First the bad news: Five miles from the end I crashed.
Next the good news: I set a personal record average speed of 20.2 mph for the 100 miles.
Last year I did this ride at 19.6 mph. It’s just about entirely flat, up the Natchez Trace parkway 50 miles and back again, so I knew it was my best bet for breaking the 20 mph mark. I got in with a pace line right at the beginning, and we made excellent time. There were seven of us at the turnaround point.
On the way back, a couple of guys dropped out when we passed one of the rest stops. At around 75 miles, two more guys dropped out, leaving just three of us. I was feeling pretty good up to about mile 80, when I started to get some soreness and cramping in my lower back muscles. Still, I knew we were well over 20 mph at that point, and I was determined to hold on.
Around 85 miles, I was in the back of the group of three, and the guy in front of me pulled out to the left and motioned me to come up. I asked if he was okay, and he said he was cramping. I told the leader, but he wasn’t inclined to slow up. I thought about it a moment, and decided that I was hurting too much to keep up with the lead guy, who had been clearly in better shape throughout the ride. I dropped back to help the other guy (who turns out to be named Steve).
I led for a good while at around 18 mph, and he recovered enough to pull in front and take a turn. We were heading into the wind on the way back, and even the very slight grades we were encountering were slowing us up a lot. As Steve said at one point, “I’m in survival mode here.” We kept trading the lead back and forth.
At about 95 miles, Steve pulled in front of me again. I don’t have a very clear memory of exactly what happened. It seems like when he pulled in, he cut it too close and his back wheel hit my front. In any case, I know our wheels hit, and suddenly I was out in the middle of the road falling flat on my right side. My right arm, shoulder, and hip hit first, and then my head hit the pavement hard. When I looked at my helment this morning, there was a crack all the way through on the right side. Steve came back immediately and helped me up, and my bike was okay to ride, so we hobbled on in the last five miles.
Actually, we started out slowly, but pretty soon I was able to get back up to a decent speed. Ralph and Gerry were there at the finish line to take my picture, and for someone with a serious road rash, I was feeling pretty good. Even better when I checked my average speed.