Monday, October 3, 2011

Columbus Fall Challenge

I have heard about this ride for several years now. I heard it is hard, but didn't give it much thought. I ride in the valley, right? I did lots of climbing in Wisconsin, right? So, when SO mentioned doing this ride and how I could get over 200 of my 248 more miles to get to 3,000 for the season, I said, "Sure, why not?" The ease with which I made the decision to do this ride and the pains I went through to stay oblivous to the difficulty of it frighten me.

Now, I was really struggling with which bike to take. The decision that I still regret making is that I decided to take the tri bike, the kestrel, because it's more comfortable and is lighter. I should have taken the specialized even though it's heavier because it has a granny gear. Now, for those of you who don't know much about bikes, a granny is a very small ring that gets it's name from the saying, "with that ring, even granny can ride up the hill." Also, the tri bike has a more aggressive position for speed, not for climbing, which is the main reason why my legs were so badly annihilated.

SO and I met up after work for the drive down to Columbus. The ride started Saturday morning out of a little town southwest of Columbus called Sugar Grove. Since there was nothing in Sugar Grove, we stayed by the Columbus airport Friday night. As we drove down to Columbus, I asked the typical question: what hotel are we staying in tonight? Now, last October, he and I, along with a friend TC did a 200k brevet that started on the east side of Columbus, and SO booked the 2nd crappiest hotel I have ever stayed in near Columbus - a Motel 6. He said he made the reservation before I decided to go so when he said, "Econolodge," I nearly started crying....
Back in 2008, CS and I started our tradition of doing TOSRV together in May. I told her I would make a reservation and did so at an Econolodge on the east side of Columbus. The picture on the website looked fine, but when we got there, it was the most disgusting hotel I had ever seen in the USA in my life. I am pretty sure there were 3 or 4 prostitutes hanging out in the lobby. I am not lying about this fact, but there were pubic hairs on the sink. CS, who is known for her ability to sleep in, woke up before the alarm and nearly ran out of the hotel at 5:30. Rather than filling our water bottles in that room, we opted to ride the first 28ish miles without any water. It was that disgusting that we didn't trust the water.
I don't think I had ever told SO that story and since he has never... lied to me, I didn't question it and spent the next hour in the car absolutely pouting as I was absolutely convincd we would be spending the night in the same disgusting Econolodge.

When we got to Columbus, SO's son had called, and while he was on the phone, he was having a difficult time trying to find the hotel, talk to his son, and drive the car, so he threw his reservation papers at me and told me to find how to get there. I looked at the sheet and what the F#$@ did I see, TownPlace Marriott??? What??? I just spent the last hour depressed, and for the first time ever, he lied to me??? Was I relieved, yes, but I was uncomfortable with how easily dupped I was and what were the chances that he randomly picked an Econolodge as the crappy hotel chain?

I should note that SO's one reservation about me coming for the weekend is my tendency to get frustrated when he drops me (for non-cyclistst getting dropped is getting left behind). I promised him that I wouldn't get mad at him, and for the most part, kept that promise.

We started the ride at 8am with a slight drizzle and it being in the mid-40's, getting colder as the day continued. The first turn was onto road called Savage Hill. SO looked at me and said, "Savage Hill, not a good sign." Well, within the first hour, there were three hills with 15% plus grades. SO slowed down, but within 20 minutes, I realized 1) I had the wrong bike and 2) there is no way SO could go slow enough for me to keep up.

After 1:46, I made it to the first rest stop. I was grateful to see SO's bike, and an indoor rest stop. I had some M&M's and a cookie and got back on the road with SO after a little bit. We stayed together for about an hour, I was proud of that, but he ended up slowly but surely making his way ahead of me. The next section really foreshadowed how the ride would go, climb up to a spot where you thought the road couldn't go any higher and it was dip a little bit so it could climb back up again. It was lots and lots of climbing, but not the steep SOB's in the first section. I became like Pavlov's dog, cringing when I saw the road curve.

I got to lunch and was so happy to see SO. I was cold and wet and kind of miserable. At lunch, this nice older couple riding a tandem kind of prepped me for the rest of the ride. The woman told me that after lunch, there was a very steep climb out of the town we were in -- Malta. SO convinced me to try to ride with the group of guys he had met, but we hit the first climb, and it was a wall. It was then that I started to realize I no longer wanted to be riding. I finally made it up that hill, stopping a couple of times to give my legs a rest and going back at it. After a bit, the ride followed along the Muskingham river. At this point in the ride, it really worried me that we were next to water because that meant we had to climb back out of there. Sure enough, climbing out of the riverbed, I started to break. I hit a hill and had to stop and lots of people passed and asked if I was okay, and I would say, kind of, but my legs just felt destroyed, I honestly felt like my legs weren't strong enough to keep going.

Now, I happened to kind of go back and forth with a guy who saw me at lunch and that I was wearing my Ironman Louisville jersey, and he told me that he had done Louisville this year. He was being a really nice guy, trying to engage me in conversation, but it was pretty obvious to him I was in pain. He asked me if I wanted him to call anyone, but I said no, that my boyfriend was waiting for me at the reststop, and I needed to make it there.

