Transplant Athlete
Sunday, August 27, 2006
  The View From The Back Of The Pack

I finally got back up on that horse and joined the DC Randonneurs for a weekend ride and boy did I pick a doozy. It was officially a 127.9 mile ride and a guesstimated 10,000 feet of climbing; Chuck came up with 126 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing. Ouch. It took me 11.25 hours on the bike and I'm guessing a little over 12 hours overall to finish the ride.

The ride started at the base of the climb to Thornton Gap and no quarter was given, riders started off fast splitting the pack up early; way to early for a 128 mile ride with an excessive amount of climbing. I preferred to start easy to warm up. I spun up the climb in my granny gear at 90 rpm. Steve and Lynn had forgotten their brevet card and started late, they caught me near the top. I tried to stay with them on the descent, but they flew down at mach 1. After Thornton Gap we descended to Luray past Yogi's campground (hey boo-boo, I see a giant pic-a-nic basket).

While the cue sheet was in miles, everyone was measuring their progress by the climbs. There were 5 climbs (and descents) and the route was out and back over the same course. Edith Gap was next up, I had done it once before in the east-to-west direction during a brevet and I had done it west-to-east on a ride. It seemed easier west-to-east when I had last done it. Back then, I had been drafting Steve and Lynn and had surged ahead to catch Ed and Mary. Talking with Ed and Mary made the climb seem to be short, much shorter than it was yesterday. Edith gap has a nice view from the top.

The next climb was Edinburg Gap and that seemed like a piece of cake outbound. My average speed was hovering around 11.6 when I made my first stop at the Control Point at Bo's Interstate Shell. Steve and Lynn where there swapping tires on the tandem. They were having problems with the rear tire holding air, so they threw out the old tire and moved the used front tire to the back and put the new tire on the front. For those who don't know, you always want the best tire on the front, its a steering thing. A flat on the front makes it much harder to control the bike than a flat in the rear tire. I left them to their work and headed off to the next climb at Wolf Gap. I was still feeling good and strong at this point, but I was getting overheated, so I started dousing myself with water from the camelback. After Wolf Gap, there is a long stretch of "descent". Its down a bit, up a bit, down a bit more which allowed me to keep my average speed up.

The last climb is real gradual outbound, and culminates in an unmarked, unnamed gap with a fast twisty descent into Lost River. I had used too much water keeping myself cool on Wolf Gap and this climb and so ended up running out of water a couple miles from the Lost River General Store. Since the course was out and back, I was able to see riders on the return route, Jeff was in front followed a few minutes behind by Keith. The rest of the riders straggled by in small groups or solo. At the Lost River General Store, I had a good Turkey and Swiss Panini, Matt was a minute or so behind me and Steve and Lynn were right behind him. I don't usually eat lunch because I find it hard to digest a meal on the road, but I was alternating my food sources and figured I'd give it a shot. The first hour was Perpetuem, the next hour was Hammer Gel and then a Powerbar. Some more Perpetuem, Some more Hammer Gel and then real food at Lost River. I only had 4 Endurolytes with me, so I had to use them sparingly. I did have a bunch of Anti-Fatigue caps and used them liberally. Matt left the stop first and I left next. I got far enough up the climb that I was able to grab Steve and Lynn's wheel as they came by and I drafted them past Matt and partway up Wolf Gap. They put the hurt on up to Wolf Gap and I couldn't hang, Matt re-passed me. I could hear thunder on the other side of the mountain and I hoped it would bring a bit of rain to cool me off. I caught Matt again at the top as he hacked up a lung...What little rain fell on the descent was instantly vaporized by the hot pavement. There's a 3 mile stretch after the descent that is flat to downhill and that's when the rain hit me. Big fat cold drops. I pushed on through the rain back to the control point at Bo's Interstate Shell where I stopped for a banana, water, and Pepsi. I usually avoid caffeine, but I was getting desperate. Matt, Steve, and Lynn showed up soon after, they had taken shelter from the rain. I was able to follow Matt for about 1.5 miles after the control point, but with a stiff sidewind and two months of sitting on the couch eating donuts, I dropped back as the tandem passed. My average speed was around 11.3 mph to this point and I needed to finish before dark because I didn't have lights with me. I had roughly 4 hours to go 38 miles. The rain had stopped and now the water was misting off the pavement like a steam bath.

Edith Gap, the climb that once seemed so short with Ed and Mary to distract me, now stretched on and on. I just kept telling myself to keep the pedals ticking over and don't stop til the top. I pushed hard on the descent and then across the valley to Luray to give myself time to make the climb back up Thornton Gap. Who should I see riding out of Yogi's campground but MATT. He had stopped for some Ice Cream. I got scope locked on his rear wheel as we burned through the 5.3 mile climb to Thornton Gap. I was really suffering now and knew it was going to be a long haul to the top. I lost his wheel, but I managed to keep him mostly in sight and that made a big difference. I was praying to god the climb would end soon, but a check of my computer said several more miles to go.

Finally at the top, I plowed down the hill trying to keep as much speed as possible through the turns. I was also soft pedaling to recover a bit and I got sewing machine legs. Thats a climbing term, when you're a beginner and stuck to the rock for a period of time, the legs start to shake uncontrollably. The fix on the rock is to keep the legs moving, but that wasn't working on the bike. When I got to the finish, I leaned the bike against a sign and just laid down on the gravel driveway until the shakes passed. Liz got me some watermelon. Thanks Liz. Glenn, Tom, Chuck, Crista, Steve, Lynn, Matt, Liz and myself went out to dinner afterward.

Bottom line: I survived. It was really tough mentally, I think that'll improve a bit. The day after and I'm a bit sore in my hands, I think that's the Spenco Ironman gloves I've been using, I'll switch back to my old ones. The legs are ok, nothing an active recovery session on the bike couldn't fix. I should be able to get back the fitness that I lost, but its going to take a couple more centuries before I'm a mid-packer again, so for now I'm enjoying the view from the back of the pack.


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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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