Riding the Motherland part II

Check out Part 1 of this report here if you have not already. 

   

After some tinkering, he was back on and we were off. The two Europeans were putting on a clinic on how to colonize the locals, IB and I were struggling to hold their wheels. I am not accustomed to being the weakest link but the heat, humidity and non-stop pedaling was slowly breaking me down (hey I have to have an excuse). There were hardly any downhills to rejuvenate my weary muscle and sitting on the wheel of skinny people at some point begins to become generate deminishing returns (insufficient reward from lackluster wind buffering). Right before we turn onto Kubwa expressway, I blow sky high, my heart rate is really high, my legs feel like anvils and it difficult to even stay upright, figuring that the chase car would move around me to Cather to his master “sorry sucker” I wave a resignatory wave and fix my gaze on my handle bar as the gap between me and the group continues to widen.

Miraculously, the driver Mazé motions me to hold onto the car while he bridges the gap for me (pro style). I could have kissed him, I held on thinking ” men! This is the kind of stuff the pros do!” Mazè slowly eases me to the group with the patience of someone repeating an action they are proficient at, it’s actually harder than it looks hanging on, I realized I actually had to pedal a little bit to keep me balance and since we were moving faster than my legs wanted to churn, in some way it felt harder than just crawling till I fell over on the side of the road. Back in the fold, I tucked in and hung on, ignoring the calls of my long lost concubine lady Cramps.  
 

I’m the only one not sucking in my gut…i promise, they all have beer bellies too… ok, dont believe me then…

 

The group again stops for Lucato change his bike , as noted in the above picture he is now on a Cervelo also. We head towards Lifecamp roundabout and at this point my eyes a peeled for the most convenient exit via which to limp home. It is obvious I have a lot more work to do. 

I end up making it to the end, I rode 53 miles that day at an average speed of 19.8mph with over 2k feet of climbing. Not bad by my standard, not bad at all. 

Here are some other random pictures from other rides I took while in Abuja. 

 

National Mosque in the distance, stunning to behold in person.

  

NNPC Plaza where Nigeria’s oil money is divied out.

  

love these kinds of shots..

    

like a plantain/banana plantation under the city. you see them usually under bridges. very fertile land Nigeria

      

i font know the name of this building but interesting Architecture

    

Mango seller… Tasted awesome, fresh and real

  

Gwari woman carry firewood in a calabash on her neck/shoulder

  

Selfie on my ride… no i do not own a selfie stick.

  

  

Next to Jabi lake.

  

Hotel being built next to the lake, opposite the shopping mall on the other side.


    

Hanging with my brother CEF on his roller blades. 

    

 

Recovery meal: Native soup with periwinkle,dried fish,snail and cow leg.

 
Great trip overall, just HOT!

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Yup riding in the motherland again…

Shrieks and yells jerk my attention from my Garmin’s read-out of 28mph on the flats, I look up and there is Yakub the Polish diplomat trying to get the attention of the taxi driver who can obviously see us but still tries to cut in front of the group. Yakub then does something faciniting and funny, he raises his hand in the air, five fingers spread out (like a high five), this is the national flip-off sign, it’s usually done with the phrase WAKA. I have never met a foreigner who knows about that or even does it, it was for me and the driver hilarious. This was about the third time a cacophonous chorus had erupted from our foursome on a peppy escortion around the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria. The city’s topography is primarily flat with granite hills rising out of the horizon in every direction, like centurions guarding the planes. The ring leader was Luca again, who I have ridden with on previous trips, he showed up with a TT bike so I knew it was going to be a sufferfest kind of day. 

This sight meant it was going to be a long hard day

 IB, the resident godfather of Nigerian cycling also made a showing on his brand new Cervelo S5. I was going to bring along my Specialized Tarmac on this trip but decided not to, I had a lot of business lined up on this trip and had no idea how much riding I could get in. I therefore settled for some wheels to replace my busted one on my old Giant TCX I already left here 2 years ago. As usual, I got the “that’s what you are going to ride” look… from the group, I’m now used to it with this crowd…and most other crowds, these guys were riding top of the line race machines, I’m usually very secure in myself but I must admit I was a little ashamed of the bike. The saving grace is I’m usually able to keep up with those guys with their F1 carbon et al.

 

Check out the Peuguot Pickup… that things probably 30yrs old

  

No paint to designate lanes in a 3 lane highway…makes for some hairy driving

 

 The ride started with short loop from Maitama into Wuse 2 and back, naturally it began at 6:30, the most appropriate confluence between temperature and light (it’s not too hot that you want ride naked and lit enough to ride without a chase car). The city was already mostly awake, a remarkable ensemble of birds greets a listening ear, the temperate climate is conducive for a great variety of birds. Watching the streets slowly come alive, I notice how the primary source of livelihood for a lot of these early rising pedestrian are things most westerners take for granted: that air compressor sitting unused in your garage, that feeds the tire guy’s (vulcanizer) family, he sets up by the side of the road and does all tire related repairs for motorists, the antic Singer sewing machine your mother left you is the mobile tailor’s (Duma-Duma) tool of trade; with his portable sewing machine on his head, he logs 20 miles daily around the city calling out for work, Dumas fix any rips, make adjustments and even see complete outfits in minutes…the Michael Kors of the poor.  The list goes on to include the water guy (Mai Ruwa) who pushes the largest wheelbarrow you ever saw loaded with 50 liter gallons and selling water, those who pick fruit from trees and walk around town selling them. These craftsmen stop, crane their necks, observe the spectacle of spandex clad men as we speed by on a most unusual locomotive they must think. 

 

These guys go around looking for jobs mowing… they mow fields with just a weedwacker

  

Trash guy AKA babam Bola…stop at your house and take care if your trash for a price. thry also salvage for recyclables

  

Bala, the human troll

  

Magnet picks up metal as he walks around. st the end of the day he sells whatever he “attracts”

  

selling hot food

  

Roadside roasted corn and pear… top quality carbs if you ask me

 

 Also interesting was the reactions of pedestrians and motorists for to the spectacle I assume we were. I came to the conclusion that Nigerians are a people for whom nothing is too unusual to see or believe, this might sterm from their hybrid religious disposition an practices ; it is common for people to say they have experienced the supernatural like seeing a human being turn into a goat or knowing someone  whose mother inlay took out her womb, tie it up and stash it somewhere so she stays barren and they are completely believed by the audience, everyone knows a witch and every misfortune was perpetuated by one. Even with a strong Christian and Muslim presence in the country there still is patronization of indigenous oracles and religions pre dating them, there is a strong believe and appreciation for the spiritual world, realms westerners consider fairytale, delusional voodoo crap.  I say this because most times as we flew by people, we only got a “that’s interesting” look that did not linger very long (an interested glance and a return to the hustle at hand) not the expected fanfare we see on TV. There was really no chasing of our bikes by village children, or Entire towns shutting down to go look at the foreigners on iron horses… I’m sure some of this is because we were in a big city, the capital at that but the most I could get from the faces of children who looked a little longer was a ” men I sure would love to try that” expression, then they went back to their own hustle of selling peanuts, water or even fuel (black market). 

 

Thats thr fuel queue on the right, not traffic hold up

 

 The pace was punishing as we got on the Kubwa express way, sometimes touching 30mph and this was not on a downhill stretch, for a mountain rider albeit a very fat one (no hyperbole there) with approximately 300 total miles ridden this year, I was feeling the pace and avoiding the front like the plague. That early on a Saturday morning, the roads were not choked full of cars running at -as fast as your engine and load would let you- speed. I could already see the maturity in my riding, usually I can’t wait to get to the front and show how to pull a train at Mach 1 albeit for 4 miles before exploding, I already gave myself a pep talk citing as examples the numerous flat-landers who come to the Appalachian mountains and try to show off to some hairy-legged locals because they head 20mph average group rides where they’re from – Different specialization of your leg muscles, because you are fast on the fasts does not mean you would be when the tarmac points upwards and vise versa…I think fast twitch vs slow twitch…who cares you show off, you usually fall off. 

 

For how close Abuja is to the arid desert north, it is a very green and fertile land.

 

 Luca was doing all the work and a mighty fine job he was doing, I figure as with most diplomats he has to be very cautious with everything and It seemed he never felt comfortable sitting on anyone’s wheel, just my thought for all I know he could have Tritophobia (disease exclusive to triathletes where they feel they will get penalized for drafting so they ride very awkwardly in groups… I know you know what I’m talking about). I’m still feeling relatively fresh and finally get on the front to motor our multinational gang onwards and get rid of some nervous energy most of the time though I sat in a tuck and got pulled along at 24mph. The traffic circles AKA roundabouts as we ex British colonies call them are tricky to navigate, the chase car does its best to block rearward traffic but given that the circle is fed by 4 junctions, only one entry point can be blocked and then it’s really an “every man for himself” kind of situation. 

Forgive my digressive writing style, my brain is a lot faster than my pen; I have mixed feelings about riding in a 3rd world country with a chase car. You definitely feel a lot safer, safer from traffic where there is no speed limits,places you wrestle with jalopies going at 70mph as well as the vagabond goat on the interstate. Riding with a chase car however usually involves running lights, bullying other cars and putting you on a pedestal. Iris almost like you see yourself higher than these people, they can stay in line but because I can afford to I will go around. I feel people who would have waved and smiled only look and picture you as some ambassador or something, some unattainable standard,and instead of inspiring you end up solidifying sentiments of glass ceilings and complexes. It’s a love/hate relationship for me with chase cars, you will most likely arrive home alive but it serves as a cocoon, a glove shielding you from the environment, you might as well have ridden on a spinner with the heater turned on high to simulate the African heat… But I digress

We regroup outside the circle with three and not four men… No chase car either.


Luca chooses to keep riding, figuring IB would bridge across shortly, it’s probably embassy protocol to not stay idle without security for more than 2 minutes… Ok I’m just milking this now… surprisingly, the pace did not lighten, we kept on riding tempo and rotating at that. Every once in a while we would look back for IB but he never showed, after about 5 miles we finally and thankfully pulled off on the side of the road to wait. 10 minutes later, our comrade pulls up in the front seat of the car, bike in the trunk. This was the first ride he had ridden on that bike (2015 Cervelo S5) since it was built up, cable stretch and loosen bolts resulted in a sliding seat mast and inadequate shifting.

 

waiting for our lost friend

  

how many mechanics does it take to adjust a derailear

 
The solution was for IB to stay on the big ring while we stop at a friends house to get some tools. The break did little good as, my legs started complaining once we set off again. 

This is a good place to stop for now, I will conclude the report tomorrow. If you have not read my previous reports on riding in Nigeria, do so and leave a comment I would love to know what you think.  Thanks for stopping by

Nigeria Ride Report Day 2

Day 1 of my ride in Nigeria can be found here

This  second day of riding I already knew it was going to be much different from the first, thanks to connections made via Strava, I was able to hook up with 2 Italian diplomats who pretty much rule the Abuja riding scene by placing 1st and 2nd in every segment (never mind that they created all those segments). One of them after hearing about my wheel mishap actually was kind enough to lend me an extra wheel he had. I was supposed to get it at the meeting point at 5:30am, due to the torturous temperatures in this part of the world most people choose to exercise early in the morning and drink in the evening. For 5:30am, the temperature was “lukewarm”, not uncomfortable but not the best temperature for cycling, you could feel the onset of the hummid day that it was going to be. The street subdued with the mellow glow of street lights, the double headed street light, an Abuja staple that that I remember marveling at as a kid (on the airport road you could see them for miles creating a chandelier that unwound as the road winds toward the evening horizon) . Early risers quietly unravel their day, they stroll by primarily in ones and twos, all with purpose in their step and a gate that is uniquely African like a “life is hard but it could be worse” step.  I find myself wondering what life for this person is… Is he a taxi driver, a teacher who has to trek 10miles to the bus stop, a pastor coming back from a night vigil? Like I said, in Abuja, most of the cardio and solo sports are done in the mornings, I never saw a runner or cyclist in the evening, in reality the evening is reserved for team sports especially the world’s most popular sport, Football (Soccer in America).
Sitting in the shadows there with my brother as company and driver, we see these 2 bikers go by aglow from the reflection of the chase car behind them. I think surely this is not them, I did not expect them to come with an escort and all, Its 5:30 for crying out loud, I stayed in the car and watched them do a loop and come back round. This time I stepped out of the car and they came to a halt in front of me, hand extended in salutation, Campangnolo or Shimano? And Im wondering what does that mean, is this some sort of Italian greeting or some training they receive from the embassy to expose threats, like normal people ride Campy and Boko Haram followers favor Shaimano? He sees the disconnect in my eyes and says The wheel…Campangnolo or Shimano?  Oh! Shimano… and he retrieves a Fulcrum Racing 3.5 wheel with an 11speed cassette. Taking the wheel from him I am already nervous because I am in the habbit of flipping my bike upside down in order to install the rear wheel (so rookie I know!). I figure there are few moves more novice than that so I say a little prayer and attempt to do it the more dignified (right) way, like they do in the races. Guess what it worked. While installing the front wheel, one of the guys Fab told me Wrong way…You flip…Take your timea…

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The Knife I brought to the Gun fight

The Knife I brought to the Gun fight

We saddled up I slot in behind the guys checking out their machines, Luca was on a Cervelo S5 with aero bars and Fab on a Passioni Titanium number clearly custom, running Campy Super Record (Mechanical). I on the other hand was on my beat up Giant TCX 3 (entry level cross bike) but like Lance said “Its not about the bike”- does make a big difference though. We got on the express fairly quickly and Luca did most of the pulling, I had decided that despite my primal instinct to jump on the front and show that I too am good at challenging Newton’s third law of motion: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body. We go for about 4 miles and turn off onto Federl Secretatriate Road, a very important road I will come to find out later and explain in a later post.
The roads have speed bumps in the most awkward places like in the middle of a 50mph road or righr in front of a traffic light. This results in drivers needing to gingerly ascend two speed bumps before the light turns back to red with only 3 cars having crossed the junction. The Italians already knew all the cracks and shunts through the speed bumps so I had to rely on my bike handling skills to maintain contact of their wheel and not have to jump everytime they open a gap when we go over a bump.

 

Fab and Luca by the National Mosque

Fab and Luca by the National Mosque

Chase car coving our behind

Chase car coving our behind

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Pedestrians crossing the interstate...

Pedestrians crossing the interstate…

One of the many beautiful mosques in the city

One of the many beautiful mosques in the city

We go pass the National Mosque with the twin towers and the Abuja monument (all still under construction) on the horizon. The sun is fully out now trying to flex its muscle but this time of the year the clouds rule, its raining season and to the east its looking like the chase car might be used for more than just protection from other road users. We get on the Jabi-Lifecamp express way and  I catch sight of the posted speed limit of 100km/hr and smile as I don’t believe any car capable of breaking that doesn’t, The only cars staying under that are those limited by mechanical issues. The guys drop the pace a little and we shoot the breeze a little, I tell them about the secret cycling Paradise Cumberland and they tell me about not so secret cycling wonderland Italy, they inform me I don’t look anything like my Strava page suggests, they say I look more like a sprinter I concur (Ya Think!?), I am fully aware that I am not quick like a true sprinter or light and fast like a climber I just strong like a farm boy who happened upon a bike in a field and even that not for very long.
A motorcycle zooms by and Fab gives chase,  as usual with me I cant help my self and lunge from behind Luca to get a hold of Fab, just before he can get in the draft of the motorcycle he runs out of steam so I come around and finish the job, I figured he was to gassed to stay on my wheel but a quick glance shows him in the tightest tuck I have ever seen… Looked like a Pray mantis on a stock, I take note that I am burning one of two (maybe three) matches I have left, I am brought back to the present by Fab coming around to keep the fight going, I’m thinking these guys sure do recover quick. I needed at least 10 minutes to recover but I could not get dropped in this stretch of Kamikaze motorists, I needed to stay in the group, so I slotted back behind Luca who I came to learn never jumps. Luca is a triathlete and tries to maintain a steady tempo pace not zig-zagging along his HR zones, Fab on the other hand is a road racer with the riding style of Alejandro Valverde, s especially on the kickers.

Getting used to my trusty clunker by this point.

Getting used to my trusty clunker by this point.

 

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Breakfast after the ride… Vegetable taste so much sweeter, compared to this what I eat from Walmart tastes like plastic.

