Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Goldendale Fondo Report - Gentlemen Style

Back in February the idea of racing (or riding) eighty or ninety miles on gravel sounded so cool that the first Gravel Fondo sold out the same day registration opened.  Two hundred willing souls paid their hard earned cash to test themselves.  There was a waiting list……

The test turned out to be a lot harder than many of the riders expected. A quarter of them didn’t finish the first Fondo of the season.  When you think about the demographic of riders dedicated enough to be in shape to ride eighty miles of gravel in mid March and then realize that a quarter of those tough guys didn’t make it you get an idea of how hard it was that day.  

Wiser for their suffering; other riders who did finish chose to one and done it and concluded their season the same day it started.  Never F—ing again !  Thus it came to pass that when registration closed a couple days before the Goldendale Fondo there were just short of a hundred and forty willing to go another round. It is funny how the wrath of God can make an impression on people.

After the heartbreak of the last minute weather reversal at Ephrata- nobody spoke of the optimistic weather forecast in the week leading up to the Goldendale Fondo.   We kept our mouths shut and our rain gear quietly stuffed at the bottom of our respective bags. We dreamed of a dry ride, but kept those thoughts to ourselves.   The forecasted chance of rain peaked at twenty nine percent and had dropped to nine percent the day before the ride.

Contrary to the general trend our team increased its participation with a total of eight fools making the trek to the end of the earth.  Our years of Cyclocross racing experiences made for a long resume of competing in miserable conditions.  We were ready for anything. 

Almost anything……

On the drive over the sprinkles of rain turned to hail and even snow as we crossed Snoqualmie Pass.  The dread in the car was palpable.  Not another sufferfest!   Once over the pass the rain decreased and was replaced by wind. The wind buffeted the war wagon and I was stunned to see the gas usage when we arrived in Goldendale.  The war wagon has racked up 175,000 miles and this trip was the worst mileage ever.

Once again we stayed in a hotel remarkable only for its unremarkableness.  I have traveled the world and stayed in all kinds of hotels.  I can say that of all of the hotels I have stayed in the Ponderosa is one of them. The hotel must have been popular in the 1960’s.  The shower had the same plumbing fixtures as the house I grew up in which was built in 1963.  Welcome to the time machine.

Can't you just smell the nicotine ?
The morning dawned under threatening skies filled with large, dark foreboding clouds. El Chefe’ and I found that the best coffee in town (before 7:00 AM anyway) was served at a place with golden arches.  At seven we gathered for breakfast and looked outside and to our collective horror it started raining.  NOAA said 8% chance of rain and it was raining.  As we in the aviation industry, say “Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot!”
Say it ain't so....
Back in our hotel rooms we put on our costumes and looked out the window in disbelief. The rain did not stop.  My mind wasn’t ready for six hours of soggy. We arrived at the start and kept on our jackets and jean over our costumes as we prepared our bikes.  The general look of resignation on the faces of riders was truly sad.

Right about the time I had to make the “fender/no fender” decision I realized it wasn’t raining anymore.  We gathered for some pre-ride instructions which I am embarrassed to admit I generally ignored aside from the part about the post-ride meal which I found amusing, “There are a whole bunch of old ladies preparing a whole lot of food for you, so please come to the Grange Hall after the ride.” 

With that we began the neutral roll out of town.  When the lead car pulled over and the pace ramped up we stayed in a pretty large bunch.  I felt comfortable and kept my position. The pack inexplicably surged and braked just like a typical road race.  The pace slowed as the grade picked up and still we were at the back of the lead pack.  I checked my Garmin and we were nearly to the top of the first hill and still we were in the first group.  At this point the first group must have had sixty riders.

Finally as the grade kicked up again we got some separation and the Wizard of Coz stayed with the lead group as did Big John (whose bobbing orange helmet was like a beacon of 20/20 style ahead).  McWoddie and Einmotron were also in the lead group as expected.

El Chefe, the Silver Bullet and Evo stayed tight and we topped out on the first hill then launched onto the first Gravel sectour. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs I got all hot and put on the power and started passing more tentative riders.  The Silver Bullet was close behind and when we once again found ourselves on pave’ we soft pedaled for a minute until el Chefe caught up with ten of his new friends. .  There was a little ticking coming from the Silver Bullet’s bottom bracket that reminded me of a tick El Jefe’ had in his pedal during the Peloton of Discovery adventure. 

