Monday, June 4, 2012

Dear Berkley: Sometimes You Just Have To Put Your Head Down. No son, not on the ground eating the Cheerios you've dropped on the floor. Pick that up and eat it with your hands, blissfully ignoring the fork and spoon beside you. We're not taking about that, we're talking about those times when you're in the middle of something and thinking to yourself "this may never end." Sometimes it's a long work day, sometimes it's recovering from something painful, and sometimes it's a fun thing that has somehow turned into endless labor. This last example is what happened this past weekend. I signed up for a charity road bike ride that would take us around 75 miles of the NC foothills with a few mountain climbs thrown in for joy. So I got a ride with a co-worker, and off we went to Mt. Airy NC to start the ride with 600 other pain lovers. We did not see Andy on the way into town, which should have been clue #1 that this whole thing was a bad trick. We geared up, and off we went at 8am. And from there, here's what happened. Miles 1-20 8am-9am You see that? 20 miles an hour! I was rolling along, chatting it up with the folks around me having a big time. There were some climbs, but honestly I barely even remember this part of the ride. I spent most of it trying to figure out this drafting phenomenon. It works, best I can tell. I also spent a decent amount of time trying to figure out why I kept passing folks going downhill. It's because I have an extra 8 year old (50 lb) on me. Miles 20-23 9-9:30am Time to go up Sauratown Mountain. Sweet, let's get after it. I pedaled smoothly trying to keep from pushing too hard and only had to stand to climb a couple of times. I reached the top and happily turned downhill for a few minutes of rest, at 45mph, on a bicycle, wearing tights. REST STOP! - Every so often they put these nice little rest stops in along the way to let you get more water, grab a bite to eat, etc. I had to pee, so I went in the local church and took a pee rest. Miles 23-28 9:30-10am A little more up and down over the rolling hills, and I could feel some inextricable force keeping me below 20 mph average. I am pretty sure it was the wind... yeah. Or maybe it was tired legs. That makes more sense. Miles 28-31 10am-10:30am Oh so soon? Another mountain climb, this time Hanging Rock. Halfway up I was done sitting. Standing, grinding away on the pedals. I stood for 10 minutes, willing one foot in front of the other, trying to keep the bike moving. Finally, no idea how, I reached the top. There was an aid station! REST STOP! - I saw a few people I knew from work, etc. We chatted, carefully ignoring what was ahead of us (45 more miles, and a much more difficult climb). Someone mentioned a compact crankset. I do not know these words. Miles 30-60 10:30am-12:15pm - Crank, crank, crank. Chat with people as they come by me. A nice guy explained the whole crankset thingy to me. They make the front gears on bicycles for climbing. WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO KNOW EARLIER! Mine was set up for level, float ground. In this 30 miles I started getting tired, and I started finding out about myself in ways I really hadn't before. I believe there is a concept called lactate threshold, which is the effort one can put out without going over and completely burning up due to lactic acid production in the thighs. I am now intimately aware where my threshold exists. It's 4 pedal strokes before a headache starts. It's just below a slight ringing in the ears. It's just before sweat starts running down into the eyes because it can't evaporate that fast. It's before you lose the ability to do simple math. REST STOP! - Last one, better get plenty of water for the bottles and eat a PB&J for what's coming up. I realized I hadn't peed in 3 hours, but had drank 5 huge water bottles of water and Gatorade. Miles 60-70 12:15 to 1:15 pm - Time to climb Pilot Mountain. Surry county's big nipple. The climb starts off peacefully enough, it even has a little downhill. WTF was everyone talking about? I'm 2 miles in and this is cake. Then there is a turn. Shortly after, real hills appear. And up I go. About a half mile in I'm passing people and asking how much further. They all say "a lot." One guy in a slightly comatose state looks up enough to say "easy, it gets much steeper." WHAT? Holy shit. I was about to pass out already, it gets WORSE? I think: I'm out if it gets worse. It gets worse. And not a little worse, a hell of a lot worse. I can barely keep the bike moving forward. My legs have gone past aching, past screaming, past daggers embedded in them, and now they're all the way to numb. Which would be a good thing, but I need them. I consider quitting at least 50 times. Each time I come around a bend and a volunteer stopping traffic cheers for me I almost vomit on them. The switchbacks never end. One, over a distance that was easily under 200 yards, rose 50 feet, which felt like 500. I begged passing cars to let me grab on and tug a little, but only in my head because I could not figure out how to speak. At one point, sweat ran off of my nose continually, in a stream. Then, all of a sudden I was at the top. 10 minutes had easily passed without a single coherent thought in my head. So what next? A blistering ride down those same switchbacks, which I was in no way prepared mentally to handle, so I stayed on the braked and played it safe. Miles 70-75 - An easy ride back through town to the civic center, and a little boy hands me a towel, freezing cold, to towel off. Thank you Jesus. I almost offered to pay his way through college. To call this an epic ride (for me) would be an understatement. Most miles, most climbing, most pain and suffering, and most certainly the most self discovery ever. Let's do it again!

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