Monday, June 30, 2008
It is decided.
I am an official endurance addict.
I just love the long events.
Not sure I am ready to put it all together but I LOVE the ups and downs and finding ways to push through the misery and riding the exhalation of the endorphin high. It is amazing to me how you will go from an hour or two of feeling awesome to the next minute feeling like you are dying only to rebound and feel strong again and like you can go forever.
I always expect that once I hit that first downward spiral it is all going to pot but almost always it gets better if I just hang in there. Total physical roller coaster. And, this is the totally insane part, I absolutely adore the spent feeling after I am done. I really like how wasted and weak my body feels. I find it thrilling.
I know. It seems totally crazy to me too.
So yeah, I am so glad I did this ride. It was so much fun and very peaceful. Riding down long country roads. It was just crazily bucolic.
Friday morning I went to the gym to get a little treadmill run in. 4 miles in 29 something minutes. Decent enough run. As I was leaving I saw Neal swimming. I went down to the pool to give him yet another one of my critiques and offer some unsolicited advice of his swim. All in good fun, of course.
I asked him if he was going to do the century ride and he said that he had emailed me about riding together. I misunderstood and thought that he meant drive to Cartersville together and told him eagerly that I could meet him at 6 am at La Fitness. I figured no one I knew would want to ride my slow pace. And besides I know that Neal is much faster than me. He clarified that he meant actually ride the ride with me but also said carpooling would be cool too.
Another swimmer was eavesdropping on our conversation and piped up with his two cents. He said he and a group had ridden the course the previous weekend and that it was actually 106 miles and was very hilly at the end. In particular, he mentioned a steep uphill that made him wish for a granny gear right around 91 miles. He wished me luck.
Neal tried to reassure me that I would have no problems but Pool Boy had put the monkey on my bike.
So while I hadn't previously been too nervous about this ride The Mainstay's psyche-you-out-texts and Pool Boy's warnings now had me very worried.
So went home to prep my bike.
And by prep I mean I clean it with Windex and put some oil on my chain. I also bought a new bike jersey because I find a new outfit always makes me feel confident. I got all my "food" and bike stuff packed and I made the kids clean out and vacuum my car so Neal wouldn't have to ride in absolute filth.
I got up and out the door and was at La Fitness at 6 am on the dot. Neal racked his bike on my car and bungeed them together. He brought his super fabulous GPS and we tossed my Google map. After a stop at QT for coffee for Neal and a throw away camera for me we were off.
We got to the ride start just before 7 am. We went straight to registration and on the way there I ran into Dani. It was her first century too. But she is much more the professional athlete than I. She is training for Ironman Kentucky. And if you notice she has on a team jersey.
Then we hooked up with other tri peeps from NAMSC. Not certain of everyone's name but I remember Greg and he is the one looking at the camera. Neal is the guy pointing. I also met Felix and I don't know why he isn't in this picture. He was there when we were all talking. And I remember Felix's name specifically because really, how often do you meet someone named Felix? I don't know how he escaped my camera.
Not everyone was as lucky to escape my camera though. My friend Paul happened to be parked a few cars down from me. He was not happy to see my camera and told me no spandex pictures but oh well. . .
Paul is actually the one who sent me the link about the ride a week ago. So my ass totally blames him. Paul is quite a tremendous cyclist. He rode with me a month ago and was politely bored while I struggled and sucked tail. He literally pushed me up one hill to help me out. His wife Traci did the 55 mile route so hopefully she'll call me to ride because even if I did those spinervals Dani suggested everyday for 3 years I still don't think I could ever hope to keep up with Paul.
Neal and I had discussed starting out before the official roll at 8 am but that didn't happen. We put ourselves at the back and rolled out into the Cartersville back roads.
I got hot fast and that didn't make me happy. I can totally deal with hot on the bike--much better than hot on the run but it was too early in the ride to have to be hot.
The pace was fine and the course much more forgiving than Roswell. There were hills but nothing too terrible or memorable. The only complaint I have is that we'd have an uphill and then get a downhill and then there would be a long stretch to an uphill and then a quick downhill and then a stop sign and a turn and immediate uphill. So I felt a bit cheated out of my downhill momentum and couldn't work the rollers as I would have liked. Not sure if that makes sense but basically I wanted the hills to be closer together and after the stops signs a downhill instead of an uphill would have been nice. But whatever. It can't all be perfect.
We stopped at every rest stop. I certainly didn't need to but since I wasn't sure how it would all play out I figured I'd be conservative and take all the help offered.
I rode to the first rest stop with Leslie, who I have ridden previously in Roswell with. Leslie is also training for Ironman Kentucky:
After that first rest stop we started coming up on lots of little wrecks and even saw a cyclist sitting in a field and then a fire truck raced past a bit later. It all seemed really early for things to be going south already and it made me nervous considering I am pretty inexperienced on the bike--having only been riding a year and that not so long ago a 30 mile ride was an impossibly long and challenging ride for me. So I was feeling even more cautious and alert than usual.
