I peer over my extended gut, leaning slightly forward with my head almost resting on the wall examining the digital output of by Bluetooth scale. Five pounds? How could I have gained five pounds in the last week?
I was one day removed from a second annual effort pedaling my bicycle across the state of Oklahoma – a.k.a OK Freewheel. InterWorks had sponsored 22 riders this year, an increase of more than a quarter from last. It began on Saturday, June 18 in Madill, OK and culminated in Caney, KS on June 25. We pedaled 60-75 miles a day in one of the hottest June weeks on record. On top of all that, I again chose to ride gravel roads rather than the more commonly traveled paved routes from town to town. “The sweat, the effort, the dehydration; how could I have gained five pounds,” I again asked myself.
Above: A beautiful morning of gravel riding.
The Freewheel Diet
One thing was certain about this year: I had eaten a lot! Each morning, I rose earlier and earlier to avoid the hottest part of the day and scarfed down three microwave burritos cooked on a propane grill by Katie Fontenot – our support crew for the week. Grilling microwave burritos had turned out to be an amazingly delicious way to prepare these typically tasteless, lava-hot and ice-cold at the same time breakfast abominations that I now clambered for each morning. A couple of mornings, Katie had opted for grilled sausage biscuits or even gas station biscuits, but the grilled burritos turned into something more that each of us actively looked forward to at the start of a long day behind the bars.
Above: Riding gravel with Dalton Parsons.
First lunch typically consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or two (at about 9 a.m.) followed by a Gu packet loaded with carbs and sugar. I am sure I was not even giving myself a chance to burn off the burrito calories before filling by gut with these items, but as I rode my stomach growled and ached looking for something other than water to fill the beckoning void. Honey Stinger waffles and more Gu packs supplemented the remaining time on the bike, but as we pulled into camp each day around 11:30 a.m., I was more than ready for second lunch.
Above: Grabbing some ice cream in between meals.
Katie typically had hot dogs or hot links simmering on the grill as we pulled in and on most days, and that was exactly what I craved. I washed it down with a Lone Star, the perfect recovery drink, and plopped my stinky, sweaty self in a camp chair until I could muster then energy to set up my tent and shower. Some days, the idea of a hot dog was underwhelming, and I needed to find a local establishment to throw money at until I was pacified. One of my favorite such places on the route was in Bartlesville and bore the name Frank and Lola’s. They boasted burgers as big as a plate, smothered in jalapeno cream cheese an inch thick. My wife and children had driven to Bartlesville to meet me on that particular day, and the company only made the food that much better.
Dinner consisted primarily of margaritas with the occasional, okay, almost daily basket of tortilla chips and some tortilla, meat and cheese concoction from a local Mexican food establishment in our host town. If there is one thing Oklahoma has in every town, it is a Mexican food restaurant. One day, we were actually shuttled from one Mexican food joint to another Mexican food joint closer to camp. By the end of the week, I was nearly fluent in tequila drinks. While I was careful about the money I spent throughout the week, counting my daily self-imposed ration each night before bed, it seemed my margarita dinner fell into a financial category that was non-restrictive.
Above: One of many Mexican dinners.
The ”You’ve Earned It!” Mentality
It is funny how you can convince yourself that it is OK to eat whatever you want; you just rode your bike 70 miles. I do this at home, too. When training for these events or an endurance gravel bike race, I return home to raid the fridge and negate the 2500+ calories burned with whatever is handy and requires the least preparation. I always tell myself that today will be different. Today, I will come home and eat peanut butter on celery or bell peppers and French onion dip, but I can say those things have NEVER sounded good after a long ride.
I ride because if I didn’t, I would blow up like Mr. Creosote in Monty Python, one thin mint away from utter eruption. I ride because something happens in my mind – maybe a release of endorphins or dopamine, or perhaps some other sciency thing that this article will not address. Turns out, eating releases something similar in my mind, so I choose to ride and eat and enjoy the double dose of “sciency mind stuff.”
So, here I stand, one day removed, scale underfoot, disabling the Bluetooth connection to my phone, denying all proof that I was here. Let’s try this again next week, I tell myself.
Time to fire up the grill.