Posted by: fizzhogg | June 11, 2010

MR. 51!

Uh, that should actually be Mr. 51.5, because on Saturday, June 5th, I rode the 50-mile St. Louis Tour de Cure ride… only I rode 51.5 miles. So I win! No matter the extra mile and a half was due to a wrong turn taken at mile-34.

I did it. And I felt great afterward. Like I could have ridden another… oh, I don’t know. Maybe five miles, maybe ten, maybe another ten feet. But I did feel good. Probably more from adrenaline and a sense of accomplishment than my sheer physical awesomeness.

PRE-RACE

I got there about 40 minutes early and nervously wandered around wondering if I might die today. I got my number – 188 – my new favorite number. And is it just me, or does my helmet give me Mercuryesque wings?

Then, with about ten minutes to go before the start, my personal Specialized mechanic made final adjustments to the Unfat Machine:

With four minutes until takeoff, I rolled up to the starting line sporting my UofA colors – gotta represent. Now, um, this was my first ever group ride, my first ever charity ride, my first ever organized ride of any sort… but to me this starting line looked more like the cigarette break during a community college class on bicycle maintenance.

And I’m not positive, but if you enlarge the photo, look toward the back. I think the guy sitting on the bench in the red sleeveless number and black shorts might be Lance Armstrong.

THE RACE (or rather, THE RIDE)

The gun was fired at 8am, and I was off on my very first group ride. I rolled out of the parking lot and headed off down the road. After a bit I looked down at my Trek Incite, which I had decided to keep on “Elapsed Time” so as to stay on a rigid schedule of food intake every 30 minutes. I wondered how long I’d been riding. It read: 00:00:45.

45 seconds into the ride and I’m wondering how long I’ve been going. Not the best mindset for a ride which would be nearly twice as long as any I’ve ever ridden in my life.

My game plan for the race – I mean ride – was to conserve as much energy as possible for the first 35 or 40 miles, then see if I felt strong enough to hammer it the last ten or so miles. So as I rode the opening miles I was being passed by many, many riders. The only riders I seemed capable of passing were elderly women on commuter bikes.

The first rest stop arrived 7.5 miles into the ride. As I got there, there must have been two dozen riders of various levels all laughing, and eating and drinking. I realized I was taking this thing way too seriously. Also there was my family – who were experiencing the Tour de Cure with me by driving ahead to every rest stop so they could cheer me on when I arrived. It was fantastic. I filled up my water bottle and told my worried wife that I was not going to have a heart attack.

I said goodbye to my family and pedaled away from rest stop #1. I was thoroughly enjoying myself now. I was riding conservative and feeling strong. About a mile from the friendly, happy rest stop, my family rolled by me (in our SUV) heading to the next rest stop. As they passed, they all yelled and waved. It was a sweet moment… until the large woman on the mountain bike who was just passing me, yelled in one continuous breath – “On yer left and no personal SAG cars!” I don’t think she stopped at the friendly, happy rest stop.

It took my mind a moment to figure out she was talking about my family. A SAG car is a car for Support and Gear for the riders. They follow the route helping riders who flat or crash, etc. Apparently, the large woman on the mountain bike didn’t like the fact my family was following the route. I wanted to catch back up to her and immediately drop her, but I was doing a nice, easy 15mph and she was pulling away from me. Obviously, she had done more of these than me. Lafors passed through my mind.

THE 15.6 MILE MARK

15.6 miles into the Tour de Cure, we turned off the nice, flat four-lane road with the chubby bike lane, and onto Nutwood Road.

Looks innocent enough, right? Maybe a two-lane country road – less traffic, probably pretty scenery, maybe some twists and turns? Pretty scenery, yes. From what I could see. Because for the 3.7 of the 3.8 miles we were on Nutwood Road I saw no scenery because I was so focused on not crashing, not flatting, and not having to get off the Unfat Machine.

Nutwood Road is a ONE lane “road” – I use that term loosely – that was last paved probably during the Taft administration. But someone apparently made sure the thing was washboarded every other week. Riding anywhere but on the extreme right side of Nutwood Road resulted in a ride that felt akin to sliding down a flight of wooden stairs. Splintered wooden stairs.

If that wasn’t enough for this casual charity ride, about 2 miles into Nutwood Road the hills started. Now, we all know my experience with climbing. I have the Pyrenees by my house, and I did some nice, steady climbs in Arizona. And there’s even Chad – the 9% yank at the end of a couple of my regular routes.

Well, the Nutwood hills were like going up Chad every 300 meters, only instead of doing it on a smooth asphalt surface, we were doing it on Nutwood. On the first climb I passed two people walking their bikes. I vowed I would not stop. I would not walk. I envisioned Cancellara on the Wall of Grammont at this year’s Tour of Flanders. I stayed in the saddle, pushed up a gear, and cruised up those hills.

And then, on one of the Nutwood hills, the third best moment of the day happened. As I began the climb, I saw, halfway up the hill, the large woman on the mountain bike. I suddenly felt like I’d taken a huge hit of EPO. I flew up that hill, smiling big as I passed her, and saying – a little louder than I really had to – “On YOUR left!” When I crested the summit I looked back and saw she was walking her bike. I had broken her!

My joy was short-lived, though, as there were three more hills to conquer. As I turned off of Nutwood I was cooked. My legs shook and I realized that I was only 19 or so miles into the ride and already in trouble. But then the second best moment of the day happened. As I rolled up on the next rest stop, there was my family cheering wildly, and holding up a large home-made sign that read, among other things, “Go, Daddy, Go!”

