shorts ... IN MY SIZE!
I grabbed the 2XL pants and headed for the fitting room. I had tried on similar styles by Columbia and North Face but neither had the right combination. This pair of store brand pants offered ample but and thigh coverage, a 30" inseam AND a drawstring waist that will allow me to adjust the fit IF I should happen to lose an inch or two. But, the best part is that they were also made to function as swim trunks and had the inner netting built in "underpants". NOW, instead of packing a pair of pants AND a pair of swim trunks AND a pair of shorts ... I'll pack this one item, which will serve so many different needs. I LOVE IT! I'm trying to keep the clothing to a minimum amount and weight. In fact, my fleece pull over will also be my pillow nightly.
With all of that sorted in my mind, I continued to climb and glide down the many hills at this end of the trail. It seemed like we reached the end of the trail faster than last time. When we stopped at the picnic table for a snack, Frankenbutt test rode my bike since I had a few shifting issues en route, including my chain completely jumping off the gears at one point. He worked his magic while the Beast and I enjoyed Clif bars in the shade of a small tree. Only afterwards did he realize that our tires picked up sand spurs when we rode off the paved area in search of shade and cool air. We each inspected our wheels, pulling the individual tiny "splinters" from our wheels. NOTE to self: Call Schwalbe tires again regarding their generous offer to provide us with puncture proof tires at cost.
We all shifted into low gears to start the first big climb from the end of the trail. Again, our muscles warmed up pretty quickly and I shot out front. When we were 11 miles from where we started the trail, we stopped at the restrooms to refill water bottles and snack again. The Beast told me that the same little Jack Russell mix dog ran out on the trail after Frankenbutt, lunging at his calves. She said she got her Pepper spray ready quickly but that the dog ran off before she had to discharge it. I was disappointed to hear that; I think the little pup needs a good lesson. If you think that sounds harsh, please bear in mind that if the dog continues to mix it up with bike riders, he could easily end up hurt or worse. Maybe a spritz of pepper spray would lessen his desire to chase the bikes.
While relaxing at the covered pavilion at the rest rooms, Frankenbutt and I both felt that we could do more than 50 miles today. We took an extra long break and then informed the Beast who was not terribly enthusiastic about it. I told her that if we made it further than we've ever ridden, we'd all go to Rita's Water Ice to celebrate. She lit up. Behold the power of Ice Cream!
We got back into our saddles and rode to where we got on the trail this morning, crossed the intersection and started riding the beautiful, easy flat section of the lower half of the Suncoast Trail. Although we had just ridden a hard 40+ miles of hilly climbs, we all felt energized on the flat section. We all remarked how easy this section of the ride is: we were hitting speeds of 17 miles per hour, effortlessly. When we hit the turn around point, we found out just why it was so easy.
Apparently, we had a strong wind at our back that was propelling us effortlessly forward. Once we turned around, that same strong wind was now a brutal headwind. We dropped from 17 mph to a struggling 7 mph. Now every turn of the pedal reminded us just how far we had ridden and made the last 7 miles to home not only a physical challenge but also a mental one. During the 5 miles back to the road we take to go home, we all registered pain and fatigue. My mind started considering asking Frankenbutt to come back and pick me up with the car. I fought that because I know there will not be a "rescue" vehicle to help anyone of us out when it gets tough on our big ride.
We got to our road, made the u-turn to start up the overpass hill. Again, we had a strong headwind that forced each of us into our lowest gears. The Beast cleared the top first, then Frankenbutt and unlike earlier in the day, I lagged far behind. Once I hit the top of the overpass, I sailed down the other side, barely pedalling. I just enjoyed the free ride. Once the road levelled out, I spotted my husband and daughter pulled over waiting for me. We quickly fell into formation again and rode for home at a slower than usual pace.
When we pulled into the yard, the Beast announced we had ridden 59.12 miles and suggested we do a few laps around our neighborhood to hit the 60 mile mark. Neither Frankenbutt not I took her up on it. We were mentally ready to end the day's ride. The Beast expressed how disappointed she was in us and even got a bit emotional. I suppose the long ride affected her, too.
We parked our bikes and went in the house. We took turns getting showers while Frankenbutt cooked burgers. It's funny, we were all craving meat at that point. During the headwind part of the ride, I craved and drank more water in that 7 miles than I had in the first 40 miles of the day. Our bodies have been dictating what they need in order to keep us working towards our goal.
I'm quite sure that Rita's Water Ice was not a bodily need but it sure tasted good. Even Coco enjoyed a "doggy" cup of vanilla custard as we sat at the outdoor tables. It was a well deserved, and guiltless, ending to a challenging day. I'm looking forward to a good night of sleep.
PS- Gmom, sorry I didn't return your call; It was past your bedtime by the time I made it back from Rita's. I'll call soon.
PSS- Hara, thanks for your blog comment! Can't wait to meet you!