Monday, June 8, 2009

A Nice Big Slice of Humble Pie.

Longest ride to date kicks my butt.

I haven't been riding enough lately. This is evidenced by my lack of interesting posts regarding rides, and by my devastating loss last month in the Frost Mileage Challenge. Knowing that I have to get back in the habit of logging some serious miles, I saw an opportunity this weekend and took it. We were trying to organize a ride this weekend, but it was hard getting everyone together. I was on the phone with Chad, who already had ridden a ton this weekend, and couldn't ride on Sunday, but thought it would be nice to get together Sunday evening for some grilling. Nothing closes out a weekend like some beer and brats.

I got off the phone excited about the brats, but bummed that no ride would take place. Then a light bulb went off in my head. I could ride down to his house, about 60 miles away, Becky could then meet me there, we all laugh and enjoy chowing on charred meat, have some beverages and then throw my bike in the trunk and drive home, stuffed and very pleased with myself. The crown jewel of this plan, was that it would be a surprise to Chad, and seeing his face when I pull up to the BBQ on my bike would be priceless. It was a good plan.

Then the phone rang again. It was Todd wondering what my ride plans for the weekend were. Well, I told him, and he said alright, let me talk to the wife and I call you back. I was a little surprised that he wanted to tag along, but I was psyched that things seemed to be coming together. A couple minutes later, he called back and it was on. We just needed to plan a route and settle on a time. Here is the route we came up with and we planned to meet up around 1:00.

As you can tell by the elevation chart, the first half of this ride was a grind. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The beginning of my eating of humble pie, started only 4 tenths of a mile away from home. My first flat. Can you believe it, not even a mile from home and my rear tire blows out. There was some glass in the road and it didn't agree with my tire. Not to fear. Todd had a tube and a CO2 inflater so we would be on our way in no time. Or would we? Todd pinched the new tube with a tire lever when trying to put it on so the new tube wouldn't hold air either. Doh. Back to the house. I had to do the walk of shame almost a half mile in cycling shoes, where we could patch the tube and pump it back up. We managed to do this, but agreed that a stop at Pedal Power on our way through Middletown to pick up a couple new tubes and more CO2 was a good idea.

We were finally on the road around two o'clock and things went better this second try. We made it to the bike shop, picked up the supplies and kept riding. We crossed the Connecticut River over the Portland Bridge which was pretty cool, nice view from up there. After that, the next nice part of the ride would be about 2 hours away. Once we turned onto Route 16 after Portland, we were slapped in the face with some serious climbing. Turns out, I've never really climbed before. I mean, I've done some hills, and I thought that with Chad a couple weeks ago we were doing serious hills, but no, that was all just chump change compared to these seemingly endless hills. As you can tell from the elevation chart, around mile 20 there was a hill that was about 2 miles long with most of the climb being steeper than a 6% grade. One word...Painful. I don't know how this stacks up to real climbs that real cyclists make, but to me, this was outrageous. Literally, this was one of those "I think I can" hills. No joke, I was telling myself, like I was the little engine that could, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." Brutal and yes, humbling. I made it up these hills and once we got to Colchester the ride got more enjoyable, but the damage was done as we would come to find out later.

In Colchester we stopped at a gas station and got some drinks and regrouped. We got back on the road, and took Norwich Ave. all the way into Norwich. This was clearly the best part of the ride. It was flatter, less traffic, and we had just stopped and were felling better. Plus as we passed from town to town, we were getting a positive sense that we were making headway and that this would all be over soon. Also, arriving in Norwich was a morale boost as that was the unofficial start of Southeastern CT, which our final destination was a part of. The closer we got, the better it seemed although there were a couple things left that would take me down a peg.

From Norwich we rolled through Preston, then into my hometown, Ledyard. Being that it was my hometown, I knew that there were a couple more hills that would challenge us for sure. The first, Route 117, not only challenged beat us. The destruction of our legs earlier in the ride, finally reared it's head about 3/4 of the way up 117. Todd had passed me and was out in front. I was barely getting the pedals around and had to put a foot down. Simultaneously, Todd had a momentary pause in his pedal stroke, which on a hill like this is impossible to recover from and he too put a foot down. He looked back at me, and I think without saying anything, we both stepped off our bikes and started walking. Like I said, humble pie. I had never had to walk it before, and I wasn't liking it, but I felt like I had no choice, my legs simply wouldn't turn the pedals when I asked them to. We made it to the top of the hill on foot, and paused to regroup.

The only silver lining to a butt whooping like this, is that we always had something to talk about. How much this ride sucked. I'm pretty sure that Todd wished that he had never called me the day before.

Back in the saddle, we continued on, and by this point we were pretty close. A couple smaller, but still tough hills passed by slowly, and soon we were rolling up to the stoplight about a half mile from Chad's house. Enter my last bite of humble pie. I was coming up to this intersection, totally spent. This was at the bottom of one final hill that takes us up to Chad's house, and it was a flashing red light that crosses a highway. I'm not sure if it was all of this weighing on my mind, coupled with my sheer exhaustion, or what, but I had a momentary lapse of focus, and before I knew it, I had slowed down and was off balance but still clipped into my pedals.

I tipped right over.

I had heard that this happens to everyone sooner or later, but I had gotten used to these pedals so quickly and never had any problems before that I never thought it would happen to me. Well it did, and to make it a little bit better, Todd (again) had a front row seat for the fall, along with a car full, yes 4 passengers, of teenagers pulling up to the same intersection. Luckily it was warm out so their windows were down, allowing me the pleasure of hearing their laughs and chuckles. It brings a smile to my face as I write. I wasn't really hurt save a scuffed knee and wrist, but the hardest part was yet to come. How the heck do you unclip while laying on the ground? Somehow I got my right foot out, brought it over the bike and somehow managed to stand myself and the bike up with my left foot still clipped in. Todd, politely told the teens that they could go ahead. There was a break in the traffic, we got across and fought the final hill between us and brats. Actually, the last hill wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be compared to the monsters we climbed earlier, so we finally pulled into Chad's driveway about 4 hours after we left mine.

We were quickly greeted by my two nephews who immediately wanted to play in the backyard, not really comprehending that Uncle Clay was about to pass out, and was just happy to be alive at this point. Some brats and a shower did me good. I was feeling better an hour or so later, but one thing is for certain, I have a lot of training to do if I'm going to survive to 100 Mile LIVESTRONG challenge.

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