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My husband and I go off the grid practically every weekend during the summer. And when I say “off the grid” I mean that we have a camper with air conditioning and cell service and satellite tv, so don’t be fooled. I’m a pansy and don’t “rough it” very well. I’ve been calling it “off the grid” since we bought the place because at the beginning, we didn’t have any of those luxuries.

With my Iron Cowboy looming, being off the grid can be stressful for me because it throws my training schedule out of balance. I have to readjust where I run, where and when I bike, what body of water I’m going to swim in. Those logistics during the winter and spring were known and fairly well set in stone, so the sudden shift in training has caused me a little anxiety, to say the least. BUT…I make the changes because it’s important to my husband that I spend the weekends with him. With my training, his volleyball, my volleyball, etc the weekends are the only time we get to have any sort of significant time together. So I make the sacrifice to be there. Or I should say the “perceived” sacrifice. It’s not like my training has suffered by going up each weekend.

This past weekend was my first weekend to swim in the lake. I’ve done all my swims at the indoor pool and have been wanting to get into the lake to really get a feel for what my swim is going to be like when I’m in Utah.

Not much to say about the lake swim. Well, except that it was the first time I’ve worn goggles when I swim in the lake. Yeh. There are critters that live there and swim there and I’ve always known that but have never seen it. I’ll admit that it was a little disconcerting. But other than that, I got my 600 meters in that I wanted to get, and I did it in about the time frame I expected I would. Successful.

I also took my bike with me. From my off the grid place to my house is 37 miles. From the Katy Trail entrance by my off the grid place to my house is 31+ miles. I thought it would be a good trial run for what my bike leg (33.13 miles) will be. So I started making a plan to ride home from off the grid.

For days (not FOUR day, but OMG, for days!!!) prior to leaving I began obsessing about riding all that way by myself with no support along the way. I know you’re shocked that I was obsessing over anything to do with this event. It’s just not like me. /endsarcasm

I thought about everything that I could possibly need. I did math, even, to try and figure out how much water I would need to take. And when I say water, I mean water in a camel pack, water with Nuun pouches mixed in, baby gatorade bottles in my fanny pack/saddle bag. I also tried to calculate how much and what kind of nutrition I would need along the way. I was anticipating that I’d be on the bike for three hours. I thought I’d need to eat something every hour. I knew that I should drink something every 10 minutes because it was slated to be HOT and MUGGY. I’m so prone to dehydration that I’m overly cautious about it.

Saturday evening while we were hanging out with our friends, I couldn’t focus on socializing because the things I would need ran through my brain – over and over and over. Fortunately, there was a puppy there and my group knows how I am about puppies, so my distraction wasn’t obvious to them as I snuggled the pup. And it never occurred to any of them that I was not having any adult beverages, because…PUPPY!

Sunday morning I fixed a large breakfast. Eggs, bacon, rolls, avocado, fruit. More than 600 calories, which is 200+ over what I normally eat at breakfast.

Then we began to get everything shut down from the weekend and load up the truck. I packed my gear. Brand new camel pack that a friend let me borrow. Trying to figure out how the hell it worked nearly had me in tears. The more I fussed with it, the more emotional I became. It took every ounce of energy to not burst into tears over the stupid camel pack. I finally figured it out and loaded it with a liter and a half of water.

I have a fanny pack that I refer to as my saddle bag. It clips around my waist and on each side is just over a 1/2 liter water bottle. I filled both of those with water and added my Nuun packets.

Inside the pack I loaded four gatorade bottles. One liter total.

I also included a first aid kit (antibacterial cleaner, bandaids, steri strips, gauze, XL and normal sized bandaids, neosporin).

Two Kind bars and two large fig newton packs. I figured a combination of some healthy fats and a kick of high carb/sugar cookie would help.

I FORGOT to put my Gu and gumdrops in – they’re still sitting in the refrigerator off the grid. When I discovered this about mile 10 I nearly started crying. Ugh.

SO….ready to go. Mark came in and just stood there looking at me. “You OK?” “YUP.” But I wasn’t. I was really nervous. I had been fighting off tears all morning and feeling just a level below a full on freak out.

