Written by Aaron..comments by Justin in green, Dave in blue and Jim in red.
When I found out that I would be the only one out of the team that wouldn’t be at the Trailnet Ride the Rivers Century….I felt a little like maybe it wouldn’t be so bad and it would be cool to have us all together for once. Now…don’t get me wrong…we’re not roadies….but sometimes it’s fun to try something different once in a while.
Once we were all signed up…it didn’t change our training habits one bit. I was getting to ride about once a month, Jim built a new bike so he was doing a few shakedown runs here and there, Dave was riding his new mountain bike like a madman and Justin…well…we still don’t really know, although he is either doping or he has been riding a lot, but more on that later.
Justin: I have been riding a good amount starting back in September, as September and October are the only two months in the year that I have free from coaching lacrosse all week long. I had to make the most of the free time while I could. The “training” and the blood transfusions really made the ride very enjoyable.
Jim: This ride was to be an experiment with me. I wanted to see if I could knock out 100 miles on 4 months of little to no training, mainly because I had a hard time finding time to ride. It’s a paved road, how hard could it be?
When we first arrived at the park…it was a bit on the chilly side, but clear skies and a warm afternoon was promised. The group assembled, fumbled around a little bit and set off for the most awkward start of a ride I’ve ever had. There was no start actually, you just get your goodies from the awesome volunteers and go for a ride following the 1000’s of turns on the cue sheet or whatever color arrows you feel like following on the pavement.
Dave: Noob. It’s all about the pink arrows.
Justin: It really was the weirdest start to an organized ride that I’ve ever experienced, but not at all in a bad way. It was actually kind of nice to just get your stuff together and get going whenever you saw fit without having to deal with every other rider trying to do the same thing at the same time.
Jim: We finally weren’t late for a race/ride start! I’m glad the course was so well marked, because reading that que sheet would have added another 3 hours to the ride.
We were weaving back and forth between parking lots, public roads, trails and dirt….all the while questing if we were on the correct route. Eventually we caught up with a group of riders heading through historic St. Charles…which is beautiful. I could tell right away Justin was excited…and it was clear we would be holding him back on the ride.
Justin: I didn’t feel held back and was actually having a great time riding with a group as I have to ride by myself most of the time.
Jim: Yes, Justin looked like a kid running towards the gates of Disney World.
All the goofing around, taking in the scenery, goofing around and talking made the mileage seem to fly by. We were soon at the first big hill of the day…which wasn’t too steep…just long and we were lucky there wasn’t too much traffic on the road. Lots of the ride was flat so for me the hills were a welcome change of pace. After that was just cruising through the urban of greater St. Louis.
The first stop was at the Natural History Museum, I was amazed by the sight…bikes everywhere, volunteers filling water buckets, making sandwiches, cutting up fruit…it was awesome! At that moment…I knew it was going to be a good day, and I didn’t need the camelbak stuffed full of stuff that I’m used to carrying on a long ride.
Dave: Yeah, this ride is definitely a far cry from DK or the Ogre. I only brought a backpack because of the insane temperature swings STL experiences in October, and I knew I’d be shedding layers.
Justin: I had stuffed my jersey full of food that I never touched and will definitely have to bring far less next year. Those PB and Honey sandwiches they provided were phenomenal as well as the goldfish. Does anyone else remember the commercials for goldfish where they used to sing the tagline “Goldfish, the only snack that smiles back until you bite their heads off!”?
Jim: Agreed, there might be something to this whole “supported” ride thing. Rolling though down town was one of my favorite parts of the ride. That section would make a great out and back with a lunch stop. This is also were we ran into “that really nice guy” that you meet on big rides like this and chatted with him for quite a while.
We rode on through downtown STL, and hit some pathway along the Mississippi river along some really not so nice scenery…but hey…it can’t all be forest park. We did get some pretty cool views of the new suspension bridge and some good laughs along the way. Jim was in the zone.
Dave: You don’t appreciate the burned out industrial wastelands of North St. Louis?
Justin: On one solo ride not too long ago I thought that it would be a good idea to ride this stretch at night. Never again.
Right before crossing the mighty Mississippi, we were treated to another refill station…complete with tons of trail mix, cut oranges, bananas, and icy cold drinks to refuel.
Riding over the bridge we were at around mile 40ish and all feeling really good still, despite the lack of serious riding for Jim or I.
The miles from here to the lunch stop were pretty sweet river bottom views. There were big fields, boats, nice pathways, lakes and lots of friendly people enjoying a day on the bike.
Jim: There was a section here where the bike path crosses a bunch of small rollers. At the bottom of each was a gate that you had to nearly completely stop to weave through. It was a bit tedious. After a couple of these we noticed that we had lost Dave. We then spotted him on a parallel road, flying along. I’m pretty sure he knew about those gates and didn’t tell us. I think it was some form of Ride the Rivers hazing.
Dave: I thought I warned you guys about the gates. Maybe you were too far in front of me to hear. I’m kind of amazed more people don’t opt for the highway shoulder through there.
At the lunch stop…we were around mile 60 and feeling ok…the wind was proving a worthy opponent for my legs, but I was hanging in here, but behind the rest of the team almost always. The rest of the guys seemed way better off that I was. Lunch was fun… along the river in Alton at a park was a really nice place to sit for a while and ponder how much fun we were having. The topic of conversation seemed to always steer towards finding a motorized way back to the car, but there was no hope.
Justin: Once again the lunch was super well organized and an awesome change of pace from what we are used to in other races.
Jim: It was nice to lay down in the grass with the warm sun and cool breeze. I probably could have stayed there all day eating free cookies.
