I have just returned from my Mt. Sufferlandria: The Tour da Yoop, Eh, a 1200-mile tour around the perimeter of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I had doubts about the ability of this slightly pudgy, middle-aged lady to ride 120 miles ten days in a row. But, I am a slightly pudgy, middle-aged Knight of Sufferlandria, so I signed up anyway.
My husband, another KoS, leaped up the side of the mountain, dodging lava flow and falling ash like the hero he is and reaching the summit without his HR breaking 140. I am immensely proud of him.
I…well, I managed the first 500 and last 400 miles, with a two-day break in the middle. I learned some things: First, there are things you can’t really know about your bike fit until you’ve ridden a long time. My cleat position, normally perfect, was too far forward for this distance and started causing my Achilles tendons agony after day 2. Moving them back helped, but the damage was done.
Second, group riding is a blast. I had never ridden in a group of any kind before, only solo or with a single buddy. I got to experience the power of the paceline, and felt empowered by my turns at the front (normally I stay on my husband’s wheel and let him pull). The Sufferfest workouts were a great help there. I felt I already knew what to expect and how to pace my pull. And the people I rode with were amazing: cooperative, helpful, fun, and interesting to talk to as the miles rolled by.
Third, the Gravel Grinder 200 plan is a very good one. It was not enough on its own to get me ready for this many miles, but it got me good and ready last spring for the long rides I needed during the summer. That I didn’t do quite enough of those long rides during the summer is on me Adding strength and yoga to the plan did me a lot of good, too. I am sure that they kept me from greater injury due to the repetitive stress.
Finally, I realized that my strategy of avoiding hills where I can is not a good one for either cycling or life (not to mention not befitting a citizen of Sufferlandria). I will go back to this event next year to finish the stages I skipped, and in the meantime I will be getting used to attacking hills and other things that scare me.
I highly recommend riding in the UP. It has amazing variety of roads: lakeshore, mountain wilderness, farm roads, gravel roads. We saw moose, bears, and foxes. We jumped into three of the Great Lakes. Check it out if you can.