Friday, November 15, 2013

Two Wheels, Human-Powered, Part II: Tour de Donut

Question: how can you gain weight by riding in a 32-mile bicycle race?  Answer: enter the Tour de Donut.

Roger and Christina Bowersock put on this event on the Saturday after Labor Day each year, in (or, well, starting and ending in, anyway) the small town of Arcanum, Ohio, which is not far from Dayton.  It's a race, but probably not too serious a race for many of its participants.  And I was there for my second Tour de Donut on this past September 7.

How does the race work?  There's an entertaining video that explains it in some detail.  Briefly, though, there are two locations on the course at which the riders stop and eat donuts.  For each donut eaten (and held down, at least to the finish line), the rider gets five minutes deducted from his or her time.  The number of donuts is tracked by volunteer workers who mark them on the rider's bib.  All donuts must be eaten at the stop, not carried away.  At the finish, another volunteer records the number of donuts, and thus the rider is credited.

Wanting to sleep onsite the night before (Arcanum's a couple of hours from my home), I took advantage of a good deal offered by the Faith United Methodist Church, located about two blocks from the start-finish line.  For $25, you get sleeping-bag space on their floor plus a very good spaghetti supper, including bread, salad, and dessert, the night before.  Whoever makes the spaghetti sauce does an exceptionally fine job of it, too.

My Tour de Donut home-away-from-home, for the second time.  Highly recommended.

Timing is done by RFID chip, so there's no hurry about getting to the start line.  And that's just as well; as you can see, the population of Arcanum is swelled considerably by the Tour.  I was fairly near the front of the crowd, but I hear it takes about 15 minutes after the gun before the last rider crosses the timing mat.

More than a few folks are gathering for the 8:30 start.  It's quite the crowd to be a part of.

The 2012 Tour was my first, and I was on older, heavier equipment.  That year, I took 2 hours and 4 minutes (and some seconds) to get around the 32 miles, eating two donuts at each stop for a total of four.  That got me 35th place out of 163 men, aged 51 and up, in "raw" time, and 32nd place in net or donut-adjusted time.  This year, I was on my newer, lighter bike, and I opted for a different donut strategy:  I didn't stop at the first stop (it's optional), and I ate two donuts at the second stop, and did it all in 1 hour 44 minutes (and, again, some seconds).  This year, there were 211 men in my 51-and-up age category, and I came in 20th in raw time, but a poor 40th in donut-adjusted.

I took this just after finishing.  Note that there are relatively few riders in the shot.  Not to boast or anything, but that's because most of them are still out on the course, somewhere behind me!

Now, please don't laugh, but I went into this race intending to win it.  And when I finished, I thought maybe there was some chance I'd done that, because I'd been keeping track of who passed me.  Of those who did, it seemed to me that they were all younger folks.  I saw no fellow geezers go by.  On inspecting the results, however, I see that I can forget about ever winning this event, either in raw time or donut-adjusted.  The guy who won the raw time this year made no donut stops and finished in an hour and 19 minutes; that's 25 minutes quicker than my time.  Okay, knock off five minutes for the donut stop that I made and he didn't; he was still 20 minutes faster.  Now, I could train a lot harder and maybe reduce my time by a minute or three; but there's no way in this universe that I can ride that course 20 minutes faster than I did.  Whoever that guy is, he's just a way-better cyclist than me.  Similarly, the donut-adjusted winner finished just a couple of minutes quicker than I did.  But he did so while eating: twelve.  Twelve.  Freaking.  Donuts.  Again, there's no way for me.  If I had eaten a dozen donuts, I'd probably still be out there somewhere in Darke County, Ohio today.  And still puking, no doubt.

I'm here to tell you, though, that there's nothing like a race.  It's easy to find organized rides or tours; around here, you could do one most every weekend throughout the season.  And I enjoy them.  But a race -- that's different. I went pretty hard.  I turned that last corner and hit that last six blocks or so, on the brick-paved main drag in Arcanum, with the finish-line arch in sight, going as fast as I possibly could, with people in the area being nice enough to ring some cowbells and even cheer a little.  Across the finish line, I could just barely walk.  But that huge rush of endorphins you get at that point ... I'm not going to say that it's "better than sex," but I will say it's better than some sex.  It's amazingly gratifying.

So now you know how to gain weight while riding 32 miles.  And have a lot of fun in the bargain, too.

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