EPIC RIDE - 10 October 2015
Break in Ride - Quincy, California
When it's epic, one way or another, success or failure, it's going to be a great story.
Just finished a big bike ride yesterday. The Griduro was billed as a "different kind of bike race." Different yes... Challenging, in the words of the race director as he addressed a crowd of lean mean bike racers,"...it'll, well... let's say you'll like it if you like a challenge."
Yes, it was a race though the only racing parts were four times sections. Between these sections everyone was supposed to saunter and happily converse with your fellow participants. Hmmm, which seemed to say those racers had another gear to hammer the whole route if they weren't forced to converse. Me, I simply wanted to survive without too much fanfare. Fairly simple objective if you ask me.
The race was split into four major sections. First was a crazy long slog uphill for about 5,000 ft. The next was a super long downhill portion across gravel roads. Next was an even steeper 2,500 foot climb up a dirt forest road. The last was a much sketchy stretch down no kidding single track much steeper than the previous climb.
Ugh, makes me hurt just thinking about it.
This ride was promoted as a gravel ride. As a result, most of the bikes at this race were of the new discipline of "flexible" road bikes. These bikes look like quite awesome tiny looking road conversions with fatter tires and slightly more relaxed geometry. Still, they have drop bars and were quite svelte when compared to a regular mountain bike.
There were also lots of mountain bikes at this race. I even saw a semi-fat Surly Krampus with its 3 inch tires--in retrospect I think it was the best choice for the ride. Me, I rode my Fargo which is a rigid, no suspension drop bar mountain bike. The bike did great. It's rider, not so much.
The ride had the extra attraction of food. Promotors advertise gourmet food with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thought when I registered I might actually stop and take part in enjoying food on a bike race, for a change. Nope, as always, regular awesome food when on the go as I was during this race isn't so attractive.
The race started not long after dawn in super cool temps. Thankfully it wasn't windy. As a group with our police escort, we proceeded to the first major event, the gigantic climb. Along the way there were a few locals out cheering us on. There was even one of those guys dressed in a full head to toe leotard posing on the roadside. With the morning sun rays streaming on him, it was quite beautiful. No, I couldn't get a picture. I had a ride to do.
The first climb was impressive though not crazy steep--that'll come later. Unfortunately, I never seem to learn and over exerted myself. This summer I've found if I keep my heart rate under control I'll have fewer cramp issues later. I went hard too long and didn't stop enough going up that first hill which sent my heart rate high. The stupid thing was me knowing this and still pressing. My own fault, I know. I began to regret that effort knowing it was going to pay me back later even before I got to the top of the first climb.
Looking at my heart rate data, I hit my peak not 8 miles into the ride. Problem was I had 54 miles to go. Dang, definitely poorly executed strategy.
The first climb took almost three hours to complete--after almost five thousand feet of uphill. I was spent and knew it with another epic climb to come. That's when I started to have doubts about finishing.
The long downhill was highlighted by dozens of riders on the side changing tires. Seems that dirt road was covered with something pointed and attracted to bike tire rubber. Me, my heavy fat bike touring tires never missed a beat. In fact everything about the bike worked great... Except for one thing.
I broke my seat post on this long bumpy section down hill. The part that keeps the seat from nosing up broke. It was a slow break. It want so obvious at first. I thought, "hmmm, I wonder if my crotch feels a little more crowded or is it just my imagination." Eventually it was obvious. You could hear the post creak with every pedal stroke as the seat slowly nosed up. I had to readjust it about 10 times. I'm thankful I was able to finish the ride with it as it was. I need to figure out a fix before my next ride.
The long bumpy downhill included stretches of gravel less cautious people just zoomed through. Me, recognizing the limits of my downhill skills, I was on the brakes a lot. I'm positive my fatbike with its much larger grip would've been perfect here
I did learn something new. When you go up hill and sweat gets on your glasses you don't notice it very much. After you crest the hill and start going fast, it becomes a big deal. After running over a couple of large rocks I missed booking down hill, I stopped to clean my glasses. Being almost blind downhill on a bike isn't very smart.
One other thing I learned. After a very long workout, my unaided far vision gets better. So much so, things become blurry when wearing glasses.
I ran out of water at the timed section of the downhill which fortunately ended at an aid station. The station had lots of everything except for water. Their big water bladder which filled a pickup truck bed was just about empty when I rode through. They had just enough to fill my two water bottles.
Little cups of warm Coke tastes great under these circumstances--being over extended on a workout. I would've had more but wanted to hit the road thinking there would be more at other aid stations. Nope... That was the last bit of Coke until the finish.
After the aid station, this was where there was rider after rider stopped changing tires and fixing flats. I saw one walking walking into the lunch stop with two flat tires. I'm impressed he got that far. Something on that downhill section was popping tubes. As hoped with my non-svelte tires, I didn't have any puncture issues.
