Saturday, October 6, 2007

Suffering for the sake of???

As a cyclist, I get to experience many wonderful things. Cycling through Italy, for instance, is a memory I cherish. But I also do many strange things, of which the memories haunt me and impair my ability to make wise decisions.

Today was the perfect example. We "raced" a grueling course of 45 miles with about 15 of the fastest mountain bike racers from Atlanta.
Racers like Shane on his pinkpuss singlespeed. That's insanity!

There was no timer, no officials, no prizes, no race number plates, and no recognition. Just the chance to race the Firewater 50 course that we had missed 2 weeks ago.

The course starts out immediately with a climb up Windy Gap.
Here's a video of the pack. Sorry I had to cut it short, but that
was the train I had to hop on to quickly!

At first, I thought it was going to be a good day. Usually the climb up Windy Gap seems to go on forever, but before I knew it, there was the turn off for Milma. I had tried desperately to keep my heart rate below 151 so that I wouldn't explode. Obviously I had been so delirious that I wasn't coherent enough to realize I was climbing.

Raja was just within my reach as we turned onto Milma. Desperately, I wanted to stay with him. Keeping him in sight would push me to ride harder and stay on task. Yea, that lasted all of 10 seconds. Trying to lower my heart rate, I could not concentrate enough for the descent. He was gone in a flash.

Myers came flying by me, once again inspiring me to push a little harder. For a brief moment my pace lifted and we rolled along in sync. But as quickly as he came, he pulled away, taking my high spirits with him.

I've been doing this wretched "race" for over 10 years, and it always deflates my ego. In one instant I feel like a slug that can't turn the pedals over for anything. Enough of the bad vibes, I've got to generate some positive thoughts.

After what seemed a decade, the turn for Tibbs appeared. Travis and Teron were standing off to the side. No matter, I have to continue. Tibbs was not in great shape. This trail changes by the day. A few months ago it was like riding a paved road. Not today. It was loose, rocky, and super challenging.

Once again, my heart rate was pegged, and I was only going 3.5 mph. Teron was on me like white on rice. Not having much of a choice of lines, I stopped to let him by. Flatfender was right behind him.

I relished the 15 seconds of rest while letting them pass. That tiny break actually did me a world of good. Starting back up felt better.

My back was beginning to scream at this point. It is so difficult to deliver the power through the legs with this intense pain. You think the 100oz of water on my back has anything to do with it?

Teron and I hooked up towards the top of Tibbs and turned onto the forest service road together.

After a few miles he had a mechanical and stopped. Being the considerate rider that I am, I continued on, offering him no help whatsoever. My rule on Firewater is: if there's no blood involved and the person can still talk, then I'm not stopping. Harsh. Today is all about survival.

On the forest service road it is a boring gravel road climb to Potato Patch. I am now in my own miserable world. Whoever said "misery loves company" didn't know how I felt. I was miserable and I didn't want any company. Let me die in peace.

Down Potato Patch to Bear Creek singletrack. Could I go any slower? I could not focus. My mind wandered faster than my bike. I remembered a phrase I used to teach a racer I mentored years ago; "smooth, fast, forward". I repeated the words over and over, until my mind wandered off again.

Hikers were coming up the singletrack. Puhleez, get out of my way.

The Pinhoti trail was next. Normally I'd be in my middle ring, no big deal.
But noooooooooooo. I can barely get on top of the pedals, only the small ring will do. I entertained myself by taking pictures while riding.

At this rate, I figure I will finish in 7 hrs. Ugh. I passed Gary's parked truck, wishing I knew how to hotwire a car. Oh great, I hear a rider behind me. It was Gary! He had made a wrong turn, Doh!

This was a godsend. I'm comfortable riding with Gary and we don't have to make small talk "getting to know each other". We pedal along in silence, happy to share the suffering between us.

Romping through the colorful weeds before the singletrack descent on Pinhoti.

The only bright spot of the day came with the descent on Pinhoti #2. This singletrack sweeps along beautifully down 3 miles of bliss. I think I even smiled once.

We reached the sag stop. Thanks to our generous volunteers, Kit and Mary, we were able to refill with water and down some food.

I'm glad I wasn't alone at this point, otherwise, I would have thought I was hallucinating. Raja, Gary, and I proceeded to pedal past more than 15 covered wagons pulled by horses. In between the wagons were packs of horses and riders. There were over 50, I kid you not! No doubt, we're in North Georgia.

We continued on towards the climb up 68 with the lovely scent of horse poop encouraging us along. I had to stop and rinse off some of the remains before I went mad.

Gary pulled away on the long climb, while Raja and I fell into separate rhythms. At the overlook we saw another odd sight. A monster tow truck retrieving a stolen car that had been pushed off the cliff. This day was getting more bizarre by the moment.

At least it was a beautiful day. Too bad there was no time to enjoy the view.

Mary seemed to be enjoying herself much more than I was. She inspired me to get back on the bike and get 'er done. We were so close, and yet so far away.

The long climb up to Potato Patch was made in silent separate paces; Mary, Raja, and me, each in our own little worlds. Then it was a left turn back across the forest service road up top in pursuit of Windy Gap.

I was stunned to see Gary on the last climb. Once again, he was my godsend, inspiring me to stay focused.

We complained and whined our way to the Windy Gap trailhead. Oh joy of joys, we made it!!!!!!!!!!!! I was grinning from ear to ear.

I knew I would not be able to stay with Gary for long on Windy, but that was okay. This was the final stretch. The baby head rock garden section seemed worse than usual and I had to stop a couple of times. Crap.

Then the best part, the long whoop-d-doo descent section. It seems like 10 miles, but I think it's only 3 or 4 miles. The great thing is it is all downhill, screaming downhill.

It's over, I survived! All that counts to me is roll time (never mind I was out there for 6 hrs), and my roll time was 5 1/2 hrs. 45 miles and 7,000' climbing. Felt like 10,000'.

Team W.O.T should be dubbed Team W.O.W.!

Caesar and Brian, 2 ultra fast, ultra cool guys!

The only fun part of the day (besides Pinhoti #2) is hanging out with the other crazy cyclists that smoked my rear end. These guys are top expert racers, and they treat me like I've just won the Tour de France. No smack talk and bragging. Just laid back hanging and chillin'. Mountain bikers are so cool. You'd never in a million years experience this with roadies.

Every year I do this I swear it is my last. So for the record, "I'm not doing this next year!"
At least I burned enough calories to negate the guilt of eating an entire chocolate bar; one of the 80+ chocolate bars we brought back from Italy:)
There you have it....Suffering........for the sake of chocolate! Mmmmmmm, Chhhooooocccooollaaaaaate.


Anonymous said...

Hey Polly,Great Write Up! Enjoyed the day of suffering & horse poo. Nice day for a ride. Today is a good day to ride the couch. Awesome, lets do it again soon.

al. said...

I enjoyed reading this, thanks for the write up. Want to do it again in 2 weeks?


namrita o'dea said...

Glad you got your yearly day of suffering in. 5 1/2 hours is not bad!!! Nice work.

Chocolate instead of a shot of Firewater??? Not bad! ;)

James Bigler said...

You know you loved every minute of it. You are an addict just like the rest of us.

Mark D. said...

Great write up and pictures(as usual)
Maybe one of these days Ill actually be able to join in on the fun.