Friday, May 1, 2009
The Century (and the blog post) that Lasted A Millennium and Other Blah
"This challenging century will take you through the peaceful but steep hills of west-central Massachusetts for a tour of quaint New England hilltop towns to the southeast of the mighty Quabbin Reservoir."
Sounds awesome, huh?
Looks gorgeous, doesn't it?
Tell that to my quads. They weren't too happy by about mile 60--and about 10,000 feet of climbing into the ride. Lest you think I'm kidding around about the 10K feet--please know, I'm not. The ride was roughly 12,500 ft of climbing in total. Beautiful? Yes, in parts. Quaint? Yes, in parts. Steep hills, yes--the whole fucking way.
Last weekend the hub. and I left the kids with my in-laws and embarked on this century. We got up early, headed to McDonald's for some Egg McMuffin Magic (I know, I know. You need to cut me a little slack. I just lurv the Egg McMuffin for a special pre-century treat...) Anyway, we headed west and arrived in the quaint town of Rutland. There was a huge, and I mean huge, multi-town rummage sale going in the church yard across from where we parked. Yep, we're no longer in Boston! I made a few very un-funny jokes about the rut that people must be in living out here in rut-land.
They were nervous jokes. I was nervous. The hub is a super athletico, you must understand. Granted, I am in better shape than he is, but most of this time this really doesn't matter. I could be in the best shape of my life (which, well, I am) and he will still kick my ass. This is a man who has done a 2:40 marathon. This is a man who barely missed making it to the Olympic trials in the Steeple. This is a man who is 6 feet tall to my 5 feet 2 inches, and who has quads twice the size of mine.
So. I was a little concerned. I didn't want to hold him back. I wanted to make him proud. You know.
Andy had been a little sick--or actually a lot sick--for the week preceding our epic ride. He seemed okay this morning, though, so I wasn't worried about that. Actually, I figured that I may have a better chance of keeping pace given he was still under the weather.
(bring in the ominous clouds and music now...
sick + century = not a very good idea)
Okay. So we get on our bikes loaded up with gels and bars and water and drink and maps and tubes and phones and all that good stuff. Andy looked like a pack animal to me with his dorky stuffed camelbak. He reminded me that Joanna Zeiger had a Camelbak on when she won Worlds 70.3 last year. (Yeah, whatever. They're still dorky.)
We headed out. Beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky (or at least not an ominous one...)
We we're headed downhill. Andy was hammering away at like 35 mph and I was huffing like a seventy-year old smoker trying to keep up. And did I mention we were going downhill? And it was five minutes into our century? Oh yeah.
After 10 minutes Andy stopped, probably a mile ahead at this point, and waited for me. I tried not to give him the dirtiest look ever when I caught up. It didn't work. Dirty look and scorn were written all over me. He shrugged, and took off again.
This went on for the next two hours.
Add to this that the road was craptastic with winter ruin and the downhill turned into slow, gradual, and then sharp, and then gradual, and then sharp uphill.
I was in a shit mood.
Andy would wait for me every once in awhile and when I caught up he'd say things like, God, we need to do this more often. It's gorgeous out here. What a great road. Isn't this awesome? etc etc. etc.
Kill. me. now.
Gradually I began to hold my own. Or maybe not. Had the pace finally slowed?
And then I see Andy, up ahead, stopped.
His tube has just gone pffft. (note to the unsuspecting: metaphor alert! File this away in your memory...same category as the clouds.) Our first flat of the season.
He changes the tube, re-clinches the tire. A split second after he hits the CO2 cartridge--BAM! Second (and last) tube blows out. Our second flat of the season. This sucks. Perhaps you've been here before. We're 35 miles into the century and probably 34 miles from the car as the crow flies.
In a stroke of good luck (our last), he remembers his patch kit and fixes the first flat tube. He gets his front tire back on and after a 20-minute pause, we're back rolling. Andy starts off ahead but on the first uphill he slows down and lets me lead. I have been hanging out for those 20 minutes and I just want to GOGOGO. So I start hammering. I hammer away for like 10 minutes. Then I turn a bit to check for Andy.
I stop. I look.
I turn around and bike back in the direction from which I just came. Did he flat again?
And then I see him slowly moving up the hill.
When he gets to me he stops. He's red. He's panting. He's shaking. He's sweating.
What. is. going. on.?
This is not good.
He hadn't felt well, and had taken a hit off his inhaler. But that hadn't helped. The nice sunny day had gotten hot. It's in the upper 80's. Sweat is pouring off his face.
