Flint Hills Express

I have several friends who ride bikes and they had been trying to get me to join them for a while, for some reason I was being stubborn about it and just wouldn’t do it. Well, two years ago, I finally decided to do it. I borrowed a mountain bike from a friend and started riding the trail near my apartment. 10 miles was about all I could handle before I was completely worn out, especially if there were hills involved! After a few months, I stopped riding. The next summer, I borrowed another bike and started riding again, with pretty much the same result. 10-12 miles, a few months effort and then I stopped again. I even bought my own bike and still didn’t manage to stick with it.

This year I decided I was really going to do it! I agreed to do The Flint Hills Express, a 50 mile gravel ride, with a friend at the end of February. How could I say no to a ride with that name?? I hopped on my bike for my first ride of the year. 12 miles and it kicked my butt. Again. With just under a week to go before the big ride, I realized I needed to take it a little more seriously, so off to the bike shop I went. I bought padded shorts, a new seat, clipless pedals and shoes and a Camelback water bladder.


Later that day Allyson and I went for a ride, we did 27 miles and while I wouldn’t say it was easy, it was so much better than the 12 mile ride a few days before. Amazing what the right equipment can do. Money well spent!


The night before the ride I packed up all my stuff and stayed at Allyson’s so we could leave early in the morning for the ride. It’s a chilly start, but great weather for February in Kansas.

About 5 minutes into the ride, breathing the chilly air, I realize that while I remembered to bring my inhaler, I did not remember to use it. I stop and take a puff and keep riding. The first 10 miles were about the most miserable experience I can remember. There were  times when I was literally choking back tears because I couldn’t catch my breath and didn’t think I was going to make it up the hills. I stopped a lot to breathe and to talk myself OUT of quitting. My asthma is exercise induced and if I’m in really good shape and/or the air is warm enough, it doesn’t bother me at all, so perhaps that’s why I don’t take it more seriously. I honestly forget until I can’t breathe.

I managed to keep going and near mile 11, the hills all but disappeared, the shot from the inhaler started working and the air had warmed up. These 3 factors made the next 40 miles easy in comparison to the first 10. We stopped for pictures at some scenic spots, walked a bit to ease some cramps and had to change a flat tire. We relished every small patch of pavement we encountered, it meant a few seconds of smooth riding, easy riding. It took us 6 hours, and at the end we were completely exhausted, hungry and covered in gravel dust, but we finished the ride.


I would never have imagined I’d have the desire, let alone the follow through to do a ride like that. The misery at the beginning had me questioning my sanity and by the end of the ride, I was looking forward to another biking adventure. But first, a long, hot soak, some Indian food and a beer.

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