Saturday morning I peeled myself out of bed at 5 a.m. so that I could drive to New Port Richey and ride my bike for 56 miles.
Yes, I am stupid crazy, but so are my friends. I left my house at 5:30 a.m. to pick up my friend Tori (of In Love and Peanut Butter).
We had a nice 45 minute car ride to New Port Richey in the dark where we talked about everything under the sun. When we arrived at Longleaf Town Center we met up with our Tampa Bay Lady Blogger friends Beth (of Discom-BOB-ulated Runner) and Jess (of Cuban Running Crisis).
Beth is the one who talked us all into doing this ride after meeting a bunch of the CFF folks out on the trail while riding one day.
But then she ended up bailing on us and running off to Miami to be with her boyfriend while he got set up for the Miami 70.3 Iron Man on Sunday. Such a girl…abandoning her girlfriends for a BOY! It’s okay Beth, we forgive you.
There were around 90 people registered for this ride, so it wasn’t a huge crowd.
The ride was starting at 7:30 a.m. and there was a beautiful sunrise just as we were lining up, not that you can tell from my crappy little bike camera photos.
This one’s a little better:
“Ready to go” Instagram photo:
After some announcements and the National Anthem, we were off.
The first few miles of the course were in a bike lane on a road with traffic, which wasn’t so great.
I was trying desperately to keep up with the people ahead of me and I thought there was no way that I could keep up that pace for 50+ miles. The first aid station was around mile four, and we stopped to regroup even though we didn’t need any food or Gatorade yet. They had a dancing banana there who was very happy to see us!
They had these planet signs set up portraying the relative distance of the planets from the sun.
It was a really nice morning, overcast and in the low 70’s. It was, however, pretty windy already and the winds were predicted to increase as the day wore on.
Eventually we came to Pluto…
and two guys on elliptical bikes passed us.
We never saw them again and later on the race officials said they were behind us, but then we never saw them at the finish so I have no idea what happened to them. I can not imagine ellipticalizing for hours and hours and hours.
Random port-o-lets which we did not stop for:
We went through this area with half-blackened sawgrass palms and they looked really cool with charred black frond-spikes sticking out of them.
I guess they were regrowth from a controlled burn or possibly a forest fire.
I couldn’t get over them and kept going on and on about how cool they looked. Apparently I also kept taking photos of them.
We passed lots of other cyclists and walkers on the trail.
The path through the park is around ten miles of this:
It’s awesome and I wish it wasn’t so far away from St. Pete.
Eventually we came to the turn-around point for the 25 mile riders, and then the path turned to run parallel to the Suncoast Parkway.
Jess and I look very serious at this point:
We got passed by an in-line skater which was humbling.
We were having a great time talking about anything and everything. Tori and Jess know way too much about me now.
We came to the second aid station at around 17 miles or so.
I had three cups of coffee before the ride (my usual), so I was very happy to see the rest stop.
Thank you volunteers!
I had eaten about half of an Otis Spunkmeyer’s chocolate chip muffin at the start (they had bagels and bananas and all kinds of stuff there for breakfast for the riders), but I was happy to have a PB&J at this stop.
Back on the trail we went. Here we are at a traffic stop somewhere in Pasco County:
This is like the middle of nowhere Florida. We passed lots of goats and horses and cows.
County Line Road Exit 34, entering Hernando County:
Freaking Brooksville! (I say it that way because that seems like a long way from New Port Richey to me.)
Finally we got to the turn-around point for the 55 mile riders (there was also a 75 miler, but those guys actually ended up riding 84 miles somehow…ouch).
We were so happy to be at this stop finally.
They were playing Grateful Dead music and had all kinds of refreshments for us. Thank you volunteers!
Candy corn are awesome.
After resting and refreshing for a few minutes we forced ourselves back into the saddle and headed back southbound. They had this huge tree full of wind chimes in Anderson Snow Park.
It was really windy so there was lots of music coming from that tree.
Soon we were back into Pasco County.
When we got back to this donkey field…
we stopped so that I could Instagram my new PERSONAL DISTANCE RECORD!
The longest I had ever ridden before this was 30 miles, and that was a couple of years ago. This year, my longest ride before this event was last weekend when I did 25 miles out at St. Pete Beach.
At this point I was still feeling pretty good, but it seemed like FOREVER until we got back to the aid station that had been at around 17-18 miles from the start. Somewhere along in there we saw an armadillo on the trail. I had also seen a possum at the bottom of my stairs when I left in the dark that morning, so it was a very animal-filled day. Finally we got back to that rest stop and took another little break. It was so great that the volunteers stuck it out until all of the riders came back by. I have been in races before when the aid stations were packed up by the time I made it to them. Being slow sucks, and those of us that are slower and are on the course longer need the aid stations as much (or more) than the speed demons. So THANK YOU!
Honestly I felt pretty good until about mile 40, and then things went downhill fast. My back and shoulders and neck were all hurting, and no amount of shifting or stretching gave any relief. We couldn’t wait to turn back into Starkey Park because that really felt like the home stretch.
We had taken such an easy pace throughout that most of the 75 milers had already passed us on the way back (shouting those infuriating, “Way to go! Good job! Looking good!” things at us as they passed). Taking that easy pace made the ride more fun in the beginning, but it also meant a much longer time in the saddle. At this point we had been riding for over four hours and our butts were really feeling it. When we passed all those “cool” half-burnt mangroves again, all I could do is curse them.
Stupid f’ing mangroves.
It was after 12:30 p.m. by then and the winds were brutal. Those 10 miles through Starkey Wilderness Park on the return trip were the worst. We stopped at what had been the first rest area (4 miles from the start) again and stretched and drank Gatorade, but I must have been too beat to take a picture there. We grudgingly got back on the bikes and did the last four miles, this time sticking to the trail that ran parallel to the road rather than riding in traffic.
Finally we were at the finish!
I was so happy to be off that bike. My Garmin auto-paused whenever we stopped, but our total time riding was 4 hours and 47 minutes. My butt hurts just remembering that.
Tori recently finished the August 70.3 Iron Man, so she is experienced at this distance, but she was not on the bike for nearly this amount of time so even she was complaining about it by the end. But we did it! I didn’t die and none of us had an accident or a flat or any problems at all, thankfully. I’m so glad that I had Jess and Tori to do this with. I can’t imagine how terrible and boring the ride would have been without friends. Those girls are awesome and I have loved hanging out with them every time we have gotten together.
BJ’s provided the food for lunch at the finish line.
I skipped the sandwiches, but definitely enjoyed several slices of pizza. They also had their famous BJ’s root beer there, which was awesome. Thanks BJ’s!
I can hardly believe that I did it.
It was another first for me, for sure.
I had my Garmin set to auto-lap every five miles, but I actually turned it off at the rest stops to save the battery and that makes it show another lap, so the laps are all messed up. But still…
Thank you to all my friends who donated money to help me meet my fundraising goal of $150.00 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Thank you Mike and Amy, Ali, Janet, Allison, Megan, Lee and Caroline, and Gina! I actually ended up raising $175.00! You can still donate for the next 30 days, so I’m going to leave that button in my side bar just in case this post inspires you to donate to the cause (any amount!).
More weekend fun coming up…stay tuned.