The next 20 miles or so was bittersweet for me. The energy from lunch had me going really well, despite the wind…after drafting off a group for a while…it happened…I bonked. I didn’t realize it but the rest of the team had dropped off behind me…so I was essentially alone cruising along. The wind was so prominent it made me want to stop and chill for a while, but the scenery was so beautiful that somehow it kept me happy and pedaling. Pretty soon Justin caught up…we talked for a few minutes and he went ahead…then Dave and Jim caught up, and quickly dropped me. I tried to hold on to the back of a couple pacelines that passed me…but there was no hope…I was cooked. The black wool jersey while really nice in the morning, had been too warm for the afternoon heat. It seemed like hours from here to the next stop…even though it was probably only a ½ hour or something. I pulled in to the visitor center and everyone around looked like they were feeling the effects of the wind too. After getting some cold water on my face…ice cold sliced pears, and refilling water bottles I was feeling good again.
Dave: Alton to Grafton was interesting this year. It was way easier than last year when I was facing a 20+ mph direct headwind and was lucky to do 12 or 13 mph through here, but I definitely wasn’t able to average nearly 20 on this stretch like I did the first two times I rode this. I was definitely happy to arrive at this pit stop though. With them switching from Gatorade to Hammer for their energy drink, I needed something other than water to drink, and was able to secure a couple cans of Pepsi from inside the visitor center. Otherwise, I was going to have to make an unscheduled pit stop at a gas station in Grafton.
Justin: This stretch was definitely the most difficult of the ride for me as I just get really frustrated in the wind when I feel like I should be going so much faster. We did manage to maintain a respectable pace though which I was pretty pumped about.
Jim: The 30 and 60 mile spots of a ride is where my body feels it. We were having too much fun to register the 30 mile spot, but I was feeling the 60 mile blues. Experience has proven that some extra food and water, and that crappy feeling passes in about 10 miles. Which was the case here as well.
After leaving here it wasn’t too far and we were riding the coolest paved trail I’ve ever ridden…picture your favorite flowy mountain bike trail paved over and that’s what we were riding. It was easy to get enough speed downhill to make it up the next short climb with only minimal effort and all the smiles were back…it was really a lot of fun.
It didn’t last very long…and soon we were in the middle of a primitive rendezvous surrounded by bikers and people wearing animal skins…wish I had a few minutes to walk around but we had a ferry to catch.
Dave: Not to nitpick, but the rendezvous was before that cool trail. That was definitely weird riding through though. I was afraid I was going to hit someone.
Justin: The paved mountain trail was easily the most fun I think I have ever had on my road bike (as far as terrain goes). I would head out that way and will do the ride again just for this section.
Jim: It was like a fast and smooth paved mountain bike pace line. I’m guessing we were averaging 17 or so in a line with 30 other riders. It would have been a great time for a helmet cam.
The wait at the ferry wasn’t terrible…as the guys manning it let all the cyclists on at one time…which was a lot of bikes.
The next 10 miles or so were the hilliest of the ride. The wind wouldn’t quit…no matter where we turned…it always seemed to be right there in my face. It was a beautiful part of the ride though…flowing meadows…farms and nothing much else. By this point I was not feeling good… the wind was taking its toll on my legs and my mind, and the hills didn’t seem to help. We had one more ferry to cross, then a support station on the other side. They had gummy fruits…ice with some water in it and some candy bars…it was all very tasty.
Dave: I was able to secure another can of Pepsi from a soda machine at the restaurant before the ferry. That proved to be the magic elixir I needed to get back to St. Charles.
Jim: I definitely felt those hills, but it was some awesome scenery. I should have taken some pictures, but my lungs and legs wouldn’t have restarted after a stop.
From here we had about 10 miles left, but it seemed to take forever. The wind was ferocious in the river bottoms…luckily it was a cross wind mostly…but it’s hard to hold a line with a 20mph blast coming in from your right side.
For the most…Dave and I rode this section together…and Jim rode with Justin up ahead until the very end…so we could all roll in together…then Dave dropped us.
Dave: Sorry, I was anxious to finish. I have a bad habit of trying to use up any remaining energy just before the finish line, which leads to me dropping the people who’ve been nice enough to hang with me throughout the race/ride. Just ask Christina about Prison Break last year. Believe it or not, this was probably the easiest ride across the St. Charles floodplain I’ve experienced. I’ve seen the wind a WHOLE lot worse out there.
Justin: The last 10 miles were a little tedious, but I was still smiling all the way in. That was until Dave decided to show us up in an attempt to assert his alpha status on Team TOG. The day was ruined.
Jim: That was pretty funny. Justin and I pulled over to wait for Aaron and Dave, and then Dave drops us. He could smell the finish line and was like an uncaged beast.
We did end up rolling in together…to a very quiet applause for our accomplishment. We quickly threw our bikes in the woods and headed for the nearest beer tap. The pumpkin beer was delicious, like a little glass of Grandmas pumpkin pie.
Justin: The beer really was delicious, and I was happy at the end that I still felt pretty good physically (though I was happy to be done). We couldn’t have asked for a better day for this ride and I just realized that we did not have one mechanical issue or flat the whole ride to make it even better.
Dave: Everyone who knows me knows how much of a Blue Moon guy I am, but I think Trailhead’s Pumpkin Beer is one of the best out there.
I have to say…the volunteers for Trailnet were amazing! They were all so nice and happy to help us out. In gravel grinding or mountain biking…I am used to packing enough supplies for a week in the wilderness…it was awesome to show up and have so much food and drinks ready to go (much like my support crew at the 2nd checkpoint at DK). The volunteers made the ride one of my favorites…I will definitely do this again next year…just because of them. (me too!)
Jim: I agree. This was an awesome ride and a must do next year. It even has me considering other road rides. Aaron had so much fun he started looking at road bikes (gasp). I really liked being able to ride the whole thing as a team and stick together. There was some serious laughter on this ride.