There was a point today when I thought, "I think that I used to be able to climb."
Of course, that's like "I used to be handsome," or "I was popular in college," or other stupid misconceptions that time gives us. Then you show an old picture to somebody and they don't recognize you and say, "Wow! Who's the dork?" Or you run into an old friend from college and get to talking and they point out that, no, you weren't popular then. Nor were you considered handsome by anybody other than your mother.
So, maybe I never could climb. Either way, I sure as hell can't do it very well now.
We started with great weather this morning -- just cool enough for light arm warmers. Mark Frank, who designed the Quadzilla routes, briefed us all. He gave us one last warning that there were hills, and tough descents, but beautiful scenery.
He kind of undersold it, but there was no way that he couldn't. There just aren't words in any language to cover it.
I stuck with my Nashville friends, Vida Greer and Mary Beth Chawan, for most of the route. It was good to catch up with them and talk about past rides and future plans.
Everything was great for the initial couple of long climbs and going through the first control. The roads were good and the views truly spectacular as we rode through vineyards and farmland. Each of the finger lakes that we went past were full of boats and people enjoying the incredible weather and a summer vacation. This was my first time up this way, and I can see why it is so popular.
Marcia Swan had set up a secret control following one long climb, and everyone hung out and ate a sandwich. I laid down on the hillside for a while -- my back was not used to this much climbing -- and watched the clouds go by. The sun felt warm on my skin, and life was good.
For the time being.
About 80 miles in, we bore left and started up a road that I have since learned is called "Bully Hill." I shifted down to the granny gear and settled in to climb it slowly, when suddenly my right leg cramped in the quadriceps and abductor. I immediately stood up and forced the legs to keep going, and after a minute the cramp subsided.
But it had come once, and I know from experience that meant that it would come again.
We all stopped at the top of the hill to get a picture of the lake below, and I told Vida and Mary Beth that my leg was cramping and I would be slower for a while. The key to ultracycling is to ride your own ride, so I told them to go on and not wait for me.
I caught up to Mary Beth and Vida at a store about 10 miles later, and got a jar of dill pickle chips along with more Gatorade. Quickly eating half of the chips and drinking the juice, I headed out with everyone to the start of the next big hill, then waved them all goodbye. I continued to take it easy for the next 15 miles of rolling country, and even saw some windmills on a ridge.
Along this stretch I passed through Naples ... but not my Naples.
By the time I got to the last control, everything seemed okay again and I was ready to resume a more brisk pace. Vida and Mary Beth were there with a few other riders, and I left with them and Mark to do the last nine miles to Canandaigua.
I felt pretty good when I got to the hotel, but I felt even better after a hot shower and washing out my kit. By the time we all finished a huge dinner of cheap Mexican food, I felt ready to take on the world.
Hopefully, that will be enough to take on the next 200K. Mark says that it's the toughest of the routes. I'll let you know tomorrow.