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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Conquering the Tour de Shawnee

Two years ago, Hubby and I traveled to Cape Girardeau to participate in the Tour de Shawnee. The Tour being in southern Illinois, I knew there were going to be hills since this area of Illinois is tucked very nicely in between Kentucky and Missouri. The first hill we came to slammed home the fact that the Tour wasn't going to be easy. I looked at Hubby, saying, "See you at the top" and put my head down, intent on making it without having to get off my bike like so many other cyclists were doing. I did make it to the top that day without having to get off my bike, which was the hybrid I'd bought to compete in my first sprint triathlon, and I felt pretty darn good about my accomplishment. That day, Hubby and I finished the metric century together, battling a southerly headwind for 15 miles. I had wanted to ride the 100 miles, but Hubby asked me to stay with him since he was beginning to get tired and bonking at the 50 mile mark. I vowed then and there I would return to the Tour one day and conquer the 100 miles. Two days ago, Friday, we arrived back in Cape Girardeau to spend the night then get up and ride the Tour on Saturday.

The day started out very chilly, around 38 degrees, and the wind added further chill at 13 mph. As we stood in line, ready to roll out, I felt pretty good as I'd made sure to put on the fleece leggings along with the wool socks. Only my cheeks were cold, but I was hoping once we got going, I'd warm up. Not long after 8 am, we followed the leaders out onto Rt. 3 and began the Tour de Shawnee.

Hubby had decided to do the hilly 30 route to ride with me for about 25 of those 30 miles. When we reached "The Hill" as we'd started calling it, I again said, "See you at the top" and started up. I'm pretty sure a smile was plastered on my face as I climbed--all I was thinking about were the many hills I'd climbed all summer and how this one was now just another hill. There really wasn't anything special about it. I stopped at the top to wait for Hubby, and while I waited, I joked and laughed with those reaching the top. Many were gasping for breath, some coughing, some having to get off their bike to lean over and get more blood flow to their head. One woman exclaimed, "I didn't know there were hills in Illinois." One young man belched then looked at me and apologized. I just laughed, asking, "Feel better?" He shook his head no. When Hubby arrived, we started off, gearing up for the next hill.

Through the next 10 miles, we climbed, with me waiting at the top of each hill while Hubby made his way up, and we rode along, enjoying the fall colors. Hubby wasn't feeling the greatest, but what can he expect after not riding for quite some time now? He did make it to the first rest stop where he decided to call it a day, and I started off to finish what I traveled to Cape Girardeau to do. 

For the next 85 miles, I rode through beautiful countryside, most of my thoughts on the summer ride: the train rumbling by in Mineral, the moon over Vesuvius, the vistas of Kentucky, the ferry ride across the river to Illinois, the bridge over the Mississippi, the cyclist hostel in Farmington, the night ride from Chanute to Cassoday, the heat of Kansas, the sunrise in Haswell, the climb of Monarch Pass. And so many more memories. Dealing with a northerly headwind that made riding difficult even while going east and west, I found I simply kept going. I never thought about packing it in, cutting the ride short because of how difficult the going was. I knew I could do the 100. It was just like any of the days from the summer ride.

At mile 64, Hubby met me at the rest stop. There, I told him I was going to pass up the next rest stop scheduled for mile 84 and just go to the one at 94. He would meet me there to see how I was feeling. When I rolled into mile 94 rest stop, Hubby was stunned to see me, as he put it, "so soon. You must have been hauling." Not really, but having the wind at my back for a longer stretch definitely helped. I was able to shift to the large sprocket and just roll along at a smooth 21 mph which was quite a difference from the 13 mph into the headwind.

The six miles from the rest stop to the finish were again into the headwind, but I sat back and enjoyed. I was one of the few who'd taken on the challenge and not backed out because of the wind. I fulfilled my vow: I conquered the Tour de Shawnee, loving every second of it.

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