I have completed the ride twice on my own for the past two years. To my surprise, Mac told me in the spring that he wanted to do the RAIN with me this year. He agreed to train with me on the tandem and on his own bike as often as possible, and we put in hundreds of training miles over the past several weeks. I told Mac that if we could complete a century ride in hilly Southern Indiana, then we’d know we were strong enough to complete the much flatter RAIN route, most of which uses U.S. Highway 40. The weekend before RAIN, we completed the very hilly Nashville 90, riding through thundershowers in the process, and so we felt reasonably well prepared for the grueling trek across the state. Here we are departing for the Nashville 90:
Kim drove us and our bike to Terre Haute Friday afternoon, where we checked into a hotel room. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening helping to process riders through registration. We needed a good night’s sleep, and headed back to our hotel room around 8:30. After a while, I discovered that the asthma inhaler we packed for Mac was empty and called Kim to find out how we could get a replacement inhaler—it would not be wise to embark on a long bike ride without this emergency medicine. After a flurry of phone calls from Kim, a dedicated CVS pharmacy technician, and a nurse who had once treated Mac, we hopped on our bike and sprinted to the nearest CVS pharmacy and arrived just minutes before closing time. We had our medicine, but now the hour was late and we really needed our sleep.
The starting line was about 9 miles from our hotel, so Mac and I planned to depart early so that we could be at the line for the 7:00AM starting time. We were running late, but got to the line with a few minutes to spare. The start of the RAIN is very exciting—and a bit dangerous—as hundreds of tightly packed cyclists jockey for space and position. Terre Haute police normally escort the riders out of town at about a 20 mph pace, but for some reason, they didn’t show up this year. Thus, the starting pace was unusually fast, with bikes flying through town. We kept up, for the most part, averaging 19 mph through the city, until some of the hills outside of town slowed our pace. Here's a picture sent by a friend (Klaus Rothe) of the starting line:
At about 32 miles, our front derailleur broke. I pulled over to assess the damage, and decided to just remove the part from the bike so that we could continue the ride. Earlier in the ride, we had stopped to lend a tool to a rider who needed to tighten his saddle, and now, we were in need of a tool that I could use to cut my shifter cable. Many riders offered help, but none had the right tool, so I decided just to tie the cable out of the way and fixed the chain onto the middle chain ring. From this point on, our ride would be slower because we lacked the ability to use our hill-climbing small ring and our big downhill ring.
The unseasonably cool weather was welcome, from my perspective, but Mac was a bit cold most of the day, and we neglected to bring along a windbreaker. I began to think about where along the route we could acquire a windbreaker. There weren’t many shopping centers along the largely rural route, but fortunately, there were yard sales. I noticed one with several tables full of clothes and a collection of children’s bikes, so I pulled over. The proprietor was really surprised to see any of the hundreds of cyclists that had been steadily streaming by all day actually stop to shop! For a dollar, we picked up a light jacket that fit Mac well enough to keep him comfortable the rest of the way. We even felt a few rain drops shortly thereafter, so the short delay was worthwhile.
At around the 50 mile mark, Mac became curious about the purpose of the mile markers along the side of the road. Because I had recently changed tire sizes, and forgot to re-calibrate the tandem’s cycling computer accordingly, we decided to use the mile posts to check our computer’s accuracy. We discovered our computer logged slightly over 1/100th of a mile more with each mile, which meant that by the time we arrived at the finish line, we expected our computer to show an extra 1.6 to 2 miles. Not a huge error, but one that would certainly add up over time. Here's a view from the road as a group of riders head toward Indianapolis (photo by Klaus Rothe):
The volunteer fire station in Dunreith was our last rest stop, and one of my favorites. The volunteers there are always very nice and provide frozen treats and plenty of encouragement to weary riders. With only about 28 miles left, why would we want to quit now? Mac declined every opportunity I gave him to just call it a day and have Kim pick us up. He would tell me, “Just go!” Other riders were impressed with his tenacity and endurance, and helped to keep us motivated. We especially enjoyed being cheered on by groups of kids along the way, some of whom would give us high-fives. Another group had fun handing out cups of water to riders as they zoomed by.
Finally, we were nearing the finish line. By this point, our overall speed had ratcheted down to a 15 mph average, but our pace picked up during our last 10 miles, and we finished strong, at a little over 13 hours. Of the over 1300 riders that were expected to start, we placed 1107 and 1108. It’s not clear how many of those actually started the ride, but we were proud to have finished. Mac kept saying he wanted to ride a few more miles to actually cross into Ohio, but I was exhausted, and I know he was, too. Our butts were sore, my knees ached, and I was famished from the calorie deficit. We were grateful that Kim and Ethan met us at the finish line with dinner. We showered, and ate our dinner in the car while Kim made the long drive back to Bloomington. Maybe next year, Mac can try the ride on his own bike?
Thanks to Jim Lang for the above finish line photo, and to Ethan and Kim for the others.