Friday, June 10, 2005

Baltimore to Blacksburg

It has become a Memorial Day tradition for Steph in NJ to drive down to Norfolk and then travel with me and others to Mountains of Misery Century in Blacksburg, VA. This year, I suggested we meet in Baltimore first, partly to save Steph all that driving and partly to watch Carol race with the pros in Bike Jam, an NRC race in Baltimore.

At the last minute Steph had to cancel after some kid stepped on her foot, breaking 2 toes. I suggested she could still ride if she cut out the toe box from the cycling shoe. She assured me the pressure of climbing for 100 miles would be even worse than the swelling. Really, it’s ok that she did not make it to Baltimore because she would have had a fit right there in the hotel lobby. Turns out the cheap hotel room I booked was in a truck stop hotel. Somehow, Carol was ok with it, even after we had to change rooms because of disgusting sheets, patchwork stained pillows and ants in the first room. We stripped all linen out of the new room, requested clean (though well worn and dingy) sheets and then still covered the sheets with T-shirts. We did not feel quite so touristy when we exchanged sheepish hellos with some guys on the pro Colavita team in the musty elevator.

The next morning I tried to do a nice 30-mile spin through Baltimore by joining an organized ride as part of the Bike Jam event as Carol slept in. I rode with a guy new to the area who only vaguely knew where we were at any given time, so we were dependent on the cue sheets. There were several miscalculated mileages, faded pavement markings and missing road signs, so we made several wrong turns, rode extra miles. When we got to a rest stop, we were only at mile 12 of 30, but I had already been on the bike 1.5 hours. I had to get back to the hotel and with the way things were going, I had no confidence in finding my way back any time soon. Carol was doing a huge race in the early afternoon and I was lost in northern Baltimore with the only set of car keys in my pocket.

Fortunately, Joe himself of Joe’s Bike Shop in Mt. Washington was there at the rest stop with a sag vehicle. I jumped in and figured out quickly that Joe must be known for his humor because, though I was pressed for time, I could not stop laughing at his remarks and was not annoyed by his slow “sag car” driving. He was amused by my hotel story and said that he once set up a tent inside a gross hotel room. I made note of that for the future. Even this Baltimore boy had a hard time following the cue sheet and we once ended up on a road with big signs “do not enter” and “road closed.” I fully appreciated the fact he ignored the signs until his truck simply would go no further due to barricades. What a great way to tour a city.

The pro1-3 women’s race that afternoon started fast. There were about 75 on the line. Since the field was dominated by pros, the 2-3 women were true underdogs. Carol’s goal was to hang on for more than the 5 laps she hung on last year. She did for 11 of the 20 laps. About half the field got gapped at 2-5 laps, so it was quite an accomplishment. She joined up with a large chase group, but they all got pulled from the race just before the field lapped at about lap 15. Laura Van Gilder soloed a win after being off the front for about 8 laps. I later read that she took first at both the CSC race in Arlington the next day, and at Somerville on Monday. Gosh, has anyone ever won 3 races in a row that included legendary Somerville? We ate lunch in a great little bar as it poured rain during the first part of the pro mens race. Perhaps the hotel had given Colavita incentive to win because they took 1st, 2nd 4th and 5th in the race. We saw the end of that exciting race before heading to Blacksburg, VA 5 hours away.

Mike, Mandy and I finished the 100-mile ride the next day in Blacksburg. Carol set out to do only 70 (training program) and Justin set out to do the double metric (120 miles) but did not finish the last 5 miles due to bottom bracket problems. I rode in some great pacelines the first 50 miles. Three hours in, when I got to John’s Creek Mountain, there was Stacy, a rider I see on many of these mountain tours. It struck me for the first time how strange that my world turns all year, and there on that darn mountain every Memorial Day Sunday I see Stacy. We know each other’s names and who is going to make it up the mountain first (her)and that's about it. However, I guess I know lots about a anyone who would do such a sicko ride during what is supposed to be a holiday. We have run into each other at Bridge to Bridge before, and I think Mt. Mitchell also. There is not much to talk about when you can’t breathe, so conversation is scarce. She had I think a different bike and I think a different last name but I need to wait till next year to learn more.

She paced me for a while until it got too steep. I am sure she said the usual, “hang in there” as she drifted away. Atop John’s Creek I realized that the 3:30 that I had been maxed out on the bike so far was about the most time I had spent in the saddle in one day all year. I felt nauseous knowing that I was only half way finished, but mentally knew I had done it before and could do it again, assuming I ate and drank enough. I pushed off and made it through the head winds on Rt. 42 with a stout group, over the demoralizing false flats on the lollipop off 42, and of course up the infamous 5-mile category two climb up to Mountain Lake. I did a personal best 7:12. Mike was delayed nearly an hour with a mechanical but still finished well and Mandy managed to finish without finding rain the whole day. We never saw Justin since he skipped the last 5 miles and headed back home for work in DC the next day. Perfectly clear skies, high of about 75.

The weekend zapped me. For two evenings the week following, I attached to the couch, unable to muster the energy to even look for the remote control, let alone manipulate it to turn on the TV and cruise channels.

No comments: