Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Challenge Accepted

Apparently, if something scares me, I can be talked into it pretty darn easily.

Readers of this intermittent rambling might remember my little Waimea Canyon trip, or perhaps the daring (some say stuuupid) attempt at Triple Bypass 2007.
I swear that the write up of that event is coming!!! I swear!
Two of my best friends, ZenLC and Tiff, had agreed to do the Stove Prairie 200k. A brevet held by the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club.
I was invited to join them, but with TBP 2008 and my first trip to Europe on the schedule for this year, it was out of the question.
Let's not get into how I didn't think I'd be ready for a 200k ride by then. (and seemed to think that I'd be ready for that same distance, but at 'altitude' only two short months later)

I like to think of myself as rather independent. Certainly I try to be, but there are some groups that I very much want to be a part of. One group is the jokingly coined Team One Degree. They're doing a 200k on May 3rd, then dammit I want to too! So, with surprisingly little though at all, I agreed to do an empathy ride. ZenLC and Tiff would ride in CO, and I would ride here in the land of rainbows.

One of these days.. I will hesitate long enough to give some of these leaps a bit more thought. There are three main factors that let me chose this empathy ride.

  1. ZenLC and Tiff were doing it. (yes, I know this is a really lame reason.. but I explained it above)
  2. I was afraid of it.
  3. It would serve as a great benchmark for my training.
I didn't claim that there was much rational to it.

I did a fair amount of procrastinating regarding this ride. It culminated in choosing the route the night before, working out my nutrition (Hammer Nutrition ROCKS!), and not really getting to sleep until ~ 1pm. (Cranky comments about support edited).

Ride day. May 3rd 2008
I woke up late. Not rested. Nervous. Anxious. Reptilian brain looking for excuses to not ride. I had lay out my cycling clothes, bib shorts, Metallica ...And Justice For All Jersey, Metallica socks, Heart Rate Monitor chest strap. My Camelbak Pack was filled with everything sans the bladder. Which was filled in short order, ice and water.
Out the door, on the bike. And can you believe it? I remembered my helmet this time! I never cease to amaze myself.

First hiccup of the day. I had tested a rechargeable back up battery with my Garmin 305. Worked wonderfully. The problem is that I had not cleared it, which I think you can only do on a computer. So, I'm in full bike geek outfit, silly shoes and all. I'm already running late. I recite a line from Risky Business, and clip in. I'll figure it out.
While riding away from the house I reset the lap counter, and that seemed to at least give me the current ride time and distance. Should work. Fingers Crossed.

I previously called this post an 'attempt' at 200k, because I had serious doubts that I could pull off such a leap. There's a rule that prattled about a bit in cycling that goes like this:

"For an event, you can ride one-third farther than your longest training ride"
Ok. All good. Here's the rub. My longest training ride was 54 miles. This means that the longest I should be able to do, more or less, for an event is ~72 miles. This is a bit of a problem. I was attempting something in the magnitude of two and a quarter times my longest training ride.
Not a brilliant move. I have come to realize that I have no idea what my limits are. I don't know what I'm capable of, until I fail. And that only shows that I had a limit for that thing, at that time. Certainly doesn't mean that I won't be able to do that thing sometime in the future.

I set out on my favorite non recumbent bike, Kathleen. We talked for a bit. Me about my doubts and fears, her about how she thinks her chain rings are bent and that she needs a good scrubbing. She's a great listener. Though she seems to only want to talk about cycling and travel. NEVER bring up the existence of any other of my bikes with her.

We set out on a familiar path, the training ride from Ewa Beach to Haleiwa. Five miles of flats on a nice bike path, then rolling 6-8% for the next five miles. Nothing too challenging, but a nice workout. I knew that if I was going to survive this silly idea of a ride, that I would have to be conservative in my riding. No jumping up out of the saddle to sprint-climb the shorter hills. Nice even pace. Eye on the Heart Rate Monitor. Slow and steady.
The reward for climbing up to Wahiawa is the decent from Wahiawa to Haleiwa. Very nice 6%. Quite easy to hit speeds of 40 M.P.H.
Once into Haleiwa, I stopped at the park and topped off the water and switched from Hammer Gel to Perpetuem and Sustained Energy.