We were heading south with a stiff headwind coming from the south west.  We formed a paceline and took 30 second pulls and were catching and passing other riders.  This was a sizable group and if we could work together on the paved sections, especially with the wind, we could really make up some time.  I fully expected we would catch up to the Wiz before too long.

We hit another Gravel sectour and I powered through passing riders who chose different lines.  That isn’t to say my lines were better, or that I was just stronger but I was pushing and I was passing.  We would regroup on the paved section and form up and work together taking short pulls against a relentless wind.

We hit some rollers and rotated through just fine.  On a short and pretty moderate climb the group splintered.  A smaller group formed and began working well.  We passed a couple riders dealing with mechanicals but nothing like the carnage of Ephrata.

We hit Gravel sectours one after another.  These were fun and the best lines were sometimes washboard and I felt I was able to relax and float those better than most. Other times the best lines were on one side or the other.

Riders seemed a little too quick to jump on someone else’s wheel.  When a rider passed on a different line the rider who had just been passed often swerved to catch the wheel on the different line and the passed rider was a bit out of control during the swerve.  Often the rider who just passed had no idea someone had jumped on his wheel and thus he might swerve quickly to try a different line and the rider now on his wheel could have an “interesting” time trying to follow.

All in all it made for a situation that required a Zen-like focus on the Gravel.  This is what I came for.

I found myself catching Joe Martin, fast rider and all around good guy on a short paved section.  Joe must be recovering from heart surgery to be riding near me.  We hit a longer Gravel climb and Joe and I gapped everyone without working too hard.   I was feeling strong and began to entertain some high expectations.   I should know better.

I had been eating bloks and sucking down gel and drinking as if my success depended on it because it did.  Once the Fondo started my nutrition during the event was more important than my training for the event.  I had learned through trial and error what worked and what could make the event a living hell.

We came across a sandy section that was reminiscent of Silver Lake Cyclocross. It featured deep soft sand that slowed you to a crawl. Despite my 28mm wide tires I rode it well. Let’s call that one luck.  I later heard there were many who fared poorly on these sandy sections.

I soft pedaled until my teammates joined and again we worked together.  Two of our group had bright orange helmets and I can tell you that you can spot those a quarter mile away. We were climbing toward the edge of the ridge and as we came over the Columbia River stretched out below us.  The wind was in my face and my eyes began to water.  The descent on gravel was the roughest part of the whole ride. Big, sharp loose rocks and ruts and potholes all combined in a cornucopia of tire damaging danger.  My watery eyes made it hard to see and I tried to take the best line I could as I plunged down a steeper-than-expected road.

I felt a hard hit on my back tire and grimaced and then when I felt a second one I guessed (correctly) that the second one was because my rear tire had no air in it.  Damn.  My first zero pressure flat on a tubeless.

I pulled off and spun the wheel.  Sealant was squirting out both from a hole and from a spot between the bead and the rim.  The Silver Bullet came sliding to a stop (literally) followed by El Chefe (also sliding).  We futzed with the wheel for five minutes trying to get it to reseal. 

In hindsight I believe the flat was caused by a hole which the sealant actually sealed but between when I flatted and when I stopped a small rock, something between a grain of sand and a pebble, wedged between the bead and the rim breaking the seal and making it hard to reseal.  Being an old man who requires reading glasses for anything closer than four feet I couldn’t see the rock and had no choice but to install a tube.  I felt bad for slowing my companions.

After finishing the ride I would say that on the entire course there was a single one hundred yard section where the perfect bike would have been a full suspension 29er. It was this part of the course where I flatted.  Next year I shall go much, much slower down this rocky descent.
The right tool for that job...
With tube installed I remounted and with increased caution on my part, we resumed our journey.  About twenty or thirty riders had passed us while we repaired the tire. So much for our top forty finishing position. A few minutes later the Silver Bullet met with the same fate and again we tried and tried and then inserted a tube.  Just as we were finishing up the Wizard of Coz came by and stopped to join us.

