Monday, June 9, 2008

Century Ride II

Stage 5: Avon
Pulling out of rest stop #4, our route took us northeast (finally a tailwind!!!) on generally flat to gentle rolling hills up to the town of Avon. Scenery to the east was generally plowed farmland, but looking over the valley we had just climbed out of to the west was gorgeous. I felt a brief sprinkle for a minute or two before the clouds cleared up and the sun came down. At first it was pretty. Then it was just plain hot.

I noticed in this stage of the ride, although I was consciously taking it easy on the bike, I was still passing quite a few riders. A few were century riders, but it appears many of them were on the metric century route. On the downhills, even without pedaling, my bike seemed faster than many others (without any drafting), and knowing how much farther I had to go, I certainly wasn't going to put on my brakes on the downhill portions of rolling hills. I continued to throw in some on-bike stretches as time allowed, and pedaled softly on the downhills to keep my legs moving. Although my stomach was a bit queasy, overall this was one of the nicest stretches of the ride, which I attribute strongly to the tailwind.

Stage 5 concluded with a relatively steep but short climb into the town of Avon, where rest stop #5 waited in a firehall at the town circle. As I pulled around the circle, a ride volunteer was standing out front cheering the cyclists on, which lifted my spirits as I pulled in with fairly dead legs after the climb. I used the restroom, refilled the Camelbak, and ate a banana. Unfortunately, the rest stop was out of Gatorade, and I drank most of the two bottles I carried during the last stretch. Guess I was running on water alone for the next stage. I also was led to understand that they had lunch for those doing the century at this rest stop, but either I completely missed it or they'd taken it back inside by the time I arrived. Stretched my legs again, started on the shot blocks and a single Gel packet, munched on some GORP for the salt, and thanked the designated "cheerer" before pulling out back onto the road.

Stage 6: Eastward Bound
Leaving Avon, we had a gentle climb out of the village before the road flattened out for a couple miles. I found myself passing a few folks, but basically keeping up with a group of 6-8 cyclists all in team jerseys who really looked like they knew what they were doing. The heat was really starting to take its toll, and I was down to a bare maintenance energy level (knew I had to keep eating, as any delays or skips would have me bonking). Following these guys for a while was fun, until I saw them go straight through an intersection which had a sign pointing to the right (south) for the century riders.

Gut check time. Having lost Target early, I'd lost quite a bit of time, and continuing on would require me to keep up a speed on the order of 15 mph to get to the finish in time. I could certainly follow the metric route from here on in without having to push my pace, and that'd be a lot safer, especially in this heat. Grudgingly, however, I turned south to continue the century route, hoping the SAG (Support and GeAR) wagons would patrol this part of the route as well, as I began to worry that perhaps this ride was beyond my current capabilities.

As I turned south, I was further disheartened to see a very wide, busy road (Route 15), that appeared to go on and on forever. I knew from studying the map previously that I would reach the lake (and the next rest stop) in 5-6 miles, but the open plain, strong headwind, strong sun, and humid conditions just sapped the life out of you. After a mile or two it didn't help that I began to see many of the century riders coming up the OTHER side of the road, having already completed the added extended century loop. I was pushing the clock, and they were 30+ miles ahead of me. I was going to be very upset if I pushed to do the century, got mighty close, and was pulled off the course due to the enforced time limit. I even began to start thinking up plans of how I could do laps around the neighborhood at home to get in any last miles if I got pulled off the course.

About the time I'd thoroughly disgusted myself with all my whining, I realized that not finishing wasn't an option. I had people counting on me, expecting me to do this, and there was no way I was going to let them down. Friends I'd see at the post-event picnic. Family both riding other routes and keeping me in their thoughts and prayers from a distance. Target, who was so excited for the ride but had to bail out early because his leg gave out -- how could I face him with a bail out when my legs were still working?

So, I started singing the Finding Nemo song in my head "just keep swimming--- just keep swimming..." until I made it to Lakeville at the north end of Lake Conesus and another rest stop.