I had tears in my eyes, and new energy in my legs. It was great.

THE 34 MILE MARK

For most of the day I rode alone. There were few actual packs. Usually the riders were strung out single file with gaps between too large for any sort drafting.

But around 34 miles in I did manage to befriend a rider (or he befriended me). As I rode up on him I said, “On your left.” He looked at me and said, “Hey, you’re the guy who’s never done this before.” As I was awaiting the start of the race I had struck up a conversation with three or four riders and let them know I had never done anything like this before. I mentioned this in case I would be the cause of their multi-bike pileup later. This was one of those guys. He had an older Trek with aero bars. I remember being secretly impressed with myself that I’d caught him.

We rode together for the next mile or so, and then came to a fork in the road. I was in front of him and slowed almost to a stop, not sure which direction to take. In a very confident voice he said, “Go left.” I asked if he was sure and he said yes, that right was the 100 mile route. Good God, I didn’t want any part of that. So we went left.

About half a mile into this new direction I noticed there were no other riders ahead of us. And there were two waaaay behind us. I again asked if this was the right way and he assured me it was. Nearly a mile into it, those two riders that were waaaaay behind us were now passing my left. I glanced at their shaved legs, 0% body fat bodies, and matching Scott CR1 bikes. Not really what you’d expect to see on a 50-miler when there’s a Century Ride happening, too.

I said, in my best experienced rider voice, “Is this the 50 or the 100?” They both told me we were riding the hundred and the fifty was back at the fork. So much for riding with a buddy. When I told my new friend that we were on the wrong route, he seemed to not believe me, and kept creeping forward as I was heading back to the fork. It was about this time that two more shaved-legged rocket ships came speeding by. My GPS-challenged friend called out to them if this was the 50-mile route. They both yelled back, “No!”

I dropped Mr. Aero Bars the second I got back onto the correct route.

THE HOME STRETCH

The was a rest stop around mile 38. I refilled my water bottle, added water to my Clean Bottle, hugged my kids, and mounted the Unfat Machine. I was feeling good. Good in the sense that I was confident I was, not only going to make it, but do it in a reasonable time.

With ten miles to go, I reached down for my newly-filled water bottle and took a big swallow… of Gatorade. HOLY CRAP. You know that feeling when your taste buds are expecting, anticipating one thing, and then what comes is something completely different? Yeah, it sucks. First of all, I don’t like Gatorade. It has a bunch of good stuff in it, but that’s all made worthless by the amount of sugar in the product.

Secondly, I was really liking my little combo of cold water in one bottle, and re-energizing sugar-FREE PowerBar drink in the other. So slurping down Gatorade killed me. And it got worse when I realized I had put it in my other bottle, too! I thought about turning around and riding back two miles to the rest stop, which I was sure was the last rest stop of the ride. But I couldn’t bring myself to go backwards. I had come this far. So I decided I would have to grind it out with this awful tasting and psychologically damaging drink.

44 miles in was the first time all day that I was not enjoying it. I was miserable, actually. Everything seemed to hurt and I’m sure I was hydrating less than I should have been because of my Gatorade debacle. I thought about pulling over. Not quitting, but just regrouping. For a moment. Or ten.

But then I thought about Tylor. The little girl with Type 1 diabetes. The little girl who inspired me to do this in the first place. I thought about what a fighter she is, and how she doesn’t get the choice to quit or not. She has to keep fighting. Every day of her life. So I kept pedaling. And pedaling.

And then I saw a little sign on the side of the road:  REST STOP  1/2 MILE

The greatest sign ever made in the history of signs. Seeing that sign was like my children cheering for me and dropping the large MTB woman all rolled into one. A half mile??? That is nothing. I can get fresh water! I can lose the Gatorsucks. I can finish this race! Er, Ride.

I was never happier to see a rest stop. My family was there again, bright, shining lights. There was a band playing Buffet. People were handing out Leis and saying “Only five miles to go and it’s all downhill!” God, that must be the single greatest rest stop on the planet. I dumped my Gatorhorrid, filled both bottle with sparkling fresh, ICE COLD water, downed my last Gu, and literally ran to the Unfat Machine.

I took off and rode as hard as I’d ridden all day. So much of this is psychological. And remember when I mentioned the people saying it was all downhill? Uh, no. The first mile of the last five miles was decidedly UPhill. But I didn’t care. I came out of the saddle and crushed that hill. And then, yes, the rest of it was doooownhill.

So downhill in fact, that at one point I broke my own speed record – hitting over 36mph. And God, was that fun! I hit the finish line with a time of 3 hours, 20 minutes, and 08 seconds. And remember – I did 51.5 miles! So I won!

Okay, so I tied with that other guy, but hey, he rolled in about ten minutes behind me. But seriously, what was most important was the money raised for the ADA and the fight against diabetes.By the way, you can STILL donate up through July 6th. So tell your friends and family to click right here and donate.

And then there was me, the big fatty author of this blog. Five and a half months ago, tipping the scales at 230 lbs. And before this year, not having been on a bike in over fifteen years. And yet, this Saturday in June, riding over 50 miles in less than three and a half hours. And not puking my guts out afterward.

THE FIRST BEST MOMENT OF THE DAY

Eat better.

Keep riding.

Get the hug.

Fair winds and Following Seas, Willy


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