The ‘What Ifs?’
When we were first discussing the Dirty Pecan Ride at our 3rd Quarter board meeting, I had some trepidation. But Denise and I committed to doing it. We figured that we would be doing a fair amount of cycling on the weekends to train. I kept hearing the echoes about the distance. After all, it is 60+ mile, which is a long way on a mountain bike. I grew up in the area where the ride takes place and it is quite hilly. What if I bonk and can’t finish? What if? Yes, the ol’ ‘What ifs’ were creeping forward, demanding to be heard. I was a cyclist in my early 30’s, and I was a runner in my mid-late 30’s. With both of those, I did a training ride or run that would be close to, or further than the actual event’s distance. It’s psychology for me; I need to know I’ve already slain that dragon, not just hope that I can! We had only ridden two distance training rides: one roughly 40 miles and the other right at 50 miles, both being relatively flat. In both cases, I was shredded when those rides were over. The concerns crept back into the subconscious, and then into my conscious mind: the Dirty Pecan has hills, lots of ‘em, the course goes north out of Monticello, Florida. We’ll be riding right into the jaws of those steep South Georgia red clay hills!
The Start of the ride.
It rained during the night before the ride, as it had been doing all week and it was still raining the morning of the ride. Would we ride this thing? Will the organizers cancel it? As we pulled into the field to park, the tires of my heavy truck started spinning in the mud. We were stuck until I engaged my four-wheel drive. That was an omen if ever there was one! We waited for a lightning cell to pass and at 8:47 a.m. we took off in a light drizzle on the Dirty Pecan! All went well for the first 8-9 miles which was on paved backroads: minimal traffic, shallow grades, and no steep hills! At the first turn off onto the first dirt road, it initially seemed innocuous. It was slippery and we were wary of that, but it was not thick mud. But then the dirt road turned and we were out into the open. We were onto a flat, low spot that had flowing water coming down both sides of the road on it’s shoulders. The roadway itself was what I had feared: slushy mud that coated everything. The tires flung the mud everywhere and once it hit, it stuck. It was so ingrained in our bikes that it sounded like the brakes were constantly on. Every downstroke of the pedal cranks sounded like there were square marbles in the bearings. All of which began to psych me out! How are we going to finish this!!?? We are not even 10 miles in yet!
The mind can be a very powerful wellspring of motivation, or it can be an instigator of failure and defeat. As wearying and frustrating as the mud was (at least in my mind), I noticed that the really thick mud was limited to about 20-yard sections (mostly). So I would shift to the appropriate gear and accelerate, powering through them. I didn’t want to get bogged down. I had to keep a strong grip on the handlebars so the mud wouldn’t wrest the grips from me and thus throw me into the soup. And when I would encounter hills, instead of ‘giving up’, and walking my bike up that steep hill, I would shift to the largest gear on the rear cassette. I had to just focus on keeping my effort constant and not worry about the speed.
First Leg Completed
At last we were to the asphalt of the road that leads into Metcalf, Georgia. We made it to the tiny town and posed for some photos in front of an old building. On the side of this old building there was an ‘old-timey’ advertisement for Florida Oranges. It was also here that we found a hose and washed some of the mud off of our bikes. Here we were roughly at the 1/3 point of the Dirty Pecan. We were tired and somewhat surprised at the conditions of the ride, I sensed that we were going to complete this. We were going to master this ride. Other riders said that they were going to turn south and head for Monticello on the next paved road when they completed this stretch. “Enough is enough” said one fellow rider. That comment, that mindset, made me redouble my commitment to beat this thing, come what may. There was no quit in me and was sure was the case with the others of the R-tinerary Team as well.
Second Leg Ahead.
The most difficult part of the ride was ahead . The difficulty was something we just could not have anticipated. In some sections of these plantation roads, the water had drained into the soil faster than others. But it seemed to have retained moisture at a level that created ’suction soil’. Although looking relatively packed, the tires of the Mountain Bikes would sink down in it and it felt like the mud grabbed the tires . It was as if one was dragging something quite heavy behind these feather light carbon fiber bikes! It was grueling and we took a few breaks to get our heart rates back down to a good level. Fortunately, we are all in good enough shape that we recovered quickly and could then carry on. As we neared the town of Boston, Georgia, the conditions were a mix of red clay that were so hard that it was like concrete and long patches of the ’suction soil’. But that portion of the ride was breathtakingly beautiful. Beautiful clay roads with steep embankments all under a canopy of trees. It was really cool and for me, having grown up in that general area, it was great to experience this. It was really special.
Second Leg Completed.
And so, the team re-watered in Boston, washing off our bikes yet again and adding our newfound favorite drink energy mix to the drinking water and off we went, for a glorious stretch of fresh, smooth asphalt that was pretty much straight North & South. This road went through absolutely gorgeous farmlands. The high hills did not seem to be that difficult to climb. The vistas, although brief, just made all of our previous struggles worth it. It was glorious. But then the pavement came to an end and we were back to the mud track of plantation roads. Suction soil and then wet, gummy mud, large puddles, and hard packed clay or sand. You name it, we had to endure it, but endure it we did. This seemed to be a very peculiar place in the ride as we came across more ‘homesteads’. Many of these places had abandoned automobiles around them, which obviously hadn’t been moved in some time. I will admit to feeling a bit of a ‘Deliverance’ sensation. But onward we slogged. And then the last of the two GPS instruments on the bikes died! What?! Well, we were down to my typed spreadsheet in the large zip lock bag! My business partner pal turned to me and said ’Stonehenge saves the day!’. I’ve always said I’m an analog man in a digital world and so it was!
Third Leg to the finish line…..
We finally cleared the dirt roads for the last time and were on asphalt. The thing about Google Earth and my plotting the course for this Ride is that distances appear shorter than they are in reality. We went for what seemed like many miles on the country roads, but at least they were asphalt and were smooth! We finally made the turn onto the Ashville Highway, which I knew was the last bit heading into Monticello. From there it was a fairly leisurely ride, albeit propelled by rubbery legs. We pulled into the starting point as the day gave way to the gray that precedes the darkness . And like when we had started, a few raindrops began to fall. We persevered and we finished the ride. We were proud of our collective accomplishment. R-tinerary.com has another great story to share with friends and clients. Then with our confidence swelling, we cracked that first ice cold beer. Something we had all been thinking about since we left Boston!We did it!