We go around the scariest Traffic Circle AKA Roundabout I have ever been on, It was everyman for himself as even the chase car could do little to protect us. My legs were fried from the constant pedaling but to stay alive (literarily) I had to sprint across all the exits that come off the traffic circle. Just when I was about to throw the towel in we got off the expressway and I realized I was back in Wuse about 3 miles from my home. I thanked the guys and crawled to a refreshing breakfast of boiled spicy fish, vegetable stew and fried yams.

Nigeria Ride Report Day 1

The biggest difference between my ride today and the one done in January (Here & Here) was how much clearer everything was. It seemed like one of those eyeglass commercials where the picture gets crisper with more contrast as you put them on. In late January the Hamthan season was just ramping up leaving a have of dust everywhere, now however in early September the country is well into the the raining season, so opening the gate in the unraveling dawn, I guide my trusty steed over a recently doused driveway and say a prayer as I mount for my shake down ride.

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The last time I was home I brought my  trusty cyclocross Giant TCX bike and did my one and only ride, I somehow managed to shift the chain into the spoke of the rear wheel. It took brute force to free the chain resulting in a damaged spoke. I was going to bring a spare wheel with me on this trip but my brother assured me that it had been fixed by some “local bike mechanic”… that should have rang a bell when I heard that as despite searching through almost the whole city the last time I could not find a place to buy a hex bolt for my seat clamp.  I come to find out that the bad spoke had been replaced with a different spoke of a different guage and incorrect length liberated from a junker bike. In order for it to fit the “bike mechanic” had to bend the spoke making it structurally useless and unsafe to ride it.

Spoke bent in order the fit... Structurally ridiculous

Spoke bent in order the fit… Structurally ridiculous

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In the absence of a truing stand, I had to attempt to make this setup work...

In the absence of a truing stand, I had to attempt to make this setup work…

I trued it as much as I dared but truing a wheel is one of those jobs that’s needs experience and patience neither of which are virtues I am endowed with, I also did not want to get the wheel out of round in the process. I did what I could and prayed it would hold.
I started towards Zone 4 now an older parts of the city which then consisted of Wuse and Gariki, Wuse was set up into zones 1-8, while Gariki had Areas 1-11. Zone 4 once was the red light district, prowling ground for all sorts of night owls. it was not uncommon to see 150 prostitutes in a 2 block area. This part is also the hub for money changing, money changers (mostly Hausea men, the major northern tribe in Nigeria) roam the streets advertising their best exchange rates. This was where you bought and sold foreign currency mainly Dollars, Pounds and Euros, they offer a higher rate than banks do as is expected of the black market. The roads up to this point was pretty empty save for the early bird taxi drivers. Pretty much every head I passed was on a swivel doing a double take, it was obvious that a cyclist clad in spandex was not a common sight on these streets. there was really no shoulder on these roads and the motorist were not really doing me any favors (its not like there is a 4 feet rule here or anything… not like they would obey it if there were).

I turned onto Amigos drive a section of town with most of the shopping options for expats comprising of luxurious furniture stores, Lebanese owned shopping centers, a mile into this stretch I see another cyclist on the other side of the road. He waves hello and I wave him over.

Sam claiming his side of the road (The left side)

Sam claiming his side of the road (The left side)

Riding the on-ramp onto the Express way

Riding the on-ramp onto the Express way

His name is Sam and he was on a Rigid mountain bike, plat pedals and tennis shoes, I asked about the group I heard meets at 5:30am and he said he ws actually trying to catch up with them, I asked if I could come along and as expected he said yes (I am yet to see a cyclist who turns down company except those whose bikes have aero bars). We started out good down Banex plaza with me on Sam’s wheel, I see him drifting toward the left side of the road with cars wipping by us at 60mph, I’m shivering in my camious and thinking men is this guy really trying to go over into the fast lane? I find myself torn between what I know is sensible and practical. Ironically for safety reasons you need to ride on the left side because in Nigerian roads speed is kind and there is no regard for anything on the slow lane because even cattle could be found there. My immediate goal then is to hold on tho this guy maybe I can not only getan aerodynamic advantage maybe his courage will roll off on me.
Like this was not enough of a scare, we had to merge onto the express way (Interstate) which was already hectic with commuters from the new surburbs like  Kubwa, Kurudu, Lugbe and Gwarimpa, settlements for the newly emerging middle class who commute into the various business districts in the city. This charge was being led by a hoard of determined and disgruntal taxi drivers leading the charge. Riding on the expressway was relatively fine save for the on and off ramps, we had to tow the line between claiming the lane so as not to encourage people to come around and opening enough space on the right large enough for them to try to squeeze through. Sam was not the fastest rider I ever met but he definitely had stones made of some sort of ferrous material in his bike shorts as I will come to realize the name of the game around here is stay as close to the bravest as you can. I am not sure what bike he was riding but it was heavy and he did not seem to know how to draft which was fine with me, I just wanted to get a good “break-in” ride so I hung with him.

