Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The hills are alive with the sound of screaming

Oh my god. Hardest ride ever. Legs were hurting so bad. I ran out of food, I almost ran out of water, and I only have an added 35 miles to my cyclo-computer, and a reduced average speed to show for it.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. Everything started on Friday. I received my Fat Cyclist jersey and bib shorts in the mail, and I was excited to ride with them and show everyone, but I'd have to wait for the group ride. Later in the day, I got a call from Manny about Saturday morning's bike ride. Considering that I had 3 weeks of training until my century ride in Las Vegas on October 15th, I asked him what ride I should do.

Long story short, he convinced me to do a number 3 ride.

Ride grading works like this: 1 is easiest, 5 is not the easiest. In fact, some would go so far to say that it is difficult. Very difficult, even.

Anyway, a 3 ride is right in the middle. I figured I could easily get it done in 4 hours, and get home in time for lunch with the Mrs. I agreed. And I don't know if I regret that decision.

Saturday morning rolls around, and after inspecting my bike and putting on my new kit, I head out. And I'm late. I never caught up to them, but I just kept riding.

Manny was running late too, but unlike me, he is fast. He caught up to me pretty easily. We rode together, Manny pushing the speed and me trying to stay upright. And round. I succeeded on both counts. Hooray fat jokes!


Once we started climbing, I REALLY started falling behind. Manny had to stop a couple of times going up Little Tujunga Canyon to allow me to catch up. He'd straddle his bike, have some water and maybe an energy gel, take a quick nap, learn a new language, and invent 3 new uses for old tire tubes by the time I caught up to him.

Ok, maybe he didn't take a nap. But the rest is true.



The point I am trying to make here is that either the hills were very steep, he is really fast, I am really slow, or a sad, sad mixture of all three.

After climbing, and climbing, and climbing some more, it was 10:00 and Manny had to turn around and go home so he could go to work. By this point in time, I didn't think I was going to finish the ride, and Manny encouraged me (under penalty of death) to finish the ride. Not wanting to miss out on the great things life has to offer, I continued on.

And climbed. And climbed. And climbed.

I took an occasional break, you know, every now and then.

Alright, who am I kidding, it was more than occasional. I still have trouble eating/drinking while riding on flats, let alone uphill, so I would stop for water and food. Along the way, other cyclists would pass me and have a chat, then they would happily continue on their way after complimenting my kit.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of climbing, I made it to the first descent. OH HAPPY DAY!!!!

Oh hell. Like the climbs, the descents were steep. Meaning, rather than risking FALLING OFF THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, I was clenching my brakes, trying desperately to get below 30 MPH before the next switchback.

After being thoroughly scared out of my wits enjoying the descent, the road suddenly turned up. And then it went upside down. And through croc-infested waters. Yup, I wasn't finished.

And so, I reluctantly continued, punishing my legs by turning the cranks over and over, their only respite being the granny gear that was still part of my bike.

I still stopped every now and then, to give my legs a break and have some water and food.

Then I ran out of food.

Then I got really low on water.

Then I couldn't move my legs.

And for a while, there was nothing. Just me in the shade, alone with my thoughts.

I tried to get my feet back in the pedals to turn the cranks, but I couldn't.

I stood there, then made the decision to call for a ride.

But I was in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by rocks and hills. No reception.

What choice did I have? I pressed on.

I pushed myself up to Bear Divide (I think thats the name), where the ranger's station was. A couple was picnicking and enjoying the view. I asked if they had any water to spare. They didn't.

But there was a water fountain.

But then I found the water fountain wasn't working.

I pressed on. Another descent.

The turns seemed easier than the first time, so I eased up on the brakes and enjoyed the cool wind in my face. It certainly helped to cool me down after all the climbing.

I made it to Placerita Canyon, and turned left. Then had more climbing.

I met a couple of cyclists who complimented me on my kit, and we chatted for a bit. When they found out I was low on water, they gave me some of theirs. I never got their names, but whoever they were: Thanks.

Placerita Canyon eventually met up with Sierra Highway, and I made another left turn. And then had more climbing.

And then another descent! And, it descended all the way to the rest stop, a Carl's Jr. on Newhall.

I had no idea how I was able to make it that far. My legs were cooked. I parked my bike in the shade, called for a ride, and waited.

While I waited, I was alone with my thoughts. How did I make it?

I don't know exactly where or what the mileage was, but I know I hit the wall. I bonked. No food and low on water, I almost gave up. But I didn't.

Somehow, I found it within me to keep going. Maybe it was a sense of survival, that I would be stuck there as food for whatever wild animals wandered the hilly roads I rode unless I went somewhere else. Maybe it was a sense of pride, knowing that I would hate myself if I didn't go any further. I don't know.

I can't forget that. If I hit the wall in Las Vegas, I can't quit. Even though it would be easier to quit, I can't. I have to push through.

I rode 35 miles on September 24th, 2011. I plan to ride at least 60 miles on October 1st. Then 100 miles on October 15th.

After that, who knows?

Questions? Comments? Cheap shots? Lemme know.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm so ronery....

With October 15th a month and a half away, I really need to start upping my miles. And so, I did.

Normally, during the weekdays, I ride an 8 mile loop with the second half being pure climbing. Since 8 miles is 92 less than my goal, I upped it. I rode 16 today, and while it was quite uneventful (other than a car honking and throttling his engine from behind me while we waited for a red light to turn green) it allowed me time to think.

I have great ideas.

I thought up a t-shirt design with "WWJD?" but the "J" would stand for Jens. As in Jens Voigt. I'm sure the idea's been done before, but still: Ideas!

That's the kind of guy I am. Lots of ideas. Lots of thoughts, too.

I started to wonder why road cycling was such a lonely sport.

I know that the Tour De France and other major tours have teams, but I'm talking about your average, run of the mill cyclist trying to lose a few (or hundred) pounds. Other than the occasional "wave" or "head nod" as someone rides the opposite direction, we are pretty much always riding alone. Other than the weekend (when the cycling clubs come out to play) I never see groups of riders together. We are always riding alone.

Forever alone.

And it doesn't have to be that way. I treasure my rides with the San Fernando Valley Bike Club, partly due to the camaraderie, partly due to the fact that it helps me gauge my abilities, partly due to that it is fun talking to other people while riding your bike. I ride with my friends as often as I can. And with them, I don't ride to train, I ride just to ride. For the sheer joy of cycling. It's hard to do that when you are by yourself. Don't get me wrong, I still have fun, but not as much as I could be having. I think I could probably put in more miles if I was doing training rides with my friends during the week.

Riding alone all the time also makes me think of who would be the perfect training partner. Would it be a pro like Cadel Evans or Jens Voigt? Probably not. They would just drop you immediately. What about a retired pro like Lance Armstrong? Nope, still a great cyclist (he won the Leadville 100, an epic mountain bike race, a few years ago, AFTER he retired).

Then, you may ask, who would be the perfect training partner for your average, run of the mill cyclist?

Easy answer. Someone slightly better than you.

Think about it: The carrot is always dangling in front of you, showing you what you could be if you trained a little harder, lost a little more weight, were just a little faster. And that is what the effect would be, because you would want to be able to keep up. As he/she improved, you would improve. Constantly competing with each other.

I'd like to meet a carrot.

PS: My buddy Manny is not a carrot. He is levels, echelons, above me. He placed 7th in his age group at the Hansen Dam Tri. I placed last. That speaks volumes.

PPS: But still, I do strive to reach that level of athleticism someday.

PPPS: Ok, maybe he is a carrot.