Florida’s event riding season is quickly winding down. The onset of spring usually signals the end of the season…and with reason too, as our hot, humid summer months would not be conducive to large event rides…that is, unless you happen to work in the EMS field and love to treat dehydration and heatstroke.
Today’s ride, the 2nd Annual Immokalee Run & Ride for Literacy, is one of the last. It’s a metric century (30 & 15 mile rides too) along with a 5k run for those who prefer two legged activity over the two wheeled variety. It’s in support of the Family Literacy Academy of Immokalee, which provides full service family literacy to Immokalee families with children age’s birth to five, including age-appropriate preschool instruction and educational play for children as well as English, reading and parenting for parents. Since its inception in 2003, the Family Literacy Academy of Immokalee has provided preschool education for over 260 children and English speaking, reading, and writing education for over 185 parents.
The event coincided with the Immokalee Balloons over Paradise Festival, featuring over 30 custom hot air balloons, piloting competitions, big name entertainment and host of activities to celebrate Immokalee’s Harvest Festival. It was quite an impressive sight seeing all those colorful ballons lit up by their fiery burners as I drove past them in the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, as misfortune would have it, high winds kept the balloons grounded, greatly limiting the spectacle. Those same high winds were also going to play havoc with us on our metric century.
The turn out was unexpectedly large with a few hundred riders showing up in the early hours, all looking quite lost, myself included, as the events starting location was hidden inside the farmers village. This was a huge increase from last years inaugural event which only attracted a few dozen riders. Give a cyclist a good cause and a well planned event, and you’re guaranteed to get a good turnout, especially if you feed us…and feed us they did!
While waiting for the events start, we were treated to some very good homemade breakfast tacos, as well as the usual continental breakfast assortment. I always appreciate when the event hosts give us the opportunity to fuel up and hydrate (for most cyclists this means getting your caffein fix) before a ride. The route was to take us on a 62 mile loop to Ave Maria and back via County Road 846, County Road 858, and Oil Well Road (yes there is oil in Florida). I have to admit I was a little apprehensive of riding out around Immokalee as my previous ride there was not all that enjoyable (lousy weather conditions and dangerous roads, many still under construction), but my friends from the Caloosa Riders Club assured me that the route was extremely nice, which was a little off base, as the route turned out to be pretty freakn’ awesome!
Unlike previous event rides which wind their way around a city subjecting you to all kinds of traffic and dangerous intersections, this one basically just contained three turns on little trafficked, smooth rolling country roads. By my count, less than eight vehicles passed us on the entire 62 mile route. We virtually had the road to ourselves, and we took good advantage of it too, as the hot air balloon grounding winds forced us to ride in a double echelon on a number of occasions….and ride we did!
We left the farmers village at a leisure pace and headed towards the balloon filled airport. Traffic there was a bit of a mess, but the police pretty much waved us all through and got us on the open road quickly. No sooner had we cleared the airport traffic, the main group put the hammer down, quickly bringing the pace up to 24-25 MPH against a very stiff headwind of 17-18 MPH. The fast pace of the core group (about 25 in all) caused a good number of riders to fall off the pace. For the next 18 miles we never dropped below 24 MPH, often hitting speeds over 28 MPH. Needless to say, that first SAG stop at 18 miles was very welcomed as most of us were running on fumes by this point.
After a quick refueling stop, we mounted up and continued our relentless pace to Ave Maria. Now aided by a tailwind, our speeds stayed in the 27-29 MPH range. At mile 27 we turned north into a very nasty oblique wind. I started cramping up a bit (a little unusual for me, but I think it was primarily due to my riding posture, as I was riding far lower on my bike than normal to get a draft from the recumbent bike in front of me), so I chose to drop off the group and spin out the cramp at a more leisure 22 MPH. With the second SAG stop just three miles away at Ave Maria, I knew I would be easily able to rejoin the group by cutting my rest stop short.
We headed out again knowing the next 12 miles would be against the dreaded wind, but regardless of its intensity, we maintained a very fast 24-25 MPH pace. Now riding in a double echelon, we were spread all over the road. Most of us do not get to practice this formation, as traffic normally impedes us from spreading out. Some riders were a bit confused by it, not knowing whether to be on the left or right of the cyclist in front of them. In fact there was a near mishap when one rider clipped the front end of my buddy Rick’s bike, nearly causing him to spill at over 24 MPH. I’ve no idea how he managed to stop the violent oscillations of his front end without ending up on the pavement, but kudos to him for hanging on…a crash at that pace would have been very ugly indeed.
By mile 46 my left hip started cramping up yet again. I tried to hang onto the lead group as long as I could, but frankly it was too painful to hang on, leaving me no other recourse than to try and spin it out again. Unfortunately, with no other SAG stops en route, I knew there would be no catching them. Hopefully after spinning out the cramp, I’d be able to hook up with a previously dropped group of riders, but, as it turns out, our fast pace had put so much distance between us and the dropped riders, that I actually ended up riding the remaining 16 or so miles by myself. Thankfully 10 of those 16 miles was with a very welcomed tail wind.
I returned to the Farmers Village in a few ticks over 3 hours. Not a bad time at all considering I rode 16 miles solo. We all stowed our bikes and gear and then headed into the community room for an event sponsored lunch…great homemade tacos and assorted Mexican dishes plus great stories, and a lot of bragging from the other riders.
All in all a great way to end the event riding season. It was fast, fun, and challenging, but more importantly, we helped raise funds and awareness for a great local cause.
Activity: Immokalee Run & Ride for Literacy, metric century
Started: Apr 15, 2012 7:55:02 AM
Ride Time: 3:08:40
Stopped Time: 17:44
Distance: 63.07 miles
Average Speed: 20.06 mph
Fastest Speed: 27.40 mph
Ascent: 165 feet
Descent: 169 feet