This rest stop was jam packed with riders, although I believe many of them were on their way OUT of Lakeville as opposed to in. I saw one rider I knew from a local bike club ride I'd done previously, who was having his pulse taken by an EMT, and the grass in front of the firehall was littered with bodies taking short naps or just resting their eyes for a few moments. As tempting as it was to join them, I was on the clock. Quick trip to the restroom, another banana, and another water refill. Uh-oh, no Gatorade. Already knowing I was in the high probability arena for cramps, just drinking straight water for ANOTHER stage didn't seem like a good thing at all. I ate another gel pak, finished the shot blocks, and got back on the bike. No time to loiter!

Stage 7: East Side of Conesus Lake

Started down the east side of Conesus Lake on a fairly narrow two-lane road with minimal shoulder, not helped by the popularity of the lake leading to many cars parked on the very edge of the road, and many pickup trucks pulling large boats in trailers. I didn't feel unsafe, but by all means this was a stretch that required strong attention to the surroundings and continual re-evaluation of bail-out points in case something did go wrong. The wind off the lake (with minimal blockage) was a mixed blessing -- the breeze was slightly cooler than I'd been used to, but once again, I was headed south INTO the wind.

The lake seemed to go on for quite some time, but there were a few cyclists in my same vicinity that would stick within a couple miles of each other the rest of the way. I was starting to fade again toward the end of the stage, so managed to suck the wheel of another rider for the last mile or two into the rest stop. By now the nauseous feeling was getting stronger, and I could readily tell that drinking just water was not the answer. I needed something with some salt and electrolytes.

Made it to the rest stop to find more water and some very helpful people, as well as some half strength Gatorade. Refilled my bottles, ate another half banana, Gel-Pak, and some GORP, ran to the restroom, and came out just in time to see the strong winds pull the entire tent out of the ground and blow it into a group of arriving cyclists. No injuries, and with all the talk about whether it was possible to finish in time, I didn't stick around to see the aftermath. Hopped back on the back and headed north up the west side of the lake.

Stage 8: West Side of Conesus Lake

Heading back up the lake on the west side, traffic was much lighter, the road had a better shoulder, and congestion was much lighter in general. The heat was really starting to affect me now, as I was sweating profusely, but couldn't seem to absorb the water and Gatorade I was taking in quickly enough. This was also the first time I started noticing that my heart rate was peaking out much lower than it usually does. Typically I try to keep my HR in the 140-165 range, but going up hills and in tougher areas will see it spike into the 180s. Currently, it appeared my HR was capped at around 150. Not sure what that meant, just found it interesting.

Still feeling a bit queasy, the hills to the west of the road blocked much of the wind for the first part of the stack, which certainly upped my spirits. Now I was really leaning on my friends and family for support from a mental perspective, especially toward the end of the stage which involved a fairly long (but relatively low grade) climb. As I crested the top, a pair of cyclists passed me, noting that the descent into the next rest stop was fun. Unfortunately, we'd lost the hills to the west, and even though I was headed basically northeast, the wind appeared to have shifted to the west, making the descent relatively slow. I took the opportunity to rest my legs and stretch them on the bike, which brought me back into Lakeville at rest stop #8 (same as rest stop #6). Still no Gatorade, and quite a few folks at the rest stop, including seeing some folks just starting around the lake loop. There were quite a few riders significantly behind me!

This rest stop marked mile #78, and my legs were feeling like cramps were coming on again. They did have potato chips out at this stop. I grabbed a bag and tried to eat a few, but they were too crispy and hurt my throat. Instead, I settled for licking the salt off a couple (gross, I know, but effective), then went back to my GORP, another banana, and a Gel Pak. I really had hoped to have time to lay back and take 15-20 minutes to recharge here under a shady tree, but time was getting really tight. It was just after 2 p.m., I had 22 miles to go, and I was seriously worried about leg cramps coming up hills slowing me down. I called my support group (as I'd promised to do near mile #80) to appraise them of my status, then headed back north. Of course, up a hill.

Stage 9: Back on the Beaten Path
Heading north up the same road I had come down as I started my loop around the lake, it was still hot, humid, and windy, but at least some component of the wind was from the south, although it didn't feel like it was giving me much help. I made it up the gentle grade away from the lake, but following one or two steeper rolling hills, my whole body seized up in a cramp halfway up the climbing side. I started to feel it coming and was able to unclip and get myself off the side of the road (JUST before a major highway intersection) while both my calves, both quads, my left hamstring, and even my TRICEPS cramped up all at once. Not good. I'd learned during my training how to baby a calf or a quad and keep going, but this full body cramp was new, and I was short on time.

