An Independence Day Parade Sandwich

iron mantra by Shannon Thompson

Three weeks to race day, my last long ride. With my late start on training, I’ve been building volume unusually quickly, paying extra attention to my body and crossing fingers and toes that I don’t get injured. Coach Scott had me scheduled for a 5-hour ride, but I felt I needed the psychological boost that a 100-mile “century” would offer. My long ride last week was 70 miles. No cakewalk, but I recovered well.

“OK, try it,” he said. “But listen to your body. One hundred good miles. If you’re tired, turn around. Junk miles don’t get you anywhere.”

I didn’t tell him that I really wanted to do the actual race distance of 112 miles, not just 100.

Last year I rode my bike to Bangor on the Fourth of July, and this year I realized that if I timed it right, I could see the parade before turning around. I was nervous as hell about heading out — worried as much about the mental challenge as my physical endurance for a long haul. My goal time was seven hours. I knew I needed to make it an adventure with a prize in the middle or I’d never make it back. And I love me a parade.

One of my goals for the day was to practice nutrition. I have a little excel spreadsheet going on which I have all my little calories and carbs and proteins all calculated for the day. Such a nerd, I know. I am aiming for 250 calories an hour on the bike, with a carb to protein ratio of 4:1. I plan to take all my nutrition with me and not count on the rest stops.

nutrition plan

I can’t even tell you how much I love having a pastime that requires me to “practice” eating, the one thing in this sport that comes naturally to me. I will tell you that I am planning on brushing my teeth halfway through the race, though. Seriously. Toothbrush and toothpaste are going into my transition bag.

So I loaded up the bike and stuffed my pockets with 3 boiled and salted potatoes, 4 Clif minis, one Clif Builder’s Bar, a baggie of chocolate covered espresso beans, five bottles of sports drink and one of water, energy chews, salt tabs, electrolyte tablets, extra lube for the lady parts, and a few dollars, in case I need to patch a flat or buy an emergency coffee.


And I hit the road. Fourth of July traffic was still relatively light and sober in the late morning, with barbecues just getting going and the flea market/yard salers already back home with their finds. Lots of large motorcycles with radios blaring. Many gunshots. More fireworks. Flags flags flags flags flags. A couple of other cyclists.

My mileage estimate to Bangor was approximate, but I hit the Bangor parade at a perfect 56.51 miles. I was exhausted, so the first thing I did was find this adorable EMT/firefighter on a bicycle named Brian and force him to join me in a selfie while the Bangor Band turned the corner on their truck. A serious energy boost.


Brian is kind of a BFD at the BFD.

I had to keep moving, so I joined the parade on my bike, waving back at little kids and giggling hysterically through downtown Bangor.


“Hey, clown, how about a selfie?”


I love me some Shriners.


Got to love a band on a truck.


Ten minutes later, I was back on the road, totally energized by the spirit of the parade and the silliness of the whole project. It wasn’t an easy ride home, by any measure, my mood and body threatening in turns to jump on the tantrum train most of the way.

By the time I got to Belfast, I felt the relief of finally hitting the final leg home, but I was feeling the effects of the heat and exertion. I stopped at the Irving to fill up my water bottles. Three people asked how far I was riding, and the attention I got was just the medicine I needed to make it the rest of the way. Filling my bottles at the condiment counter, I threw in a number of little salt and sugar packets, and I sucked down a mustard packet because I’d read that mustard can help with leg cramps (something about how the acetic acid helps the body make acetylcholine, may be total BS, don’t know/don’t care.) It was nasty, of course, and perfect.

Outside, two men in their seventies who were loading up ice for a party across the road asked me where I’d been. “Good Lord! I get tired just driving to Bangor!” one exclaimed, before inviting me over for cocktails.

At about mile 95, at the very moment I was seriously wondering if I would ever make it home, suddenly here was this shed, which has either been there all along the hundreds of times I’ve driven by, or it appeared just for this occasion. Either way, a godsend.


56.51 miles to Bangor, one mile parading, 56.51 miles back = 114 miles.
My longest ride ever.

Today I have to run at least 15.

Lake Placid, I’m yours.