Jabi Lake.. with fisherman

Jabi Lake.. with fisherman

Just chilling on the side of the highway, watching the city come awake

Just chilling on the side of the highway, watching the city come awake

The kind of cars that buzz you when you are on the right side

The kind of cars that buzz you when you are on the right side

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Jabi Sports complex... Yoga classes

Jabi Sports complex… Yoga classes

We stopped at Jabi park, a recreational park next to the 5 mile man-made jabi lake. This place showcases the emergence of a middle class and the growing attention to health and fitness the populous was taking. At diffent locations in the park, there were Yoga classes, cross fitness classes, table tennis (not sure how much exercise you get from that at 6:30am), running classes and even horse riding. There was a section where traders hawked second hand athletic wears and numerous self appointed coaches and experts, it was no Chris Carmichael  gym but the people where obviously just as committed to fitness as you would find anywhere else. We rode around the 1 mile loop and headed back home, with Sam choosing to go against traffic at some points.

Sam choosing to go against traffic... I could not handle this very long and went on the sidewalk.

Sam choosing to go against traffic… I could not handle this very long and went on the sidewalk.

As we turned towards our meeting point, we talked soft pedaled  got to know each other a little more with him asking most of the questions and me answering. Against all my instincts I ended up giving him a lecture on proper riding technique, gear selection, pacelines and even echelons… I know . I usually try to not come across as a know it all but he kept asking me questions that ultimately segued into a dissertation which he seemed to enjoy very well. In my green days I too preferred getting theoretical lessons from more seasoned riders over practical ones like keeping up with them on a climb.
On the road towards Banex plaza, the site of the most recent bomb blast by Boko Haram, the road opens up and climbs at a 4% incline, I figured I would put a little dig and let him practice his drafting, worse case scenario he cant hang and he drops off. At the top I was thoroughly impressed with myself when  look back and he is not there, I wait a whole minute and I don’t see him, I think to myself “I’m fast but not that fast” . Heading down I see him pushing his bike up, he’s had a flat, he has no tools, no spare tubes, nothing… my kind of man, just the kind of stuff I do when home.

A "Vulcanizer" with his source of survival in the background

A “Vulcanizer” with his source of survival in the background

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Check out the broom on the floor… the real deal

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Instead of using sand paper to scuff up the tube, the tool was a miniature saw.

Instead of using sand paper to scuff up the tube, the tool was a miniature saw.

We found a Vulcanizer (men with air compressors on the side of the road or gas stations whose jobs are to patch,install, pums tires). We show him how to patch the tire (he has to use a car tire tube boot and had to go beg for glue from a fellow vulcanizer almost a mile away), which takes him 20 minutes to do.

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At this point I say good bye to Sam and head home to a hearty mean on plantain porridge with Periwinkles and spicy shaved cassava. I posted my ride to strava and almost immediately received the comment from Luca: “Nice ride but I hope you are ready to go much faster tomorrow”? Stay tuned for my second day of riding….

Solo Jaunt

Every once in a while I get a chance to go out on a solo ride on a Saturday. Usually I prefer the company and a slower pace but due to the rain the group ride was cancelled and Wifey kicked me out of the house so she could clean. The Zen of empty back country roads, no pace in mind or faster wheels to keep up with and my favorite fog rising out of the mountains in the horizon as the sun struggles to make an appearance. Here… muses and sounds from a solo ride.

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Wet roads… there are few things as beautiful as riding under a canopy of tree, zenith being in the fall.

 

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overcast the whole ride, my favorite kind of weather if it involves climbing totaling greater than 3k feet. Beautiful blue Appalachian mountains in the background.

