Friday, November 14, 2008

It's almost time

With 2009 approaching fast, as proven by the fact we already have holiday commercials, it's time to start finalizing my goals. Mine are going to be a lot different this year. However, before I make a public commitment to next year, I am going to start off with a little blog cheating.

Many of you know that I tried to complete the Terrible Two this year. But that was before I had the blog up and running so many of you have never seen the report of that attempt. So I am posting it now. Why? Because it was such a huge part of goals and training for 2008. It will also partially explain my goals for 2009 which will follow very soon.

So, if you are reading it for the first time, enjoy. If you've read it before then I apologize for the re-run.

My Terrible Two -

Let me just start this report right away by saying I rode 110 miles of the 200 mile Terrible Two. You may have noticed that I avoided saying that I did not finish. I still truly believe that was an incredible success for me giving the extreme conditions. My TT experience might best be some up by these words from the Weather Channel – Sat June 20th, heat advisory for all of Northern California and predictions of triple digit heat.

Let me just say this – I don’t like riding in the heat. On our January rides when the temperature is in the low 30’s I am the first one ready to go. If the temp starts to top 90 then I begin looking for a rope. So, my TT probably started on Wednesday or Thursday as I watched the forcasted high temperatures continue to climb. Still, I feel ready and I am definitely giving it a go.

My good friend and coach, Tim, picked me up at 4:25 a.m. to head out to the start. As we are driving, I am looking to the north which is where I am heading, and I am see flashes of light. Who the hell ordered lightening? Oh well, it’s probably too far north to be of concern. So to the start, get registered and then on the bike to begin. Isn’t the beginning of any event exciting? So here I am all jazzed and ready to go.

Then we’re off. Some of the boys off the front set a blistering pace. I am constantly being passed on both sides while I am riding at 20 – 22 mph. After about 5 minutes the people quit passing and I think “there, we have now settled into our groups”. So I look behind me to see who I am with. No one!!! At 5 minutes into the ride I am already riding faster then I intended and have been dropped by the entire group. No to worry I think. I will see some of them on the first climb. I just keep practicing my mantra – You are the tortoise.

I settle into my pace and enjoy the ride. After a quick stop to kiss my wife, the TT went right by my house, I keep riding towards the hills. The first small climb was uneventful and then I hit the first big climb – Trinity. I find my rhythm and make it up Trinity without any problems. Near the top I see another good friend and riding partner, Brian. He jogs beside me for a while, tells me I am looking strong (and I was feeling strong), and then points out a sign showing all of the summets. BTW, the sign was sponsored by Fitness Journal. So over the top a car pulls up next to me and I start to see more flashes of light . It is MR. FJ himself, Chris Watson, taking pictures. So down the descent and start the second part of the climb. Here is where I begin to catch a lot of the rabbits who are already suffering from their quick start.

Down into the beatiful Napa Valley. I actually manage to catch the back of a train going the perfect speed and ride it all the way to the first rest stop in Calistoga. I am now riding 18 – 21 mph with a heart rate in the low 120’s. I can actually feel myself saving energy for later in the ride. But the biggest thing, it’s not heating up. Of course, it was still only 8:00 in the morning.

I leave Calistoga ahead of schedule. That was the good news. The bad news – it was starting to heat up and the trains were gone. So I enjoy a nice ride through Knight’s and Alexander Valley. Finally, it’s time to climb the Geysers. The is the longest and highest climb of the day. It is a 9-mile, double summit beast. As I start the climb, I am feeling strong, ahead of schedule, and enjoying the ride. That’s when I hit the wall.

Of course, in cyclng, the wall metaphor can mean many things. Saturday it meant heat. At the base of the climb it was 90. A mile and a half later it was 105. One mile later I can feel myself over heating. I slow the pace and keep drinking. Then I begin to feel a little nauseous. No biggie I tell myself. Settle in and find your rhythm. Less then 5 minutes later I start to weave to get up the climb.

I am now riding head down and just trying to make the first summit. Then I see 3 weirdos in wigs and speedos. Are they running at me? WTF? It is my coach and two other riding partners, Pat and David. They were hillarious. So up they come dumping cold water on my back and refilling my bottles all while I rode. (There will be more on support later.)

On the flat section at the top of the first summit I flatted. This was a blessing in disguise since it happened in a shady section. So for 7 minutes, I was off the bike and in the shade. With the flat fixed, I bombed down the small descent and start the second summit which was a true struggle but I made it. There was a rest stop there so I soaked myself with water, filled up with food, more air in the front tire and then began the descent.

At last, I am going downhill. If I can only recover I might still make it. Into the shade on the descent I am thinking that it wasn’t much relief. That’s because it was 102 in the shade at this point. Off the descent and out of the shade onto a long section of rollers. The temp is starting to climb again and at this point I have quit eating although I am still drinking water that is at least 90 degrees. At one point coming down a small roller my heart rate was 108 and the temperature was 110. You know the ride’s not going well when the temperature is higher then your heart rate.

On the Geysers there was a cooling breeze. That was gone. The wind ( actually a head wind) now felt like a blast furnace. It felt like the blast of hot air you get when open the oven door to see if your cookies are done. And I can tell you my cookies were done!

I finally make it out of the back country and into Cloverdale. I see my wife in the car and she follows me off and on to Lake Sonoma. It is still 104 and I have riding in triple digit heat for almost 3 hours. When I get to the small climb over Dutcher Creek I know I am done. I can easily do Dutcher in the big ring. Saturday, I had to drop to the triple to get over it. That might have been because it was now 111 degrees. At this point I know I will not be continuing from the lunch stop. I am too far behind schedule to make the cut-off times and the sun has made me feel like Sampson after a hair cut.

As I roll to a stop at Lake Sonoma I see more friends. Pat and David are there, without their wigs, and so is Sarah, Matt and Jim. They actually help me off the bike and take me to the shade and being pouring water on me. As I cool down I discover I have missed the cut off time so continuing isn’t an option (it really wasn’t an option anyway). So we load the bike in the car and drive home.

If you were counting, you noticed that I had 8 different people strategically placed to cheer me on. There was no other rider out there who could claim that. My friends were amazing. And what can I say about the speedos on the Geysers? On Sunday, we hosted a champagne brunch for them for helping me get ready for the TT and for their support during the ride. Not one person was disappointed in me not making it 200 miles. They were all genuinely supportive and proud of the effort, especially knowing how I ride in the heat.

Will I try it again? I’m not sure at this point. Heat can always be an issue so may I find myself in the same boat. At this point, I am simply enjoying being in the best riding shape of my life. I am already turning my focus to the next event. A road trip with great friends where we will ride the 3 day Courage Classic in Colorado.

And that’s why I ride!

So there you have it. By far, the most defining and memorable moment in my cycling career. If that was what 2008 was all about then I can't wait to see what 2009 has to offer. Until then, I'll just keep riding.


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