Earlier today, I rode the 50-mile Tour of Saints bike ride. The Tour of Saints describes itself as “not a race…a heavenly little ride.” It has both a 35-mile and a 50-mile course winding in and around the towns near Collegeville. My favorite part of the ride is that you didn’t need to decide which route you are going to take until mile 31. Considering that I had never ridden more than 34 miles or so in a single day, this option was a welcome part of the tour…I’ve always wanted to attempt a longer course, but my confidence wasn’t quite there to choose it right out of the gate.
- Sunny Skies
- High around 90
- Winds gusting from 8mph to 18mph
- Dewpoint: 70
As you might have guessed, not only was the heat/dewpoint/sun an issue in this event, but the wind was an even bigger issue. The course was roughly in a rectangular shape - and, as luck would have it, the wind was coming out of the south, meaning for the first 9-10 miles and then from mile 40-50 you had nothing but wind blowing in your face. Considering these were also some of the most demanding hilly parts of the course, it all added up to quite the challenge.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself…back to the beginning of the morning. The ride registration was from 6:30-8:30…this required me to get up at the horrible 6am hour and drive up to Saint Joseph, north of Saint Cloud. Upon arrival, I assembled my bike (having to troubleshoot some mechanical issues as well) and got to registration right around 7:45. After registration, I filled up my water bottle and was out on the road by 8am.
As I mentioned earlier, the first 9 miles or so were very difficult. I was unfamiliar with the terrain between Saint Joseph and Cold Spring…it is HILLY! Luckily, the great people at the Cold Spring Bakery furnished the rest stop at mile 9, meaning I had my choice of any number of pastries, donuts, cookies…I even saw a little kid running around with a frosted cupcake. They, of course, also had the usual assortment of oranges, bananas and drinks as well. After a few minutes (and a few snacks), I hopped back on the bike and was on the road again.
Parts of the trip have all melded together in my mind, prbly due to the sunstroke (J/K), but I do seem to recall that the next 10 or so miles were all fairly flat or downhill. I made good time during this part of the ride, although my pacing did not work out too swell once we were back in hilly terrain once again. Compound this with the lack of a rest stop at mile 19 and it made the second half of the trip to the next rest stop at mile 29 quite a bit more difficult.
At the second rest stop, I overheard a guy and gal next to me talking about the Ironman Bike Ride, which I had ridden in at the beginning of the season. They were comparing the wind we were experiencing with the wind on that ride…I had to agree with them that it was nearly the same, but made even worse by the larger amount of farmfields we passed by during the Tour of Saints ride. After getting my stuff together, I hopped back on my bike and headed back out onto the course…
A few miles down the road I came to the decision point…I had to decide between turning left and going on the full 50-mile tour or continue straight through the intersection and take the shorter 35-mile route. Although there had been some rough hills between the rest stop at mile 29 and the decision point, I decided to go for it. I took the left and immediately worked my way up and down even MORE hills!
Around mile 37, I heard a familiar voice behind me. It was the woman who had I had been talking to about the Ironman Bike Ride back at the second rest stop. We had just finished a gigantic hill, so we both had rolled to a stop to take a break under the shade of a tree. After some chitchat, introductions were made. Her name was Kate…her biking companion was Tim.
We started down the next valley and soon formed a 3-bicycle line pumping up the hills and gliding down the descents…stopping together at the mile 39 rest stop, we had more time to get to know each other. Kate is from the cities, Tim hails from Saint Cloud. We exchanged phone numbers and set back out on our way. I don’t know if I could have made it nearly as well-off to the finish line without the pacing of being part of a group. Riding single, y ou tend to ride too fast…which on a hilly course like the one we were riding is a quick way to wear one out.
After many more huge hills, into the wind no less, we rolled back into Saint Joseph. I had realized my goal of a 50-mile day! According to my on-board bike computer, I had been actively moving for a tad under 4 hours in total…giving me an average speed right around 12.5 miles an hour. Not bad in my mind, considering the road conditions and weather. I usually average around 13.5 on the trails here around home, but I think the familiarity of said trails gives me a better ability to plan and pace compared to the virtually unknown course from today.
It was quite the adventure, a lot of fun…and I think I may have met a new riding companion in the process as well. What a great day! (‘cept for the sunburn…reapply, reapply, reapply!) I’ll be nursing my bright red skin back to health with liberal doses of aloe for the next few days…but it was all worth it! 50 miles! Yay!