Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tour de Donut: Bad Comedy and Bad Pace

This past Saturday, September 6, was the 2014 Tour de Donut in Arcanum, Ohio.  And, by the way, I've heard local people there pronounce it as both "Ar-CAN-um" and "Ar-CANE-um."  So I still don't know which is correct.

Let's get the bad comedy and excuses out of the way first.  As I said, the TdD was on Saturday, in Arcanum.  When I got out of bed Friday morning, in Leo, Indiana, I didn't know if I was going or not.  The reasons are somewhat complicated.  Thursday afternoon, about two hours before I was due to depart for my part-time semi-unretirement job at the Home Depot up in Auburn, I was pushing the mower around the front yard, trying to simultaneously harvest the out-of-control grass and ease my conscience.  As I was doing so, I mowed over a ground-wasp colony's front door, not suspecting it was there.  The inhabitants came out and let me know of their displeasure by stinging me multiple times about the left eye, behind the right knee, and on the lower right ribs.  It's funny how, in the space of just a few seconds, life can go from "situation normal" to "what the hell just HAPPENED?".  The wasp stings were painful, but not life-threatening.  However, the main way they hurt me was by inspiring an automatic, panicked, adrenaline-fueled jump and sprint across the yard, all the while trying to brush wasps away from my eye, resulting in the temporary loss of my glasses.  You see, at my age, such a violent burst of speed, without any warmup, is more or less a guarantee of pulled muscles, and by the time I got to the house, my left hip and buttocks had me hobbling very slowly indeed.  I got the stings calmed down a little, took some naproxen sodium (generic "Aleve"), and heroically went and worked my 6 hours at the Depot, where I got some odd looks, probably from my left eye being swollen near-shut.  When I got up Friday morning, I thought I'd better climb aboard my bicycle and see if I could even ride it.  I did so, and was agreeably surprised that, while walking was still difficult, cycling felt close to normal.  It seemed reasonable to expect substantial further improvement by Saturday morning, so I decided to head over to Arcanum.

In past years, I've overnighted at the Methodist church downtown, where they offered a deal: sleeping bag space on the floor, plus a very good spaghetti supper, $25.  This year, they apparently discontinued the deal, and no one had replied to my emails of inquiry during the past few months.  Oh, well.  My fallback plan was to sleep in the space available in the Arcanum Fieldhouse: no charge, no food, no air conditioning.  I arrived there in late afternoon.

Sign-in was in the gym; sleeping space in the hallway alongside.

Having picked an unused bit of the hallway, I inflated my air mattress, deployed my sleeping bag, and had that warm, fuzzy feeling that I knew where I'd be putting my head down overnight.  The remaining problem that we all had was that the building isn't air-conditioned, and the weather was hot and humid.  I simply lay on top of the bag, and sweated.  In the morning, I didn't roll it up and return it to its stuff bag, since I'd left it rather damp.

One thing I didn't notice: I was across the hall from the entrance to the ladies' room.  Bad planning.  There was much traffic in and out through the night, and every time the door opened, the light spilled forth.  I'll try to remember next time.
There was rain overnight, and Saturday morning was cooler, but still very humid.  The overcast was solid, and we did have light drizzle through most of the race, but not enough to be troublesome.  In due course, I put on my bike shorts, my Redbud Ride jersey, and a liberal coating of "Chamois Butt'r" where it would do me the most good, and rode the few blocks from the Fieldhouse to the starting area, which is George Street, just west of Main.  I waited a bit, and soon the kids' races were underway.  Very cute, the kids were.

A young rider warms up for a two-block kids' race.  Good fun seemed to be had by all.
As the 8:30 start time got closer, the street began to crowd up a bit.  As usual, when the start came, the street was so crowded that you basically couldn't clip in and start riding until you were going across the timing mats.  But: no crashes, no problems.

As start time neared, I joined the flow of people into the street itself.  We still had a while to wait there.
In past years, there were two available distances: the 16-mile "Mini-Donut," and the 32-mile "Full Donut."  (The full, by the way, isn't actually the advertised 32 miles long; it's really 30.77.  More on that later.)  This year, an additional option was offered: the 64-mile "Double D."  That's the one I registered for.  It consists simply of two laps of the Full Donut course, which means that it isn't really 64 miles; it's 61.54 miles.  Not that the distinction is particularly important.  Race organizer Roger Bowersock, in his pre-start megaphone briefing, offered people a way to back off from the Double D; he said that, after completing one lap and arriving at the timing mats, you could either continue with your second lap or stop, have your donut count recorded, and thus compete in the Full Donut instead.  Considering how few people I saw on the course during my second lap, I think lots of people took the bailout option.

