[This excellent write up is from our friend Larry who travels down from Colorado to do this ride. I had the pleasure of riding with him last year, but he was too fast for me this year! Another example of why this ride is so special - a great cyclist and all around great guy who rides in defiance of his diagnosis. An inspiration!]
It had everything, wind and rain, heat and hills, and miles and miles and miles of open road, a cyclist’s dream come true. I had it in my mind to do the century but I needed to find a group to ride with. Our team captain, who I rode with last year, wasn’t in for the century this year and I was afraid that on my own it would be too easy to back out, not that I would ever do that of course. But still, a group does seem to have a positive effect on will power and it always adds to the fun quotient.
I crossed the start line at the front of the pack, the desert colors radiating in all their magnificence in the crisp dry air on the morning of day 1. My plan was to look for a group that I could keep up with or maybe even lead a little and who was set on the century. I had only gone a few miles when I came across Beth, a girl I met last year and a fellow MSer no less. She was wearing the jersey, “I have MS, This is Why I Ride" so we were visibly represented. She was riding with her friend, also from last year, and I learned there wasn’t any question in their minds, they wanted the 100 miles. She invited me to join them and we got down to business right away, and stayed together for the rest of the ride. We didn’t hit every rest stop but the volunteers, the homemade banana bread and myriad of homemade cookies and all of the other tasty treats were spectacular at the ones we did hit. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, for the great volunteers who care enough to bake home made goodies and bring them to the rest stops they tend. You are the largest part of the cyclists dream come true.
|Larry (left) talking strategy with Ron.|
I have to compliment Maggie, the ride organizer or whoever laid out the century spur of the ride. It was gorgeous, the black top was flawless and in spite of the fact that it gave the impression we were descending into a hole which we would have to climb out of, that wasn’t the case. In fact, the ride back was a fabulous descent to rejoin the main route.
Beth is a marathoner and a genuine thoroughbred on a bike, however, she kept herself in check to ride with the rest of us except on a couple of the hills which she used to stretched her legs a bit. But, on the longest and steepest hill, I noticed I was actually catching up to her and had to wonder if there might be a problem. When I did catch her, I saw she was riding on a badly deflated back tire. I don’t know how far she had been riding like that but it was an 8 mile long hill and we were almost at the top, so it could have been quite a while. That’s not the first flat I’ve had experience with on that hill either, perhaps we should call that hill Tire Eater Rise. Anyway, no sooner did we pull over and I began to set about fixing the tire (I mean, it was the classic damsel in distress situation that I always try to be a sucker for) than the Support and Gear crew came along and got us on our way again, headed for the lunch stop.
At the lunch stop, it was a shot of pickle juice, a little rehydration, sandwiches made to order, more home made cookies, a quick shoulder massage, and back on the bikes for the down hill run with at least somewhat of a tail wind most of the time....until the last 10 miles.
What it is about those last 10 miles? In some demonic way the wind twists itself around until it’s blasting right on the nose. And it amplifies itself by an order of magnitude or two. It was the same last year but maybe only one order of magnitude as opposed to this year’s two. And it happens just as you start the last uphill stretch. Now, I love the wind, at least that’s what I tell myself, but this particular stretch has it’s own unavoidable idiosyncrasy which works kind of like this. At 15 miles from the finish you notice your average speed is around 15 mph and you calculate you’ve only got an hour to go. When you’re 10 miles out, you see your speed is down to 10 and you recalculate that you still have an hour to go. And with only 5 miles left, on the steepest part of the hill, still riding into the wind, you’re down to 5 miles per hour fearing you have yet another hour to go. At this point, you must summon a little faith that the finish line does exist and will eventually appear. If you can do that, you WILL be rewarded, it WILL happen. The three of us did cross the finish line together side by side not too long after that last steep little pitch but there was a moment of doubt and small test of faith to be passed there, for sure.
How do you make a great ride even better? Well...you add a beer truck of course! Yep, there it was in all it’s glory exactly where it needed to be, right at the end of the first day’s ride. The beer truck arrived soon after the last century riders crossed the finish line and about half an hour before dinner. If I wasn’t the first guy in line I was close. I’d run into Dave Bexfield, the evening’s speaker, and his wife Laura on my way across the parking lot to the tent. We both spotted the beer truck as we were saying our hello’s and automatically turned and headed in that direction. They had just finished pouring the foam off of the freshly tapped kegs as we arrived. Shortly after, Maggie and Krista materialized too. That golden nectar of hops was indeed the perfect ending to a 100+ mile day. Nice touch Maggie and Krista, and thank you John and Matt et al. for somehow making that happen. And it was great to see you again Dave and Laura, and thank you everyone, for another unforgettable Bike MS experience.
Day 2, Truchas…what can I say? Far be it from me to discourage anyone from riding up this hill so let’s just say that for the third year in a row, even I, the slowest of the slow, the worlds worst climber, made it to the top, on the bike, under my own power. And furthermore, I wasn’t DFL. In fact, I might not have been quite as hypoxic as the two previous years.
There is a segment of the Truchas hill, which can bring a cyclist to their knees, and make them weep, and it did stop me this year. I had finished the 4 or 5 eight to ten percent hills leading up to it and was starting to get pretty hot when I spotted the road's path up that massive overhang. I was grateful for the rain cloud that sprinkled lightly, cooling things down as I started to pedal up it. But, it stopped me anyway, right in the middle of the last section of that steep little pitch (with a “p”, or a “b”, choose one). Now I didn’t break down and weep but, for a minute or so, I did beg for air and strength. And while I was regaining my composure and perhaps entertaining just the slightest thought of turning around and going back down, I heard my Denver bike buddy’s voice in the back of my mind. She said quite clearly, in her take no prisoners voice, “Get your butt up the hill!”, so, I spun an elongated 360 in the middle of the road, got a little speed up and with surprising vigor and ease, peddled my way to the crest.
By the way, thanks to all of you who commented on my “I Ride With MS” jersey and gave me words of encouragement, and thanks in particular for supporting the MS cause.
In Truchas, I was presented with the traditional cyclotini, Gatorade in a martini glass with a grape this year, on a skewer. Without dismounting and after a few minutes, I topped off my water bottles, downed a chocolate covered banana and headed back down the hill.
I can’t imagine the thrill of that descent ever getting old. If I live to be 90 I’ll SAG to the top of Truchas just to re-live the trip back down. On a set of good tires and riding well maintained equipment, you can reach some mighty impressive speeds on that descent. It’s also fun to hang around the rest stop after that hill and listen to the riders talk about the speeds they hit as they came down.
In the end, I trimmed about 20 minutes off last year’s time on the first day but I added 15 to my saddle time the second day. I’ll have to think about why that might be but I already know the real test will come when I do it all again next year.
“Pedal los Pueblos”, an MS 150 ride for those who dare!