The Wizard of Coz had been in front of us but had taken a wrong turn.  With his dreams of glory crushed by tragic misfortune he joined our trio of cursed riders and we were now four strong.  By this time anther forty riders had passed and our Fondo had become a Gentlemen’s ride.   The term Gentlemen’s ride comes from events put on by Rapha.  The format is that each team starts together and stays together for the duration of the ride.  The first team of five riders to cross the line wins. Our team already blurs the line between a bike racing team and a gentlemen’s club so adopting the ride format here was not a stretch.

The open range was green and the hills were beautiful.  The clouds were plentiful but were no longer menacing.  Over the ridge to our left the Columbia was making its way to the Pacific.  It was a great day to be on a bike.

The four of us resumed riding and we blew past a handful of riders.  Nobody even tried to catch our paceline. Then up ahead it looked like a herd of cattle had grouped along a fence where the road must dead end and turn.   I scanned left and right to see which way the road would turn.  All this time we are getting closer and I realize the cattle are on the road, ditch to ditch with cowboys on horses behind them.  The road doesn’t turn. 

The cyclists at Paris-Roubaix only had to deal with a train crossing.  We were staring at a hundred tons of beef marching toward us.  A cowboy told us to get off the road and climb up the ditch and let them pass.  We obeyed as we exchanged glances with each other as if to wonder what would happen next.  At this point I wouldn’t have flinched at juggling clowns on unicycles blocking the road.  Even the sirens of St. Helens seemed passé at this point.

Our joy at resuming our ride was short lived as the road was now a minefield of fresh cow pies.   Our path now looked like a smelly game of Frogger. The futility of weaving around the green globs made me all the more anxious to get going fast again.

As we began escaping the shit we started to ramp up the pace.  The Wizard was uncharacteristically popping off the back.  I dropped back and he was suffering from cramps and a general bonk.  He ate and tucked in. We formed up and took turns pulling.  By now the tick that was coming from the Silver Bullet’s BB had escalated to a sound that you would expect if you had loose ball bearings in a hollow pedal arm. Cla-clunk, cla-clunk, cla-clunk; any hope of sneaking up on anyone was gone for him.

We battled rollers, the Wiz’s bonk and merciless headwinds until the road finally poured down toward the Columbia. As we were descending the classic “Mountain on one side, cliff on the other” two deer bound across the road just ahead of us.  We all slowed and individually contemplated the possible no-win situation that would result from a close encounter of the third kind.

Our descent ended in the modest hamlet of Lyle and the main food stop. We refilled our bottle with liquid, stuffed our pockets with food and stretched.  It was warmer now and El Chefe left his vest and knee warmers in his drop bag to be retrieved at the finish.  As tempting as the cookies and sandwiches were I exercised my seldom used judgment and just filled my pockets with the food I knew worked with my body on these all day epics.

Slaw for another day
We departed and headed up the Klickatat River valley. For fifteen miles the road followed the river as it weaved back and forth. The two percent grade was almost imperceptible after the headwinds earlier in the day. By now the Silver Bullet’s bottom bracket sounded like he had a spark plug hitting his spokes and the sound reverberated through his carbon frame and caused another rider to ask what that sound was.  The grinding had to be costing him some serious wattage.

At mile 72 the road turned right and kicked up beginning an eleven hundred foot climb on steep loose gravel.  I stopped to adjust my left shifter position. I had replaced my cables the week before and had to loosen the shifters to get the old housing out and somewhere in that process my left shifter had dropped a half inch which had been bothering me more than you can fathom the whole day.

I removed my cap and knee warmers and unzipped my jersey.  When I got going again the climb was tough, loose and wonderful. I felt strong and my adductor muscles were feeling fresh and ready for more. I caught the Wiz and another rider before coming upon El Chefe who had stopped to shed layers as well.

We regrouped and the promised tailwind found us.  With the wind at our back we didn’t need to paceline and we could ride alongside each other and confess our sins. The Wiz was appreciative of the escort and Evo and the Silver Bullet were glad the group had waited out our tire changes.  

