This is my ride report from this ride in 2013 check out Part I
After making that turn things started to go downhill pretty quickly. I was loosing fluids way faster than i was replenishing them, I hung with the group comprising of Ed, Joe and the Tri team for most of this leg but both quads were beginning to cramp severely. We come up on a detour giving the option so stay on blacktop which was the official course or a 3 mile double track fire road detour saving about 3 miles, the group began to weigh their options: Stay on the black top and avoid a flat or go on the double track with the shorter distance, the question i was asking was “which option has less elevation gain”? Three of us choose to go off road and the rest continued on the road. The downside of riding a road bike on singletrack is the loss of traction when you climb standing this could be compared to having your scoop of ice cream fall off the cone, disappointing putting in all that work and loosing it to tire spins. I could not sit and pedal because my quads were cramping and I could not stand because my back wheel kept spinning out…quite frustrating. I got off and walked up half the climb.
Back on the road, it rurned into rolling hills, the type of rolling hills with more ups than downs. Usually this is the type of terrain in which I excel because I can gain good speed on the downhill and stand up and power over the rise, in this case however I was seriously hindered in the powering up department, any attempt at a quick out the saddle burst was met with quad cramps (more from the right than the left…tore my left ACL 6 years ago still favor my right and do the most work with my right). This section to reststop #4 should be coined the valley of heartbreak (its definitely no a valley though). It constantly had crests which you would expect some sort of downhill on the backside only to be greeted with another climb, my triceps and neck were now also cramping, I guess from supporting my body weight on the bars and holding my above average sized head. I was slowly getting in trouble and I knew it in economic terms this was becoming an unsustainable investment. I kept trying to drink and eat with no lasting benefit I had already used up my 2nd, 3rd and 4th wind, I was now in overtime and suffering bad!…
Half way into this section, I was pretty much walking up all the hills and riding down any negative slope. The funny thing is my legs still had some climbing in them but I was just tired, my muscles were not really doing all the work… my will was, I had to tell myself to keep going. I would tell myself to just keep spinning but the moment I looked up and saw what was ahead it zapped every motivation I had just conjured and I would have to dismount and walk. Even with all this walking, I was still catching the group after the downhills so I figured I was not doing so terribly. If I could just get to the rest stop, there are 2 more great climbs and I was home. Just then I started hearing this rattle from my drivetrain every time I went over some rough road like something was loose, I kept looking down trying to figure out what the problem was. Joe kept promising me we would get to a section from which it was a 7 mile decent to Westernport. We had some decent lenght decents but I mever really saw the 7 miles of downhill…Dang Liar..
We finally hit Westernport where I stopped at the Subway stumbled in and sign languaged for a Coke… Oh the best coke I had ever had reminded me of my Aunt Nneka’s roasted bush rabbit (dont as me why or Why). I hit the rest stop laid down and asked for the mechanic. The mechanic arrived and all i could see were the bike racks on his car and the empty backseat oh how i would love to rack my bike and SAG in but i cant, I had come too far.
After what seemed like forever, I hit the road with the mechanic claiming to have not found any issues. I started the long climb out of Westernport, It was a gradual climb which I just slowly churned out,I mean really slowly like I climb Tuscey way faster than that, Like 5mph slowly, I was in the greyzone (no one in front or behind. Having told my companions to go on without me, I rode for maybe 4 miles and could not take the gradual dessimation of my legs anymore, I got off and walked for maybe half a mile then got back on. At the top, I was happy to see Ed he had waited for me, he was also suffering but not nearly as badly as I was. We rode together for maybe 100yards and my respiratory system suddenly imploded, I was really dehydrated now walking in the sun that long and not drinking enough was catching up to me, it took so much to raise my bottle up to drink or even hold my head up Im sure I looked like the dejected prodigal son. I dismounted and walked some more.
I walked maybe 2 miles up the one switched back climb, every 5 mins I would get the urge to get back on the bike and pedal but I just could not bring myself to do it, people kept passing me. My only indication of how long the climb was the tree line on either sides of the road, I knew when I was at the same level as the highest trees I was at the top, I was walking so slowly my Garmin actually kept going into auto pause a setting I had to give an accurate average speed on group rides with a lot of breaks. After about 20 mins I reached the top, pulled out my silver bullet (no not a cell phone dufus!) I had 2 tablets of xtra strength Alieve, 2 jells and 4 Sport legs tablets, I downed all of them and drank some water, at this point I was becoming afraid of ODing (overdose) on salt tablets. This gave me some strenght and I hammered the road Randolph Jennings lake area. It was almost impossible to get over 19mph but I was moving and feeling better untill I randomly dropped the chain…Off the big ring I thought? I was like ohh well.
