Saturday, June 27, 2009

GITAP Day Seven

For some reason writing up the end of the GITAP experience has taken me a long time. I got home last Saturday and now it has been a whole week since the end of my experience. Well, almost a whole week since at this time last week I was still finishing the last 33 miles from Starved Rock State Park back the high school in Seneca. But we were near the end with a nice tail wind. I was riding with Sue while the others were probably finished at this point.

After the storm at Starved Rock, we had moved the tent to higher ground and I had gotten a longer extension cord from DNR so I was set for the night in my slight damp tent. Still, I was awake early and up by 4:45. Bob was up by then as well and we were getting dressed and packing up. In fact all of us were up early and ready for breakfast before 6 am, which was the official breakfast time. I think by then everyone was eager to get the day started. We had taken our stuff to the truck and were ready to get on our bikes and go that last 33 miles. I have to say that I was tired, my stomach hurt, and I wasn't sure I could make it after the 70 mile day we had done to Starved Rock. The heat, the inability to eat enough, the minor dehydration, the storm were all taking their toll. So I was prepared to have to flag down the sag car and ride in if I couldn't manage the whole ride.

I ate some breakfast, although I am sure it wasn't enough. Generally I was only able to eat small meals and the fact that I had to avoid wheat was a problem throughout the trip. I did feel better by the rest stop at a park in Ottawa at about 17 miles. That had been my goal. If I didn't feel better by then, I would call it quits. The big problem was that I was hungry and the only food was cookies. Fortunately Rich had a soy bar that I could eat since I had left all my bars in my duffle, assuming, wrongly, that there would be something I could eat at the rest stop.

By the time we got to the high school I actually felt pretty good and we got there in good time so we knew we would get home at a reasonable time as well. Even though Anne and I stopped in Bloomington at Steak 'n Shake and ate lunch, we still got to Champaign by 1:30. I didn't think I was hungry but I not only devoured a salad but drank a milkshake as well. Obviously I had no idea how hungry I actually was. I discovered that I lost about 3 pounds that week and I have lost a couple of pounds since then, which is rather surprising to me. I assumed that anything I lost was water and that I would have put most of the weight back on after my return.

So what have I learned from participating in GITAP? I have to say that for the most part I did enjoy the riding and I felt that the routes were good, the people were great, and in terms of the actual tour I had a good time. I improved my cycling skills, did a lot of climbing much better than I expected, rode at a level I was comfortable with, and managed on busy roads in towns. The fact that I could make left turns where there was a lot of traffic, keep my cool where there were lots of trucks, go downhill faster than usual without panicking, were all pluses for me. Not having to call sag and figuring out how to rest slightly so I could go on when I was exhausted were good things to learn.

What I really didn't like was the camping experience. This is not the fault of the organizers. I don't think I was cut out for camping and taking it up at almost 58 was probably not ideal. Especially now that I have special needs like using a CPAP machine. One of the problems with needing to be near an electrical outlet is that in many campgrounds that puts you next to the shower building. While that is convenient for the shower and bathrooms, it also means that you have lights and noise. Cars park there and turn the headlights on. You hear water running and dryers making huge amounts of noise. People stay up talking so you can't go to sleep until late and it gets dark and quiet. And yet you have to be up early to ride the next day. There is no real solution in campgrounds without areas that have electrical boxes easily available throughout the site but those are more expensive so tours like GITAP are less likely to use them since they need to keep the costs down.

Since being in a confined space, not knowing to bring a chair so I could sit comfortably, disliking bugs and various other aspects of camping that are not my cup of tea, I would probably only do something like this again if I stayed in more comfortable settings. The problems with that are twofold. One is that I really liked being with my friends and being around the other riders. The other was being able to participate in Velosophie and neither of those are possible unless you camp. I would have to think very carefully before I participated again. But I would certainly enthusiastically recommend GITAP to my friends who enjoy both riding and camping. And perhaps, knowing what I know now, I would be better prepared to equip myself for a more comfortable camping experience.

In any event, I did enjoy my week and the fears that I expressed in my getting ready post were, for the most part, groundless.

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