Sunday, September 06, 2009
I survived and completed the metric century yesterday (100 kilometers=62 miles). It was a great experience that was different from anything I am accustomed to. My health was fine for the day--well, other than extreme fatigue and legs of lead later in the day. Since it was new to me and so much further than I have ever ridden, I was attentive to the stories of others who have "hit the wall" because of failure to take in enough food or fluids during the ride. I had little idea how much to eat before and during the ride so I decided to err on the side of eating too much. As a result, I spent LOTS of time at every rest stop munching on what was available and sipping Gatorade. It worked well except one problem at about 50 miles that I will tell you about. First, the odd beginning. I arrived plenty early to eat some breakfast and talk to a few riders before making last minute preparations to mount up. Those riding 100 miles were scheduled to depart at 7:30 and those riding 30, 55, and 62 miles were to leave at 8:00. Since I have never even attended, much less participated in such an event I made some assumptions that were not so accurate. I pictured a starting gun or horn with lots of cheering and clapping. Somehow, I missed the start of the 100 by being inside the church building where the event was hosted. Then I came out and calmly sat on a glider and watched folks come and go for a while because I was ready with time to spare. Enough time, it turned out, that I decided to maybe visit the men's room one last time. Upon returning from that trip at about 6 or 8 minutes til 8 I realized everybody was gone! Really. Everybody. Did I miss a trumpet or clap of thunder? As of this moment, I don't really know what happened. Apparently either their was an executive decision to leave early or the understanding is that everybody just pulls out when they get ready. Anyway, I was suddenly wandering around, not sure if I had fallen asleep and missed part of the day. So I quickly mounted up and decided I must be off (so to speak). No fanfare. Little confidence. And since this church is at an intersection, you ride out of the parking lot, ride about 50 yards and stop. At a red light. So far, not so hard. And not so exciting. In just a couple of minutes, though, I was spinning down the county road at 17 mph--just me and my Trek. Actually, another man pulled up at the light and we exchanged greetings. As I rode along, he quickly pulled up beside me and struck up a conversation. That conversation ended 36 miles later when he said "I think I will head back on this shorter route" and after an awkward, medium-speed fist bump he turned left and was gone. Alone again. Naturally. I had enjoyed the conversation with Ken and he made the miles go by faster. Really. Sure, it seemed faster because I had someone interesting to get to know (he works for Oracle as a trainer). But also, he was riding a little faster than I intended. Or was it me that was pushing the pace? I am not sure. I think we rode at his faster pace and lingered at the rest stops at my leisurely pace. I did not realize one negative effect of hanging out at the rest stops eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Gatorade would be to put me solidly in the back of the pack of metric century riders. Actually, I was very near the back from the beginning and only a few that arrived at the beginning point a few minutes after 8 started behind me. Ken and I passed a few folks every now and then as we rode along so I never gave much thought to where I was in relation to others. My goal was to ride 62 miles, not outrun anybody. I should have realized, however, that the people we were passing were riding the 30 or 55 mile route (they were together most of the way). Not only that, but the tough hills and sudden heat leading up to the rest stop at about 35 miles convinced LOTS of folks to revise plans. In fact, there were nearly a dozen folks strolling around at that rest stop for a long time. I finally realized that all of them had quit. They were waiting for a truck to transport them back to the start/finish. I saw one with a blow-out and heard on the ham radio at the rest stop that one had fallen with minor scrapes and bike damage. Many switched at this point from 100 to 62 miles or from 62 to 55. And I was tired, with only a few miles left before I had to decide whether to switch to the 55 mile route or continue on the 62 mile course. And my riding partner was peeling off to head back toward tomato sandwiches and ice cream. I decided to go on. About 5 miles later I decided that indeed, I must be off. The hills were tough and I moving slow at the top of each. Can there really be about 20 miles to go? Simple math is becoming difficult. The stretch from about 42 miles to about 50 miles is difficult to explain. Actually, it is difficult to understand. Something came over me like a mild version of the adrenaline crazed mother that picks up an overturned car to free her child. I began to ride the hills hard. I built lots of speed going downhill (28-33mph) and pedaled hard to maintain momentum as far up the next hill as possible before downshifting. I was feeling a little like a real cyclist. Until I spotted the rest stop know as "Margarita ville Rest Stop" at the top of a long hill. Vanity made desire to not be spent when I topped that hill. So I did not charge the hill. I attempted to ride a steady pace. And it climbed. And climbed. And my legs were screaming. And I realized that the wind was not really rushing past--that was my breath as I exhaled and panted. But I made it up and managed with great effort to un-clip my feet from the pedals. There, feet on the ground. I did not crash in front of all the volunteers. Then I realized what all the volunteers were gradually realizing. I was just standing there. In the road. Holding my bike. And a truck was coming. My mind very much wanted to move out of the road and into the shade but my legs were locked up. Cramps. Both legs, just above the knees and slightly inside were locked tight. I could not walk. Did I mention a truck was coming? A volunteer arrived at my side and asked if I was alright. "No. Cramps. Can't walk. Can you take my bike?" He did. Then I did my best impression of Tim Conway when he plays the old man on Carol Burnett's show and shuffles his feet without picking either one up. I shuffled about two feet to get off the road. Then a lady was at my side with a paper cup the size of a shot glass--I mean large communion cup. "Drink this, it will help." It was olive juice. Did you know that? I did not know that? In minutes, the cramps were gone. I had a few snacks, drank a concoction known as Gatorade Margarita with Gatorade and lime in a paper cup with salt around the rim. There were many offers of a ride but also assurance that I could take my time if I felt like cycling the rest of the way. There were about 12 miles left. Are you kidding? I am practically there now! So, I saddled up again after coming to the realization that I was the last metric century rider on the road and these folks were packing up. The 100 mile riders did not pass this way. The final 12 miles were not as tough as I expected and I had no more problem with leg cramps. In fact, during the last 3 or so miles I was riding at 17 or 18 mph much of the time. I had not been concerned about crashing at all until the final mile. Suddenly, I felt the need to mentally rehearse every move. I had to negotiate the intersection that was in sight of the finish without cramps or falling and certainly without pulling out in front of a car. Then the parking lot. "Excuse me. Sir, talking on the cell phone. You are walking right into me and I am exhausted." I think the words came out better, but I am not sure. Again, no fanfare. No applause. No cheering. But I had already cheered myself a mile up the road. I whooped and cheered like a little boy who had ridden a bike for the first time. I was proud of me. So, I signed in, received my t-shirt, had a tomato and bacon sandwich, and then an ice cream sandwich. In fact, they were small. So I had TWO ice cream sandwiches. I deserved it.