Of course, the inaugural Venus de Miles Ride was not a race, but it deserves a report nonetheless. I stayed with my parents last night after the HeatBreaker Indoor Half Marathon and left their house around 5:30 a.m. That gave me plenty of time to park in downtown Lake Forest, then ride a mile or so over to Lake Forest College for the start. I got there shortly after 6 a.m. and found MacKenna almost right away. It's a good thing too ... I thought everyone would be wearing a costume. Turns out, it was just me, MacKenna and Jenny wearing identical costumes. Oh well. I actually loved wearing a costume; I got cheered for a ton and think I should complete all races/events with wings, a tutu or some other adornment.
We opted for the 61-mile ride, but there was a 25-mile option for this ladies-only ride. We grabbed our packets without incident and got an adorable T-shirt and bib. We also hit the first of a series of snack tents. This one featured coffee and breakfast rolls. Before long, it was time to meet up with the other Chicago Running Bloggers and Frankfort New Lenox runners.
Amanda and Erin, as well as meeting Lauren.
My only complaint about the entire day was the start line. We were fired up and ready to go, but there were a ton of introductory speeches. When that all wrapped up, we were off! It was a bit crowded at the beginning, but it thinned out within the first 10 miles. You know what's awkward? Being on the open rode, dressed as an angel, riding your bike. Motorists steered clear of me, though, so again, costume for the win.
The course was pretty fast with five rest stops on the 61-mile course. We stopped at the end of the first and second hour, and just before the second hour, we saw Amanda. We found out later that her bike had two flats on the course, which cost her at least 90 minutes. It's a good thing this was a ride and not a race! We stopped at every rest stop after that, too, because it was a nice break off the bike and we were in no hurry.
The rest stops had THE BEST FOOD. There was apples, bananas, gluten-free bread and cookies, regular cookies, almond and chocolate butter, sports drinks, Clif shots and blocks and all sorts of other goodies and freebies. I was seriously weighed down by the end with all the eating and stashing of freebies ... yum!
Around the 30-mile mark is when it got hard. There were some rolling hills that I didn't remember because when MacKenna, Jenny and I biked the course, we did it in reverse. It was killer. Glad I fueled with all those cookies.
We thought we'd be around the middle of the pack, but when we rolled in around 12:30, there were tons of bikes already racked. It took us 4:09:02 to complete the ride (not including rest stops), with an overall pace of 14.5 MPH.
When we finally got back to the start line is when the real fun began. There were all sorts of delicious, refreshing cocktails from North Shore Distillery and beer from Lake Bluff Brewing. There was also an amazing Mexican-style lunch with ice cream sandwich desserts. MacKenna and I both got facials there, too, and were the last people to leave the afterparty. We wanted to get our money's worth. The best part was the Trek tent where you had to cycle to make your margarita. MacKenna did the work and I just mooched off the fruits of her labor.
I only wish I didn't bring water bottles in both of my racks and parked closer to the start line to cash in on more freebies. I had no where to put the free water bottles a vendor was distributing and ran out of room to stash more gels and Luna bars. I did, however, win a free case of Luna bars for being one of the first 100 people to register.
Cost: I paid $50 with a Plum Grove deal. Regular registration was $90
Pros: Nice, scenic ride that's mostly flat through some very nice areas. A ladies-only ride that has an abundance of rest stops, a great variety of food, a mostly well-marked course (we had one moment of confusion) and more than enough port-o-potties. The after-ride party featured cocktails, beer, wine, a full lunch, ice cream, Luna bars, vendors, facials, manicures and pedicures.
Cons: Parking can be confusing, but it is plentiful. The weather was wonderful for us, but this time of year is a crap shoot. It was 86 today, but 100+ two weeks ago. There were a few areas with bumpy pavement and a few spots where traffic was pretty close. I'm having a hard time finding not great things to say about this ...
Would I do this again: Hell yeah, where can I get a discount for next year?