We were soon on pavement but the roads were deserted. The rollers were big and if not for the tailwind could have been discouraging. El Chefe leaned over his bars and yelled at his front tire.  It was getting squishy and he (and we) didn’t want to stop so close to the end.  
His sealant kicked in and it resealed while riding.  This made it complete; three flats and one bonk.  We are a team in every sense of the word. By now the sound coming from the Silver Bullet’s bike was like a lawn mower going over a pile of marbles. I will keep you updated when we find out what was causing the sound. 

The final miles were as easy as they can be with six thousand feet of climbing and ninety miles in your legs.  We rolled across the line four across and then made our way back to the car.  As we approached Big John and Mo (Mrs. Silver Bullet) greeted us with the news that McWoodie had crossed the line first.


We changed and took Jake’s advice and made our way to the Grange Hall where we inhaled plates of spaghetti and salad without a thought.  The wonderful ladies of Goldendale were a welcome sight indeed.  Maybe they were smiling because they don’t get a lot of men wearing kilts in Goldendale.

It was a long way home and nobody was looking forward to the drive.  The long drive and the ride shared at least one thing in common.  Good company can make almost anything fun. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

What it is like to finish first in the Goldendale Fondo ?

I have no idea.  However, my teammate McWoodie does and here is his report..

Methow training.. McWoodie and Einmotron

For the first 20 miles are so, it was one massive group ride. Probably ~50 people together at the front with things fairly mellow. Most of it was pavement, with the occasional short stretch of gravel that would spread things out a bit, but then come back together quickly on the asphalt.

That formula changed about 25 miles in when the gravel section we hit suddenly had tons of loose sand. Guys were going all over the place as they hit the sand. I was a few bikes ahead of Einmotron in the paceline -I made it through ok but heard an expletive from Einmotron (the guy in front of him bobbled in the sand and put a foot down. Einmotron had to come to a complete stop and put his chain back on before continuing). After I was clear of the sand I looked behind me and there was a big gap, so I sat up a bit to wait for Einmotron. Here comes a group of 6 riders he must be in that…nope. Here come another 4 riders and looks like one is in a black jersey, I’m sure he’s…nope. Another group is coming - oh here he is!

We looked up the road and we could see the lead group off in the distance with tons of stragglers in between. Einmotron and I stepped on the gas to bridge up to the strong lead group. A handful of guys jumped on our wheel, but didn’t really pull through so we wound up doing about 70% of the pulling to bridge back up to the lead group.
A little early in the day for a zone 4 effort, but we thought it would be worth it. We were jussssstt about to connect back with the lead group, maybe 20 meters back, when the road turned onto gravel and I jettisoned a water bottle. Ugh. Way too early in the day for a one-bottle ride. I yelled to Einmotron, I turned around, grabbed it, and we were back on the gas again to bridge…again. We made it back on relatively quickly, but had burned a few more matches than we expected.

The course then climbed up through wind turbines with great views down to the Columbia Gorge. Really pretty. A rough gravel section split the group on 25 or so lead riders into two groups, with Einmotron and I in the second group. So, guess what we decided to do: bridge back up to the lead group.

We had a bit more help this time and had managed to catch the lead group – just in time for a huge herd of cattle coming down the road which brought everyone to a stop at the side of the road to let the cows pass. So much for that effort.

Once the cows moseyed past us, the group got back on the road. I was about 5th wheel for this gravel stretch with the group riding in two lines and there wasn’t a whole lot of rotating through. I quickly glanced back to see where Einmotron was in the group, but with the rough road couldn’t spend too much time looking behind me. He must be there. On a fast downhill descent I drifted back – hmmm, where’s my teammate? He must be up ahead. Back on the gas to find him in the group. Nope. Hmmm. Look behind. No Einmotron in sight. Hmmmm.

This lead group of 15 is slogging through a headwind. Save energy and work with them, or drop back to look for Einmotron? I took door #1. Turns out Einmotron had run over some barbed wire about 5 pedal strokes after the cows. He got the tire to seal back up, but was stuck in no mans land.