We headed out a drove down the curvy road to the Katy Trail where Mark was going to dump me off in complete silence. I unloaded my bike. Checked and double checked that I had everything I needed. Told Mark I’d send him live tracking. Opened up my phone to email him the link, and….NO COVERAGE! I told him I’d send him a link as soon as I got into cell service. I kissed him goodbye, told him not to miss me too much if I died, and then he was gone. And I was completely alone. No cell coverage. No people on the trail. Just me and my insane “all by myself” thoughts.

I hopped on my bike and started down the trail. It was quiet and serene and empty. I religiously checked my phone for cell coverage so I could send Mark a link.

My mind goes a little nuts sometimes. Pretty sure you know this about me. About two miles in I saw in the distance a black vehicle just hanging out on a cross road. Since nobody was on the trail I could talk right out loud to myself. And talk out loud I did!

“Oh great. A black SUV. And Mark will never have a clue what happened to me because I couldn’t send him the goddamned tracking link!”

Because that’s the logical thought process to have.

I got to the bridge right before the cross road and started to slow down and decide if I was going to just go forward or if I was going to turn around. As I started slowing down, I realized it wasn’t a black SUV. It was a black Dakota. MY black Dakota. Mark was sitting there waiting on me to make sure everything was OK with my bike before he continued on his way home. AND HE TOOK PICTURES!!! Pictures are clearly my love language.

After that, all was right with the world and I had no more weird, stupid thoughts. I managed to get him a link about two miles later.

Windy, windy day, but mostly an uneventful ride on the trail. Slower progress than I wanted to make because of the winds. 15 MPH coming from the south, so it was broadsiding me. Hot. SUNNY. I had applied sunscreen before leaving the camper, but it didn’t stop the sun from being really hot on my shoulders.

When I finally hit the Jefferson City trail head I completely relaxed because it is my home station. Familiar territory. Almost home. I stopped to use the bathroom, refill my water bottles, refill the camel pack, sit down and eat a kind bar. Then I hear my phone buzz with a new text message. I opened it up. It was Mark. “You need to move.” I looked at my watch and realized I had been stationary for ten minutes. I had NO CLUE that he would actually look at the live tracker. He’s been pretty nonchalant about my training, so it didn’t occur to me that he would bother with the live tracker. But apparently, he did. If he’d have noticed WHERE I was when my movement stopped, he’d probably have realized that I was taking a break. But it really gave me a much needed second wind just getting his text. I texted back and let him know that I had just stopped for a potty break and that I was OK.

Heading South as I left the trail was brutal and a LOT of my time on the bike post-trail was straight on into the wind and it was exhausting. I had already gone 24 miles, so I’m sure it wasn’t just the headwind that was causing me issues, but it sure felt a lot harder. And way slower.

I made it home safe and sound and learned a LOT about what I needed to do for my race.

  • It took an hour longer than I anticipated, but I took multiple breaks along the way. My bike leg of my race will be at night so I won’t have to deal with the heat. I will also be on the ROAD not gravel, and on a street bike not a mountain bike. So I think that I’ll be able to finish my leg in the three hours that I am anticipating.
  • I did NOT take enough food. I thought a couple of Kind bars and Fig bars would be enough. It wasn’t.
  • I need to get some sort of nutrition more than once an hour. I need to figure out in what form that nutrition needs to be.
  • I had enough hydration, but I didn’t have it in the right format. The camel pack is WAY easier to drink from, so I will take my normal camel pack instead of the small one that I borrowed from my friend. It holds almost 3 liters.
  • I need to NOT wear a fanny pack. The weight of it sitting on my lower back was causing some strain issues and my back was pretty sore until after I’d finished off some of the gatorades that I had packed in it.

Overall, it was a good experience and I learned a lot. I’m so glad that I decided to make that ride. It wasn’t easy, but nothing about this journey has been. I feel way more confident about my bike leg now than I did before. I’m not sore at all this morning, so I know I’m strong enough.

Bit by bit, piece by piece, it’s all coming together. I’m having fewer freakouts of the “OH MY GOD I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO THIS” variety. I feel ready. And that’s a good feeling.

 

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