 

 

 

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First time I moved to Western Maryland from Pittsburgh I could not figure out what these things were because they wereallwrapped in white. Now a full grown Appalachian cowboy-redneck-hippie-free roller I am in the know… There’s the farm dogs protesting my unauthorized picture taking on their territory.

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Very narrow back country roads with more cows than people…beautiful summer foliage, I wish I could name the plants but I dropped out of Botany class in college. I will do better at that

 

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The primary downside of riding solo (right behind having so one to share the wind entrée with) is having no one to take your pictures so you have to resort to one handed selfies 🙂

 

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My favorite part of the ride. I one day plan to come here with a good camera and some well earned knowledge and capture and share what beauty this spot is in person…

Garett County Gran Fondo 2013 Part II

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.

ATTRITION
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

Garett County Gran Fondo 2013 Part I

I just finishd my third attempt of the Garrette county gran fondo. I am still working on that ride report but I’m just going to share my report from 2013.
Note: this was mainly written for members of an intimate bike club

So sometimes we face difficulties, sometimes physical many times mental. In some cases we feel close to our breaking point, close to our limit, to the point where there is no conceivable means of reprise or solace, the point where the only logical, the only feasible option is to throw our hands up and just give up. In this case there was always a way to quit, just stop pedaling but this test was not just physical or mental…it was both. I have seen some Discovery channel “I should not be alive” shows and it always struck me how emotional the survivors were when narrating their experience, retelling the saga was in essence reliving the experience I feel the same way. The Diabolical Double strips away layers of yourself; your muscles, your mind, your will and finally you are propelling your machine solely will power. To some the Gran Fondo was a mental challenge, a custom or a fun hard ride to this guy (me) it was a trial by fire… More accurately trial by elevation gained
Saddle up

The ride started with the customary evaluation of fellow riders and mandatory bike gawking/lusting. From my experience honed in stereotypes and an overactive imagination I scientifically deduced that this crowd today was mainly made of three groups: The Triathlete group most of whom had areo bars, deep rimmed wheels and bottle holders behind their saddle, half of them looked like misplaced models, junkies and jockeys the other looked like fit trim athletic folk. Then there was the mountain men, these people mostly weighed over 150 lbs, had hairy legs and looked as strong as an ox Morgantown like people…you could just tell they could climb. Finally, there was the adrenaline junkie or more appropriate the Lactic acid junkies: that’s the flat landers who choose to opt for the more subtle form of self mutilation to appease their sadistic desire for torture. In that mix also was me someone who was not quite sure why I was doing this. Last year I knew it was for the challenge and to see how much I could push myself, this year however with less than 1000 miles in my legs, 10 lbs heavier than last year and at least 40 hrs less sleep I was going to attempt to find that thin line that separates my desire from my will.

Once the whistle blew, it was off to 7 miles of downhill bliss. I hooked up with the senior citizens power rangers squad (Rick, Rich, Tony and Richard) who I rode with for maybe a mile then I figured I best leave these guys before the grade started moving in the positive direction so I let my breaks breath and was hitting 56mph in no time down the east side of ASCI. The temperature was already in the low 70s at 7:12am so I knew I was in for a long hot day. We hit a flat sections and I started enforcing the rules of discipline I had come up with: Don’t be too anxious to grab a wheel and drink both bottles between each rest stop. Once we hit the first climb White Rock all you could hear was the orchestra of people’s respiratory systems making the adjustment from coasting downhill to hitting a 7% grade. Today was going to be fun. Rick appears next to me and I stayed on his pace, we zig-zaged around slower riders and those who were clearly out of their comfort zone, maybe they mistook this for the seagull century or lost a bet. For me however , Clyds in the mountains…this is what its all about. We steadily pass people all the way to the summit, I looked down and smiled at my newly installed compact crank, one climb down 1000 more to go. It is mostly rolling hills all the way to the first rest stop.