55 miles in was the food stop. Everyone grabbed some food (in a surprisingly leisurely manner), waited until the whole crew was ready (very civilized), then all 15 or so of us hit the road together again. We started a gentle climb following the Klickitat River, rotating consistently in the paceline. Occasionally there would be a little riser and a Cucina rider I was behind would put in a little dig if he was in the lead – which clearly caused some pain in the group. But everyone knew the real pain was coming at about the 73 mile mark…

We crossed the river, the road took a quick left turn and switched to gravel, and the climb was on. I was towards the front, hanging on to Cucina Mike’s wheel as he hit the base of the climb hard. A few minutes in I came around him simply to pick a better line and found myself in the lead on the climb. Someone came past me and I jumped on his wheel for a few minutes, only to come around him for a better line once again.

With my heart rate pegged (didn’t realize it could say 177 for that long) I kept climbing and soon realized I had a gap. With a KOM contest for this climb, I figured “well, might as well go for it” and kept digging, keeping the HR as high as I dared.

It wasn’t totally clear where the end of the climb was and when I looked back I could see one rider about 50m behind me so I kept pressing on. Finally we hit a part that was clearly a descent and I eased off a bit. Rider #2, a guy named Tim in Starbucks kit, finished the bridge up to me and I said “got enough gas to work together to the end?” He said sure, and we took a right turn onto gravel with about 12 miles left.

Team Training Camp 2014
Once again, washboard gravel jettisoned my water bottle (gotta do something about that), but this time there was no way I was stopping. We couldn’t see anyone behind us so we kept the pace up to stay out of sight. Starbucks Tim and I worked together, though it seemed like he had much more gas than me.

I kept watching the countdown on my Garmin. 9.9 miles to the finish – hey, that’s a lap around Mercer, I can hold on. 7 miles to go – wow, this guy seems to be taking much longer and stronger pulls than me. 4.7 miles to the finish – hey that’s about half a Mercer lap. Don’t lose this guy’s wheel no matter what. 3 miles to the finish – the end is near. 1.2 miles to the finish – OK, that’s only 2km – the last 2km of a bike race on TV goes pretty quickly. 

This is a nice pull Starbucks Tim is taking. Hey, wait a minute, he’s really starting to dig. Glace up quickly - there are some flags on the road next to a car 100m ahead. Damn, that’s the finish! Guess it’s time to sprint! Come around him, dig dig dig – hit the finish line about a wheel length ahead of Starbucks Tim! Congratulatory words exchanged.

I rode the remaining 1.1 miles back to the school parking lot where we started (guess that’s what the Garmin course was counting down to) and found Barry’s wife Mo. Told her I finished first, but then started to think “did that really happen?”. So, decided to spin back to the finish line and ask “before I make any grand claims, did #132 really finish first?”. Yes he did.

Special thanks to McWoodie for sharing !

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Coffee and Lies # 119 Thirty miles of perspective

The last four weeks have seen the hillsides go from white to brown and finally to green.  Less than two weeks ago you could just see the tiny sprouts of green if you bent down.  Now there are green hills and wild flowers are just starting to bud. The nights still dip down to freezing but sunshine greets your face in the morning and every day has the smell of spring.

With Hottie still on IR tux and I were out early talking to the owls and spooking the deer.  

The weather and my training calendar were both pointing toward a long ride on Saturday.  I wanted to get going early so Hottie and I would still have some day left for other activities.

One of my objectives for spring (from a list complied during the winter) was to ride to the end of the Chewuch.  The end of the road is a place called “Thirty Mile.”  I was hoping the route would be free of snow. After comparing it to the option of going out to the end of Twisp River Road I thought the mostly north-south drainage would have less snow than the generally east-west Twisp River valley.  Yes as a matter of fact I do over think most things.  I get that from my mom.  Deal with it.

When I left it was right around freezing, but the sunshine made it feel warmer.  The canyon is a long gradual climb with a bunch of rollers to keep you shifting.  I arrived at my desired HR zone, looked around at the beauty of the day and churned out a familiar rhythm. 
Although I passed a carcass or two and stray limbs (both from trees and mammals that had become part of the food chain) it was generally a vista full of life.  The hills had a green haze as spring is taking a foothold.  Birds sang and the river whooshed by as I went up the valley. I spooked some deer here and there and had to slow to avoid one of the dumbest of the breed who waited for me to get really close before darting into the road. In a word, “venison.” 