I tried to stretch out my left leg, but if I straightened it to stretch out the calf, my quad or hamstring would cramp. Try the opposite, and the calf would cramp. So, I just sat there in between positions for a minute, downed as much fluid as I could stomach, and though my stomach was too queasy to eat solid food, I licked the salt off the peanuts in my GORP pack. A couple minutes later I was able to stand. I walked the remaining 50 feet to the top of the hill, then not knowing what else to do, I hopped back on the bike, put 'er in granny gear, and VERY gingerly continued north, trying to do some on-bike leg stretches anywhere I could coast.

At this point, I was so close I could almost feel it. No more heading directly into the wind, relatively flat ride to the next rest stop, and I knew stage 10 had quite a few more trees for shade. But just about any output of power in my legs beyond a VERY easy spin threw my legs into cramps. Nothing to do but keep trying, so I started singing the 'just keep swimming' song to myself, along with a silent prayer or two asking if He could just help keep me from another serious cramp for the last 20 miles, I'd find the strength to keep spinning the pedals.

I made it back to the Route 15 turnoff without further incident, then turned east toward the next rest stop. Unfortunately, there were one or two reasonably-sized hills in the way. I made it up the first one, but less than halfway up the second I could feel my leg starting to seize again. I hopped off the bike on the run, and walked the bike up the hill, taking long strides to stretch out while I kept moving. Couldn't afford to sit and stretch, time was running out. Got to the top of the hill and coasted down the other side, and with some light pedaling while drafting a couple of other riders I'd managed to catch up to (how in the world did THAT happen???), pulled into the final rest stop. Went straight to the restroom, splashed some water on my face (the mirror in the rest room did not paint a pretty picture of my condition), came out, ate a half a banana, and went to refill on liquids. Once again, only water. I split what little Gatorade I had left in one bottle across the two, and refilled them the rest of the way with water. You do what you can. I also refilled the Camelbak to about 30 ounces to last me through the end of the ride, and pulled out right behind a fella I'd been talking to and roughly hanging with over the last 30 miles.

Stage 10: Homeward Bound
By this point, my new buddy and I were both pretty spent. He mentioned he'd done a metric two years ago, and last year did the century after training for months, but this year was trying to do the century without any specific training. Needless to say, he was having trouble with cramping to. Going up the first hill I saw him pulled over on the side, asked if he was OK, and said yes, just cramps. So I continued on another couple hundred feet before I felt that evil little twinge and hopped off the bike again and did my little walk/stretch routine to the top.

We joined up again within the next mile or so, and he offered me a packet of an orange/vanilla flavored gel that was carb full and supposedly had quite a bit of sodium. I graciously accepted (my first time passing food and eating on the bike at the same time) and we continued on through a small village as he talked about the motivational signs he'd seen the previous year on the home stretch. Signs that said things like "You Can Do It," "Don't Give Up," and "Victory is a State of Mind." When he stated that he'd kicked one of them over as he walked up the last hill the previous year, I couldn't help but laugh, and both our spirits picked up as we knew we were going to make it, although we were both glancing nervously at our watches.

Another mile or two up the road he cramped again going up a hill, and I couldn't afford to lose my momentum at this point, so I continued on with a wave, knowing I'd see him at the finish line. Made it up the hill (barely), and coasted down the other side until I was hit with a small miracle... someone had been kind enough to set up a sprinkler in the front yard, aimed directly into the street in the path of cyclists. That micro-shower felt awfully good and sure lifted my spirits. Hadn't seen any fans in quite a while, but when you're tired, sick, and desperate, you'll take what you can get for a psychological boost. One more big hill ahead, and I again made it about halfway up when the twinge told me to get off before I fell off. I did, stretch walked to the top, and was passed by a tall rider in light blue. Again, my bike proved an excellent steed as I caught up to him within a mile or so, and we stuck together for the last few miles. He stood up on the downhills to stretch, while I knew that would have been the end of my quads, so I broke my rule of "brakes are for sissies" and just tucked in behind him until we reached the park we started from.

Once in the park, I stuck with him for a while, but at about mile 98, after a few rolling hills, I took a brief 2-minute stretch break under a tree at the side of the road. I could have kept going, but knew if I went much further, when I crossed the finish line I might not have been able to stop and dismount with causing a scene. I had 20 minutes until the end of the race, plenty of time, better to take a moment and get myself right and not scare anyone.

