Sunday, August 29, 2010
A Tale of Two Races
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way –
If reading the above quote that Charles Dickens pens as an opening line in his epic novel, “Tale of Two Cities,” you would have thought that he shadowed me this past weekend. I had some of the best of times…and worst….at times wisdom prevailed and others…oh such foolishness…There were times I saw the light…and times my mind was dark…at mile 30 there was hope and mile 70 despair…we had 100 miles before us…and when done, nothing left to ride…cruising in a peloton at 27 mph were on our way to heaven and fighting brutal headwinds at mile 80…on a straight path of Hell…for this was…well, this was the weekend of the Hotter N Hell.
With all that being said, the “Best of Times,” far outnumbered the “Worst of Times.” It was the best of times meeting up Legacy Cycling Team members…of watching team member, Tony win his age group on Friday’s mountain bike trail race…of riding a bike in United States’ largest cycling event…of meeting Carolyn and her sweet family…she is done with her last chemotherapy this week…of running with my brother in law in a ½ marathon trail race…of riding in a peloton out of the gate like we were demons on fire down the highway of hell…only to serve as a foolish reminder during those worst of times from miles 60 to 100…in fact those were really the only “worst of times.”
Friday evening I had traveled up to Wichita Falls and met up with most of the Legacy Cycling team. Did the packet pickup - cruise the expo thing and then headed out to watch the criteriums and to cheer on Tony for the mountain bike race. As I mentioned before, he won his age group. Then we all went to eat together. Saturday morning the Legacy team gathered up close to the front of the start, to get on out of the chaos of the 14,000 other cyclist as there can be carnage and mayhem. Coach Jim did a great job of getting us out of the gate…and soon we had formed up as a group of about 10 to 15 riders. The first six miles are mainly about navigating through dropped water bottles and wrecks of the unfortunate…and we were heading into a good clip…and then at about mile 10…we picked up the pace…and the hammering began…we ranged from 23 to about 27 mph…about 10 of us…I was feeling good…and we continued till about mile 30…and I still kept hammering for the next 15 miles at about 22 to 24 mph. What was I thinking…if I was running a marathon there is no way I try to keep up with someone running a 6 ½ minute mile for all 26.2 miles. My first break of getting off the bike and resupplying with water was at mile 50 and remember thinking to myself, “my quads are already barking and I am only half done!” My original thoughts were maybe to burn a few matches in the book to get out of all the chaos at the start. But once out…I kept hammering with a group…kept burning matches…at a pace I had no business trying to carry for 100 miles…maybe a 100K…but there is a huge difference of being in the saddle for 60 miles and a 100 miles.
I arrived at Hell’s Gate (100K) marker at about 10:25…with more matches burned that I had left…and met up with Amy and Jan….Jan and I rode some of the next stretch to the 70 mile marker…Anthony and Tony were in there somewhere along the way….and frankly I don’t remember at what point…Anthony was also a casualty of the hammerfest foolishness I had participated in about 4o miles ago and were now paying the piper in spades. The last 40 miles where windy…much of it straight on headwinds…and much of it being battled solo…the heat now was rising off of the blacktop as the Texas temperatures encroached 98F. The winds served as a blast furnace and the legs seemed as on fire as the asphalt. I cursed myself for being so stupid…so foolish. Relentless forward motion…and finally I was done…most of the Legacy Team waiting at the finish line…cheering on each member to finish. Coach Jim comes up and says, “Rookie mistake…that pace at the beginning was unreal.” I nodded in agreement….said I need something to drink and went to look for refreshment. I heard someone ask if I was alright and Coach responded, “Yeah, he’s just mad.” That summed it up pretty good. Glad it was over…but I didn’t enjoy any of the completion of my first century ride or my first event. In hindsight that was wrong on my part…I should have celebrated just riding…just being able to ride. My rolling time was about 5 1/2 hours...not counting water break stops. I stayed at one place so long they wanted to name it after me. At the finish line Carolyn and her family met up with me. She’s fighting cancer…and I rode for her and Sarah Grace. That put things in perspective…and to be upset in a less than stellar performance is crazy when friends are fighting cancer…when people are having to endure pain and suffering of chemotherapy...the pain and suffering of a bike ride pales drastically. I also met up with my parents and my brother’s family. He was riding in the event too…word was he was struggling…the heat had grown stifling….and I know the winds were making it ugly for him. He finally made it to the finish…but only to get some medical attention at the aid station…dehydrated and spent. He’s fine and tells me he will be ready to ride it next year…it is the 30th anniversary of the thing.
I cleaned up and Carolyn’s family and my family went to eat a late lunch…what a blessing. Marshall, my brother – in – law, and I then left and made it back to where we were staying…I had to start prepping for a ½ marathon trail race the following morning. An ice bath, a good night’s sleep and several carbs later, and I was ready to roll on Sunday morning when the race started at 7:00AM. Everything I did wrong the day before was corrected…and I started out slow and steady only to pick up the pace as I went along. I was told by ultrarunning buddy Laura Underwood, who did the same thing last year, not to expect a mind-blowing ½ marathon time after riding the century. She thought 2 ½ hours would be really good. 2 hrs 33 min later I crossed the finish line. I stayed sure and steady, passing more people than passed me…feeling pretty good the whole time and thankful to be back running on the trail.
These were the best of times…and the worst…but mainly the best…I have a wife who supports this stuff…I have some good cycling buds…I have friends who are beating cancer…and that far outweighs any bad times on a bike…in fact a bad day on a bike is better than a good day on chemo…and so I press on.
Posted by Dave