Monday, October 8, 2012

Too Great a Ride to Feel So Bad

You've really got to hand it to professional bicycle racers at multi-day events like the Grand Tours. They not only go out and ride every day faster and longer than most of us can, but they then go out and do the same thing the very next day, and the day after that, and so on. Maybe it's because they train for it, or they're young, or they're genetically superior to us, or they have some magical substance that they rub on or inject or swallow, and then they manage to avoid WADA.

All I know for certain is that they are better at this crap than I am, or than I will ever be. And I managed to prove how much I differ from them, just this past Sunday.

You see, I was racing on a five-person team for Gran Fondo at the Gran Fondo Gran Fondo, which is a gran fondo that the Gran Fondo bicycle shop hosts out in Fly, Tennessee.

(Note: If I was in advertising, at this point I would have hit "genius" on the scale, since I just managed to use enough Gran Fondos in a single sentence that it bordered on inane ... and maybe even crossed the border and got its passport stamped.)

This is four of us -- Mark Frank was out taking the picture. You'll notice that I am the only one who did not get the memo to wear this year's blue kit.

In case you can't tell from how we're dressed, it was a little chilly at the start -- particularly for the first weekend in October in Tennessee. There was a bit of wind early on, but it eased up and the sun came out by the time we finished.

And that was all because of me.

No, I didn't make the sun come out or the wind ease up. I just managed to slow these fast folks down enough that the sun had plenty of time to break out of the clouds by the time that we finally rolled over the finish line, solidly securing our fourth-place position.

The problem was that I had let myself have fun the day before, too.

That's Jeff Bauer. He and I went down to Dunlap, TN, very early Saturday morning and rode the Sequatchie Valley Century, hosted by the Chattanooga Bicycle Club. Last time I rode this was a couple of years ago, with RandoGirl on the tandem, and it was very flat that year.

This year, it was less flat. And it was kind of wet. And very windy.

I shouldn't have gone. Or, when we got there and it was so nasty, I should have tried to talk Jeff into riding one of the shorter, flatter, routes.

But I didn't.

Here's a log cabin, and Jeff.

As you can tell from the pictures, it was still really pretty. And, obviously, we took it nice and easy on the ride (or there wouldn't be as many pictures). But it still took a toll.

Sunday morning, I felt great. The Gran Fondo course was even more beautiful than the Sequatchie route, but since I was racing I didn't take any pictures. We were mostly trying to have fun, but still be at least semi-serious, so we rode hard. I even took some long fast pulls on the early flatter sections.

But about mile 50, I needed food. I had not been drinking enough, and my legs were boiling over with lactic acid. I told our captain, Lynn Greer, "I'm getting crisp," and we eased up some. Then, we turned on Pigg Schoolhouse Road, and the pitch turned from tough to Way Too Fierce, and the cramps set in.

And I had to walk my bicycle up a hill.

On a race.


Fortunately, there were only 10 more miles to go, and I was able to spin it out before we got to the last climb of the day. I had begun to hammer again with just over a mile to go when my hamstring seized up, but was able to fight through it and we all rolled in together, looking good.

So long as nobody looked at me too closely, that is.

As a proper Gran Fondo should, this one had lots and lots of great food and alcoholic beverages, and I did partake mightily of both. Everybody sat around and swapped stories as I caught up with some folks that I had not seen in a while, and just enjoyed what was by then a sunny afternoon in one of the prettiest places on earth. I had my legs stuck out, quivering, under the table, and a full plate of Oscar's Tacos on my big round belly.

Half of my body hurt. Life was good.

I think I'll do exactly the same thing next year.

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