Tour de Cure, Gloucester, MA, June 8, 2008



Last year's ride.

This year, I decided to challenge myself: if I could raise $1,000, I'd ride 100 miles, over double my current longest one day ride. The tour organisers were offering an official 100 mile / 160 km route, but the time limit was ambitious, and I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to meet it (8 hours). As it turned out, we were seeing people coming in from that route over 45 minutes after the cut off time. So the revised plan was to ride the 60 mile route and from there, ride home 40 miles.

I started my training a bit more ambitiously than I planned, as a 17 mile ride to Natick led to some detours on the way back, and a 40 mile day. My second training day involved running around the city by bike, racking up another 40+ miles in between stops. My last training ride was more "real", as I rode 40 miles out to Groton, 10 miles back to the train station, took the train back in to Waltham, and meandered home via Harvard Sq to hit 60 miles. Then movie plans materialised and we biked there for an additional 9 miles on the day, my highest milage so far. In retrospect, the hour long train ride broke up the riding long enough for me to cool down and recuperate, I was flagging when I hit 50 miles during the Tour de Cure ride. Other than that, I was just riding to work every day, 11 miles round trip.

Friends offered to put us up in Rockport, so we took the train up the night before so we could ride home w/o having to fuss about the car. Train service starts too late on Sundays to be able to take that out to Gloucester and arrive in time for the start of the longer routes.

Getting to the start

I checked my fund raising page and saw that I was at $1050, so finalised plans to do the 100miles. I printed out cue sheets to take us home from Gloucester, packed up the bike maps, did some last minute sewing to fix seams on my bike shorts and Cris's Carradice bag, and started mentally preparing myself for the challenge.

Cris and I rode over to North Station and took our bikes on the commuter rail up to Rockport. I was really impressed with the new "bike enabled" car. One column of seats was taken out and the space was filled with bike racks, and at the end were a couple of wall mounted car racks. We had a few other cyclists in with us, we were going up on the 2:15 train and it was already getting hot so I suspect that people went up earlier. Once we got to Rockport, it was a short block to Tim and Jessica's house where we were staying. We cleaned up a bit and changed for dinner and filled out the forms for the next day, then went out for dinner. We were going to sit outside for a while, but Tim discovered a wasp's nest as he was digging out the shade umbrella. He got stung, and the rest of us retreated inside. Baking soda paste worked well, and he was mostly fine by the time it came to go out. We stopped in at the grocery store so that Cris and I could stock up on Clif bars. We went to Duckworth's Bistrot and it was a wonderful meal, I'm glad that T&J were willing to eat so early to accommodate us! I had the cucumber soup (with roasted red peppers and crab meat, somehow it all worked wonderfully), then Cocquilles St. Jacques and a half order of the lobster rissotto (tonnes of lobster in it!). Cris and I tried to split an order of bread pudding with rum raisin ice cream, but the pudding was topped with nuts I'm allergic to and there were no raisins in the ice cream, so I passed. I was pretty full, but I wanted to have a good amount of food to fuel me for the next day. Back to the house, and I went up to bed at around 8pm, setting the alarm for 4:45.

I slept lightly all night, traffic and birds or insects breaking my slumber on a regular basis, but I was ready to get up when the alarm sounded. We basically threw on clothes, packed everything onto our bikes (I'd stuffed my rack trunk with the change of clothes for dinner, wearing slacks so I could get away with my runners) and were on the road at just past 5am, as the sun was rising. We biked into Gloucester, 5 miles, to Lee's for breakfast. Huge huge pancakes, I could only finish one, and had a couple of cups of tea as well. Pre-dosed with ibuprofen, and then up the road to the starting line. Went in with Cris when he registered, and then waved him off on the 7am-ish start to the 160km route, 40-60 people attempting that route. It was already getting hot, I went in to register and then found a spot of shade to hang out in. I had my back brakes looked at by the REI mechanic, mostly the cables needed to be oiled. I was lined up first behind the starting line, grabbing a spot of shade in the driveway of the school. They cautioned us to drink lots of water, thanked us, played the national anthem, and we were off.

The Ride

I was almost the slowest rider in the pack, streams of cyclists would say hi as they passed me. Eventually I found myself with a slower team, and we rode together for a little while. We looped around Cape Ann toward Rockport the long way, and I topped up on water at the first rest stop. I managed to miss both the second rest stop and a turn on the route, instead following some other riders as they took a wrong turn. They disappeared and I ended up on a section of the route I'd already ridden, Atlantic Ave. Luckily, it was gorgeous, and I was able to retrace the route until I found my wrong turn, but it was still about an 8 mile detour. At that point I was *well* behind everyone, and when I made it to rest stop 3, the next shortest route group of riders were catching up to me. They'd started an hour later. Ouch. But I grabbed a mini Clif bar, inhaled it and topped up water and hit the road again. Cris and I had agreed to try and meet up at rest stop 8, where our routes would re-intersect. I had a long lonely stretch of 127 south on the coast, following markers for both the 160km and 100km routes, and they didn't split off until it turned inland. I passed some riders before getting to rest stop 8, a pair stopped at a Dunkin Donuts, and a single resting in the shade. I had sent Cris a text message at rest stop 4 saying that I was there, and cutting across to 8. I had deleted his phone message before checking the time it was sent, so I wasn't sure when he was thinking he'd arrive (he said he was about 3 hours out). I just beat him, he was only a couple of miles behind me, and rolled in before I could cool down much. Apparently he'd been riding in the second pack on the 160km, and there were tonnes behind him. It was around 1:30pm now, cut off was an hour and a half away, but we only had 12 miles to go. I told Cris that I'd reached a plateau of miserableness, I was tired, sweaty, and sore, and it was going to get worse, but I'd gotten used to it for now. I ate a piece of an orange and Cris finished his milk shake and then we were off.

Cris decided to bail on the 5 mile detour that the 160km riders were supposed to do, and stayed with me. We were stopped by the drawbridge being up *again*, and quite a few riders bunched up. I ended up finding some energy from somewhere and powered up the hill on Washington St., passing a few people. We followed the markings to get us around Grant Circle and Cris pulled away at the last hill, rolling in first. I got the finisher's bells too, and rolled up to join him in the shade. We went inside and had some of the grilled chicken breast and salad and bread that was on offer. It was about 2:45pm, and I could hear the tour organiser trying to get in touch with riders who had bailed w/o telling anyone. I'd only passed two flat tire changers, but two guys had to drop out at rest stop 4 and one at 8, the latter one of my slow group, who had a van come pick him up as I was waiting. He, and the rest stop 4 guy, seemed surprised that I was determined to finish, he said I was tough. Just determined, I answered.

Getting Home

I'd been flagging at the end of the official course, I came in with my bike computer reading 68 miles, thanks to the detour. Food helped, though, and I was able to face the thought of 40 more miles. I'll admit that I was thinking we could find a commuter rail station and take the train home, but we kept riding. I'd made up a cue sheet with Google Maps directions, and printed out one for Cris and one for me. Cris has more experience doing route following, so it was mostly up to him to keep us on track, with the help of the Eastern Mass. bike maps that we were both carrying. We retraced a lot of the 60 mile route, heading out of Gloucester and onto 127 south, and it was nice when we finally went "off course", as I was getting a bit sick of going over the same roads again and again. At least the hills weren't a surprise, though. We took 127 into Salem, and then climbed over the huge white bridge to get into downtown, and I freaked out a bit as Cris got far ahead of me and I couldn't see him and we hadn't made firm dinner plans. Luckily both our cell phones were still charged and I found out he was waiting for me 5 minutes on. We made our rendezvous and then he led us to Salem Beer Works.

Their air conditioning wasn't working so people were dithering about if they were going to stay or not, but it was cool enough (to us) inside and out in the shade. We got a table on the patio (like the last time I'd ridden this route), and sweated quietly out there. I'd started to get a cramp in my left calf, I'd totally forgotten Cris's advice to get enough salt and was only drinking water and eating Clif bars all day, no gatorade. So, a nice big plate of sweet potato fries was ordered and then dosed with extra salt. As I was trying to rub my face clean with the paper napkin, I thought it was road grit under my fingers, but it turned out to be some of that salt I was losing, crystalised in the heat. My appetite wasn't that big, I had about half my stir fry (it didn't help that it was hot, I envied Cris his nice cool lobster roll), but did manage to finish the fries. The patio was right next to the New England Pirate Museum, and we locked our bikes up right in front of it - it has cute murals of pirates scaling the side of the building. I was re-applying my sun block and checking for white spots in the museum's display case. The amount of road grit, sweat and pollen (the creases of my elbows were bright yellow), made it look like I was smearing something grey all over me, it was pretty gross. But I'd already felt parts of my neck and face crisping, so it was necessary to stay on top of it. The sky was pretty much blue all day, we had a few clouds block the light, but I lived for the shade of trees. Even headwinds were welcomed, since hot sun + breeze was survivable.

Food ingested, glasses of water poured into our water bottles, it was time to head off again. 24 miles or so to home. The way was a bit trickier from now, lots of turns. We missed one, but it didn't matter since it was a fork and one turn got us back to where we needed to be. We stopped in Winchester for water at a convenience store, and I asked for a couple of stretch breaks as my calf was starting to hurt a bit. We raced down Mystic Valley Parkway, enjoying the wide shoulder but trying to avoid getting bit by the bugs that were coming out as the sun was setting. Once we came off that and got onto 60 I was in familiar territory and I refused Cris's offer to stop when my knee started twinging. I was wearing an elastic brace on my right knee and it held up remarkably well. We turned on our generator hub powered bike lights, but I regretted not bringing clear lenses for my sunglasses, I hadn't thought ahead to how long it would take us to get home and was trying to bring the bare minimum to survive a night and day. But the bike light threw enough illumination to let me see easily, so I was fine. I had had bugs bouncing off of me all day, I didn't want to chance a bug in the eye so close to home. We rolled up to the house at just before 9pm, with my odometer reading 110 miles (so 115 miles for the day including the ride to the start). I checked the weather forecast, it was still 28C when we got home, it must have been 30+ for most of the day. Ice, stretching, and the best showers in the world, and we were dead asleep by 10pm.


I took public transit to work on Monday, limping a bit until I warmed up, and, yes, missing biking. It was really hot (30C+ again), and going at a foot pace, I wasn't creating a breeze. My left leg is a bit tight, the cramp is still working it's way out I guess, I've got random patches of tanned skin from where my jersey, bike shorts and knee brace weren't covering me and where the sun block wore off. I've got some chafing from where the bike shorts were pivoting against the seat, and want to give that a chance to heal up before I get back on the bike. (Update: rode to work on Tuesday with no pain, though I did wear my other bike shorts for the padding on the 5.5 mile ride).

I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who contributed to my campaign ($1125 raised!), and proud of myself for going the distance. Next year, 60 miles will be enough. :)

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