And we had our annual Neighborhood Bike Ride.
On the home front, I rode my first organized century since surgery back in February. My endurance and strength have been continuing to improve slowly but steadily, and I was thinking of this as a test that would tell me where I am fitness-wise. And maybe it would give me some clues about how much the old heart valve was affecting me, and what my potential for further improvement might be.
The ride was the SMW fall century, hich wanders the back roads from the town of Loudon to Tellico Plains and back. This is a very pleasant and scenic ride in the rolling hills of the Ridge and Valley Province, though woods, pastures, soybean fields, and a few big fields of switch grass. It skirts Tellico Reservoir and the sites of a cluster of Overhill Cherokee towns , one of which gave Tennessee its name. The ride has no big climbs, but not much of it is flat, either; some of the short climbs are steep enough that those of us who need to pace ourselves carefully are well advised to use low gears. I have ridden this event 4 or 5 times in the last 10 years, and my best time was just under seven hours in about 2005.
The temperature at the start was a little cool at about 50F, but I was comfortable in arm and leg warmers, full gloves, and a wind vest. The local patches of morning fog dissipated as it warmed up, and it turned into a glorious day of clear blue skies and foliage just hinting at autumn.
On many of these rides, I naturally fall in with a group of riders that is going about the same speed as me, though my tendency to stop only briefly at the rest stops often makes that more difficult. This time, I did not find a group that matched my pace well, though I took some opportunities to draft behind faster riders. When the 100-mile and the 62-mile rides split, several riders I was around took the shorter option, and I rode alone into Tellico Plains and on past there. Then at Madisonville, I left the rest stop with a group that had been going faster than me but appeared to be tiring, while I was still feeling good. I sat on with them for a few miles.
Then, about 80 miles and 5 hours into the ride, I noticed that my crank arm was about to fall off and I could not ride any farther. A couple of weeks before, I put on this cool SKF bottom bracket. Crank arms frequently require tightening a couple of times after being removed, and evidently I had not done this enough times. This was the first time in my decades of riding that I been stranded by making this beginner mistake.
I pulled out the cell phone and called for help. None of the support vehicles were anywhere close, but they sent one my way. Though frustrating because I had spoiled my chance to set a good time, the weather was so fabulous the wait was not at all unpleasant. Finally, about an hour after I stopped, I got into a car with my bike on a trunk rack, and we headed up the road 10 miles to the next rest stop, where the support crew had tracked down the 15 mm socket I needed to get rolling under my own power
After a few seconds with the wrench and topping off my water, I was back on the road. I was feeling great. An hour of rest helped, but I was feeling good before stopping. I had only about 10 miles to go and I was ready to cover some ground.
Just a few miles before the end I was catching up to another rider on a descent. I thought to myself, he sure is being a wienie on that curve … ohmygod yikes! Sound of skidding rear tire and the crunch of me and the bike landing in the ditch. In spite of riding this road before, I totally misread the curve and entered it way too fast. I checked myself over and found a few bruises and a cut just below the right knee. The bike was apparently undamaged, and after I got the front fender to stop rubbing I got back on and finished the ride. The cut on my leg was bleeding dramatically (with the help of Coumadin), and I stopped in the bathroom and cleaned it up. I ate the sandwich provided, schmoozed a little, and got the cut dressed. When I got on the bike to ride the 100 meters or so back to my car, I discovered that my tire was flat, so I walked.
After a 45 minute drive home, my knee had stiffened up a bit. By the time I put my gear away and got into the shower, the knee was swelling up and getting sore. By the end of the shower, it was clear that it needed some attention. Since it was Saturday evening and the next Monday was a holiday, the only real option was the emergency room. At the ER, I got x-rays and prescriptions for pain pills and anti-inflammatories. Nothing was broken (although there was an unexplained old bone chip floating around), but they could not tell if there was anything else damaged that would not improve on its own. For at least a couple of days, it’s rest, ice, elevation, anti-inflammatories, and crutches. I can’t do my regular weekend chores and I am mostly helpless.
It was a great ride on a wonderful day but I end up frustrated and stymied. I was riding better than I have for nearly 20 years, and I felt good enough that I probably could have gone faster. I messed up the ride with bad bike maintenance, and then I crashed badly enough that I will be off the bike for an indefinite period.