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Sunday, June 27, 2010

(201km) Long Bike Rides and Getting Caught Out In The Rain

Rainclouds over the ChoShui

On Sunday I did everything in my power to set myself up for failure, or at least a bad ride. All I knew for the week is that I wanted to do a long ride and make up for a week of rain. I wasn't sure what the weather would be like and just didn't think about riding. Without a plan I could not make the physical or mental preparations that can make or break a day of endurance riding. That means that I did not spend the week eating correctly. I did not spend the night before hydrating properly. I did not prep my body with stretching on the non-riding days. I did not mentally trace my route and imagine when and where to expend my energy. I did not plot my course on a map and look for "outs". I did not even have any fruit at home for breakfast. I didn't even know where I was going until I woke up. This is absolutely the wrong way to go about things. Seriously.

Taichung's Ugliest Piece of Public Art (Look at the anatomical proportions. I guess with a flying man-cow-horse you can make up any proportions you want. WTF?!)

I woke up late as I had fallen asleep on the couch while watching World Cup and never set my alarm. This would seal my decision to head down the Highway 3, which is a hillier route to southern Taiwan. I wasn't sure how far I would go, but I figured I would head back when I felt about "half-way". The humid air was already boiling by early morning and I knew it would be one of the hottest days of the year. The sun is about a week away from its closest point to the earth (July 6) and the temp would soon be up into the high 30's.

A Friendly Group of Cyclists

Being the first really sunny day in a while there were several cycling groups already out and on the roads by the time I took off. Some were huge packs (convoys) and others were just a four or five riders out for the morning. At one point as I was zoning out into my music I heard a loud "woof", and turned to find a big Taiwanese roadie on too small a bike greeting me for a couple pulls. With all that energy I was afraid he'd push me past my comfort zone on a long ride. I try not to get into "chase the rabbit" games on long rides as the energy is always needed at the end. Luckily he was all about enthusiasm and not performance, so he made a great riding partner for a few clicks.

The Sweetest Place in Gukeng

The temperatures soared by mid morning and with the humidity I knew I had to pay extra attention to my hydration situation and my nutrition intake. I stopped near Gukeng, by the Honey Museum, for some water and sport drink.

On these really hot days it is important to drink enough and not too much. I was trying to drink water to Fin Sport Drink at a 2:1 ratio. Periodically, I stopped for water and bought an extra bottle to dump over my head to bring my temperature down and to wash the salts off my face. I've come back from some rides looking like a salted ham. The Fin is the least sugary electrolyte drink and it is the easiest to drink on a long, hot ride. I also rode with my leg muscles over my lungs to keep my HR down. The heat can be really dangerous and I have had some rides where I came home and collapsed with headaches and fatigue from the heat. Hot riding can be done well, but it has to be done right.

The Yunlin 228 Memorial

Near Gukeng I also stopped to take a look at the Yunlin 228 Memorial. Local 228 memorials have sprung up in nearly each county as the result of the indigenization phenomenon that started with the end of martial law in 1988. I will blog more on this a little later.

Pineapple Fields and Hills

I headed along the mountains into Chiayi County. It is pineapple season and the sweet smell of pineapples was enough to overpower the smell of pig shit. I kept an eye on the white, billowy clouds that hung on the mountains and hoped the gorgeous weather would hold, but maybe a special order of opportune cloud cover would have been an ideal treat.

Whah... Cow!

I was getting excited as I was moving along the foothills and the local communities are often distinct and colorful. You never know what surprises lie up ahead.

Groovie Ghoulies

I passed through Mei shan and through a small procession of pilgrims to the local temple. They even had a dangi spirit medium preparing to flay himself near the front of the temple.

Renyi Reservoir: Originally established by the Dutch and expanded by subsequent colonists.

I decided I would head back before noon at Huan-a Rd. I had been passing through the area of Saaora speaking people also once known as Tevoran. The Tevoran area was used by several groups of Siraya speaking plains indigenes as an area to seek refuge during headhunting season. Tevoran was also used by many of the Maddou villagers in 1636, when the Dutch embarked on their campaign of retribution. The custom of withdrawal in times of impending threat may have led to the popular, and inaccurate trope that the plains indigenes retreated into the mountains and became the highland Aborigines.

Chiayi 228 Memorial

I finally made it to the 159甲 to Chiayi City. At the base of the hill there is another 228 memorial. Chiayi actually built the first 228 memorial in Taiwan near the train station as it marks the final battle of the failed rebellion. The newer memorial uses a "totem pole" depicting a greater trope of Taiwanese oppression at the hands of outside powers.

Chiayi (Proof:火雞肉飯 lower left)

As I rolled into Chiayi City, I felt a single raindrop hit my face. I looked up and saw a large, dark cloud rolling in from the southwest. At that I calculated I would have enough fuel in the tank to get home at speed and busted for Taichung. The race was on. I was keeping my speed at about 35-40kph. and made quick work of the counties. I was so concerned that a front would move in from the southwest that I didn't notice the mountains I had just come out of were veiled in advancing rainclouds.

I pushed myself to sustain my effort. Despite rainclouds on all sides I was riding in a trough of sunlight. The heat was simply intense and riding through the thick, humid air was just a labor.

As I closed in on Changhua, I noticed a massive, black raincloud sitting right over Taichung, held in place by Bagua Shan and Dadu Shan. By this point I stopped at a 7-11 to buy a plastic bag for my electronics. I was pretty much resigned to getting soaked.

I soldiered on into the face of the storm and the rain just wouldn't start. I thought I might be able to make it home without getting wet. I was sorely wrong. Just 8km from my front door the clouds opened up. It was as if someone pushed the "rain" button and it just poured. My ipod promptly died and I just kept going. I figured with the bibs on it would be like an old time swimming suit. All I needed was a handlebar mustache and a penny-farthing. The coolness of the rain actually gave me a boost of energy.

My bike performed flawlessly in the rain. The disc brakes worked as if dry and that gave me the confidence to continue at a slower, but safe 33kph. I figured I would pedal my ass off to get home and then I could relax with a hot pizza, rather than sit around some place dry for an unknown period of time. That was all fine until the electricity started and I was seeing spots from a flash of lightning over my head.

I thought about what to do if my bike gets hit by lightning besides die. Anyone know? I figure with such small tires, being exposed and with metal clips in the shoes, the prognosis can't be good. I hid for 15-20 min. then I decided to brave the storm once again. I though if I could ride close to tall things I would be ok. I pedaled the remainder of the way home with even a couple guys on scooters cheering me on for riding in the conditions. A little adventure for what I had assumed would be a so-so ride.

Storm Over Changhua

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  1. Glad to hear you made it back safely! The pics from the ride look great. I especially like the photo from the Renyi Reservoir and the last one.

  2. Thanks Todd! That last one in Changhua is my favorite.

  3. Sounds like a day of finding out what you can really do when you hadn't planned on it. Thank you for the narrative and photos.

  4. Actually, my first century was an accident. Once I got to point A I figured I could get to point B.

    I think the real hot days are a little trickier with logistics and health management.

    Good time!

  5. Another excellent story. I particularly liked your quote: "I've come back from some rides looking like a salted ham." Very funny and also most riders could identify with that.

    Mike C.