  • If you are into any long distance exercise and have not tried Hammer Nutrition, you will be in for a treat. Message me. I know a guy that can get you 15% off your first order.
My nutrition plan, worked out thought trial and error, and confirmed with a call to Hammer was simple and fool proof. Two of my favorite things.
  1. Hours one and two Hammer Gel every 30 minutes
  2. Hours three+ Sustained Energy or Perpetuem, every 20 minutes from a one-hour bottle
  3. Endurolytes (capsule) every hour
  4. Plain H2O, as much as I could drink. (recurring pee tests to validate)
Ok, for those of you that are not familiar with endurance sports, there might be some details that you just don't want to know.

Back to the ride.
Instead of heading out of Haleiwa and taking a right, back the way I'd come, I take a left and venture out to roads untraveled. That has a much more romantic sound to it than the reality of I only had a vague idea where I was going.
I've put in roughly two hours and about 41km. I have a long way to go. A few miles up the road I spot, on the opposite side, the Haleiwa Bike Path. Having heard of it, but never ridden, I figure now is a good time as any. After riding and waiting for traffic to break, I jaunt across the road. There's a small break in the trees and a little gully to ride through. Down and up, I pop out the other side to find my gearing too high and the pine needle covered and too deep. In slow motion I cease forward movement and pitch like an over loaded sailboat, to the right. I'm pretty sure I was laughing before I hit the ground, and quite certain that I was howling in simple mined glee after. The elderly man on the beach cruiser and the lady performing yoga asanas either did not hear me, or chose to ignore me.

Undeterred and only slightly covered in sand and pine needles, I rode the Bike Path just long enough to realize that it is very bumpy and has stop signs every 100 ft. Not good for what I wanted to accomplish. Back to the road for me.

Yet further down the road, I see in my rear view mirror, a small pace line chasing me down. Now, it needs to be stated that I have never considered myself a fast rider, and doubt that I will every be fast. They are pleasant and cheerful as they pass me. Instinctively, I hop on to the back of the pace line, making sure to keep a safe distance behind. I don't know these guys. I ride with them, ignoring my goal of a nice steady pace. I'm a dog, and they are the rabbits. It's instinct. I look down and see my heart rate is way to high for this long of a ride and drop of the back, painfully watching them pull away.

Not a mile up the road, they hit a rough spot and someones back light commits suicide. The scatter like ducks at the sounds of a gun. All form and line is gone. I roll past the light. It's broken and shattered. Before this day is out, I think that I too might be like that light. Half of them pull off to the side and wait as the other half rides the wrong way, towards me. I pass both groups, and keep rolling. They'll catch up, no doubt.

Catch up they do, though it took them much longer than I expected.
Many miles of mountains to the right, and ocean to the left, I see that group pulled off to the side. I'm not ready for break but stop and chat anyway. This is the spot where they split up. Some head back to complete a 40 mile route. Others push on to some named, but unknown to me, landmark to make an 80 mile route. When the question comes to me, about my ride, I am greeted, quite to my pleasure, with trout mouths and deer eyes. Yes, fellow cyclists, I am throwing myself to the wind and attempting to ride farther than any sane person would.
I leave them in that state. Looking at my little tires, back to me, back to the little tires. They are so cute when they can't compute. I roll on.

I've done something on this ride that I'm not sure about.
I have music (Good damn music!) in an ear bud in my right ear. It was a tough decision. The idea of being fully aware of the cars and just everything around me, is very appealing. I counter that thought with that fact that most times, I have song stuck in my head for an entire ride. This started on my first Imperial Century, and seems to happen when I ride for more than a few hours. That kind of repeat rate can kill even your favorite song. The iPod Shuffle and headphones are small, so if I didn't like it, I could just stow it and move along. Turns out, it was a life saver. Gave my mind just enough to think about to keep me sane. So far.

I don't see my cycling friends. They don't pass me again. Maybe they didn't take the same route? Kidding, there is only one way around this side of the island. The road along the North Shore of Oahu is, all things considered, not bad. Decent shoulder, though there's always room for improvement. "On The Road Again" comes up in the play-list on my Shuffle. Nope, not that version, the Me First & The Gimme Gimmes version. I ride for a few minutes, singing and laughing. That's followed up by St. Anger from Metallica. When I reach Kawela Bay, I stop and take a picture, and as I'm doing so two of the pace line zip past. That is officially the last time I see them.

I ride through Kahuku, and pass the fresh corn stands. The road slips under my 20" wheels, mile after mile. Though I'm alone on this ride, I am not alone. I have friends with me. Some are suffering, as I am, but have that physical presence as company. I do not. I ride for hours with only myself to talk to. My friends are with me though. That's one of the great things about friends, they are always with you, always cheering you on. Thinking of the friends that are cheering me on as I attempt this, my legs gain renewed vitality. I relax, and the ride gets easier. My speed picks up. My load is lightened. The trick is to remember that they're there.
With this new lightness, I ride many miles and many hours. Pleasantly. Just a nice little bike ride around the island. Nothing difficult or arduous. 90% of everything is mental, the other 1/2 is heart.

