You can see how I planned for this trip here. In brief, I planned to ride at a steady pace, eat regularly and try to enjoy myself.
DAY ONE - Atlanta to Madison 111 miles
I originally thought to try and do the trip in two epic days of riding, but after crunching the numbers it would be close to impossible to do without riding in the dark. So I decided to take a half day off work and knock off the first 100 miles or so in order to have two epic, but manageable, days.
The route was quite nice after getting out into the country. I essentially copied the AV200 route. Lots of farmland, and traffic was light and quite respectful. They passed me as though I were a tractor.
Doing 100 miles in a day at base pace isn't too strenuous for me, so generally speaking I just ate (calorically) like I would on any long ride day. That morning I ate a big bowl of oatmeal, had a bar as a snack, and only had two bars (if I remember right) on the ride. I stopped for dinner in Downtown Madison at the Chopshop (I think?), had a couple Sweetwater 420s, a chopped steak dinner, and then headed to the Super 8 Hotel where I had reservations. I hunkered down with a few more cold ones from the gas station and a little 2 piece from Popeyes. Not a healthy dinner, but part of the fun of the trip was a little (a lot of?) indulgence.
DAY TWO - Madison to Metter 166 miles
I woke up at 6:30, brushed my teeth, shaved, grabbed the hotel breakfast (oatmeal, OJ, coffee, waffle - abour 550cals total) and then left at 7am. There was a Chick-fil-A on the way, so I grabbed two Chicken biscuits for lunch. Everyone in the store was a bit bemused. That was generally the reception I received at gas stations as well. People would have slightly raised eyebrows and little smiles that kinda communicated "you look like a fool!" People would ask where I was going, and then say something like "that's crazy! Be safe out there." Generally speaking everyone I met was quite nice.
This was the long 166 mile day. It was also the day that had the most nicest landscapes, lowest traffic roads, and was the most peaceful.
It was hot and sunny. The high was around 94 according to my Garmin. I sweated a ton, and I believe I drank about 8 liters of water. Every time I saw a gas station I would stop and buy another liter of water, top off my bottles, and then crush up the water bottle with whatever was left in it and put it in my jersey. My jersey got pretty stretched out.
My plan was to eat a protein bar (200cals) at mile 40, a chicken biscuit (440cals) at mile 80 (about halfway), the other chicken biscuit (440cals) at mile 100 (cause 100 miles!), the second protein bar (200cals) at mile 120 or 130 depending on how I felt. I would stop at gas stations and eat whatever my body seemed to need as I came along them. The first two stops I drank Starbucks coffee drinks (~200cals each), and also got two bars at the second stop (~400cals). I got two more bars at a later stop, but wasn't hungry any more (at least not for bars), and by that point was only about 30 miles from Metter where I was stopping for the evening, so I figured I'd eat soon enough.
Around that point though I also realized I was very low on water, and I was starting to feel dehydrated. Being out the farmlands was quiet and pleasant, but that also meant no gas stations. I just relaxed, made sure to keep my mouth shut to avoid losing any moisture that way, and tried to ride at a pace slow enough to avoid sweating. I was a bit nervous, but knew that I could make it. However, about 10 miles from Metter a gas station popped up. I stopped, got a liter of water, and drank about half of it right away. I figured half a liter would be enough to get me through the last 10 miles, but I ended up drinking that on the bike too. It was like a drop of water on the sand.
This was the furthest I've ever ridden (longest ride previously was 123 miles), and even at base pace it was strenuous. My leg muscles plowed along just fine and they weren't all that sore (I've been much more sore after a hard race), it was my hands, arms, butt and feet that hurt. My left foot felt so swollen I had the shoe completely open. My hands were getting numb, especially my pinky fingers.
I checked into the hotel, started my kit soaking, went to Xaxbys for a roast chicken salad (700cals), got a six pack of Sweetwaters (1110cals) from the gas station, and went back to the hotel to call my wife. We talked while I had dinner. My father in law overheard I was in Metter, and said there was a good BBQ place close to the highway (the hotel was on the highway). After getting off the phone I showered and walked to the BBQ spot and got 1/2lb of pulled pork (450cals), and then got a large fries from McDonalds (510cals). I was still hungry later, so I got another large fries and a Big Mac (1050cals), and then promptly fell asleep.
I ate about 6,450cals that day. My base caloric rate is about 2,000cals/day and (according to Strava) I used about 4,800 calories for the ride. So I was just about right on the money.
DAY THREE - Metter to St Simons Island 134 miles
I woke up at 6:15, cleaned up and rolled over to the 6:30 breakfast. The saddle sores were so bad I couldn't actually sit on the saddle. I've had saddle sores before, and was able to ride through the pain for the first few minutes and then everything was fine. These were much worse.
After breakfast I got on the road, and planned to refuel as I went like the day before. There wasn't a Chick-fil-A or anywhere that had something specific I wanted, so the only things I carried with me were the two bars I didn't eat the day before, a banana from the hotel, and two protein bars. I stopped and got Starbucks coffee drinks twice, and stopped often at gas stations to refill on water.
This was the worst day for a number of reasons. My saddle sores were so bad I was never able to sit normal on the saddle. After about 30 minutes of pain I found that if I sat on the nose of the saddle, kind of in a time trial position, I could deal with the pain. My hands were also growing quite numb. Like, when I moved my hand my fingers would sometimes kind of get stuck between the shift and brake levers. I hadn't brought any gloves because I like riding without them, and also to avoid crazy tan lines, but that was a big mistake. Doing research afterwards I found out that I got "cyclist's palsy" which comes from long distance riding when you injure the nerves in your hands.
The route was also tough. I was no longer on the quiet, calm farmland roads. These were roads closer to the coast, between towns. At least 25 miles were highways. There were at least rumble strips to separate me from the 60mph cars and tractor trailers, but it wasn't pleasant, and was at times pretty dicey. That said, probably at least 1/3 of the route was pretty nice.
There were many times that I wondered if I would be able to suffer through all of it. Particularly because sitting and holding onto the handlebars was painful. I just dealt with it by telling myself all I had to do was try to relax, keep pedaling, and that then it would be over.
I stopped in a great gas station in Fort McPhearson (if I remember right) and had the most delicious sandwich.
By the time I got to the 95 south bike route I knew I had the trip in the bag.
The last 50 miles or so were simply miserable.
After Darien, the 95 south bike route is pretty much just a highway, but the sides aren't cleared out enough that you can ride on the other side of the rumble strips. So I was essentially riding in grass/sand while cars were flying down the highway. I knew I only had about 45mins left before it was all over. I was thankful when there was a sidewalk, and rode on that for the last mile to the Torras Causeway that has a bike lane and spits you out onto St Simons Island. I could've cried. I rode the final 20 minutes or so out of the saddle.
And then, just like that, the trip was over.
I'm still kind of processing what the trip meant to me. My goal was to kind of "reset," and the trip definitely did that. It left me looking forward to the rest of the racing season, and to getting back to training.
My pinky fingers are still a bit numb. It took about a week until I could sit on the saddle without any pain, so all the rides I did the following week weren't that much fun.
The GA State Road Race Championships were the following weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had pretty good fitness coming off the trip, after a recovery week. I was able to handle the surges in the peloton, which is what I wasn't sure about.
So, would I do it again? Yes. Except that I probably won't. At least not any time soon.