I Shall Overcome

I really didn’t think I’d be ready for an 80 mile ride by February 2nd, which was our team Natural Bridges ride. The Old La Honda Odyssey was certainly …well, less than an odyssey in length… and we all know that those miles put a decent hurtin’ on me. Ready or not, I wasn’t about to miss the ride that everyone raved about last season. Natural Bridges is a state park in Santa Cruz, right near the beach and the Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1). The ride winds through the surrounding area (gotta fit the full 80 in somewhere, right?), and is quite possibly the most scenic ride the team does each season. Or so I’d been told. I was only one week into recovery when this ride came along last summer, so I was looking forward to finding out if the actual route would live up to the hype.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. By the time we’d rolled only a few miles down Route 1, I could feel my fingers thawing; a sure sign that it would be a warm day. Early morning gray skies quickly made way for mid-morning blues, and the ocean scenery was truly a sight. I mean…its just water and sand and rocks and whatnot…but its orders of magnitude more interesting to look at than say…suburbia. There were few cars on the road, our group vibe was good, and spirits were high. For me, this lasted pretty much up through the first climb.

Not that I didn’t make it up the hill. There’s just something vaguely intimidating (and challenging) about riding up a hill for the first time. You never know which switchback is going to put you face first into a 17% grade. You have no clue really when its going to end. You could ask the coaches, but you know that they lie. The very best you can do is keep on spinning, and try and focus on anything but what you’re doing. So that’s what I did. I kept chatting until I got too tired to do much more than grunt. I glared at Coach Devan when he assured me that I was over halfway done. I cocked a (possibly unseen) eyebrow at Ron when he came back down the hill to climb it again. But I kept on spinning, and reached the summit feeling pretty wiped, and pretty hot.

I unzipped my jacket, re-GU’d up and hit the drops for the descent. Then I remembered that descents naturally make you cold (that whole increased speed bit) and wished my telekinesis powers were developed enough to re-zip my jacket while I continued on downhill. No such luck. I was cold again by the time I got to the bottom of the hill…but hey, at least the sun was still shining. It was about this time, in case you were reading just for this, that my Garmin died. Yes, died. No, I didn’t charge after the last ride. Yes, I suck. Sorry! I’ll try and do a MapMyRide using the route sheet once I find it.

The rest of the miles up until rest stop 2 were basically unevenful. It was pretty freaky riding right next to speeding beach traffic, and there was a lot of gravel and other debris on the shoulder, but overall there were no close calls and not much to speak of beyond scenery. I’m pretty sure that’s considered a good thing. Mike (aka Squirrel Killer) was working that stop, and I made sure to give him his (now monthly) does of harassment before rolling back out. Ahhh…some things never change.

And then came Stage Road. If you haven’t been reading this blog long, you might not remember Stage Road as the site of my bone-breaking accident last summer. You know, the one that put me out of commission for months, into two surgeries and through a few months of physical therapy. No, its not really all that dramatic (I mean, we have covered the “it could be worse” arguments), but I wasn’t looking forward to it. I mean, we were going to climb right by where I fell, going the exact same way. Like learning to descend again wasn’t bad enough? Still, if there’s one crappy saying that everyone has about fears, I’m pretty sure that it mentions something about needing to face them.

So that’s what I did. I downshifted, took a big breath, shed a few layers (have I mentioned what a nice day it was?), and climbed. Surprisingly, given the length of the hill, that was the easy part. And then there I was, at the summit, with Coach Devan looking at my with those sympathetic eyes (he was one of the first TNT on scene at accident time), and I very nearly burst into tears. Not that I was scared precisely. I was tired, my arm was aching, and I kept thinking of all the hours lost and things not done from falling over…and I just wasn’t sure that this was such a good idea anymore. I mean, people have sayings about skinning cats too, but I’ve never seen anyone actually do that. Maybe fear-facing is overrated! In the end, I just sucked it up and flew (at a moderate pace) downhill. I didn’t cry, didn’t fall, and didn’t breathe until I was well passed the point of impact. Didn’t skin any cats either.

And what was my reward for all that drama? Why, to climb phase two of Stage Road, of course! See, the only advantage to crashing where I did last summer was really that I got to skip the remaining phases of that hill! They don’t call it Stage Road for nothing. Or so I assume. More spinning, more climbing, a quick recharge and shoe-loosening at the top, and I was descending again. Phase two passed with no record breaking speeds, but with no major events either. Woohoo!

After all that climbing (and all that typing), you’d think the ride would be basically over, right? Wrong. I talked myself (aka my arm) into hanging in up until rest stop 3, which I’m pretty sure showed up somewhere in the 50s (maybe?). Stress and triumphs aside, this was by far the longest distance I’d ridden with gimp-arm…and I was feeling it. At some point I dropped back from the rest of the ride group with Ron; they were just climbing the rollers faster than I could keep up. Of course, they stopped for a potty break somewhere along Route 1 and we caught them again just before the stop. Seemed a bit silly to roll by them after dropping behind, but at least I didn’t hold anyone up.

The lighthouse rest stop was pretty – or so I heard. While everyone else was recharging and looking around, my mind and body were in the midst of a war. I’d barely managed to get from Stage Road to the rest stop (owie arm!), but I really wanted to complete the ride. There just weren’t that many chances left in the season to get some miles in the saddle, even assuming perfect weather from here on out. Then again, SAG truck was tempting (and so conveniently located!), and I really didn’t want to hold my teammates back. So I settled on a compromise. I’d attempt the last 20-some-odd miles with just Ron. If I rolled out and really could turn the crank again, SAG wouldn’t be far behind.

And all I can say about the last bit of the ride is…thank goodness for Ron. He did everything from chatting to keep me distracted to literally physically pushing me up miles of road to see me to the end. That man is just super nice and freakishly well balanced! He broke off at one point to help a tri-team member change a flat, but caught up with me a couple miles down the road. There were points when I physically couldn’t turn the crank over, and Ron kept my momentum heading forward. We made it back to Natural Bridges State Park more hours after we’d left than I care to count, and I’ve never been more proud. Every single fiber in me wanted to quit at least 10 times those last 25 miles…but (with help) I made it to the end. I can only imagine how excited I’m going to be to cross over the line at Solvang soon!

Motion Based ride data


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What do we have here?

An often sarcastic, occasionally humorous journal of my training adventures in preparation for the Livestrong century ride. I took up cycling back in '07 in hopes of meeting new people, and, with the help of Team in Training, making my small positive difference in the world -- and haven't stopped spinning since. Follow along as my Trek road bike and I try and hash out our differences, hopefully with me upright and in the saddle.

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