Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guest Post: Joe and the $52 t-shirt, or, the 32nd annual Tour of Saints

Hello! We've reached the blog equivalent of the point in a TV season where the sidekick takes center stage for an episode while the hero gets to take a little time off to relax in her luxurious trailer. While Elly was getting back to her city girl roots this weekend, I was off to have an outdoor adventure of my own.

was the 32nd annual Tour of Saints. The Tour is one of many bike tours throughout Minnesota each summer, and is one I have done three times previously. I've always enjoyed it- it was the site of my first 50 mile ride and is a great way to take in the beauty of rural Stearns County with more than a thousand other bikers. I completed the 50 mile version in 2008, 2009 and 2010. I missed it last year due to barely biking at all for a variety of reasons, and was excited to get back in the swing of things in 2012.
However, as the date got closer, my excitement begin to turn to trepidation. I hadn't really gotten back to any high mileage rides so far in 2012, and after a 21 mile test ride a few days beforehand, it was clear I was not going to complete 50 miles this year, and I doubted if 35 would be possible. An 18 mile option was added this year, but it simply was an out and back on the Woebegon Trail. As nice as the Woebegon is, it's not really worth paying for a ride on it (see our earlier experience with a bandited Caramel Roll Ride).
[editor's note: we did not really bandit the Caramel Roll Ride...it was technically over and we were just "biking on the same path". ;-)]
After a pep talk from Elly the night before, I decided to give it the old college try and headed to, um, the College of St. Benedict for the start of the ride. As I unpacked and assembled my bike, the sight of multitudes of happy bikers embarking on their rides lifted my spirits, and I set off with a song in my heart and a hum in my tires.

A lovely summer morning, cloudless and cool

The Tour is structured with a rest stop every 12 miles or so. First up was Rocori High School in Cold Spring, with tempting treats provided by Cold Spring Bakery, along with a very busy hydration table. At 12 miles in I was pretty optimistic. Sure, I'd been passed by about six times more people than I had passed, but those who passed me were riding nicer bikes and had shinier clothes than I. Plus, I'd already conquered six big hills and had just eaten some tasty mini caramel rolls. Today Cold Spring, tomorrow the world!
Free food, water, Gatorade; even bike repair if necessary!

The next 14 miles traced the back roads from Cold Spring to St. John's University. There were fewer major hills, and apparently all the serious bikers were already ahead of me as I was no longer getting passed right and left. One of the great things about bike tours is the variety of riders. I saw a few who looked to be middle school age, and some people who were clearly past seventy. There's a lot of very fit riders, but also plenty of people in all shapes and sizes. Fellow riders and I occasionally exchanged pleasantries as we passed, and there was a nearly full moon in the cloudless blue sky. Things were still going well, though I could feel some tiredness and soreness creeping in. Rest stop number two is hosted by Collegeville Orchards and was a very welcome sight after 26 miles of riding. It features fantastic grapes, cherries, peaches, and strawberries (also, cookies).

Kickstands? Bah, let's get some fruit!

The last leg flew by. I was tired, but I felt so good about nearly completing something I wasn't sure I could do that I almost took the 50 mile route where it splits away at mile 31. Luckily I restrained myself and wheeled back to St. Ben's for some well deserved watermelon and an expensive t-Shirt.

The ride had some highs (33.2 MPH downhill!), with beautiful weather, good snacks, biker camaraderie, and an endorphin high, and some lows (2.5 MPH uphill), with hills, some wind on the second half, hills, some tiredness, and hills. I remember now why I enjoy this so much, and in 2013- I will be doing the 50 miles. Only 363 days to go!

Editor's Note:  I took a picture of Joe being awesome in his $52 shirt

Joe's back, also awesome

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