After a moment, another swig of water, and a chorus of "just keep swimming," I was back on the bike, with the end of the ride in sight within minutes. As I pulled into the descent to the official finish, my support group was there with video cameras in hand cheering me on! No more peddling required (a good thing). I rode the brakes down the hill, stopped at the ride checkout, and promptly handed off my bike as I collapsed in the grass to breath for a minute, stretch out, and avoid throwing up. I'd done it, 100 miles!

The Aftermath

I apparently didn't look very good at the end of the ride, so an EMT came over to check on me -- he talked to me for a moment to make sure I was coherent, then left me in the capable hands of my wife and father, who helped me load up the bike in the car and we were on our way home.

Of the 10 riders in our "Beats Running" team, all had completed their rides and goals with the single exception of Target, who was forced off the course by his non-cooperative leg. Pretty great performance, given the later rumblings of 1200 riders signing up for the event, with only 700 actually finishing, and many of the experienced century riders opting out and going to the metric century.

Mrs. Beagle and her supporting crew had a great picnic lined up for our team back at the house, complete with a signature team cake! I wasn't quite up for solid foods yet, so upon returning to the house we unloaded the bike, I staggered inside, was handed a mighty cold Coors Lite, and I headed for the shower, turning on the water, laying down in the tub, and cracking open that mighty tasty can. I could only drink about half of it, but it sure tasted good to me.

Took me a little while throughout the evening to get back to solid foods, but eventually I was able to work through a hot dog and hamburger, which did wonders for improving my state. I was asleep shortly after 9 p.m., and feeling pretty darn good the next morning, if a bit tired. Went into work for a few hours (had originally taken the whole day as vacation), but was out of gas late in the morning, so I went home, took a LONG nap, and got up in the afternoon in time to get cleaned up before heading off to my night teaching job.

Came home after class, had some leftovers from the picnic for dinner, then it was upstairs to start writing this report. All is normal, first century complete, the team did an amazing job and raised more than $3500 for the American Diabetes Association.

I am truly blessed with an amazing cast of family and friends, and am very proud of their performance and support as well as my own. The century was certainly a challenge, one that I'd trained and prepared for as best as I knew how. The added complications of the heat, humidity, and wind transformed it from a challenge, however, to a test of heart and determination. Although it was mighty close, I passed (barely) -- due to the support and caring from friends as well as more than a touch of help from above. Thank you.

Sunday's 2008 Tour de Cure Century Ride in Rochester, NY was a good day.


Tom Stormcrowe and Crazylady said...

Congratulations.....I told you you could do it!

Anonymous said...

Beagle, just came across your report. Your bout with the cramps was pretty scary, but it looks like your training prepared you to deal with it. I'm thinking about a century myself later this year--your story is a good inspiration.

MissBumble said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MissBumble said...

Hi Beagle - Thank you for this great report. What an amazing ride. As a newbie - it was very powerful to hear the details as this is all new to me! Great Great Job riding in the century and finishing!

This is the second time this week I am reminded that I must see Finding Nemo. Keep Swimming Swimming!

Anonymous said...

Once again congrates on a good and very tough ride! I could almost feel the pain in your narrative. It is a testament to what one can do with prayer! It is also a good teaching tool which I will read again more than once before trying the Century in August. I attempted another metric century the day before your century but totally bonked at 44 was also a hot, humid and very windy day. The previous metric I had done in May had seemed relatively easy, but I didn't compensate for weather changes and sure did not fuel up enough before and during the ride. lessons learned I hope.

Once again, thanks for the write-up and the inspiration! Good job for the entire Beats Running team!


hndlebar said...

Congratulations on your first century. The first one is always the most memorable one. A few tips for your next century (yes you will do another) a) learn to eat REAL food on a long ride. Goops and gorps and high energy STUFF is great for short club rides (20-30 miles), but you stomach was wheezy do to lack of REAL food. Pack a couple of PBJ'S, Fig newtons also work well. b) next winter work on your calf and lower quads in the gym...great for reducing cramps. Looking forward to reading your blog after the lowlander in September. See you in Naples!!


Julie said...

Congratulations! Now I am doubly inspired to do the 100 next year.

Can you recommend a good training program?

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