Not only didn’t I train as much as I should have, I let my eating get out of control and ended up gaining weight going into the event. Not a lot, but I shouldn’t have gained any. With those two strikes against me , the third strike was that I hadn’t ridden or even driven the course ahead of time so I really didn’t know what I was in for in terms of the difficulty of climbing the hills.
It didn’t help that the day turned out to be one of the warmest days so far this year. It was my mind outpacing my fitness that got me into trouble. I get these unrealistic expectations of what I can do while reading race and ride reports from much fitter riders. In my mind I can struggle through a 100 mile ride with minimal climbing or I can suffer up a challenging hill with the rest of them. Of course, until I get my weight under control and put in many more miles and hours on my bike, that isn’t really the case. Its great to visualize where you wan to be, but you have to take reality into account as well.
The day started well. I was chomping at the bit to get riding. It drove me a little crazy that we weren’t starting our ride until 10:00 am. This was so that more of the riders were finishing closer together and to help manage the finish area. Unfortunately for me this meant waiting until the day warmed up. A Lot! Most of my rides happen in the nice early morning cool of the day, before sunrise, even. Waiting to start until 10:00 meant that on average the temp would be 20 degrees warmer than I normally rode in.
I still figured this would be OK, I would just need to make sure and keep hydrated. Little did I realize how much hydration that would mean.
I got to the M Resort, which was the Start/Finish line for the event about 8:30. As I said I am terrible at waiting for things to start. Normally I’m a fairly patient person, but when it comes to getting out and riding in events, I get nervous and anxious for the start. There was no early packet pickup the day before the event, so once I got there I unloaded the bike in the parking garage and rode over to pick up my packet.
Check in was effortless and easy since I had met the fundraising goal ahead of time on line, it was a simple matter of signing the waiver and picking up my t-shirt and rider number. Once I got them, I headed back to the van for any last minute adjustments and to get out of the sun.
I put the t-shirt in the van, pumped up the tires to the correct pressure and grabbed one of the powerades I had brought along. This went into my bottle cage. I opened the other one and took a nice long pull. I figured I would need it. I locked up the car and headed back over to the start area to check it out and make a trip to the Port-a-potty. Once I was done, I headed over to the bike mechanic area.
Derrick from my LBS had told me when I picked up the bike earlier in the week that he was going to be there at the start to help with any mechanical issues. I just wanted to say ‘Hi’ and to let him know that so far (after just a couple of rides) the new wheels were performing well. My only issue to date had been a couple of pinch flats.
Derrick saw me rolling his way. “Those are some sexy wheels,” he said admiring his handiwork.
“Yes, they are and they are doing well. My only issue is I think I need wider tires as I’ve had a couple of pinch flats.”
“No way. Are you sure you had them pumped up to the right pressure?”
“Checked them before every ride,” I told a bit of a white lie. “I think its just a matter fo hitting some small rocks just the wrong way with all of the weight on here.”
“OK, but I’m not convinced,” he said. Then another person needed his attention.
“Thanks again. I’ll let you know how they do.”
“You do that and you might need to bring them back in after a couple of hundred miles to re-tighten the spokes, but I do put a pretty good preload on them so maybe not.” With that he turned away to help someone else.
I realized that it was probably my own fault I ended up with the flats, but to be on the safe side, I would get the larger tires which seemed to be more forgiving of pressure variations.
Looking at my phone I still had over a half an hour until the start of our wave. I rode back to the van and got another drink of the powerade, then made one more trip to relieve myself. The nerves were starting to key up and I just wanted to get riding.
It was quickly approaching 10:00 and I needed to line up for the start. I rolled across the parking area, marveling at how easily my bike rolled on the new wheels and Continental Gatorskins. I had been leery of them after getting a couple of recent pinch flats, but felt confident that with the proper inflation all would be well.
They called everyone to the starting area and introduced several of the red riders and had them all move to the front to lead us out. The red riders are all riders who have diabetes and are participating in the ride. There were about 15 red riders in our wave.
The MC was really trying to get us pumped up with the yell of “Go Red Rider!” which we were supposed to say whenever we passed a red rider on the course. They weren’t hard to identify with their red (obviously) jerseys. Little did I know at this point, but I would be seeing a lot of a certain red jersey for most of the ride.
