Going into this year, I had two bucket-list items I wanted to tackle: Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) and an Iron-distance triathlon. I had hoped to do those last year, but life got in the way–good, but challenging events–and I had to pass on those. Instead, I settled for the Kentucky Century Challenge and a smaller triathlon.
I enjoyed those rides, which included the Bourbon and Bluegrass Ride–arguably the best century ride in Kentucky last year. But this year, I decided to tackle RAIN and Ironman Chattanooga (IMCHOO). My plan was to use RAIN as a training ride for IMCHOO.
RAIN is exactly what the name describes: a ride across the width of Indiana. They bill it as “one day, one way, 160 miles”. The course is mostly flat, but it does have some significant climbs–long but not really steep–to keep you honest. While I’m an experienced century (100+ mile) rider, I’d never taken my bike longer than 115 miles on one day. And at IMCHOO, the bike distance is going to be 116 miles. I looked at RAIN as a means to get myself mentally prepared for the long grind of the bike course of IMCHOO.
Going into RAIN, my plan was simple: aim for the same RPE (rate of perceived exertion) that I plan to aim for the bike portion of IMCHOO. I figured if I felt good at the Greenfield rest stop (almost mile 115), I will be in a good place as my final ten weeks to IMCHOO commences.
The week of the ride had me concerned about the weather outlook: all week, the indicators were for thunderstorms on race day. I wasn’t worried about rain–I’ve biked in conditions that included both rain and cold temperatures–but I’m no longer fast enough to dodge lightning. My hope was for the rain the be light to moderate.
I hoped to finish RAIN inside 12 hours: I was giving myself room for rain delays and even a bonk on the last portion of the ride.
In a nutshell, I was pleasantly surprised.
The temperature at the start of the race was probably in the low to mid-60s. Very comfortable. Skies were overcast with the forecast calling for sporadic rain.
The first rest stop was at mile 40, so I had the following: water in my Speedfil hydration bottle, Gatorade in my secondary bottle, and pancake syrup for my emergency carbohydrates for late in the race.
It was so comfortable that, for that 40-mile stretch, I never went to the Gatorade. Coming into the first rest stop, I was wet from the rain but otherwise comfortable. Timewise, I was killing it by my standards, averaging just north of 17 mph. I felt VERY good, almost like I was barely working.
The line at the rest stop was long, but–after a little delay–I snuggled with my baby girl, chatted with my wife, filled up on carbs and topped off my water bottle and got moving.
The second rest stop was about 25 miles. Again, it felt effortless. There was rain, but that had a cooling effect and actually made the ride more enjoyable. The wind was light but at our backs.
At mile 60, with 100 miles to go, I joked with one of the riders: “I think I’m warmed up for my century ride now!”
Going into rest stop #2, I actually felt rested. I chatted with the wife, snuggled with my baby girl, filled my water bottle, got my carbs, and got moving.
The 29 miles between rest stops 2 and 3 also felt effortless. It was the best I’d ever felt at that stage of any century-distance ride. I noticed some chafing, but I wasn’t tired. I hung out with the wife and baby, downed some lunch, topped off my water bottles, and got moving again. Next stop: Greenfield, IN.
The 29 miles into Greenfield were difficult, but only due to the Indianapolis traffic: we had several long red lights, a few stop signs at busy intersections, and one train delay at a railroad crossing. Those slowed me down by about 10-12 minutes. Otherwise, the stretch was good.
At Greenfield (Garmin had me at mile 113), I felt VERY good. For the most part, I felt like I had accomplished one of my goals for the day.
The rest of the ride was 47 miles of nice highway on US-40 going into Richmond, with a stop 19 miles in at Dunreith.
Just as I pulled into Dunreith, we got our hardest downpour of the day. But it was short-lived.
At Dunreith, I got some last-minute carbs just for insurance purposes. I also made sure to top off my water bottle and Gatorade bottle. Snuggled my baby, kissed my wife, promised her I’d take it easy on the slick roads. 28 more miles to the finish.
At that point, I wasn’t so much tired as much as I was just wanting to be done. My worst problem was chafing, not fatigue. I felt like, if the race were 200 miles, I had enough in the tank to get that done.
That last 28 miles were really nice. That stretch of US-40 coming out of Greenfield was, on its own, worth the ride. We had an entire lane to ourselves, it was well-maintained, it was flat. (Well, except for the two final climbs.)
With 14 miles to go, I went to my emergency carbohydrates–my pancake syrup–for the first time. And I only did that as a precaution, as I knew there were a couple climbs at the end.
At mile 151, we had a long climb: not a steep climb, but a long one. I felt like hammering through it as hard as I could, but I stuck to my plan of sticking to my planned Ironman RPE.
At about mile 157, we had another climb: not as long as the one at 151, but enough to let us know how good the flats were. When that was over, I knew the finish was near.
Sure enough, as my Garmin indicated I was on the last mile, I saw the cones directing us to the finish at Earlham College.
I finished right at 5:30PM. My total time was 10 hours and 30 minutes, including the port-a-potty lines at the rest stops, the long red lights, the one railroad delay, and a few long delays at intersections.
According to my Garmin, my total moving time was 9 hours and 30 minutes. 16.8 mph average. And to my surprise, I was able to hold a 16+ pace well into the final stretch. My drop-off at the end was due to the two long climbs and some red lights. I did not bonk.
That was my fastest pace of ANY century ride. Even at the end, I was nailing solid split times, better than any of my training rides. Normally, my legs are gone at the end; not this time.
On the positive side:
(1) My preparation for IMCHOO appears to be going well. I now have 5 century+ distances for the season, and even in the off-weeks I’m getting solid bike-run combos in. My performance at RAIN was better than any of my previous rides–training, scheduled events, even the sub-100s.
I hit it out of the park.
(2) I was able to maintain my RPE throughout the ride. I expected to bonk, but it never happened.
(3) The weather was perfect. All of my prior training rides had been in hot and humid conditions with persistent headwinds. This time, I got good weather, and my body rewarded me.
Overall, the folks who worked RAIN put on a great event. The rest-stops were well-stocked, the course was well-marked, the police did a wonderful job of patrolling the tough intersections.
If you can do at least 80 miles of hilly riding, you can do RAIN. If you’re an experienced century rider and want to expand your horizons to get some bragging rights, this is a ride for you.
If you want a long ride for a regular annual challenge, this is a ride for you.
This was my favorite long ride to date. I give it 5 stars.