I also felt pretty horrible because I knew I was going super slowly. I got there, and SO was very happy to see me, mainly because he was so cold that he was shaking. He saw me, and he agreed it was time for my ride to be over. I was absolutely sobbing, and he let me cry on his shoulder until I got myself under control. I got a ride from a man named Bob, who started telling me about the training the organization puts on for this ride and that most people who do this ride train for it starting in May. He was a very cool older guy, told me about his leather saddle, his use of cranberry concentrate for nutrition, and lots of the rides he helps organize.

It was kind of lucky that I sagged as I was able to get us a prime spot in the aerobic's room at the YMCA. We had lots of plugs and next to the heater. I also snagged a newspaper for our shoes so they would be relatively dry for the morning. I set up my air mattress and SO's pads and sleeping bag before heading for a wonderfully hot shower. When I got out, SO got there and was thrilled with the spot I had picked out and got ready to head out on the town of Marietta.

As an aside, I had contemplated calling my dad to see if he would bring me my road bike, but I decided against it, mainly because I knew he would, and I didn't think he should have to suffer for my bad decision.

We opted for a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant. Margaritas sounded really good so we both ordered one, and I ordered another. We then went to a bar to watch Wisconsin kick the crap out of Nebraska. The three drinks we both had kind of lightened the mood so we started laughing about the insanity of the day's ride.

Day 1 had 8,800 feet of climbing.

Now, I started Sunday with this idea that I wouldn't ride the whole thing, that I would make the goal of riding to the lunch stop. We had breakfast at the Marietta college union. We sat with a woman who was good friends with a good friend of ours EO, and we decided to join forces to him EO a hard time about not doing the ride.

SO rode with me almost the whole way to the first rest stop. Now, it was dry and the sun was out, but we had a 10-20 mph headwind that just got stronger throughout the day. I made it to the first rest stop in a little over 2 hours and was thrilled...I could stop and still have spent a good amount of time on the bike. But...I just couldn't pull the trigger and kept riding. The weird thing was that I felt completely wasted, but as wasted as I felt, I was still riding past people, not many, but a few here and there, usually passing them on a hill. Mind you, this ride was nearly all uphill so it was hard to pass anyone on anything other than an uphill. It made me realize that as bad as I was feeling, that most of it was mental as everyone was in the same physical state.

When I got to Malta, I started to panic...I remembered the wall we had to ride after lunch the day before, and sure enough, we had another one for Sunday. This hill hurt. What made it even worse was that after the hill that had grades approaching 20% that lasted for a good mile or two, I turned and had short climb after short climb. I honestly felt like I climbed for 20 miles and only barely recall descending down to lunch. There was never a chance for recovery. It was in this stretch that my legs started shaking.

I made it to lunch and was frustrated. SO unintentionally ticked me off, and he kind of rushed me out of the lunch stop. There was an attempt to create a pace line, and I was in a bad mood and just quickly decided to drop off the line. After about 10 miles, and for the fourth time that day, my chain fell off. Just at that point, a ride mechanic drove by and asked if I needed help. He put my bike up and adjusted my front derailler and asked if I needed anything else, and I said, "yeah, a ride." He put my bike in the back and drove me to the final rest stop, and I am really glad I did because SO was seriously far ahead of me, and I wasn't sad that I missed one bitch of a climb and another not easy hill. The mechanic told me about his bike shop, and he gave me some recommendations if I were ever to pull the trigger on a new road bike, but he definitely agreed that the tri bike wasn't a wise decision for this particular ride.

From the last stop, there was 12.5 miles to go to Sugar Grove. The mechanic said he had no problem giving me a ride, but he wanted to hang out to see if anyone needed help. SO got there relatively soon after I arrived, which is pathetic as I easily sagged about 8 miles. At this rest stop, I soon discovered the answer to something that had confused both of us...people were taking shortcuts! I suddenly didn't feel that bad about sagging for a few miles. I got my bike out of the car and decided to ride the last part, figuring it would be faster to ride than wait for the mechanic.

I had been warned, and sure enough, one absolutely nasty climb waited for us on this section. It was easily the steepest climb of the weekend. The max grade was 25% for the day, and I am sure it was on this hill, but the kicker was that once you got to the top, the road turned and kept going up hill. It blew, but wasn't as bad as it could have been, knowing it was the last one. Getting back to the car was a site for sore eyes.

Day 2 elevation profile, 7,300 feet of climbing with 24.9% max grade.

So, I ended up riding 167 of the 210 miles of this ride. Unforunately, it means that someday, I will have to complete this ride. Also, they had showers at the gym, but apparently only the men were privy to the hot water. I had to run under cold water than try to rinse off without actually standing under the water. After riding in 40 degree weather for 2 days, a cold shower wasn't exactly what I had in mind. Now that I think about it, it makes sense...on the way home, SO was super hot, and I was nearly shivering. He kept holding my hand just to try to try to cool off.

All weekend, I kept thinking about that riddle, what is heavier: a pound of feathers or a pound of rocks? Neither, they both weigh a pound. However, if you ask the question, which would you rather be hit by, a pound of feathers or a pound of rocks, I think most people would pick the feathers. This ride was definitely a pound of rocks.

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