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Richmond, IN to the Tennessee border
By Mark Stosberg - (contact)

Campbellsville, Kentucky to Dale Hollow State Park, on the Tennessee Border

Sunday October 2, 2005, 70 miles (113 km) - Total so far: 350 miles (563 km)

Today I woke with a knee that ached more than the previous morning. This was a bad sign. I took an Advil with breakfast.

I left with the front of the group but found myself walking up the first significant hill due to knee pain. I pulled over and put on my knee brace, not feeling hopeful about making it through the day. Meanwhile, nearly all the riders passed me.

At the next significant hill, I was off and walking again.

My head filled with all the possibilities. I wanted to complete the event-- no one else had dropped out-- but I didn't want to develop a long term knee problem either. I tried to mentally prepare myself to give up. I had already been on the road for four and half days, travelled over 300 miles and passed the milestone of riding to my father's home in Frankfort, Kentucky.

At the top of the hill, I found Don was waiting for me, and Linda and Charles were there, too. I explained my predicament. I could keep going if I pedaled with one leg clipped in a lot of the time, and pushed the bike up hills, but that was about it. I had already had an Advil with breakfast and it wasn't helping.

Charles had some advice for me. I listened carefully. I found out the day before that he was a former nurse. He suggested that Aleve was great for joint pain, and noted that Ron had some with him. Ron had just passed us a couple minutes earlier at a slow pace.

I took off in that direction as fast as I could, sometimes cranking the pedal around with only my left leg. I caught up with him shortly, and he did indeed have Aleve onboard and was willing to share some when we got the next turn, less than a mile up the road.

I got there first and began to address another breakdown I was having-- my brakes were creaking again, and I figured my old brake pads were finally wearing through. I needed them on some of these steep downhills! Scott, the ever-present mechanic was already parked there to help. He had exactly the replacement brake pads I needed with him, and he began the replacement process while others passed through.

I got some Aleve from Ron and let it kick-in while I was waiting for my bike repair to be completed. By time it was done, absolutely all the riders had passed us, although Charles waited without prompting to take off with me.

The drugs apparently worked, with near magical qualities. Soon Charles and I were climbing a hill faster then usual. I pulled ahead of Charles and passed two more riders on a downhill, trailed briefly by state trooper as I navigated the descending curves at 30 mph. On the next big uphill-- the kind I would have definitely walked-- I passed three more riders crawling up it.

Some minutes later I caught up with my dad, who had paused at a country intersection to chat with the event photographer. We rode into lunch at Lindsay-Wilson College together, although now it was my turn to pull ahead and wait at intersections.

After a superb lunch at the College cafeteria, I went on to have my fastest segment riding on this final stretch of the trip. Perhaps it was the drugs working. Certainly the end of the event was in sight, and my fears about an injury preventing a finish were diminished.

On this afternoon I spent some time with the fastest riders on the trip. These rockets would catch up with my early start, and then zip on by two or three or six at a time. With each cyclist drafting just a foot behind the one in front of them, they looked like a kid of multi-segment worm sliding over the meadows. I tried to close the gap and catch up again.

In a final concession to my own ego, I intentionally cut short an afternoon rest stop. By getting back on the road a few minutes earlier, I was in front again and hoped to reach the finish line before the next pack of fast riders.

Somewhere ahead of me was the Last Big Hill. This hill was rumored to be so long and steep that all seven charter members last year walked up it. After several uphill switchbacks on a country road, I decided I had found it. Because the road kept curving, I couldn't quite see where the hill ended, but I could guess it was going all the way up to the ridge-line I could make out for the surrounding hills. I had mentally committed to walking this hill earlier. I had already had enough knee problems that I didn't need to challenge myself with a "killer hill" at the end of a five day cycling trip.

Yet, I found myself halfway into it and I was doing OK. My speed was slow, but my progress was steady. I had soon made it to the top. However, I didn't much chance to rest before I heard "CAR UP!" not far behind me. The fast pack of riders had caught up with me on the killer hill and was within earshot.

Judging by how fast they had caught up to me, I knew there was no chance I would keep my lead for the last 10 miles. But I was going to have fun trying! I moved into full-exertion mode, a pace I could not sustain. I was now cresting the rolling hills at 20 mph rather than 6 mph, with the pack often in sight in my rear view mirror or worse-- in earshot as our distance shortened near the crest of another hill.

In part I was pushed forward by recumbent-cyclist-syndrome-- the need to prove that my strange looking bike is as fast as their "wedgies" are. By this point I knew the other cyclists were playing the same game. They could see me and my red bandana fluttering in the wind up ahead, travelling faster than they expected and egging them on.

By calculating with my mirror, I realized I was coming to hill they would finally pass me on. This was on the road that went into the final destination, less than five miles away. I had one final surprise for them.

I pedalled fast going into the hill, sliding up it above 20 mph. Still, I was about to be overtaken. I could see the riders standing up in their saddles now, cranking with effort for the final push. I can't stand up and crank on a recumbent, so I used my own sprint technique, I geared down and spun the pedals around at over 100 rounds per minute. A full sprint. This was enough to pull me over the crest just ahead of the pack, but I knew this was the end. After sprinting like that I would have to slow to recover, if only briefly.

Someone said "That thing is fast! You broke 30!", and then the train of drafters slide ahead into the distance, just a blur of carbon fiber and spandex.

Briefly, my recumbent cyclist syndrome had gone into remission.

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Click here for a larger version of the picture

The finish line. This is the boat ramp where we did the official tire dipping in the lake bordering Tennessee.


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"Richmond, IN to the Tennessee border" Copyright © 2005-2014 By Mark Stosberg - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on October 6, 2005 19:01 PDT, last updated on November 24, 2006 18:46 PDT
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