The elevation is one of the harder aspects of taking on a long bike ride. Although you may think the state of Arkansas is flat because of the Mississippi Delta region that makes up the southeast portion of it, I’m here to tell you that is certainly not the case. The Big Dam Bridge 100 cycling course has a total ascent of 4840 feet, with the worst headache coming right around mile 65, where there is this massive hill with an elevation that peaks at about 815 feet.
So, I know what you are ‘supposed’ to do when it comes to training to improve your climbing ability. It’s all about the power-to-weight ratio. In other words, to be in top climbing shape, you need to weigh roughly twice in pounds what your height is in inches. So if you are, let’s say, 5’10 (70 inches) you should weigh in at a whopping 140lbs. Seeing as how I’m not going to be one of those Tour de France guys breezing through the mountains of the Pyrenees, singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” I’ll skip the lettuce-only diet and stick to what works—ice cream.
Another thing to do is to try and stay seated most of the way up. It uses less energy than coming off of the saddle, and with 30 plus miles remaining, that is important. Of course by mile 65, staying seated is difficult when that part of your body you desperately try to ignore occupies your entire existence… When you can no longer appreciate the sweet smell of sweat and burnt rubber on the beautiful path of victory because all you can think about is that bloody pain in your rear.
While staying hydrated is really important– especially during the Arkansas heat– taking in too many liquids will cause you to make multiple stops to answer the call of nature.
Managing your caloric intake is also crucial for a 100-mile ride, so it is important to keep eating along the way. It will definitely help you feel a lot better at the end of the race.
As I was riding at about the 30th mile, I started thinking about all the dangerous encounters one might face while cycling the trails in Arkansas. From the snakes to the big trucks, the open road can be a hazardous place, especially if you aren’t in a car. This is evident by the volume of carcasses spotted on the roads. I mostly see armadillos (like today), but there are also many other species out there. There is roadkill everywhere!
Let’s not forget the mosquitoes… Oh, and the ever-present multitude of gnarly gnats that get in your eyes, up your nose, and in your mouth. The gnat splats on my forehead are a real badge of honor.
Then, of course, there’s the fluctuation in weather, which I was lucky enough to encounter today. It began with beautiful sunshine, and I didn’t have a care in the world. The next thing I know I was surrounded by mammoth dark clouds with grumblings of thunder in the distance. I thought to myself that this was not going to work out well.
And it didn’t. It was a complete disaster. I was prepared for the heat and dehydration, but what I got was thunder, lightning, and more water than I could imagine with the torrential downpour of rain. I guess you can never be too prepared. If it looks sunny, you better pack a rain suit.