I was thrilled to discover that the weather forecast for Sunday cleared right up– rain had been predicted many days prior and after the crummy weather on Saturday I was glad it was going to let up so I could get my second 50 mile of the year in. The plan was simple: 50 easy, flat miles. I’ve got an awesome new saddle that is one with my bottom (Specialized Ruby Expert), I had all kinds of fun endurance nutrition packets to try out (Hammer Perpetuem, Hammer gels, Gu Brew, Hammer Recoverite), and I had a nice part sunny day before me. How could it possibly go wrong?
My destination of choice was the Missouri/Mississippi confluence, as viewed from the Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area. I can take the Riverfront Trail… a flat, fantastic route (although it sometimes smells like either diesel or a fish processing pier when you’re closer to the city) that zips you straight up to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (former Route 66). Then you can follow the road North for another 8ish miles into the Bottoms.
Fantastic shot of the bottoms that I found on Panoramio. Taken and enhanced by user Oneofsix.
Everything about the ride there was fantastic. As I was coming down Grand Ave to where it meets Chouteau, I saw a PHASES jersey zip by! I knew I had to catch up because there aren’t many of us sporting these jerseys yet. Turns out it was another of my trainer Zach’s disciples, Dave, a friend of his who is training for a killer 50 mile mountain bike race in Arkansas! We had done the same route to the Bottoms in January so we rode together for a few miles until he flatted. Alas, I continued on without him! (Later I saw him on the way back and he said he had three flats total– now THAT is persistence! I would have given up and called James for a pick up!) Anyway, as I was saying, the ride was pretty great. The smell of flowers punched through the air… erased the stinky fish and barge smells of the start of the RFT. I was flying along. The sun was mostly hiding behind clouds so my lack of sunglasses was no biggie. I spotted some massive wild turkeys picking their way along the grassy banks of the Mississippi. I rescued some baby turtles that had found their way onto the road in the Bottoms.
The confluence was pretty cool. I tried to spend some time reflecting on how these two massive rivers drain most of the continental US. It’s one of those things where once you get thinking about where all that water had been, you start thinking about how the matter I’m taking in and moving back out– food, air, water, etc… was all there since the beginning. Oh to be a little atom– the things it has seen in it’s lifetime!
Almost immediately as I rode back from the Confluence I noticed that Ride was not so easy anymore. In fact the headwind was so vicious in the Bottoms that bugs were getting blown into my skin and stinging. I was moving about 10 mph. I saw people time trialing there too– I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.
The ride back was a little bonkers. A friend from a cycling forum calls it “Paying the Piper”. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was riding right into the eye of sustained 30 mph winds with 46 mph gusts. What a day to actively choose NOT to bring my sunglasses. My eyelashes were sticking together! All manner of debris found their way into my eyes it seemed. The sun was bearing down harder– another story all together– I’ll get there. The humidity seemed more palpable as the temperature climbed. I came across many other struggling riders who all made the same insane choice to ride that day. We commiserated for a bit and then would then part ways. I thought maybe the flood wall would shield me from the wind, but no… the wall was oriented north-south, so it didn’t matter which side of the wall I was on, I was still getting blown half to heck.
Start of the floodwall on RFT! Credit to Flickr user Stujoe!
Downtown St. Louis got busy while I was out. Between the NRA conference, opening weekend with the Cards, a St. Louis Blues game, and the St. Louis Marathon, there were plenty of unpredictable/ distracted drivers and pedestrians to dodge. I rolled home and promptly demanded food. Discovered that YES, I can get a nasty sunburn in April in St. Louis (YET AGAIN– I feel like I learn this lesson every year). It’s not even an acceptable even sunburn. I’ve got harsh jersey lines and a serious watch stripe. I should have known better. I just should have. I wore long sleeves to school today to hide my shame.
Anyway, I engorged myself on Lebanese food at The Vine, kicked my legs up and proceeded to do almost nothing for the rest of the day except eat, drink water, and apply Palmer’s cocoa butter lotion to my sunburn every 15 minutes or so.
In spite of all the madness yesterday, today was great! We headed to Forest Park for practice and did laps around the Jewelbox, logging 25 miles or so by the end of practice. I also did another 12 or so home. I can’t believe how hungry I was when I got home– even after the two Speed-like “Roctanes” I consumes and the two bottles of Gu Brew. Tomorrow will be another 50 mile day– riding to school, with the team and back home again. Should be good! Just gotta keep eating!
On that note, i will leave you with this video (not quite what I experienced, but it FELT this way).