Enjoying some miserable fun on a rainy century ride

There are three categories of outdoor fun: type one, type two and type three.

Type one fun requires only a little effort. Mostly just show up and enjoy yourself. Type two fun involves much more effort, some sweating, a few bumps and bruises and maybe a few moments of terror before the activity is over, but when you look back on it, you remember the whole outing as a worthy, memorable adventure. Type three “fun” can be good old-fashioned misery, physical and mental pain, seriously wondering if you will survive and often a visit afterward to the emergency room.

I’m not too proud to say I have indulged in all three categories of outdoor fun on a regular basis.

Last Saturday’s activity (May 28) I’m ranking at about 2.3 on the fun scale.

It started with me getting out of bed at 4:45 a.m. and checking the weather forecast for Pocatello (for the 15th time).

I had signed up for the Tour of Marsh Creek Valley century bike ride starting in Pocatello and going 50 miles south toward Downey and McCammon, then returning back.

Normally about 60 to 100 cyclists sign up for the event and ride one of three distances: 25, 60 or 100 miles.

I signed up for the 100-mile ride. The weather forecast was calling for a cold rain all day. Highs would be in the low 50s. The forecast unfortunately turned out to be spot on.

The ride started at the Pocatello Community Charter School at about 7 a.m. Normally the parking lot is jammed with cars, people unloading bikes and making last-minute preparations to ride. When I walked up to the sign-up table which had been moved into the school lobby to get out of the rain, there were only a few people standing around.

“Are you still going to ride?” an organizer asked.

I thought I detected a hint in her voice of “We’d prefer that everyone would just go home.”

The ride organizer said 29 people had preregistered for the ride and normally another 20 to 30 would join the morning of the ride. Despite the advance sign-ups, only nine people showed up to ride; five of us wanted to ride the 100-mile route. One was a woman named Beth.

As the five of us headed down the road, Beth (from Kimberly, Idaho) told me she was training for the Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon in Scotland.

“Riding in this cold rain will probably be the same conditions as Scotland,” she said.

She had a real reason to embrace the misery, but what was I doing here? Some people are just tougher.

After riding along for about 20 miles, my hands and feet were cold and wet. My face was dripping with the spray from fellow cyclists’ wheels. I was spitting grit from my mouth. My clear safety glasses offered only a bleary view of the world. I was stuck in the soggy spin cycle.

I was wearing a full rain suit that I brought along at the last minute “just in case” and was glad I did. Without it, I don’t think I could have done it.

After an hour, I was thinking how awful it would be to have a flat tire in the pouring rain. Then about 5 miles later, my rear tire flatted. I quickly changed it and rode fast to catch up with the other four riders who slowed some.

About every 20 to 30 miles, we stopped at a feed station with smiling and enthusiastic people serving us bananas, orange slices, salty snacks and water. Although I wasn’t particularly hungry, I forced myself to eat some bananas.

After passing McCammon heading back, I noticed a helpful tailwind that pushed our average speed up.

I found that after stopping at a feed station, it took a few miles for my body to warm back up. At the last feed station in Inkom, there was an offering of little cups of dill pickles and pickle juice. All the bikers scarfed them up, knowing that the salty vinegar would help stave off cramps.

At one point, riding along in the light rain south of Inkom, we passed a smiling man carrying two giant trout dangling from one hand and a fishing rod in the other. He pulled the fish out of the adjacent Marsh Creek.

About 5 miles south of Pocatello, my rear tire went flat again. Beth’s husband, who was following behind us in his car, jumped out and pumped up the tire. The tire only stayed inflated for about a mile before needing to be pumped up again. I was out of good tubes and didn’t want to pull the tire apart and patch it. We did the pump thing three more times. After the last time, the tire wouldn’t hold any air, and since I could see the charter school a few blocks away, I just started walking. My walking route was more direct than the bike route, and when I arrived at the parking lot, my bike computer said I had traveled 99.8 miles.

Driving back to Idaho Falls, it took several miles with the car heater on high to warm up my toes.

Jerry Painter is a longtime East Idaho journalist and outdoorsman.


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