The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Friday, December 05, 2008

Alyn Day Two: Ostriches, Jets, Cacti, Bulldozers, Borders, Farms and Dead Prime Ministers Homes

This is my account of day two of my recent Alyn Hospital Ride

Although we spent most of the day in the desert, the Negev is unlike any other desert. We passed an ostrich farm, lots of cacti, army bulldozers and tanks, the Egyptian border, farms, saw many air force planes doing manuevers, and, finally, ended up at the guest house at Kibbutz Sde Boker, the place that David Ban Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, retired to.

The ride itself was straightforward. 72 mainly flat miles (in a fair amount of wind) with a moderate climb at the very end. What made the day interesting was the pace. We finsished the ride at an average pace of 18.5 miles per hour.

I spent much of the morning in pacelines which made dealing with the wind manageable. It is a very cool thing to see single-file pacelines strecthing out over 30 riders. We were so fast that we reached the lunch area by 11 a..m.

I had one of those unfortunate moments just after lunch. I was back in the paceline for the next segment (20 miles to the final reststop) when my chain came off. The paceline was going so fast, and the wind was so strong, that although it took less than a minute to fix the chain and get on my bike, I was dropped. I tried hard to make up the time, and was making some progress when the chain came off again. All hopes of catching the group were over.

I spent the next hour cranking as hard as I could to make up as much time (or lose as little as possible). I ended up passing 8 riders (who were too tired to work with me) but never made it all the way back. That segment really wiped me out but I was able to hang on to a paceline for the final segment, 13 miles to the finish.

While I am clearly a piker, I feel comfortable that I made the right choice joining the challenge ride. There would never have been the opportunity to do the kind of sustained fast riding I did today on the regular route. And, there is virtually no waiting around. We ride hard and take short breaks and short lunches. (Of course, there is no point in me taking a camera because there is no time to take pictures).

Another interesting thing that happened is that some riders who were strong yesterday really struggled today. A couple bonked and others barely made it. (One rider who struggled yesterday was voted off the island by the staff; he joined the regular ride today. Boy, I'm glad that wasn't me! Leaving the challenge voluntarily is one thing, but getting the boot is more than I could handle.)

So, on a relative basis, I am actually doing pretty well.

Of course tomorrow is the first real test.

82 miles, including a descent down and climb up the Machtesh Gadol (the Great Crater) and then the big enchilada, Maale Akrabim (the Scorpion's Ascent). Maale Akrabim, which is about 6 miles in total, has a 1.7 mile one section that averages a ten percent grade and maxes out at 24 degrees).

We'll see if I'm still so smug tomorrow night.



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