Yes, despite the taking pictures while rolling.
I am fairly coordinated, most of the time.
Around 24 miles we were coming down a steep hill. At the bottom of the hill the course took a sharp right over a bridge. Neal and I were about 30 feet behind a group of four cyclists: 3 men and 1 woman. They all took the turn way too fast and the woman in the group freaked out. Not sure if she just wasn't ready to turn or being sandwiched between the guys wigged her out but instead of taking the turn she swiveled and went straight into the guard rail of the bridge. Her front tire hit the rail and she and her bike flipped over the bridge and fell straight into the creek below. Seeing that woman flipping in the air still clipped into her bike really was the most spectacular sight I have ever witnessed. Also, completely terrifying to witness. As it could easily happen to me.
We rushed to the bridge and looked down. And there she was about 12 feet down in a dry creek bed sitting on her butt with her bike few feet away. I was expecting to see a girl with her neck broken or twisted leg or at the very least some blood. But she looked okay. She asked what happened and said she was fine. She was even laughing. Honestly though, seeing how she fell I don't know how fine she really could have been.
The image of her flipping over that guard rail haunted me the whole ride. I think it haunted Neal too because at least once an hour during the ride we would revisit the incident and further try to dissect exactly what had happened and whether the girl was really okay.
After the first few stops it was just Neal and I. We'd typically come up to rest a stop and I'd see Dani pulling away from the stop and Leslie, Felix and Greg getting back on their bikes and heading back out.
I really didn't have any problems or discomfort until around miles 80. I started getting chills and was super hot. I wasn't hungry, thirsty or particularly tired. But in addition to the chills I was starting to feel the beginnings of cramps in my arms and also in my left foot and calf. I noticed that wasn't sweating as much as I had been but felt much hotter. I wasn't sure if this was because the sweat was evaporating or I was getting dehydrated. Admittedly, I was a little worried about heat stroke. I know the warning signs: having experienced heat exhaustion at GA ING 07. However, I also knew that I had had chills on many a hot runs and got through those without further problem.
So I was just riding along; thinking and assessing and I guess I was pretty quiet for awhile. Neal noted this. He tried to chat me up and bring me out of the funk and I told him it was just a bad patch and that I would be fine. Honestly though, I really didn't know. I know in marathons I always have bad patches and so far I have managed to move on and finish strong (Country Music Marathon aside) but a bad patch on the bike was a new one for me. I slowed down a lot. I think we had been averaging 16-17mph. But around this time slowed to about 12-13 mph. It wasn't even particularly hilly at this point. I was also still worried about what Pool Boy had said about the "super long bad hill at mile 91" and that the ride was really 106 miles. Not to mention that I had already used my granny gear on a few occasions just to not fatigue myself on the up hills. I was worried that if I really needed it I might not actually make it the hill. I just couldn't bear the idea of having to walk up a hill this late in the game.
I figured I had about 15 more miles in me but I didn't know how much more. I started getting up out of the saddle and shifting around. Finally Neal suggested we stop and look at our map to make sure we were still on course (we had missed a few turns here and there and had to back track a few times). I knew we were on course but figured he wanted to stop cause I was looking bad. I knew there was a stop coming up at 89 miles and wanted to wait but stopped under Neal's "let's check the map" rouse. It was a good call on his part. It felt really good to get off the bike and stretch for a second. I did contemplate laying on the ground and doing a back bend because I felt like my muscles were recoiling into themselves but worried that I might not be able to actually pull it off. Instead I just leaned back a bit and twisted my spine from the waist. It felt amazing.
We did stop again at the last rest stop around 89 miles and put ice in our bottles. Awesome to drink cold water at that point. I also got my second wind and was feeling great and ready to go longer. After we left the rest stop I started noticing on the street ground markings for "105". Then around 91 miles I saw the 105 markings turn off up a steep hill. Happily, our route went straight and I relaxed realizing Pool Boy had done a different course: a 105 course and it went a different way than ours. With that monkey off my bike I was a new woman.
And then I saw a zebra.
I was certain I was hallucinating so I made Neal turn around so I could take a picture. A guy walked by me and said, "there's a water buffalo too."
I didn't see the water buffalo but there were a total of 3 zebras. I don't think you can see them in the picture. Damn crappy throw away camera with no zoom lens. I tried to get as close as possible but they were way in the back near the trailer. Zebras in a trailer park.
Only in Georgia I guess.
A short while later we were winding through Cartersville's main street area back to the park. Neal reported that he had us at only 97 miles. So we rode 3 more miles to make it a full century. So 100.30 miles at a 15.6 mph avg pace. 6 hours 24 minutes. Woo Hoo!
Great ride! I still can't believe I rode a 100 miles and didn't fall, wreck or get a flat. I feel VERY lucky.