I finally hit the last climb before the Kitsmiller Rest stop, I knew if I could make it to the top then suffer up the last climb I would be ok as I had already resolved to walk all the way up the ASCI hill, there’s no way I was making that one. I decided to walk a bit first, get my HR down and then ride up the rest. When I finally remounted, the first pedal dropped the chain off the small ring to the inside…hmmm. I dismounted reset the chain and tried again … the same thing. I thought maybe cable stretch went down to a smaller gear tried again… same thing. All this bending down to reset the chain was taking it out of me. I walked some more thinking I would try again in a not so steep section… well it just kept getting steeper. The first SAG pulls by and asks if I need SAGGED I said NO! I asked how many people were behind me and he said he did not know but not many, I kept going determined to finish this Damn thing and also vowing to never attempt it again. Another SAG came by and asked if I needed SAGGED I declined again though I could see his eyes were begging me to accept.
This part of the ride tested me to my core, every thing in me wanted to quit. Up till now I had not once looked at my Garmin for distance or elevation only time and speed, It was 5:30 and I had 30 miles to go, the road was empty and these cars kept buzzing me. thoughts of walking up into ELK Garden alone, at dark, with the Deliverance sound track being played on Banjos kept crossing my mind seems like all he other black riders were smart enough to know to do the Century, I guess if I’m captured I’ll tell them Im a decendant of the Hartfields who absconded to Africa during the Hartfield and McCoy wars… I attempted to climb again but my chain just was’nt staying on, I then attempted to climb in the big ring but my legs would not turn over so tall a gear. I keep walking just as the SAG comes back again. I ask him if he can give me a ride to the top of the climb, he declines claiming to only be able to SAG me to the next rest stop which I don’t understand since it was not a timed section, neither was this really a race so I told him I would keep walking. I asked how much longer on the climb and he said at least a mile. I watched the guy who had just passed me cramp and get off and start pushing, he also declined a SAG.
At this point I had to be honest with myself, there is no finishing this ride without my small ring which had for what ever reason decided to keep bucking the chain. I had a couple conversations with myself..I said I would just set a target and tell myself if I could just pedal that far and when I got there move the target again…My brain was quick to point out that I could not really be stupid enough to try to trick my own self in this present situation was I. I agreed and scrapped that plan promptly. My brain then went on to rob it in by asking me why I thought I needed to do this stupid ride in the first place… For the millionth time it said YOU ARE NOT A CLIMBER! Accept it, embrace it, deal with it… like a child being chastised by his wise parent I concurred and vowed to stick with the century. The plan then was to get to KItzmiller and sadly SAG home. It took me about 45 minutes to get up that climb, I could hardly pedal down it. I was spent, my body, mind, soul, spirit were all totally broken. I reached the aid station and sat next to the guy who had a trash bag over him as well as a jacket and blanket, he was seriously dehydrated (he’s from DC)I chuckled a little when I saw him… not fair I know. His wife had just come to get him. I asked if I could get a ride and she happily obliged. For the first time that day I looked at my Garmin which said 99.75 miles…REAALLY!!? I considered pedaling around to even it up but the thought of sitting on that saddle was by now nauseating so I hit stop and held down Redet to save the data.
You know at the end of the day i am not sure what lesson to glean from this experience. I think what stands out the most is to know your limit, I’m am not certain I would have been able to finish barring any mechanicals, even if I would have I would have been utterly miserable, I truly feel the century is enough for me. I still do love the event, I think it is very well organized and will only grow. It is an awesome avenue for camaraderie and inspiration (Ellie, Sue, Donna, Paul definitely Denise)! I hope to be able to complete this race over and over again.
OK to be honest there is every chance I will attempt this again next year because my Ego is a tiny bit bigger than my Brain.
Much thanks to Donna for the hospitality and Gail for the company.
Peace and Speed