I had been looking forward to the Woodbury Days Bike Ride for a few weeks now, ever since I noticed the flyer at Erik’s. I did 50 miles a little under 2 months ago on the Tour of Saints, and with all the riding I’ve been doing, I figured a 60 would be a great accomplishment to get under my belt.
The day was absolutely beautiful for a ride. The wind was a bit strong, but the 70-some degree temperatures at the start ensured that even around the time I planned on finishing, at the height of the mid-day sun, it still wouldn’t be too warm. Twinkie is still sitting limp and lifeless in my parking lot here at the apartment, so I disassembled my bike (remove the two quick-release wheels and seat…does that count as disassembly?) so it would fit in the back of the Beetle and headed over to Woodbury.
I managed to score a killer parking spot, most likely the closest spot available. I hadn’t pre-registered, so I made my way up to the registration area. 5 minutes later, I had my map, a few bananas to get the body a-movin’, my bike assembled, and I was ready to roll.
We started off in Colby Lake Park, and according to the brochure, we were supposed to…
60 Mile Ride
Follow a well-marked route through Woodbury into Lake Elmo where you pick up the Gateway Trail that takes you to Pine Point Park. From there you continue into Stillwater and follow the course to the city of Afton where, Town Square Park is the last rest stop.
Imagine my surprise when I realized I was following a south path out of town, not in the direction of Lake Elmo at all! I stopped to take a look at the map. For some reason, they had completely flipped around the course. Assured that I wasn’t making my 60-mile day a 70-mile day by having to double-back, I got back up on my bike and continued.
The first few miles wound in and around city streets…but by mile 5, we were out in the wide-open farm fields and rural areas between Woodbury and Cottage Grove. Along the way, street crews, drivers, everyone was friendly, waving, cheering the riders on. (Either that, or they were just really friendly towards a big, large guy gliding down the road on his bike…I encountered very few riders on the 60-mile course overall)
I had a loaner freewheel set on my rear wheel, which meant that my gearing was a bit off. My final gear, with the loaner, was around my second-to-final gear on my standard sprockets, which meant that on declines I couldn’t pedal into as high of a speed as I normally could. Around mile 12, we entered a long stretch of downhill riding, and not content with coasting downhill at 18 miles an hour, I decided I should, instead, substitute RPMs for the gearing and spin my way down the hill. About a minute into this I felt a dull pain in my left ankle…not knowing what I had done, I continued pedaling on towards the first rest stop.
Right before we entered Afton, where the first rest stop was located, there’s this gigantic downhill. I realized at that moment why the route was flipped around…there’s no way that 10 miles prior to the finish, I would have wanted to haul my bike up that hill, especially into the wind. We’re talking almost 3 minutes of downhill riding, coasting up to a speed of 40 miles per hour or so. Riding up that hill would have been a challenge worthy of a ride in and of itself!
At the first rest stop (around mile 15) I checked the map again…I noticed a point about 10 miles ahead where I could abort the 60-mile and take the remainder of the 30-mile back to the finish if my ankle continued to bother me. Relieved by the option, I took my fill of donut holes, bananas, PB&J sammiches and fruit they had at the rest stop for the riders and took a quick potty break. Back on the bike once more, I settled into an even pace as the ride led us up the scenic Stagecoach Trail north to just short of I-94, then north through Bayport and up towards Stillwater.
I decided I was feeling well enough (the ankle wasn’t bothering me in the least..although my seat, combined with the new, taller, non-shock absorbing seat post, certainly wasn’t feeling the greatest on my bootay) that I rode right by the 30-mile route turn and continued towards my 60-mile goal. Right about there, I started riding behind a woman who was riding a nice, steady pace up and down the hills. Mile by mile I was slowly catching up to her, and at one point I actually passed her, only to fall behind her again when I stopped for a water break. Upon catching up to her again, I started up a conversation. Just like on the Tour of Saints, having a riding partner certainly does make the miles go by much, much more quickly.
(Speaking of riding partners…Kate, who I had met on the Tour Of Saints ride, wasn’t able to ride today because of her continuing ankle issues…it doesn’t sound like she’ll be up for the Saint Paul Bike Classic, either! Bum-mer!)
Lisa and I continued riding up to the second rest stop, at the north end of the Gateway Trail, around mile 35. She is from Saint Cloud, works with an organization providing SBA loans in the Saint Cloud area. She does a bunch of rides; indeed, she was familiar with the Gateway Trail we took south out of the second rest stop from a ride earlier in the summer. Riding with her gave me something to concentrate on other than my ankle and bootay, both of which I found were now in need of frequent rests.
We cruised into the third and final rest stop (around mile 39) just inside Lake Elmo. I could already tell my pace wasn’t going to win any awards - even tho I had left about midway through the 7:30 - 9:00am registration window, the mechanical aid at the rest stop was already packing up shop. After refueling, Lisa and I took off again…there was a shorter 7-mile route back to the finish for the 30-mile riders, but with the riding partner, I felt confident I could finish the whole 60.
‘course, as luck would have it, right as we topped the hill after the rest stop, I noticed I had come up on my best friend Mike’s house. He had said they prbly wouldn’t be home…and right as I explained that to Lisa, I saw Mike pulling up with his trailer in tow. I knew I at least had to stop to say hi to Mike, so I bid Lisa a quick farewell and stopped.
Mike was surprised to see me…I guess there were so few 60-mile riders that he hardly noticed the route went by his house. He was getting ready to aerate his lawn, and I had a third of my ride yet ahead of me, so we didn’t visit too long. A few minutes later, I was back on the road, pedaling away.
The loss of my riding partner gave my mind time to go back to thinking about my ankle and other pains…and by mile 50, I was hurtin’. Luckily, the terrain leveled out after mile 52 or so, after the route brought me back south of I-94. ‘course, then the wind was right in my face, slowing down my pace considerably. Had a sag wagon come along (I didn’t see one the entire day, mind you, although I rarely see them on other rides I’ve taken as well) I prbly would have taken the easy way home, but it just wasn’t in the cards today. I pumped awayy, resting frequently whenever my ankle or rear demanded it. Finally, about two miles from the finish, a few riders came up behind me…we rode the remainder of the way loosely together.
I was so relieved to pull into the finish…I refueled a bit before leaving for home, satisfied with the 60-mile accomplishment, but worried about what I had done to my ankle in my moment of youthful exuberance. I finished the route in a time of 5:30, with a ride time of 4:40, leaving me with an average speed of 12.85 miles per hour. Even with generous water and food consumption, I had lost 2 pounds over the course of the race, which I planned to make up when I went to the Minnesota State Fair later on in the day.