Now. Down to Buisness!
After filling up my bottles, eating some pretzels, downing some endurolytes and socializing a but I hit the road again. The next climb Old Morgantown Road I knew starts almost immediately and was a long one. I knew it does not really let up until you cross the interstate and then it just turns into a long section of false flats. This section was the genesis of my demise last year and I was determined to ride smarter this time. We turned onto the climb and bid the power rangers adieu, settled into a nice cadence and tried to find a good rhythm. On this section last year it was still cool (mid sixties maybe) the sun was beginning to peek out and the mountain was covered in dew. It felt like we were climbing into the clouds. This time however it was already scorching hot, being that this was a very exposed climb and my skin color does not only cause everyone to assume I’m a Democrat but also tends to absorb more of the suns rays…I was already sweating a storm half way up the climb. This climb was littered with riders with bikes at various stages of disrepair from flat tires to busted derailers. I asked most if they were ok and if they needed anything. Random Thought: (the truth is that most times in these situations the helpee really doesn¡¦t want you talking to him as he is already peeved off by the mechanical and the helper still asks if he can render any help knowing full well that he really would rather continue with his ride undisturbed as well as conscious of the fact that there’s is a 95% chance the helpee will say “I’m ok thanks” I know people are just being courtsious but coming from someone who has been the helpee a lot don’t talk to me unless I ask for your help Sorry still amped from Saturday. Please always offer assistance especially if you are a TA (Trail Ambassador).
I submit the climb and start winding down to the next climb that ends at rest stop #2. I remember this exact place/time last year…the site of the first cramp. I’m trying to lie to myself but the fact is I’m beginning to feel the beginnings of some cramps in my right quad, not nearly as bad as last year but I definitely feel warning of what is to come. I chug some more Heed take a couple salt tablets, eat a banana and chant the phrase I came to repeat many times that day “At least I don’t feel as bad as I did at this point last year” the word YET! was apparently missing from that statement unbeknownst to me.

I spun up that climb and into the rest stop where I was met by many friendly faces. I saw John Waugaman, Less, Rick, Rich, Tony, Joes McCaude, and Garth your friendly neighborhood Strava segment stealer. While getting ready to hit the road again, a random lady came up to me and asked how I was doing, I held the conversation as I tried to figure out how I knew her. She saw the confusion in my eyes and went on to tell me she remembered me from rolling on the floor at the finish line last year and conveyed her sincere desire and heart felt request that I try not to traumatize her children who were there last year. I was embarrassed (my dad named me Mandela after a man who was popular for fighting for his people’s freedom at the cost of 27 years in prison but I am being remembered as the big black guy rolling in agony at the end of a bicycle ride). I promised her I would do my best and peddled into the beast to come… (Have to be a but dramatic)

My legs were feeling a lot better after some stretching, I had also hooked up with Ed and the local Tri team members, we hit Bowman and I was feeling strong, Joe told me Rick and Rich were just ahead and I could catch them if I tried, I told him I did not want to. The Bowman climb could be broken down into 3 sections each progressively steeper but shorter as you went. I easily crested the first section, then hit the second, the signage on the floor ironically brought a smile to my face because it was quite appropriate; it read SUFFERING with a forward pointing arrow. The next sign read AGONY then I heard music. I looked up and saw a van with what seemed like the WMW logo then I recognized the faces of Angels º, Kate was one of them, they encouraged me and I kept moving came up on Agony section which was about a 12% I believe, Ray was right there and encouraged me up. At the top, I ate a banana, took some more salt pile (probably number 10 by now) and drank some more. The next climb was Devils Half Acre which I took my time up and then Killer Miller¡K the beginning of the end. I felt like this would be a good time to pick my battle to I climbed off and walked the steepest section (less than 5 min walk). The course then continues to climb a bit then sharply drops into the 3rd rest stop.

At this stop I took my shoes off, doused myself with some water and laid down for 5 mins, I stood up to get a drink to returned to a gentleman who had been standing around before me had taken my spot in the shade. He apologized and offered to move but I told him it was ok, I was on my way out. I asked if he was continuing and he said he had reached his limit and was waiting for the SAG. I asked where he was not from and he said he was from New York City. I said this isn¡¦t no 5 Boroughs ride is it? He concurred with an exhausted smile. He said he had trained hard for this ride but Hill repeats is nothing compared to this monstrosity¡Kaint that the truth. We wished him luck and were off.

Downhill to the sign where life was about to change. At this junction the sign said left for 125 miles and right for 100. Ed asked what I wanted to do I said Left or bust… That my friends is where I crossed into the cave of agony¡K Part II coming up after my next round of therapy¡K
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