My route was mostly in the sunshine but parts were in the shade and it was then that I was reminded that the temp was only in the mid thirties.  The climb was gradual but constant. I passed four or five empty forest service campgrounds as the kilometers ticked by.

An hour in I ate my first bar and took a long drink as the road straightened out for an unusually long stretch.  I am sure I subconsciously slowed down.  Instead of riding hard to the next corner, then hard to the next, then the next - seeing the long straight caused me to grasp the length of my hard effort.  I am really good at doing hard things in small chunks.
I was reminded that when the river gets louder it means the valley, and therefore the road grade, gets steeper.  Downed trees reached out into the road requiring me to swerve from one side to the other.  Twice I had to go off road because a fallen tree was stretched across the whole road.

The valley was narrow in parts and opened up wide for long stretches further on.   I saw one car early on then I had the whole valley to myself.  When the pavement finally ended; the gradient though uphill, lessened. I was approaching the area burned by the Thirty Mile Fire in 2001.  It felt eerie.

My brain was in a battle because the sun was bright and if you saw a photo of what was before my eyes you would think it was a hot July day.  My brain saw this and wanted to open up my sweat glands but my body was still reporting temperatures in the thirties and so confusion set in.
Nearing my objective the valley floor opened up and the grade felt almost flat.  Climbing will do that to you. The ghosts of burned out trees stood in stark contrast to the green on the ground. The sandy road had the first real washboard of the season and I was weaving back and forth searching for a good line.  I was looking at the burned snags that climbed up the valley walls and contemplating the fire that burned here nearly fourteen years ago. 

I was the only person in a big, wide open area of the valley. Usually I would feel like the place was all mine. However, I didn’t feel like I had the place to myself.  I felt like I was trespassing.  It didn’t feel like it was mine.  Something felt weird.  It was a feeling I have had before when I have been all alone in a place that at a different time was covered with people.  Like being the only person in a stadium.

As I rounded a corner I came upon a small memorial erected to honor four firefighters who had died fighting the fire in July of 2001.  I had no idea the memorial was even there. The orderliness of the asphalt walkway, the neat lines of the rock monument and brass plaques were in sharp contrast to the chaos of jumbled rocks and fallen trees nearby. The monument stood out for a number of reasons.
I unclipped and tried to reconcile the tragedy of the fire with the tragedy of the loss of life.  The firefighters were college age kids with their whole lives in front of them.  My recent experience with fire has made me sensitive and this monument struck a raw nerve.

After my ride I did a little research and found the deaths were blamed on a breakdown in communications between government agencies.  Was it okay for one agency to “dip” water from another agencies jurisdiction to fight the fire?  The delay in getting an answer contributed to their deaths.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy was that when the Carlton Complex fires began to flare up last summer it was the delay in communication between government agencies that allowed the fire to become too big to stop.  We failed to incorporate the lessons we should have learned from the passing of these firefighters. 
With reverence I rode the last mile or so out to the road end.  I took a few photos, finished off a bar and pointed the bike toward the cabin. I didn’t offer up my usual Wahoo when I took off. 
Above is the view looking up, below is looking down...
On the way down I searched for and soon spotted the memorial.  Again I paused and looked at the array of tokens that had been left by others to honor the fallen.  What can you say?
 Two minutes later I was rolling along and enjoying the slight downhill. The sandy road was faster on the way down as compared to the way up.  Riding felt fun.  The beauty of the area was overwhelming and I was smiling once again.

Before long I was on pavement and pushing against a slight headwind.  The downhill and the scenery had me motivated and my HR was still up as I was working hard and loving it.   Sunshine and a downhill make it hard to go slow.

I kept drilling it and when I looked down and saw I had been at it for three hours it was again time to eat something. For some reason I thought that since I would be back at the cabin in about an hour I could skip it.  What made me think I could skip food for the fourth hour of a hard ride is beyond explanation.

Often we get what we deserve.

Later, when the downhill flattened out and I dug down to keep my speed up but I felt gassed.  Up ahead I spotted a cyclist on a mountain bike.  I pushed to catch him and it took longer than it should have.  When I finally passed it took more effort than I expected. 

