Riding Across Indiana (RAIN), in its 26th year, included bicyclists from around the country riding from Terre Haute to Richmond. Bloomington Bicycle Club organizes the event, which took place Saturday, July 21.
"Finishing first was great, and a big relief," Hayes, who also finished first in last year's event, said. "After 160 miles, there's a big part of you that just wants to be done."
But to Hayes, cycling isn't all about competition. He said it is now a part of his life.
"Getting back into shape and losing weight was my original motivation for cycling," he said. "Now it has more to do with the camaraderie of the team and, of course, the competition. It started out as a way to be fit, but now cycling has become part of my life."
Hayes rides with J's Bikes/IHOP Racing team, Terre Haute, on a regular basis. He said the team does 30-mile fast group rides throughout the week, as well as trying to get in longer 100 or more mile rides during the weekends.
"I also get in a lot of solo miles on my own," Hayes told The Brazil Times. "Altogether, I had about 4,000 miles in before this year's RAIN."
Hayes said the most difficult part of RAIN is the last 60 miles, due to many reasons.
"By that time of day, it's hot, windy and the scenery is pretty much the same on that side of Indiana," he said. "In this year's ride, there ended up being five of us who had broken away from the rest of the lead pack of 30 or so riders; less people riding in a group means more individual effort, so you really start to hurt. You are fighting off muscle cramps, dehydration and the mental aspect of just trying to keep going."
But to Hayes, the difficulties are all worth it because of the sense of accomplishment he feels from doing something so demanding, as well as looking up to see his supporters on the side of the road, ready to help him in whatever way he needs.
"The way our team has ridden the ride the last few years is without stopping," Hayes told The Brazil Times. "It would be impossible to do without dedicated people off the bike to help out."
For Hayes, his supporters include his wife Elizabeth, mother Deanna and 9-year-old son Marek. They drive his support vehicle and hand him food bags and water from the side of the road as he speeds by.
"Without them helping out in that way, it would be next to impossible," he said.
According to Hayes, 1,518 riders started the race at 7 a.m., with 1,216 finishing the ride. The last rider finished in 14 hours and 4 minutes.
"Everybody rides this ride their own way," Hayes explained. "Some are in it to be first, some ride it to beat their time from last year, others to finish before the cutoff at 9 p.m. Then, of course, you have the first-time riders, who may have no idea what they are getting into. But anybody who even starts this ride has already done something big, let alone those that finish."
"I've got a lot of respect for the guys and girls out there for 13-plus hours -- that's a whole different level of suffering," Hayes continued.
Proceeds from the RAIN ride help fund bicycle-related projects in the Bloomington area and, as a Bicycle Indiana funding ride, across the state. The RAIN starting line was at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, and the route largely followed Historic National Route 40 across the state to Earlham College, Richmond, with detours onto less-congested roads in the Indianapolis area. At 91 miles into the journey, lunch was served to riders on the ground of the Franklin Township School Corporation offices.
Other Clay County residents who participated in RAIN included Chad Smith, Jane Neier, Jared Royer, Colt Lavoine, Cameron Trout and Joni Moore, all of Brazil, as well as Glen Morrow, Center Point.