What did you think about as you rode?
- I tried to make my daily posts to Strava and Facebook interesting, so I was thinking how to title and describe the day’s ride. That doesn’t seem like a big deal I know, but summarizing the day’s ride in a few words wasn’t so simple. It seemed to work, though, such as “big miles despite self-induced adversity” generated curiosity (and the answer was: leaving my water bottles at the hotel- nooooo!)
- I had to focus far more on the road than I expected. Conditions such as road debris, potholes, and traffic required constant attention through the 10-12 hours of daily riding. Courtesy varies A LOT- many people give 3 feet or more and wait patiently for a place to place. Many don’t- and it only takes 1 to create a scary, dangerous situation. So I had to focus constantly. And of course, I had to think about the course. Here’s the elevation profile in the Rockies and the Appalachians (x-axis is miles from the start, y-axis is elevation in feet): my Garmin would show me the upcoming elevation profile like
, so I’d be thinking about climbs coming up.
- I tried to spend quiet time with God and prayer, although less active prayer as much as contemplation and trying to listen to God. I have to admit, I feel some regret that I didn’t take greater advantage of this time. It’s not likely that I’ll ever have 250 hours of solace in a month ever again in my life. I could have used my alone time better.
What was your daily routine?
My wake up time varied from 330am (when I had to get an early start in the desert) to as late as 7am, but typically around 6. Get dressed, eat some breakfast- with my Warmshowers host, hotel, or packed food if nothing else was available, and pack the bike. Usually I could do that and be riding within about an hour.
Ride all day- averaged 9-10 hours of riding plus a couple of hours of stops.
I had a definite routine as I reached my stop for the night. First was to drink down a bottle of Clif Recovery drink (which has protein and nutrients that are most effective when consumed within a half hour of finishing strenuous exercise). Then I’d plug in electronics to charge- there were many to rotate among charging cables- my Garmin bike computer, electronic drivetrain that needed charging every couple days, head and tail lights, phone, etc. A long shower and finding real food for dinner were the next priorities, plus spending time sharing travel and bike stories and talking about the ride with my Warmshowers host (about a half dozen nights). If I were eating alone, as I was about ¾ of the time, my dinnertime entertainment was sorting through the day’s pictures and posting my ride to Strava and Facebook, and looking ahead to the next day’s route. I’d pack the bike at night except for what I needed in the morning, to try to get moving as soon as I could after waking up.
And I’d call home each night of course. That’s one embarrassing story. As I left Cameron, Arizona a few days into the trip, my phone wasn’t charging. I debated trying to find a phone shop, but decided to ride for the day, then look for one. I arrived in Kayenta, AZ mid-afternoon, with a rare stop at a chain hotel- a Hampton Inn. I knew Alisa would be worried, not receiving even a text from me. In this digital age, I couldn’t remember her phone number. I recalled most of Alisa’s number, but couldn’t remember the 3 digit exchange. I called my parents, but they didn’t have it, nor did they have Jenna’s number, who I knew had Alisa’s. Suddenly it popped into my head. I picked up the phone in my hotel room, and called her. She answered hesitantly, not recognizing the number of course. I told her what had happened, and she understood. Then she reminded me- to my chagrin- of my “Road ID” necklace I was wearing- which has my name and emergency contact information. Her phone number was literally hanging around my neck the entire time!
What did you eat?
Breakfast was usually oatmeal, pancakes, or cereal at a hotel or Warmshowers host. I definitely tried to eat as much as I comfortably could to start the day. There were some occasions that both breakfast and dinner came from a convenience store and a couple grocery store stops. That meant things like dry cereal, maybe juice, granola, and hard boiled eggs. On the bike food consisted of my Clif supplied products- bars, gels, shot bloks, and energy food (several flavors such as mango and pizza and sweet potato for variety). As I got into the ride, I began to crave “real food” through the day, but couldn’t afford long stops. My go to choice was Subway breakfast sandwiches- essentially a sub, but with scrambled eggs. It provided a good 20-30 minute break, and I began to look for Subway’s on most days, which I usually found.
Dinner consisted of whatever carb source was close by. A couple times I had to ride my bike a mile or 2 to dinner- doesn’t seem like much after 130 or 140 miles but was the last thing I wanted to do. A couple times I downed pasta for 2 or an entire medium size pizza (double what I’d normally eat), then a dozen breadsticks. For the one time in my life, I hoped to find an all you can eat buffet- but never did, although I think I nearly bankrupted a couple of Pizza Huts by the number of salad bar trips I made! I did have a few hamburgers, accompanied with veggies or some other carbohydrate. As much as a beer tasted good after a long day’s ride, I focused on rehydrating and carbs, so only treated myself to a single beer every 4-5 nights. I did treat myself to dessert every single night- often 2 or more desserts! No guilt whatsoever! And I’d almost always have a granola bar or some snack in the middle of the night.
I didn’t track off the bike calories (my on the bike bags of Clif bars consisted of about 2500 calories while riding), but it had to be a lot. Another frequent question- did I lose weight? Not much, perhaps a few pounds, though I think I overcompensated when I returned home and added a few pounds.
I can’t say that I felt full for nearly a month. I’d eat and eat, and still feel hungry.
Through the day of riding, I would stop often and probably averaged 3-4 convenience store stops per day. I’d fill up on water, Gatorade (I had Clif drink mix, but only a couple bottles per day), and often a salty snack, usually potato chips. It wasn’t unusual to stop for 10 minutes, down a 32oz Gatorade plus some water, fill my water bottles with both water and Gatorade, and eat some potato chips and perhaps a Clif bar before getting back on the bike. On hot days, I’d soak my arm sleeves and neck gaiter in water- the refreshing coolness felt incredible, though it only lasted a few minutes.
How did you feel at the end of the ride? Were you happy that it was done?
Actually, no. I was tired, but fatigue peaked a few days into the ride and was relatively stable the rest of the way until adrenaline kicked it up the last few days. A plot of my average daily heart rate is below (heart rate going down at the same level of effort indicates increasing fatigue). Some days were harder than others of course, but I honestly felt like I could have turned around, and ridden back across the country.
Did you learn anything during the ride?
Even though I didn’t visit any new states, I learned and saw a lot. Sights I will share in future posts. Here are my top 6 “lesson learned”:
Cycling (and life) philosophies:
1- Never give up!
2- It doesn’t get harder, you just go slower.
3- There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad attire.
4- Just keep pedaling!
5- There’s no such thing as can’t- only won’t.
6- If I can do it: anyone can.
#5 is the most significant, and goes hand in hand with #6. One of my Warmshowers’ hosts- Kenny Smith- related a story to me about a 16 day rafting trip he took with his wife Patsy. Kenny told me “you won’t be the same person after this trip”. I looked at him and didn’t really understand. He went on that “you’ll face many different conditions, adversity and fatigue and you’ll get through them all. You will discover that you can overcome anything”. I thought a lot about Kenny’s comments the rest of the ride. He was absolutely right. I’ve always been a “can do” type of person, and pride myself on finding ways around obstacles, and consider that one of my leadership abilities. But the ride took it to an entirely other level. I never feel powerless, and having overcome the challenge of riding across the USA, I know that there is virtually nothing I can’t do. It’s all a decision on whether I want to badly enough. The same goes for you!
Next up: the ride starts in California