I don't remember riding through Lai'e. Off over the ocean, the storm clouds are gathering and waiting. They know that I have no place to hide; no escape route planned. Those clouds, like angry children, seem to be gathering the courage to attack me.
Kahuku passes so quickly that by the time I decide not to call Anton, I'm past Kahuku and in to Punalu'u. Ka'a'awa, oh how I love that name, is a small blip as my pedals circle and the rock keeps flowing.

As I enter Kaneohe, it begins to rain. The grumpy children are attacking. Thick heavy drops that pop and thud on my silver helmet. Pounding out peal of war drums. Announcing their arrival. When the those clouds let loose, my visibility drops, and I'm worried about my electronics. GPS, iPod, front and rear lights, cell phone. The temperature so far has been in the high 70's. The rain drops the temp considerably, enough for me to actually feel cold. Yes, I know. I live in the land of warmth. I don't know cold, like my poor impoverished mainland bike friends do. You see, the rider (me in this case) is moving through the air, creating a windchill factor. I do know the difference between OHMYFLYINGSPAGHETTIMONSTERIT'SFINGCOLD, and "brrrrr" it's kinda chilly. This was the later. I tell you of this cold, so I can tell you about the sensation of riding through the puddles. The warm Hawai'i sun lends it's heat to the asphalt, and the puddles absorb this heat. The puddles reach 80 plus degrees in no time. It feels like riding through puddles of pee. Yes, this is what I think about on rides. Zen, I can empathize with getting peed on now. Another benefit of long rides. The simplest of things can be eternally amusing. It's raining, I'm cruising through puddles of warm pee and laughing like a little kid. There' something very primal in my make up regarding bikes and puddles. Something pure.

When the rain becomes to much, and my vision and visibility are too hindered, Kathleen and I take a quick turn to into the empty parking lot. I ride up the walkway and take shelter in the small roof over the store's entrance. On cue, the rain dwindles to a mere drop. No respite for me. Riding away from my impromptu shelter, I realize that it was a mortuary or a headstone engraver. Not a great omen. I've ridden quite strong so far, any my mood is very high. Omens be damned. More miles and more puddles.

This road that I'm traveling is along the edges of the island, drawing near, then away of the beaches. Nice views, lots of sand. Sand that is now being kicked up by my tires and tossed all over the place. Kathleen is filthy. Road grime. When I reach the half way mark, read :62.5 miles, I look for a nice place to stop and make some phone calls. At the bus stop, I park Kathleen and take off my helmet and CamelBak. Look over at Kathleen. She is covered in road grime. Sand and mud. Small globules of sand drip from the seat bag and, my reserve water bottle. I have to wipe the grit off my hands on the inside of my jersey so I can keep my camera clean. I take a few photos while I try to catch my breath before I make my calls.

After my calls, I begin to realize that what I've said on those calls is actually true. I've got this ride in the bag. Barring a mechanical, I'm as good as done! Today, this very day, I will ride farther than I ever have. Today, is one of those moments. Pushing my limits. Finding that most are imaginary, or at the very least temporary.
Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them. - Orison Swett Marden

A lot of the remaining ride is the same as the return half of the Honolulu Century Ride, so I was familiar with the roads and conditions. Kathleen was not, but I assured her that there was nothing too bad ahead. Few small climbs, some rough asphalt.

Toward the end of Kaneohe, I managed to find a very very rough section of road. The mini-pump I bring with me managed to bounce to the side and the hose part was flopping around. Not wanting to break myrhythm , I tried to right this wayward pump while riding on. What I did manage to do, was run over a golf ball. While leaning forward. With only one hand on the bars. Considering how wide the shoulder was at that point, and that I was steering with one hand, I'm quite impressed that I managed to hit it. (Pretending that it was intentional).

Kaneohe lends itself to Kailua. Kailua, being one of the higher end neighborhoods on the island, you would assume that the drivers there would be of the more educated type. I have found, and did find again, that this is not true. "I'm on a bicycle you moron, I really can't speed up to much more. Go around." No amount of 'waving them around' seemed to get the message across. When the finally pass, I get nasty looks. Screw 'em.