What the heck…….. I’m bonking !   I deserved it, I made a mistake.  I had food in my pocket too.  What a maroon I am.

I throttled back but kept my cadence high.   When I got cell coverage I sent a text to Hottie that I was running just a bit late.   My autopilot kicked in and I made the familiar climb to the cabin.  When I arrived I unclipped, gathered my empty bottles and went inside.

I was trashed and Hottie spotted it right away.  I pulled off my shoes and fell on the bed next to Tux. It was hard to pull off my gloves.  After cleaning up we ate and got on with our afternoon.  I would like to say I slept well but I didn’t. Cramps will do that to you.  I had ridden hard. 

Sunday was an easy recovery ride that included some play time on the mountain bike trails.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Coffee and Lies 118 Past the point of no return

Look away...
Hey, isn't that a new 20/20 kit ?
Following four days of indecision Hottie and I opted to stay on the west side of the mountains this past weekend.  The current long-range weather forecast and my present level of physical discomfort has me second guessing several decisions

On Friday I prepared an ambitious list of tasks I hoped to accomplish over the weekend.  The first order of business was building up a new rear wheel on Friday evening.  After I had built the wheel I cleaned the rim, applied rim tape and a value (I’m all about the tubeless) and mounted a tire with YouTube type ease.  I pumped up the tire and it inflated as if there was a tube in it and held overnight.  This was a perfect start to the weekend.

Hottie and I took Tux out Saturday morning for a long walk. When we got back I headed out to the big orange store to buy lumber to begin replacement of a fence that was falling apart. My plan had been to do it a bit at a time.

My theory is that at some point in time someone uttered a phrase something to the effect of, “I don’t see what the big deal is with pressure treated lumber, this regular stuff will probably be just fine.” Even if it appeared fine for a time, that time was short and passed long ago.

With the back of the War Wagon sagging under the weight of cedar and pressure treated lumber I returned with the ingredients not just for a fence, but for an aching back.  It is sad to say it out loud.  I knew exactly what I was in for.  

The demolition was embarrassingly easy and soon I was swinging a hammer driving in galvanized nails with purpose.  By the time I ran out of wood and motivation I had just over fifty linear feet done and the worst section had been replaced.

I wanted to get in a ride on the new wheel before Sunday so I donned the costume and got in a quick hour. The wheels roll good with angry bee sound.  Perfect!  It is hard to judge the stiffness of a wheel with wide low pressure tires.  I did manage to rail a couple corners and they felt rock solid.

That evening I took care of some inside tasks then fell into bed with a sore back and hamstrings. 

When Sunday morning arrived with a buzz I opened my eyes and clenched my teeth even before I began to move in anticipation of the hurt.  To my astonishment I didn’t feel too bad.  I brewed up some Joe and had my pre-ride breakfast of grits and eggs while I prepped a bottle.  Ironically I forgot the bottle.

As we assembled I could not help but notice how awesome the new team kit looks.  Before we looked like a bunch of guys in matching kits. Now we look like a bunch of Badass guys who race for the same team.  We don’t look as friendly as we used to.  That isn’t all bad.   I am curmudgeon man.

I promised myself and others I would hold back and stay out of the mix when the ride transitioned from social to throw down at the usual spot. When the pace ramped up I gladly settled into the second group.  Sometimes we break into two groups; sometimes more.  Today it was more.

All was good until the front three guys spun around and rejoined us. The front half of the second group (which included Evo) was suddenly part of the first group and now we were flying.  Each time I rotated to the back there were fewer and fewer riders.  We hit the hill and it was every rider for himself. 

After the pack was shattered I picked up with El Pirate and Big John and a guy from Cucina Fresca that I still don’t know who he is.  We finished the first half strong.  On the way back we started pretty social but by the time we were approaching the downhill there were six of us off the front and we were not going slow.

On the gradual climb after the downhill I got a sick sense of what was to come.  It was a feeling like when you hold a five pound weight in your hand and stick your arm straight out.  You know you can hold it for a bit, but in just a matter of seconds it is going to start to ache.

