I made it -- 62.5 miles in four hours & 20 minutes, and that included all of the rest stops. I'm quite proud of myself. The only thing that really don't work out was the weather. I spent the most scenic portion of the ride biking through a torrential thunderstorm. I was waterlogged. As a plus, the weather was so miserable that I held a significantly faster pace than I thought I was capable of holding.
Last year's tour really kicked my butt. But, rather than blame the after-affects on the fact that my training regimen consisted of following a 12 mile ride every-other week with a six pack of beer, I blamed the bicycle I was riding and King's Gap. I have upgraded my bicycle from a Cannondale Hybrid to a Giant Road Bike (that certainly makes the goings easier), but being out of shape is being out of shape - there is no way around it. I found this to be especially true as I went up King's Gap. This is an approximate 1,200 foot climb over 4 miles - daunting if you're not used to it, but not "difficult" to most bicycle riders. I got to the top of the mountain and stopped only because I felt like I should - but I was ready for a lot more. This was a "regular old ride", nothing that required the psychological prep work that I had gone through. It was a beautiful ride, true - but nothing to write home about.
Last year, though, geez -- I was having issues keeping any sort of cadence going (the only one that I was able to get to work for me was about 30 RPM -- I see now how people were able to fly right past me), it felt like my balls had been permanently relocated to a space 6 inches inside my lower intestine, and my heart was just about done with me. This year, it was just a fun little climb.
It was on the way down the mountain, though, that it started raining. I knew I was in trouble about 12 miles into the ride (well before the King's Gap climb) when I was coasting along and then really had to start pedaling just to keep straight - the wind had gone into "fierce" mode. That died down after a few minutes, so I figured the worst had past. I was wrong. As I started down King's Gap, little droplets started falling . . . nothing major, just a reminder that rain was called for that day. About 10 minutes past the entrance to the mountain, though, I stopped at the rest station and the rain started falling a little bit harder. I kept cover until things appeared to be lightening up, got back on the road, and then the thunder started. I know people who are diehard bicycle commuters, and they're prepared for any sort of weather, but I don't see how you plan for this. I was having difficulty seeing much beyond 20 feet in front of me, the raindrops were cold and they stung. By this point, I had met up with a few other riders, and we kept with each other for awhile. My original intent was to keep my speed around 16-18 mi/hr while riding . . . when you add in the rest stops, the entire loop would have taken me anywhere between 4:45 and 5:00 to complete at that pace. The last 35 miles of the ride, however, had me biking anywhere between 19 and 24 mi/hr -- I just wanted out of that weather. Braking distances went up significantly, drivers were being crazy -- I turned on every light that I had (just because a 250 pound rider with a bright orange bicycling jersey wasn't enough in these conditions). After about two hours of the downpour, the skies did lighten up, and the last half hour was actually a pleasant commute -- although kicking up water & road dirt with your wheels doesn't make for cleanliness at the end of the day.
I completed everything in 4:20, burned somewhere north of 3,300 calories, and I'd say that I finally felt "clean" after the fourth time I scrubbed my body in the shower. I was just covered in road grime.
Still, though, I had a blast, and I managed to raise more than $600 for diabetes research. The only thing is that I really wonder what happened in the organizational aspect of this year's Tour. The only truly "helpful" person was just some asshole at the beginning of the ride telling everybody to grab a cue sheet at the top of his lungs. Nobody else seemed to know anything about what was going on. When I stopped at the rest stations, they were all horribly unprepared (no buckets to dispense water with, no cups, in one case, the rest area was completely empty). Two turns had very misleading cue marks. When I got back to the end of the ride (the 25k scheduled for 10:00 was canceled due the weather and the fact that there were tornado warnings), there was no area for check in (so I can't be certain that they're not out there looking for me right now), and I found out that riders were told to "take more direct routes back to the school" on account of the weather. First of all - I wasn't told that, even though I stopped at each of the very under-prepared rest stops, and I wouldn't have had a clue as to how to get from point X (being anywhere along the tour) back to Yellow Breaches Middle School in the most direct route.
Still, though, I had a blast -- even had enough in me to bike to the grocery store that afternoon to pick up lunch supplies, and I'm just dying to get back out on the road again.