Tuesday, August 28, 2007
LiveSTRONG 2007: Part II
The next twelve miles are an all-out suffer-fest. I have done the math in my head, and I know I must make it to mile 32 before 11.30 or I will be redirected to the 70 mile course. That means an average of 16 miles per hour. For the next 45 minutes. Over the hilliest terrain I have yet faced. I make up my mind to give everything I have to make the cutoff.
The first climb is tough, right out of the refueling area. I grit my teeth and go. I rise, passing people who are walking their bikes up the hill. I think about Pat, and hope that he gets the nerve to face the hill, and that he finds the strength to conquer it. I come to the split, where Pat will take a left to go back to the finish. The volunteer cheers out, "40-Left! 70-Right!"
"HUNDRED!" I shout back to him.
"Hundred?" He sounds surprised. "To the Right! GO!!!"
I reach the top of the hill and then I am flying down the back side. I know I must make time, so I am pushing the limits of speed. I glance at my odometer: 41.5 miles per hour. I can do this. I can do this. I WILL do this.
I am hurting, my legs are burning. I hear the JP Fitness Crew for Team Fish in my mind: "You've got no quit in you." It was my mantra for a triathlon, the one that got me through. I look down again. 30 miles. I am getting close. It's after 11.00. Then, I see the road, the split, the volunteers. I cross over into the hundred-mile course at 11.18--twelve minutes to spare. The volunteers again seem surprised.
"He's going for it!" one of them shouts, and another adds the French cycling cheer, "ALLEZ!"
I am thrashed and trashed...but I have made the cutoff! I pedal a mile up the road to the refueling station. I learn later that Pat decided to face "The Hill" and that he made it all the way up, without stopping or putting his feet down. He said later, "Rob. I just made up my mind that I was going to make it up that hill, or I was going to pedal until I lost all of my momentum and fell over in a ditch." TEAM FISH PWNS YOUR FACE!
MILES 32-60...THE LONELY ROAD
When I make the turn to go onto the Hundred-Mile Course, I know that almost the entire ride group is ahead of me. I also know what this means: No drafting, no camaraderie, no easy pedaling. I resign myself to a long, lonely pedal. To my surprise, there is a small group of cyclists still in the fueling station. I quickly hook up with them and they help me through the next ten miles, but it is becoming apparent that I have not taken on enough food. At the next rest stop, they refuel quickly, but I need carbs, salt, electrolytes. I can feel the beginnings of cramps on the insides of my quadriceps. I need to take care of this now, but the station does not have any GU left, my fuel of choice. I take in Gatorade and Captain's Wafers with peanut butter. I feel better.
I leave this station, and again the cramps begin in my legs. I ignore it as long as possible. Finally, I reach a point where they are so bad I cannot straighten my leg on the pedal-down-stroke. I grind to a halt at the edge of the road. I cannot go on. I can't straighten my legs past 90 degrees. I am sucking down Gatorade. Then, I feel it hit my legs--I can straighten again, slowly, but it's there. I look back and there is a woman walking her bike up the hill. I wait for her, and ask if I can walk with her.
I learn her name is Melissa, and she is from Oregon. She traveled east to go to school in Boston, where she is studying to be a nurse. We get back on our bikes, coast downhill for a bit and then I give her a BUTN and wish her Godspeed. I am feeling better, and I am off again.
I am also alone again. I look at my odometer and see I have passed 50 miles. I have a private conversation with my cancer. It is, paradoxically, both a low point and a high point for my ride.
When I look up, the mile 55 hill is in front of me, rising over 500 feet almost straight up, or so it seems. I slip down into my low gear and just start spinning up. I pick out landmarks and just resolve to make it to the next leaf....that stick...the rock...again, it hurts. And then, I hear...my phone? There is no way I can answer it. But I know who it is. It's Mrs. Fish and Little Fish, and they're calling to spur me on. I make up my mind to own this little chunk of hill. A guy passes me going the opposite direction in a SAG wagon: "Dude! There's a party at the top of the hill!"
I find myself thinking of the Road Bike Review part of Team Fish--how they would handle the hill, the heat, the adversity. They'd buckle down and get the job done, probably with "a Corgi and like that." I dig deep and find it. I can hear RBR laughing as I jolt up the hill.
I reach the top of the hill and there is....A PARTY! People are eating hotdogs (I think I would toss 'em if I ate 'em), drinking homemade sports drink, and...what's this? Chicken and rice soup? You'd think it would be gross, as hot as it is, but it is salty, carb-laden, and easy on the stomach. I have three cups of it. Again, they have no GU, a trend that is becoming just a little alarming as I am down to my last three. I hear a guy asking about them, because he has none. I give him one of mine. Surely one of the next aid stations will have more...right? I now have two.