I felt like I could go a little faster if I needed to, but not for long.  I also knew I couldn’t keep this level of effort up the whole way back to the bridge.  Moonlight and McWoodie were drilling it with El Jefe, Big John, Evo and El Pirate just trying to hang on. 

The road swung left and right and climbed and dropped.  The beauty of the roller coaster route was lost due to hypoxia. My HR climbed and when my turn came at the front I took my allotted suffering with broad shoulders.  When I rotated back I struggled to catch the back of the paceline each time. Moonlight encouraged me with a “Good pull.”  If he only knew.

We were all tucked as aero as we could be and my back was screaming something about fence building but I ignored it and just kept churning.  I noticed there were just five of us.  Then when I started to falter I looked behind and realized there were only four of us.  Hang on Evo, hang on!

I checked my HR and in theory I had more left in the tank.  My slow tires and sore body were clearly not supportive of a fast ride.  I could feel gravity, wind and rolling resistance all battling Newton’s first law.  Perhaps I could summarize the feeling by saying I was battling time. Despite each of us fighting against it, time remains undefeated.

I tried to compartmentalize the hurt. I tried to focus on cadence and breathing and pedal stroke and the wheel in front of me.  I tried to tuck lower to hide from the wind. I tried to go to my happy place then I tried my angry place.  In the end the volume of the screaming coming from my legs drowned out everything else.

Blam! I popped.

Sadly there is a moment in between the time when your mind knows you are done and when your pedaling backs off that you know you’re blown but nobody else can tell. When you are in this phase you don’t make eye contact. It is only a moment or two later; when your pedaling slows that others know you’re done.  The gap opens slowly at first then expands quickly. You look behind to see if someone is close enough that you might be able to team up them and work together.

I watch as McWoodie, El Jefe and Moonlight pull away. I look behind me and I don’t see anyone. Then after a minute of catching your breath you (wrongly) think maybe you can catch back up and so you try to push it again. The gap continues to grow and your legs remind you why you came off the back in the first place.  
Soon enough El Pirate joins me and we trade pulls as Big John, spent from racing the day before (WTF), catches us from behind.  I don’t know if John even knows what a recovery day is.  We rotate once or twice before the little hill that precedes the finishing climb.  Just to mess things up I attack on the little climb and zip down the descent in advance of the final climb.

At the base of the climb El Pirate and Big John catch me and Big John pulls ahead as El Pirate gives me a push from behind.  Inspired by the push I pull up alongside Big john and then surge just to give him something to chase.

Up ahead I can see El Jefe on the climb but he is done going fast.  I am closing in on him but I won’t catch him before the top. I don’t know if Big John or El Pirate are still chasing me or not but I am committed and I am fighting my way to the top.  My heart is racing and I know this will be the last hard thing I do on a bike today. My legs are on fire as I top out. My lungs are burning as well.  Even though I am still rolling I slump over my bars gasping for air.

We gather under the trees and I fight to catch my breath. The fact I was on wide, slow tires is lost on my companions.  The dry weather was a treat and we all had our fast bikes today.  There was only one fender amongst a dozen or more 20/20 riders.  If there was an award for the fastest guy on a slow bike I’d take it.  It is kind of like being the tallest dwarf.  It isn’t really anything to be excited about.

The rest of the ride is social which is good because I am cooked.  The climb to coffee seems easier thanks to the slow pace and some good rides over the winter.  A special shout out to El Chefe fo rth elong winter rides.  At Fuel we share coffee and lies then part ways.
Men in black.  There I said it.....
Once home I shower then check the weather and the week ahead looks wet.  I won’t be working on the fence one section at a time after work unless I want to get wet.  I drive back to the orange store and get more wood.  I resign myself to the knowledge that I am past the point of no return and that Monday will be pain day for Evo.

By the time the sun sets the fence is done and my shirts for the week are ironed. The apple tree has been trimmed and the mess is mostly cleaned up.  My hands and back join my legs and the rebellion takes charge.  
THAT is a freakin' fence !!
Sometimes we have to do what needs to be done. Other times we can’t help ourselves as we are drawn to our individual addictions. What amuses me is that oftentimes we know exactly what we are getting into and we do it anyway. Thank goodness for Aleve.