The almost-not-400k

Then the forecast was for wind all day and night and massive heat. Well, I just can't go on a ride without some kind of inclement weather. I crossed my fingers and hoped for storms. The last few years, i have spent so much time out in the wind that it doesnt bother me anymore; in certain circumstances, I like a headwind and enjoy the thrill of getting in my drops and cutting through it; randonneuring is a lot of lemonade and I love lemonade. The morning was also hectic as IronK opted out of driving to the start forcing me to change cars at the last minute and I left my water bottles in the wrong car. Bad move on a day promising to be in the 90s. I had no clue who would be on this ride except for one person either and being in a rushed state is just not a great way to start a 400k. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Phil and Craig A at the start. Craig and I had been on a flèche and Phil and I had done the route a couple of times. 

Mike R loaned me the only water bottle I was to have on the ride, a small 20 ounce one. I would learn to buy a Sobe since the bottle held well in my cage and refill when I ran out. This actually worked really well. The ride was also such that many felt the heat (growing up in the hotbox of Cincinnati, I also do heat and humidity pretty well), so there were lots of social stops at bars in between controls. Though many might have not felt so well, it did get us into some places we don't usually go. 

I also got to ride with a few others that I don't usually get to ride with. The first 30 miles wre with Mike R, who was pleasantly chatty and had some interesting stories about touring he had done around the country over the years. Rob had told everyone at the start that 20 hours was a good time which turned out to be a bit optimistic and at least a couple people really hit it hard early to later slow down or DNF. I have zero expectation of going that fast so I dont really appear on Rob's radar for "good" time, but i consider it to be a differing definition; any ride is good (honestly the desire to finish even if you dont make the time is in my mind, the best definition). Phil stuck with me and we took it easy and managed to stay together for most of the day. 

About 16 miles later, Mark O approached going the wrong way "my frame is broken, I'm done" was all I could make out. In defense of my definition of "good", he drove back to Rochester, got another bike, drove to the Plainview control and continued the ride for no brevet credit. "Hey, I really was looking forward to this ride". He had a great ride in my humble opinion and I got a chance to ride with him as a result. A man I can respect, I've always thought enjoying being on the bike is the most important thing. There were quite a few DNFs on this route and with the heat and wind, I can understand why. My feeling is that you should ride until you are sure you just aren't going to enjoy yourself and return wiser and more experienced another day with the caveat that a little food and a little rest go a long way to changing your mind. No sense in riding yourself to a dangerous situation; at least one person I know on another ride in the Twin Cities on this day wound up in the hospital with heat stroke. 

In Cannon Falls, we did a pretty fast turnaround, the wind was starting up and the control was not a friendly place (to be fair, lots of riders were skipping buying something and just asking them to sign cards and use the bathroom - that is uncool in my book - I always spend $$ at controls). Then off to Goodhue. This section rolls quite a bit and I enjoyed it myself. The road into Goodhue had been ripped up and was unrideable, but we managed around it on a nearby bike path. 

The haul to Plainview was hot, windy and full of hills. Okay, I actually like this section quite a bit. Phil and I plodded along and finally got to the gas station for refueling. Everyone there was amazed we were out riding. I have to admit we were looking a littler peaked from the sun, but air conditioning and food sure found for something. We rolled out for the last leg to the turnaround not seeing anyone else. 

At Rollingstone, I was out of water and there was a small bar with lots of bikes in front of it. It appeared that many were stressed over the heat and the bar was making a killing on all drinkable items (really). I got a nice cold soda and some ice to refill my bottle. Phil had a seat, the sweat dripping off him. He wanted to stay a bit longer to cool off. 

So I left with some others knowing that the next hill was a doozy. Here I joined Craig from the flèche earlier this spring! We regrouped at the top of the hill and cruised into Stockton for ice cream and (big surprise) food and water. Many others were there including Mark O who despite breaking his frame had gone home, gotten another bike and was just riding for fun. Alas, behind the station was another rider sick with heat issues. But the heat of the day was passing. Halfway done and now we should have a tailwind! 

Of course, the tailwind just didn't seem as big an advantage as the headwind had seemed a disadvantage. Craig, Phil and I stuck together and made an additional rest stop in Elba as the Cenex closed (no passing up water on this ride). Laying around the gas station a couple other riders showed up, we hopscotched with them for the rest of the ride. 

Back at Plainview with 100 miles to go, it was starting to get dark. After subway and the requisite lights and gear, the three of us continued. This was one of the nicest night rides ever. Perfect temps and the wind picking up. Just a beautiful night. Phil had a flat and some digestive problems (I can so empathize with him) at the same time. This was in Mazeppa and the bar crowd ploughed outside to great us and help us out. I changed the tire, Phil got help from the bartender (what a guy). 

At Zumbrota, we hit the new Kwik Trip for food and headed back to Cannon Falls. Phil was tired and wound up stopping for a ditch nap (I might have been tempted to do that myself, but I was also thirsty yet again). Craig and I continued on and I had to pause and change a flat of my own. Not really all that fun in the dark. Craig helped me change it. 

We finally rolled into the finish for a pancake breakfast at Perkins! This time it was late enough to avoid the bar close crowds but pancakes really taste good after a long, hot ride. I am happy to report that Phil finished about an hour later. Craig and I parted ways and I stopped at a friend's house to crash. I never drive after something like a 400k. This route is probably the only Apple Valley route I actually like. The scenery is really nice and I like the climbing which is never gratuitous, though sometimes painful. Next year, it looks like none of the Minnesota Rides are in my schedule so we'll see what new 400k rides can float onto the radar.

The Accidental K-Hound
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