Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Few to Remember

There have been some great cycling events the past few months. In early October, the Seagull Century brought 15 of us together with one goal: 100 miles in under 4 hours. This meant of course AVERAGING 25 miles per hour. This was the brainchild of Robert, Harlan and Tim who did the ride last year in 4 hours 15ish minutes without the benefit of having several people to take turns pulling. Bringing down those 15 minutes would mean gathering a formidable group of people to share the pulls, and if necessary some would be dropped. I knew going in that I was the weakest link in the chain. There were 2 other women, Jen and Annette, but they are 2 known for their endurance (it should be noted that I would like to think that I am “known” for something but cannot think of what that would be) so I found myself among 12 guys and 2 of the strongest women in the state.

I have never been to an event without leaving with a great story about the travel. This year, I expected an uneventful travel since I was driving up VA and MD’s Eastern Shore, one of the dullest places I have ever been (except for the water of course). I dread going there for anything, especially now that the bridge-tunnel toll has gone up. Anyway, when I suggested to Annette that she join the U4 club, she looked at her schedule and said that the only way she could make it the night before the event was to fly in from Florida. I agreed to pick her up from the airport and a week before the event, we started a serious game of phone tag and leaving messages about where to meet and when. I kept asking for “flight information” and she kept coming back with “sometime between 6 and 9.” Finally, I figured out the chick was flying in a private jet. Well, she told the pilot to take her to the Ocean City airport and he insisted that’s where he was as he dropped her off at the Salisbury airport which is a 45 minute car drive away. Obviously dinner was delayed until I could get to the correct airport.

I knew that averaging 25 mph for 100 miles would mean lots of 28 mph stretches. I guess I just had not mentally prepared to ride 28 mph after the first mile. I knew the first few miles that I was in over my head. We started later (7:45) than we expected (7:15) so there was quite a bit of cyclist traffic we had to pass from the start. I think everyone knew we had to get past everyone quickly if we wanted to have any chance of reaching the U4 goal. I heard Hosang call out about a warm up but I knew his request would be ignored. We hit 28 within 5 minutes, and Paul, Danny, Robert and Tim were handily yanking the group around. Harlan, Bill, Tom, Hosang, Art and Josh had no problems, while Jen, Annette and I took the back three slots without pulling through. I think both of them would have been ok rotating, but it sure worked out for me not to rotate through. Of course the downside is having to deal with yo-yo gaps that open up in the back, yet Jen and Annette seemed fine with that. After about 15 miles I took the very last position, and Annette tried to help me stay on. She even drifted back a bit, but I was clearly going to drop so I gave her the universal thank-you-but-go wave.

I tacked on with 2 guys and let it be known early that I was not messing around—keep up the pace and get me to the causeway so that I could catch the group as they leave the one and only rest stop they were taking. See, there is a 5 mile stretch going into Assategue where the oncoming riders can see the outgoing riders, and I knew if I kept some kind of pace that I could grab back on to the group at about mile 60. The 2 guys reluctantly but willingly powered through short, fast pulls. We finally joined up with a double pace line of about 25 people and that turned out to be the key to getting me to the causeway in time. Just as planned, I caught sight of the 14 as they left the rest stop just as I arrived, so I grabbed back on, happy to know that I would not be cutting the 100 miles short. Of course this meant that I was back in with the group, still as the weakest link and now as the only one who did not get a 5 minute rest and food break. I had anticipate this happening, so I did stop briefly at mile 30 for a gatoraide fill.

Anyway, there was little difference in the pace this time. Robert had calculated the projected times of mile markers, and he had the handy numbers taped to his handlebars. I heard him tell Dan that we (I guess they at this point) were 2 minutes behind schedule. “Oh great” I thought as I tried to think of ways to destroy Robert’s notes. Dan was taking the longest, most consistent pulls. I heard reports afterward of his 5+mile punishing pulls that pushed everyone to the maximum. I dropped off for the second time only about 6 miles into my second chance as Dan pulled. A short while later, I passed Hosang who was only operating on one leg. The other was so cramped, he had a hard time even moving it in the rotation. I would have stopped to pull him, but I stayed true to the mantra of the day which was “we will wait for no one.” Plus, I really liked the idea of being 14th in and not 15th in. I dove into the 75 mile rest stop only to find 6 other refugees who had given up the U4 goal and decided to eat the pie and ice cream at the stop. Well, that was my cue to stop with them. When Hosang joined us, Jen fed him electrolyte tablets, and when we all started back up, he was a new man. We still kept a powerful pace to the finish.

As it turned out, Dan and Robert finished as a the only remaining 2 at 4 hours and 2 minutes. My total ride time was between 4:15-4:20. Everyone else then would fall under that, several under 4:10.

Another great time was the 75 miler Bill, Janice, Sally, Tim and I did in November. This was the adjusted Bridge to Bridge ride that I have done the last 5 years in September. Since there were hurricane storms on the scheduled weekend, it was rescheduled for cold November. It really could have been worse than the 28 degrees that it was at the start line. Also, it was probably in the low 40’s at the top of Grandfather mountain and it sure could have been worse than that at the elevation of over 5200 feet.

Anyway, Bill and I were a bit lost without Jim and John who know Hickory/ Lenoir/ Blowing Rock/ Grandfather mountain area much better than we do. We had to pull a couple of U turns, especially once it got dark. As we drove to stage cars at the Meadows, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset behind the Smokey Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We pushed off from the Lenior Mall promptly at 8 am, and I expected to not be with the lead group after only a few miles. Since the ride had been cut short, the rollers at the beginning is what was eliminated from the ride. I am more likely to stay with the group on rollers then on the climbs that started within 5 miles of the start. However, 25 miles into the ride, I found myself still with the lead group, hanging onto the tail end. I really wanted to be away from them, but with each climb, I found enough gearing to spin up with the group. I used a 32 cog in the rear for the first time—usually in mountains I use a 27. This made a big difference I think, and it will help with other mountain rides and of course with the Wintergreen Time Trial in June.

Tim took the group honors with the fastest time of ~4:30. Bill and I finished within 2 minutes of each of at the 5:15 mark. We did a lot of back-and-forth throughout the ride which can be motivating and demoralizing all at the same time (“Oh, I am passing Bill and feeling strong” at mile 50 and then “Where did he come from” at mile 60). Sally and Janice stayed together and finished within 2 minutes of each other at the ~6:30 mark.

Would Christmas be complete without at ride? Bill Gilmer, Robert Sawyer, Tim Starkley and I did a couple of laps at New Quarter Park in Williamsburg. I hesitate to go anywhere when both Bill and Robert are in the same place (I prefer them separately). Bill and I had gone to midnight mass at Sacred Heart in Ghent the night before and I could not turn down the invitation to join them the next day though I knew there would be trouble. Sure enough, as we were doing our last lap, I watched Tim go down (Rob and Bill were ahead and could not see) and as I approached Tim, he reported that his chain had broken.

I rode ahead to flag down Bill and Rob who backtracked only to banter Tim and not produce chain tools or keys for him to get into the car or anything else helpful except to suggest to him that he may want to walk fast so they would not get to the car first and leave him. As the 3 of us finished the loop without Tim, Rob went on and on about Tim’s choice in heavy equipment and how he should have consulted them before purchasing a bike, how the chain should not have broken—on and on I listened to him whine about Tim not treating him like the god of mountain biking. I said ONE thing in response: “Tim’s stubborn” and all of the sudden Rob and Bill started hounding me: “Oh, so he’s stubborn—what exactly do you mean?”

I sensed I was in trouble so I corrected, “Oh, you know stubborn in a good way.” That of course did not go over and the second we returned to the car, Rob rode up to Tim and reported, “Liz says you are stubborn.” I wiggled to get out of it, but Tim kept looking at me, so I finally left it with, “I adore Robert and he is the most stubborn person I know.”

1 comment:

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