One thought about bikes and choices. In the bike world everything is a compromise. You compromise strength for weight in many cases. Sometimes the compromise is comfort for efficiency. I usually pick durability and comfort over weight and efficiency. My Fargo isn't the lightest bike around but it sure is tough. Also my accessories are about getting the ride done vs trying to win. That's why I had my heavy duty bike tires. I think some of the svelte bike riders were really suffering through some sections of this ride only because their bikes weren't well suited for the terrain. My bike did a reasonable job at everything which made it a great tool for this event.
The flat road section into lunch was nice. I didn't go hard but still made good time. But, I knew things were going to happen later on the last big climb. My legs wee already feeling it.
I rolled into lunch at 1:15pm just over five hours into the ride. Even though the next section was the epic climb I knew it was only six miles to the top. I figure I could do that in two hours to make the cutoff at four oclock. After all, there were at least a hundred riders there at lunch when I left. They all couldn't be slower then me. I felt I was good to go. After all, how bad could it be?
Even though lunch looked great I didn't eat much other than a kidney bean concoction and potato salad. The bottle of Pellegrino was perfect. 30 minutes after arriving, I was out and back on the road.
After only a mile it was straight up hill. There were two great event signs on the side of the road near the start of this section. First "sorry, this hill sucks." Next, "you'll be happy when you get to the top."
As I was riding past these signs I was thinking to myself "I'm feeling pretty good just now. I might actually finish this." Little knowing within an hour I'd start strategizing how I was going to quit.
Unfortunately, I was off the bike pushing with more than a thousand feet of climbing left. For the first time ever on any ride, I was cramping while walking. At first I tried to ride the less steep sections but the effort to get on the bike--and full potential for excruciating cramps--changed that plan. I think I walked for three miles in almost two hours. I kept thinking "just keep moving, just keep moving."
I wasn't the only person walking. There were lots of folks I walked with up that hill. One guy remarked how pretty it was. He said "you could see Lassen Peak." Me, I totally missed that view, which is a sign I spent too much time focused on three feet in front of my bike wheel than looking around.
Near the top, at the end of my wits and suffering from the slog, I could barely contain my emotion. Eyes welled up with tears of "this f_____ sucks." "I'm going to quit." And, "there's another hill, crap!" By the time I peaked there was a lone volunteer saying "you did it." I thought, "ya right... I'm still going to quit. I just need the right place to stop."
After a very sketchy rocky downhill section on a trail that included a walking bit for fear of rolling over my handlebars, I rolled into the last stop fully expecting to quit. Another fella was in my same boat. The lady at the station assured me the last downhill wasn't nearly as sketchy. She also suggested I looked like "crap." That other guy pushed off into the trail. I sat there in a lawn chair thinking about the meaning of life then realized I wasn't cramping. "Hmmm, maybe I can do this. At worse I can stop at the beginning of the last timed section." With that I got up with a purpose (surprised I didn't cramp. Refilled water bottles. Then, hit the trail.
No, it wasn't rocky but the several temporary uphill sections were killing me making me think I'll be done at the timed section start. Not only that, it was cutoff time.
As I rolled off the trail onto the forest road thinking I'm done, there's this dude in a cowboy hat and shorts yelling "you're just under cutoff, hit it." All the while he's gesticulating towards the trail like a football coach encouraging a running back on a touchdown run. Without thinking I'm off down the trail, totally committed to finish the darn thing.
Yes, it was incredibly steep. Yes, I was in my brakes a lot. Yes there were thoughts I was in over my head. And, I thought my bike was perfect for the situation. The best part was I was impressed the trail was coming fairly easily which made feelings of being spent float away.
A few miles later I was back on smooth road, third from last off the trail. I stopped and laid down for a couple of minutes on the pavement saying to myself it could just stay there everything would be great. No, up and at it.
The last downhill back was uneventful except for missing a turn which added an extra couple of miles. By the time I rolled into the fair grounds there were no greeters, no high-fives, only me. I was done.
Looking back I made a couple of mistakes. The largest was going too hard at the start. Also, I'm going to look at how I train so these epic kind of events are less epic. I also figure there a nutrition aspect to this. Perhaps beer isn't a good nutrition choice. Another point, eat on the ride or even dinner that night, wasn't appetizing. I probably needed more calories than I took in.
I finished off eight water bottles. Most of those water bottles had some sort of additive for calories. I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich. There was the bean stuff and potato salad for lunch. That was it. I think I need to eat more but I'm not sure what because nothing sounded appetizing.
In the end, the best thing about it all is I finished it, finished it in just more than 10 hours. All told, I paid almost a thousand dollars--counting the event, travel costs, lodging, and food--to abuse myself. Why anyone does such things I have no idea. Someday, maybe on the next slog uphill, I'll figure that out.