"oh you gotta be kidding me... f*** this!" that was me 126 miles into the 128 mile Mountains of Misery Double Metric Century with 13,000+ feet of vertical ascent on a bike two weekends ago. The last two miles of this ride are probably the hardest -- its a mountain top finish with steep grades and if you didn't notice, with 126 miles already in your legs! And yes, the sadist organizers made the ride 128 miles instead of 125 with the last 3 being the hardest ;)
Yes, I was moving so slow that my garmin autopause kicked in.. uggh! Usually a pretty neat feature that automatically pauses recording when stopped at a traffic light or fiddling with a shoe, I've got my autopause set to 6mph, which is probably slower than a turtle.. Not so in those last two wretched miles...
But lets start at the beginning... If you've read my blog or have spoken to me in the last 10 years, you probably understand that I love doing crazy things to myself. Not that I'm particularly fast or good at anything, but that hasn't stopped me from plunging into activities and trips that most people shy away from. Thankfully, I've recently found a group of people, in fact an entire team full of like minded individuals who love to suffer.
I guess the unique feeling of accomplishment and the mental high from finishing such activities is unmatched at least in my daily life and I suspect in the lives of others who do this kind of stuff voluntarily. Many of us are running away from some demons and the suffering on these types of rides (or runs, or swims) is so intense that one lives for hours enclosed in an internal universe with constant conversations with the brain trying to convince it to accept more pain -- there is simply no room for other thoughts! In the end while fitness certainly counts, I am convinced the athletes who do best in endurance sports are those who have the mental aspect well figured out.
Back to MoM... I caught a ride to Blacksburg with Damon and Max who were happily chatting about the 300 kilometer ride they'd done two weeks ago and the 400 kilometer ride they were planning a few weeks later. In fact, Max had the grand idea of racing a 300K in PA the day before MoM and then driving overnight and completing this ride, only to be talked out of it by none other than Damon.. Needless to say I had my ears wide open, jaw most of the way to the car floor! I could get used to this company :)
We met everyone else at dinner and I caught a ride to my campground with Brian and Beth. Brian, yet another athletic anomaly, had just ridden the 70+ mile wilderness ride and planned to do the double metric the next day, both on his tri bike!
The campground was probably the most interesting place I've slept in a while. I think the people who built a campground there probably were drunk out of their minds when the bought the land for this purpose... Wedged in between two highly active train tracks, there is a constant stream of blaring locomotives going by throughout the night ensuring nobody gets any sleep. Plus, this was Memorial Day weekend so our neighboring campsite was occupied by a group of 20-something jocks from Tennessee who basically stayed up till 2AM drinking and talking about their dicks. Too bad I didn't bring any earplugs.. but on the bright side, I now do know a lot of hilarious jokes about the male anatomy :)
The morning brought along great anticipation, a bit of trepidation, but mostly exhilaration for the day to come. My plan was NOT to race at all but rather treat this as a fun training ride. After all, the longest I had ever ridden a bike before was less than 100 miles, maybe close to 80 or so. Here, I was about to embark on 128 miles mostly pointed upwards. So I had no plan to hang out with the fasties on the team. Thankfully I had switched my power meter over to the road bike and was determined to ride at a predetermined output for all the climbs.
The plan worked out real well. While it was tough letting the peloton go after 20 miles of drafting, I slowly settled into a nice cruising pace with an eye on my power meter. The ride basically has four big climbs and the first is the longest. Here, many people passed me as they got out of the saddle and hammered up the hill while I was happily spinning at 95rpm going significantly slower. As it would turn out, I passed pretty much every single one of those people later on in the ride.
|Yeah, there were some hills|
Thankfully the organizers had well stocked rest stops at regular intervals throughout the ride and I made it a point to stop at these (minus the first one) to fill up on water and grab a PB&J or watermelon or two. I was religiously digesting 2 saltsticks per hour along with a healthy dose of gels and waffles. I think the nutrition worked out real well -- I did not feel hungry or bonky at any point.
The second climb was a bit of a let down. The nice gentleman at the rest stop at the base warned that this climb was "killer" and "harder than anything you've done", but it simply wasn't. It was steep but simply not long enough to cause too much trouble. The harder part was the descent which had a lot of gravel on it. The fun part was passing a heavily cursing Brian Bachor who was clearly not enjoying the gravelly descent one bit!
Right before the third climb is where I discovered the magic of an icepack on your head. I pulled in to see Fabrice with a plastic bag of ice on his head, so I tried it and boy did it feel good! I think I may have stopped for longer than I should have as restarting brought on some cramps in my right hamstring. Thankfully after some stretching on the bike they went away.
The third climb is hard and steep and reminded me a bit of the Ascension ride I did a few weeks earlier, though nothing compared to the Coxy Brown Road killer on Ascension (which I have lovingly renamed Cocksucker Brown Road). I guess the climb was hard because they had a rest stop at the base and another one at the top!
Ryan Vear and I hooked up for many miles to plow through many of the flat miles and it was really helpful to have company and draft a bit on the ride. He was also riding his tri bike -- sigh.. I guess I'm not as hardcore as I thought!
We pulled into the last rest stop and here I could sense the tension in the air. This was it.. the last stop before the 6 miles to the top. Yes there was another stop midway up the climb but for me stopping there was not an option. Call it pride, determination, stubbornness, but there was no force in the world that would convince me to stop pedaling till I got to the finish. Of course, I could just fall over but that was fine -- I would not accept anything less than that level of effort.
Turns out I came pretty close to falling over... The first 4 miles were ok, I was spinning and not going all out and pacing myself up the hill... I happily passed the midway stop and got a good dump of water on my back from an alert volunteer (thank you!) and did not stop. Next, I could hear a blaring vuvuzela and I was sure I was nearing the Team Z tent... But it took ages to get there! Every turn I thought I was there... but I wasn't.. Finally I got egged on by an extremely enthusiastic Adele and her horn and then Andy, Seb and other teammates pushed me on further around the killer switchback.
Andy gave me a much needed ice bath here on my back which really helped! Beth took this series of photographs.. I'm sure she's got a fancy camera that can capture frames in quick succession, but trust me I wasn't moving that fast!
The last mile was mental torture, made worse by my Garmin telling me I was a sissy... But I saw the orange cones in the distance and knew I was almost there... I even managed a lame sprint to the line.
In the end, I think I could have gone harder and faster earlier on and stopped less but I think my pacing worked really well for an enjoyable and confident ride. I'm ready to do it all over again at Diabolical Double in a few weeks!