A few months ago someone had the bright idea of riding our bikes to visit 3 different breweries in Oklahoma. We would hit Anthem Brewing in OKC (one of our team sponsors), Marshall Brewing in Tulsa, and Choc Beer in Krebs. We'd call it the Beermuda Triangle, it would be a grand total of 381 miles and we'd try to squeeze it into one day of pedaling...
Fast forward through many weeks of message threads about sore undercarriages, who's going to drink a beer at each brewery, logistics, and wagers on who will make it and who won't.
Saturday, November 7, at 4 am:
We start off the chilly fall morning with 11 anxious riders. Aaron has an event in Tulsa today and will ride up with us and stay there. And Joey can only ride the first 30-40 miles with us, so he gets us rolling and sets pace for the first couple hours. Once we roll out of OKC, the dark and cold sets in. It's in the upper 30's. My choice of clothing is wrong and I'm shivering. Not the best way to begin 20 hours of riding. At mile 30 we stop for a natural break and I grab more clothes out of the van. Back at it.
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It's hard to prepare for a ride of this length. I'm not a big mile rider, so I had done what I could to throw some longer rides into my training. I hadn't ridden anything over 100 miles in 2-3 months, so last weekend Paul and I rolled 160 on a Sunday and felt pretty good. Unfortunately that wasn't even half of the Beermuda.
The sun rose at mile 60 and I finally got some feeling back into my feet and hands. We were clipping along at a decent pace on a somewhat hilly route, as we dealt with a light head/cross wind from the NE. This early into the ride, spirits were high. Joking, laughing, playing around. At 10 am we roll into the Marshall Brewing parking lot. 121 miles, 20.1 mph avg. Bathroom. Re-apply chamois cream. Shed some clothing. Eat. Grab full bottles. Drink a beer. Chat with guys from Marshall. Take a picture. Put lights on charger in van. Back on the road.
Constant eating and drinking during a long ride like this is mandatory. Once you find yourself in a deficit in either category, your day will soon be over. We had all committed to "drinking when you see someone else take a drink" and eating every 45 minutes. I was trying to drink 3 bottles of Skratch or water per hour, and keep my food intake super high on rice cakes. The support crew was invaluable to this endeavor. Drop back to the van, grab a couple bottles and food, then back up to the group.
Down to 9 riders and the leg to Krebs would be 130 miles, flattish, with a cross tailwind. I had been staying on top of my feed/drink and was feeling great. We rolled down the east river trail through Tulsa and eventually made it out of the suburbs. A couple of mechanicals early had us stopped and I was growing impatient. The more stops, the more time out on the road. And stiffness sets in. I prefer no stops, especially with our support crew available to help and pace a rider back up to the group. Call me the Stop Nazi, but let's GET BACK ON THE ROAD.
Pete had planned to ride part of the way to Krebs and then help out with support, and at some point he jumped in the van. The pace was fast and a number of times a request to slow down a bit was granted. Evan and Ricky had planned to jump in the car at Krebs, and they were taking on the lions share of pace duties. And they were making us hurt. At around mile 180 we hit gravel, to a flutter of groans and expletives. I can't remember how many miles it was, but amidst the disappointment from everyone else it ended up being my favorite section of road of the entire day. We found pavement again and made a quick nature stop, and I chatted with Biff on his moto. He proceeds to tell me we are only 34 miles from Krebs. Doesn't sound right to me - my Garmin says we still have 50, but he's the one with the high end GPS device. I spread the word and morale hits the roof. We jump back on the road and start to skirt around Lake Eufala on our way to Krebs. 31 miles later I'm not seeing any signs of Krebs, when Biff pulls up next to me and says "19 miles to Krebs" and drives on up the road. This marked the start of the darkest hour of the day for me. I had backed off my nutrition knowing that we'd have pasta waiting for us in Krebs, but I think the mental hit was what affected me the most. Instead of 3 miles left, we had 19. Ricky was pulling on the front and I spent the next 45 minutes zoning out on his rear tire. Tunnel vision. Darkness. Just get to Krebs...
Food and beer was waiting for us at the Choc Brewery. I tell Biff that I want to kill him but give him a hug instead. 250 miles, 20.9 mph avg. Ricky gets in the car. Evan is in the parking lot puking up the 30+ Skratch Labs cookies he ate all day. Chris gets in the car. Waddell gets in the car. I eat ravioli, bread, meatballs. 15 minutes later I'm starving and eat another Bearded Brother's bar. The longer we sit at Choc, the more I feel like death. Like a terrible hang over, but worse. The sun is setting. Body is broken down and having problems regulating temperature. I'm freezing. I put on my down jacket.
It's now Paul, Laurent, Chad and Me. Oh, and our three saviors Andrew, Katy and Brandon. They drove to Krebs from OKC to help us with the last leg of the trip, and I could not have been more happy to see them. From here on out I'll call them the Trifecta.
Our last leg to OKC was going to be 130 miles, all in the darkness. Wheels roll. I still have my down jacket on and am finally warming up. I drop back and hand it off to the guys in the van. Pace is good, the Trifecta are keeping us rolling. But here is where the third and last leg of the trip became the most epic: I get nauseous and develop a terrible case of heartburn. Burps and farts, and even a few bouts of retching thrown in for good measure. Eating is almost impossible, but I continue to choke down rice cakes and cookies because I know if I don't my night will be done soon. On top of that, we are relegated to riding on the shoulder of state highway 270 for much/most of the way home. Imagine 270 miles in your legs, dodging road kill, rumble strips, glass and God knows what else rural folks throw out of their cars, with only a 500 lumen light projecting off your handlebars going 40 mph downhill behind other riders who are dodging the same stuff without time to point it out to you. All in a 2-3 ft wide strip of concrete. Stressful. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention the hills. I had ignorantly not done my homework, and had failed to look at the gps file of the route. So I had no idea that we'd be climbing more vertical feet in the last 130 miles than we had in the entire 250 miles before.
At mile 318 Chad tells me he's done. I yell "Noooooo!!!" but it's too late he's already hit his brakes and is getting in the car. He had the legs and felt good in body, but his brain wasn't interested in 3 more hours. Around that same time Paul's knee pain had advanced to the point where he's ready to pack it in. I tell him he'll regret it if he does, and to drop back and grab some ibuprofen. He does, and continues on. Laurent is quiet and I can tell he's in a very dark place. I tell him that quitting isn't an option but I think he's already resolved to that. Tough as nails.
The Trifecta pushes on. They are doing the majority of the pacing. The hills hurt and we ask them to slow the pace a bit on uphills. The air is quite cold, and light winds. My indigestion burns like I've never felt before. I literally choke down another rice cake and drop back to grab 2 more bottles.
Anyone who has ever done an ultra distance event (running, biking, paddling, etc) knows the cycle of feeling good, then bad, then good, then bad again. At first the majority of your feelings are good with small bouts of bad. The further you go, the more it changes to become the opposite. Oddly for the Beermuda though, my darkest hour was about mile 230-250. After that I felt like death when we stopped, but as long as we could keep rolling I felt fairly decent relatively speaking.
Around mile 320 I started to sniff Oklahoma City. When you've been pedaling for 16 hours and you only have 3 left, you can begin to feel the end. At least that is how my mind was working at the time. We had been sprinting city limit signs all day and now that Ricky, Evan and Waddell weren't with us any more I had a chance to win a few. We hit Holdenville and I stomped on the gas for the win and post up. Unlucky for me, it was just the Lake Holdenville sign and I felt like an idiot.
Shawnee city limits, and morale is stoked. We even roll by some people parked on the side of the road cheering for us as we pass. This happens a few times through Shawnee and just east of OKC. Seems as though they've been following our progress on social media and came out to cheer us to the finish. Pretty cool, I think.
Once we hit the east side of OKC, the pace quickens dramatically. We are all quite ready to get home. We speed at 30 mph through downtown as the bars are closing and people stand along the street wondering what is going on. I'm sure it was a weird site to see. Paul and I sprint the street to Anthem and roll into the parking lot, hug it out, and get off the bikes. Done.
In the pour room at Anthem we celebrate. Hugs, pictures, laughs, beers. Well, I only had a drink or two of mine. Heartburn still had me in a world of hurt.
An epic day like this doesn't happen without all the puzzle pieces coming together: Incredible support crew. Photographers - Biff and Andrew - documenting our story. Breweries opening up their doors to us. Riders pushing. This is a day I won't soon forget.
380.8 miles. 20.1 mph avg. 11 rice/bacon/egg/peanut butter rice cakes. 13 Skratch Labs cookies. 7 Bearded Brothers energy bars. 2 pints of beer (Marshall, Choc, Anthem). 67 bottles of Skratch drink/water. 1 banana. 1 unknown rice cake (Lumpy fed me from the moving van, last feed of the day). Zero flats. Half a tub of chamios cream. 476 smiles.