I had vaguely planned to moderate my pace for the extended distance, but when the start came, that plan was out the window.  I unthinkingly and automatically assumed "race pace" and tried to pass as many folks as possible, and be passed by as few as possible.   Screw the strategy; let's GO!  Of course, the Tour de Donut is a very odd sort of race.  (For those who aren't familiar, the web site is here, and the basic idea is that for each documented donut that you consume at the two designated donut stops, five minutes are deducted from your time.)  While you're actually riding, people treat it like a race and go as hard as they can.  But, at the donut stops, everyone's pretty sociable and friendly and not in a big hurry, even though the clock's still running; the race aspect seems mostly forgotten.  It is a lot of fun, though.

The first stop is at a place called Bear's Mill, about 12.5 miles in.  Bear's Mill is an old water-powered grain mill, and they still grind some flour there, although it's mostly an artsy-craftsy-antique-y gift store.  The donut stop is in a grassy area across the road from the mill itself.  I revisited the place as I was leaving for home, after the race, and obtained my usual five-pound bag of hard red whole-wheat bread flour, and also a couple of smelly candles for my wife, who unaccountably likes that sort of thing.

The Bear's Mill stop, during my second lap, with only a few riders present.  The mill building can be seen beyond the ambulance.  I chatted briefly with the ambulance guys, while working away at a couple of donuts, and asked them how many "customers" they typically get.  They said usually none, but they had treated someone this time.  I didn't ask what for.  I'm sure HIPAA wouldn't have allowed them to answer.

This year, the other stop was at the Pitsburg Church of the Brethren.  Being a member of the Agape Church of the Brethren, I thought that was kind of cool.  In fact, on that not-quite-31-mile course, we ride by two Brethren churches, the other being the Painter Creek church.  I mentioned this to our interim pastor, Phil Reynolds, at church the next day; he's from that area.  "Yes," he said, "the Brethren are just thick as thieves around there."  I got a chuckle out of that figure of speech.

My bicycle leans against the sign at the second donut stop.  I take a "professional" interest in such signs.  One of my jobs at my church is keeping our road sign up to date.
So, back to the race.  As I mentioned earlier, my pace was unwise in the first lap.  I completed it in one hour, 53 minutes and 36 seconds, which was just a few minutes longer than I took last year when the first lap was also the only lap.  Predictably, then, my tail was dragging some on the second lap.  Besides, on the second lap, both the rain and the wind picked up substantially.  The rain wasn't a problem, but the wind -- of course -- was.  So, my second-lap time ballooned to two hours, 14 minutes, 17 seconds.  I ate seven donuts, and so got a -35 minute adjustment to my time.  Only 40 men in my age category (51 to 99) completed the Double D; of those, I came in 20th, which was a little disappointing.  On looking more closely at the results, though, I noticed that all nineteen men who beat me had ages beginning with the numeral 5.  Of those 60 and up, I came in first!  Cool.  I guess that's how I'll think about it, anyway.  King of the Geezers, that's me.  Click here to see the official results.  It's a 38-page PDF, broken out into all the event, age, and sex categories; I'm under "Double D, male, 51 and up," the 34th page of the PDF.

My wife graciously gave me a GPS bike computer for my birthday last month, which was how I knew that the race was shorter than the advertised 64 miles.

I'm liking my new bike GPS quite well.  Thanks, Deb!

I think next year I'll drop back to the Full Donut.  The 61.5 miles seems excessive to me, as a race distance.  That's edging into endurance ride (or at least pleasure tour) sort of distance.  That will be my plan for now, anyway.


Mimi said...

Whew! As I have before, I feel I've been on the race myself, Jim. I greatly enjoyed the narrative, but didn't see your name on the standings list; are you using an alias? Sorry about the wasp thing--the same happened to my daughter several years ago--nest in the grass--and it's no fun.

Jim Wetzel said...

Thanks, Mimi! I just edited some clarification into the text. The online results posting is a 38-page PDF, at least as it displays on my computer, and is broken out into race distance, age group, male/female, bike type, etc. I'm under Double D, male, age 51 and up, and that's the 34th page of the document. So, however it displays on your machine, you'll want to drag the scroll bar about 90% of the way down. There were many, many people there!

Chuck Morris said...

How 'bout this stratagy - don't eat for 3 days, start the race, park your kiester at donut station, hammer down a dozen or two and finish the race before you started. A perfect plan!

Anonymous said...

You crack me up Jim. Great and interesting read and way to go! Wasp nests are never fun but you did it! Way to go. :-) WENDY!

Zach L said...

Jim, I was sad to have misse the "Tour" this year. We had a conflicting wedding or I could have been your partner in the Double D.

And Chuck - The first year I did this race I put down a DOZEN. I've never felt like I was working hard eating a donut until that day...