It was finally time to do the final count down. Five, Four, Three , Two , One… Go Red RIDERS! And we were off.
I was at my accustomed place near the rear of the field and was riding along with the group at a comfortable pace. The first part of the ride was a gentle downhill followed by a slight uphill. I was cruising along and came up to the back of what turned out to be the last red rider in our wave. My thinking was he was going a bit slow, but I felt comfortable matching his pace so I started following him through the first few miles of the ride. I hoped he didn’t think I was stalking him or anything, but I was letting him set my pace for me. I knew that if left to my own devices I would be riding harder right now and I though that I would pay for it later if I was, so I stuck with him.
At least until the first steeper downhill. I noticed, looking ahead, that we would be going back uphill so I decided to let my bike roll. I had the advantage of the much greater gravity assist, as it were, and actually got up to a fairly good clip. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to sustain me through the uphill and I was downshifting and ended up much slower heading towards the light.
I barely made the light and then was able to coast for a bit as there was another gentle downhill. This was followed by a much steeper climb and there was no way I was riding up it. I stuck it out as best I could but eventually I dismounted and walked up the hill. There were several other riders also walking up the hill. The walking wasn’t too bad, but it left me just as out of breath as riding did. Add to that a tightening of the muscles of my lower back as I was pushing my bike and it was the start of my undoing.
I made it up the hill OK, having stopped a couple of times to try and stretch my back and catch my breath. As I got to the top, The last red Rider caught up to me towards the top of the hill.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
“Yes,” I gasped. “Just not used to such steep hills.”
“”We’re almost at the top. You want to rest for a minute?”
“No I’m good, its my back that is giving me fits – its very tight,” I wheezed. With that I got on my bike and continued on along the flat and slight downhill to follow. Then we came to the steepest hill of the day and there was no way I was riding up it.
I had gotten bit ahead of the red rider on the downhill and he quickly caught me on the climb.
“Go on ahead, I’ll get there,” I told him.
“No rider left behind,” he said back.
I stopped about halfway up the hill for a bit of a rest.
“You want to have a seat there?” he asked me indicating the curb ahead.
Knowing that if I sat down I would have trouble getting back up, I said “No, I just need to lean on my bike and try to stretch out my back. I’ll be good to go in a minute. By the way, my name’s Anthony.”
“I didn’t realize these hills would be this steep.” I offered as way of explanation for my apparent unpreparedness for this ride. “I’ve been doing some climbing but much more gentle grades.”
“I never do a ride without previewing the course either on my bike or at least driving it in a car so I know what to expect,” Juan told me.
“I had looked at the elevation profile online, but it certainly didn’t look this steep.” After a minute or two more, I said,” Let’s get going.”
Truth be told I could have used a few more minutes of rest. It was very hot out there reaching 90 or so and I was sweating up a storm. I had drunk half of the powerade I had with me and we weren’t a quarter of the way through the ride yet.
As we set off there was another short downhill and I let the bike run free, quickly breaking away from Juan and getting up to a quarter mile ahead of him. Of course there was another bit of uphill and he quickly caught me as I once again dismounted and had to walk for a bit.
We rested at the top and I could tell he was wanting to get rolling, so we mounted after the briefest of rests. It was just enough for me to drink almost all of my powerade and get rolling. That was a mistake as we had another gentle incline and I started to get a hitch in my side. It took me back to my grade school days and one particular day when I went home for lunch.
I had forgotten some homework at home. This was in the era before cellphones and constant communication. I didn’t need the homework until after lunchtime so I decided that I could make it home and back during the lunch period. Now we actually lived just under a mile from the school. I wasn’t any type of athlete but I figured I could try to make it by running both ways. Sure I was a husky lad back then in the 5th grade or so, but I wasn’t obese by any means.
As I ran along I started getting a cramp in my side, what we would call a stitch. My best guess now was I was getting a cramp from drinking too much water. If I slowed down and walked I was OK, but if I tried jogging the stitch came back.
I was experiencing the same thing on my bike. If I started pedaling quickly on the uphill, my side started hurting and I knew that I had drunk too much too fast. The catch 22 was that if I got off and walked, it was my back that was hurting me. Fortunately that uphill was relatively short and we were into a nice downhill, at the bottom of which was the aid station.