When did you last take Advil? I ask.
At 6 am.
It's now 11am. Okay. You need something more. Do you have any more Advil? Tylenol?
I feel his forehead. He's on fire. He admits he's a little dizzy.
We begin again. He leads. I pass. I am cautious not to move too fast.
After a bit I turn to see if he's okay.
I see him slowly moving up the hill.
I wait for him to catch up.
Okay, he's more than a little dizzy--he has completely crashed and has nothing left. He is struggling to go 15mph on the flat. We. are. fucked. We're about halfway through this century and it seems like we have 80 miles to go.
We get to the Quabbin Reservoir. Heat is shimmering off the lake. Andy removes his helmet and I note he's still shaking and sweating. Salt is caked down his face, his arms, his back. I touch his arm and his skin is burning hot. He takes another hit off his inhaler.
I wonder if he'd kill me if I call an ambulance. What if he has pneumonia? What if this is a recurrence of the pericarditis he had a few years back? (That would be swelling around the heart--and yep, it's very serious.)
We take off our shoes and sit down to discuss what to do. We have 50 miles to go. It's already 1 pm. We started at 9:30 a.m. You do the math.
We decide to cool it for a bit--take in some liquids, re-fuel with a peanut butter sandwich.
We sit and look at the resovoir. On any other day I'd think it was beautiful.
After a half hour we start up again. Five minutes into starting Andy is still a wreck. We are crawling up a large, two mile hill, and he is struggling. I wait for him and we stop.
He tells me that I need to go on, finish up the ride, but that he is going to use his Blackberry to GoogleMap the fastest, shortest way back to the car. He is going to take his time and try to make it, and he will call me if he needs me.
what to do. what to do. what to do.
Would a good wife stay with him and guide him home? Would a good wife understand that he can't stand hours more of his wife waiting for him with pity in her eyes? Would a good wife insist on calling an ambulance--or the police maybe to escort him back to the car?
what to do. what to do. what to do.
Finally I just let him go. He is adamant that it's the best way.
I'm so worried about him and whether he'll make it back that I fail to contemplate that fact that I have no Blackberry, no real map, and very little liquid left because I have been relying on Andy's dorky CamelBak to refuel?
Didn't think about those things. Go me.
Within 20 minutes I am completely lost. I have climbed a fucking mountain, I am now in a labyrinth of a neighborhood, and I am close to tears. I see a woman walking and I nearly attack her in my panic. She looks at my pathetic map and says, "Honey, this map is not going to get you back to Rutland. It's just not. And furthermore, honey, it will be nightfall by the time you make it back there. Rutland is 45 miles away!" (Note here that non-bikers fail to realize that you can go 45 miles in few hours.) She helps me find my way down the mountain and to a main route. I call Andy on my cell and tell him I'm taking the main route back to the car. Century. be. damned.
I start hauling ass as best as I can. I'm out of drink. I'm tired. My quads are spent, I have 45 miles to go and it's 3:30 p.m. Every huge long hill I hit I curse. I curse a lot, because the whole fucking ride is uphill. Ten miles to the end I see a biker walking his bike up the road. Could it be? Is that?
Oh my God.
Andy. I catch up to him, stop. His back tire is totally blown out. Our third flat of the season. He's been walking for the last mile and a half.
This has been one stellar day. The only good thing is that I can finally get some drink. I chug from that stupid Camelbak.
We plan that I will haul back to the car, get the car and come to pick him up. He will walk up to the tiny country store his Blackberry indicates is up the street.
I move on. I am spent. I am grouchy. I am parched. I am hot. It is all uphill. It is 4:30. A bridge is closed and I have to backtrack a mile to get around it. I've been on the bike for over seven hours, but only ridden 90 miles. Finally I make it back to the car, which is baking in the sun. The yard sale is now long done. It's quiet in the church yard. I throw my bike in the car, and root around the back trying to find some water. I find a half full bottle. The water is so warm I can barely swallow it. I blast the AC and head back to get Andy, who is dusty, sweaty, sick as a dog, and sitting on the old porch of the old country store, drinking a root beer.
Start time: 9:30 a.m.
Actually time spent riding: 6 hours
Finish time: 5:20 p.m.
Time spent out there: 8 hours
Mileage: 96 miles
Elevation: 12,655 feet of climbing
T-Run: Didn't happen
Mood: Elated. ThankGod the nightmare is finally over.
Time to have a beer!
(Bet you never thought it would. Neither did I.)