It looked like I had robbed a GNC and spilled my stash in a rapid getaway.
A veritable cornucopia of bars, gels, powders and gummies was fanned out over my kitchen counter, emblazoned with promises to keep me hydrated and fast and filled with protein during the upcoming Race the Lake, an 88-mile bike ride around Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin.
Honeystinger caramel stroopwaffels, Hammer gels flavored like “mountain huckleberry,” Ginger-ale Cliff Shot-Bloks, something called a “Bonkbreaker” bar and Nuun tablets that make water taste like weak, flat Sprite taunted me from the pile.
In the mix, I found a packet of mango flavored electrolyte powder for women. Women and men need different electrolytes? I had no idea. Or maybe the issue is that men just don’t like mangoes because my husband Brad’s “man” electrolytes were exactly the same, aside from their saccharine orange flavoring.
I stared at this pile, wondering which of these comestibles would make up for the fact that I’d ridden my bike only twice in the last two weeks and hadn’t managed to get in a ride longer than 50 miles – ever.
This wasn’t entirely my fault – a combination of business trips, torrential rain and flooding in Madison and insane work weeks with limited sleep conspired against me – but it was a fact that I was not as prepared as I wanted to be.
I threw all of the foods into my bag to take to the race and gave myself a pep talk about internal drive and grit. Then I pulled out my phone and googled “what is the longest ride you have to do to complete a century?”
Fortunately, the race isn’t quite a century (100 miles). Equally fortunately, my friend was in town to do the 88-mile race with me. She is an experienced endurance athlete (has completed an Ironman, two additional marathons and two additional century rides), but she also shares a bit of my “it’ll probably be fine” attitude towards incomplete preparation. In her case, a combination of natural athleticism and determination seem to make that attitude a reality. In my case, I’d have to rely on the latter.
I cleaned my bike, meant to lube the chain but forgot, and removed the front wheel. We loaded our bikes and satchels of food and double checked the list of bike-related items.
I packed two tubes, despite my understanding that with my current speed at flat changing, one flat would be deeply depressing and two may be catastrophic.
Beer + cheese curds = watts
Then we headed north to Fon du Lac, Wisconsin to stay the night. With a 4:30 to 5:15 a.m. check-in time, we figured the extra 1.5 hours of sleep was worth paying for a night in a hotel.
I will admit that I had a beer with dinner. I also ate cheese curds. These both went against the recommendations of my bike racer friend. They were also both delicious and I have no regrets…at least until tomorrow.
Katie Kelberlau Nadolny is a veterinarian, newbie road cyclist and lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three dogs, Maggie, Vegas and Lola.