Again by virtue of the downhill and my rolling along so much faster under the gravity assist, I beat Juan into the aid station by a minute or two. I dismounted and slowly walked my bike along, looking for refreshment as well as shade. I was boiling in the sun.
I did grab a couple of small cups of water and a half of a banana, but not finding a convenient seat nor shade, I just got right back on my bike and pushed on. In retrospect, that wasn’t a very smart move.
There was a bit of relatively flat road just out of the aid station, but it quickly rose again. The lack of rest had me once again pushing up the hill even through it wasn’t as steep as some of the others. I knew that this was to be the highest point of the ride so I was eager to push up it and head down. I actually had to stop twice up the hill before making it to the top. It became very apparent that I should have taken a much longer rest at the aid station. I quickly drained half of my remaining powerade and was getting quite warm.
I had been fighting with the committee in my head on every one of the hills. They kept telling me that I was in no kind of shape to be doing this. That I was too unprepared. That I was holding others up and being selfish. It was getting harder and harder to disagree with them.
Fortunately it was time for a fairly long downhill and I felt good on the way down, except I wasn’t really cooling off. The heat was really starting to affect me. Add to that the need to stop a few time on the way down due to stops signs and traffic lights and by the time we hit the bottom and made the turn to start climbing back towards the M, I was done. The committee had wore me down as much as the heat and hills had, if not more so.
I made it a few blocks into the climb but had to pull over and rest. Juan was right there waiting with me as was the SAG vehicle. One of the advantages of being the last riders on the course is that the SAG vehicle wasn’t far away.
“I’m done. I’m way too hot and I’m feeling just a bit faint.” I said as I got off and was determined to not go any farther.
“Why don’t you grab the rest of your hydration and have a seat in the air conditioning in the SAG wagon,” Juan suggested. He really didn’t want me to quit.
“No, I’m done. I know my body and there is no more left in the tank,” I replied. The committee had convinced me.
“Are you sure. I have your bike, go sit in the A/C and see if it helps.”
At that point the driver of the SAG was there asking if we were OK.
“I’m done. I’m too hot and don’t have anything left.”
“OK, come and get in the truck and relax,” the driver said as he grabbed my bike and put it into the back of the pickup. It was a bit of a struggle getting up into the cab as it sat pretty high, but sitting in the A/C felt wonderful.
We sat there for a few minutes and Juan came back over and asked how I was.
“Better, but I’m done. Thank you.”
“I’ll see you at the finish line,” he said and headed out on his bike.
Now I had thought that they were going to run me back to the M and then head back out onto the course, but that wasn’t the case. With me along for the ride we continued following the back of the pack of riders.
“Does it make you nervous when we follow you,” Ted, the driver, asked.
“No not really nervous, I just feel bad for holding everyone up being so slow.”
About that time Juan had pulled over for another as we had come upon a father and daughter who were on the side of the road. It seems that he was suffering from the heat as well. Their bikes went into the bed of the truck and they joined me in the back seat of the cab. No I was actually feeling much better and seeing that there was only a couple of miles to go back to the M was thinking that I should get out and ride it.
The committee quickly overrode that idea saying that I would look ridiculous if I made that decision and then didn’t make it. Unfortunately I listened to them for the second time.
About this time 3 or 4 rider passed us which was a surprise as we had thought we were at the back of the field. We surmised that they must have made a wrong turn, or had topped somewhere out of sight along the way and we passed them. Ray got on the radio and asked if someone could sweep the course to make sure no one else was left behind.
We continued on behind the riders until the sweep vehicle caught up to us as we were nearing the M. At this point Ted peeled off and headed towards the start area while the other vehicle brought up the rear of the field.
As we pulled into the start area, I jumped out and they handed down my bike. I got on it and rode over to the tent area where I spotted Linda and her friend Kim. They had come out to greet me on my completion of the ride and were going through all of the vendor tents.
I snuck up on her and surprised her being there so soon.
“Good Job honey,” she said.
“No, I didn’t make it the whole way. I had to SAG out. I was just too warm.” I told her.
“But you did the best you could. How far did you go?”
“Just over half way.”
“I’m still proud of you,” She said. I was full of mixed emotions. I was mad at myself for giving in and for feeling the least bit of pride in the compliment she had given me. I didn’t feel like I deserved any credit. In my mind it was a n utter fail. I had been so sure I could do this with no problem and then to not make it but half way – it was an Epic Fail.