Saturday was the Tour of Kansas City Gran Fondo. Linda and I had chosen to do the 100-mile route (which somehow had become the 104-mile route). Our friend, Wally, had talked us into doing this many months ago as a way to force himself to train for his half-Ironman race. We figured we hadn’t ever done a century ride, so it would be good motivation for us also. (We signed up for the Biking Across Kansas date after signing up for this ride).
However, now Wally was sick and not with us. Paul Beuchter (a friend from the KC Symphony Chorus) was riding, but he had changed his mind from doing the 104-mile route to the 54-mile route. We probably should’ve listened to him. He had done the route the week before and realized that the route plus the heat would be hard. We decided we could do it – besides, we’d just done a century ride the week before.
We saddled up at 7:20 for the 7:30 start. They had us lined up behind our average speed – the 14mph was the slowest one offered. We started out easy and it felt like this was going to be a great ride – slow and steady. However, the day wore on and got warmer and more humid. The SAG stops were perfectly placed and always seemed to be right when we needed one. The half PBJ sandwiches, fig newton cookies, pickles, and ice cold water with Gatorade powder was heaven-sent. The rolling hills after rolling hills after rolling hills were sent from hell. Every time I’d crest a hill, there was yet another one right after it. I believe curse words were slipping from he corner of my mouth by about mike 75.
Linda was a very strong rider for most of the ride. She’d trained hard throughout the spring and has been consistently attacking hills much harder than I have ever done. These hills were no different and she could’ve easily left me many times over. However, the heat started to take a toll on her and she started to wear out after 75 miles. We were both very tired and the hot humidity was really hurting us. We started taking frequent breaks and stopping every 3 miles in whatever shade we could find. Whenever we could catch our breath and calm our heart rate, we set out to attack the next set of rolling hills.
There were several times when the roving SAG vehicles would stop to check on us; we would just wave them on – until we started needing more water. By the 90th mile, we were beginning to be concerned that the heat would do us in. However, we kept cheering each other on and we eventually pulled in to the final run. The last few miles found me grunting with a sharp pain in my left knee. The hills and headwinds had created enough wear on my knee that every pedal stroke caused a hot-poker pain right in the middle of the joint.
We officially finished at 9 hours and 55 minutes (about 7.5 hours of actual pedaling time). This was about the time that we did the century last week – that was almost fully flat. We were cheered on by other riders that were lining the finish line. Cow bells were ringing, hands were clapping, and friends were cheering. I really wanted to celebrate, but all I could do was heave one pedal over the other to make it up the small inclined finish. Turns out, also, there was an additional 2.5 miles added in because of a “parade start” that had us do a small loop at the beginning. So – our 104-mile ride became a 106.8-mile ride!
Our final results listed me as dead last and Linda finished right before me. However, there were a lot of riders that were SAGed in and didn’t complete the ride. We, at least, can say we finished the ride.
There was a party and dinner available at the end of the ride, but we literally rode directly to the car and loaded up and went home. We were so hot and exhausted that all we could think of was a shower and air conditioning. We showered upon arriving home and immediately fell asleep on the bed – for at least an hour. So exhausted, but so proud of what we had accomplished.