I manage to get through Kailua with out an incident. Waimanalo does not have much in the way of cycle safe roads, so I stick to the side roads. Overdue for a pit stop, I 'check my hydration levels'. Seems good. I missed my turn in Waimanalo, so just tooled around on some back streets looking for the school that was supposed to be my next refueling stop. Never found it. I know the main road for this area, but not much else. I had plenty of food and water ready for to get to the next three possible stops.

The next stop ends up being Makapu'u. I'm getting tired. Filling the water bottles and CamelBak bladder are now tiresome chores.
Reminder: Cycling shoes and public bathroom floors are a very slippery combination. I didn't actually fall, but I have no idea how I managed to stay vertical. The ocean is a remarkable combination of every color of blue.

After a brief climb, I'm rewarded with a nice straight decent heading twords Sandy Beach. Nearly 40MPH. Seems so much faster on a bike than it does in a car. Cars Suck.

Before Sandy Beach, I take a right, inland. The trade winds are gone, the temperature has climbed. I try to drink more water, know that I'm sweating more now. In Hawaii Kai, a fellow cyclist passes me without saying anything. A few miles later, I pass him. He's getting up off the ground. Looks like some ass in a van passed him and then turned right. I think about stopping, but there's nothing for me to do. Aina Haina, and Kahala roll past with little to mention. The climb up the back side of Diamond Head rewards me with a breath taking view. No wonder tourists love Hawai'i.

The remainder of the ride is simple a repetition of the thought, "Heading home, heading home, heading home." The Great Sage Yogi once proclaimed that .. "Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical." I think that this is true of cycling as well.

Arrival at the ol' homestead is considerably less celebratory than I think it should be. There's no banner proclaiming my victory over the road, and myself. No fanfare. No shocked faces, incredulously in their shock and awe of my personal glory. In fact, the reaction is remarkably similar to every other ride I've done recently. There should be trumpets. People to carry me up the stairs, singing songs of my might, endurance, athletic prowess.

Now, I'm not trying to belittle the welcome that I did receive. There were congratulations and all of the normal will wishes, but it just seems out of proportion to the effort. I guess it breaks down to the reality that I really did this ride alone. No one else knows the level that I've pushed myself to, and monumental accomplishment that this was for me. The lack of celebration leaves the victory feeling incomplete. All of the effort, hours in training, late nights fretting over the route and how much and what type of food to bring. In all of the many times I visualized completing this ride, I never thought that victory would seem hollow. Don't mistake this grumbling for lack of pride in my accomplishment. There is something missing. An emptiness to the whole experience. Like a voice in the depths of my mind saying, "Yeah, now what?". The whole process is like the sound going out for the last twenty minutes of a movie. There's a whole anti-climactic overtone to the whole thing. Perhaps next time, I'll plan a party. Or share this type of event with like minds. Bike Minds.

I'm not afraid of 200 kilometers.
Triple Bypass 2008 is clearly a possible goal.

Ride Stats:
Miles: 126.85
Time on Bike: 10h 29m 44s
Start Time: 5:56am
End Time: 5:46pm
Total Time: 11h 49m 36s
Vertical Feet: 5,885
Avg. Heart Rate: 140BPM
Max Heart Rate: 174BPM
Personal Difficulty Rating (1-12): 9
(12 being the most difficult thing I've done to this point)
KCal consumed: 3,755
KCal expended: 10,051

Where do I go from here?

Where ever Kathleen takes me.

Thank you to all that believed I could do this, when even I had doubts.


Mike Busch said...

Outstanding ride report! I love your writing style, very smooth and almost lyrical in places.

We are so much alike that I often forget how much of a challenge these rides are. I automatically assume if I can do a thing, you can as well - of course, I've never been wrong in that assumption ;).

Congratulations, my friend. I promise the celebration in Avon will be much, much more satisfactory!

BlueEyedBikinBabe said...

"I have come to realize that I have no idea what my limits are. I don't know what I'm capable of, until I fail. And that only shows that I had a limit for that thing, at that time. Certainly doesn't mean that I won't be able to do that thing sometime in the future." - Absolutely beautiful!
Hot pee on the leg is "refreshing" isn't it?.?. ;)
Congrats babes! I honestly don't think I could do that alone. You are stronger than you think you are. Thank you for sharing.
- One Degree

Small Fry said...

ditto on what Zen and Tiff said...LOL

You can do ANYTHING that you set your mind to. You know that right? ;)

Sooo proud of and happy for you. :)

Remember...I'll be right by your side for TBP 2008 :)

galfromdownunder said...

Thanks for being a Bike Friday champ! you're p in lights here ...