Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Triple Bypass 2007 Ride Report (finally)

Triple Bypass 2007 Ride Report (finally)
To be a cyclist is to be a student of cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal, a town sign, a trail head, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain, there's no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment and no deep-down joy. Might as well be playing Tiddly-Winks.
-Scott Martin

To understand, to have a frame of reference, for this tale, you might want to read about my previous excursion with ZenLC.
Below is my official account of my ride and related events for the Triple Bypass Ride of 2007. Any person mentioned should be considered guilty, and a menace to society. I will pull no punches.
Perspective on the altitude that Triple Bypass event is at: The beginning, yes beginning, altitude it 2382 meters above sea level. The highest point on the 2007 Tour de France was 2642 meters on the Col du Galibier. The beginning altitude has roughly 77% of the oxygen than at sea level, where all of my training was undertaken. At the summit of the first climb, altitude 3402 meters, the oxygen is roughly 67% of sea level. In order to get oxygen, you need to breath twice as much. Yes, my friends, twice. In keeping with my love of useless trivia: this altitude, is very close to the altitude of the capital of Bolivia La Paz at 3630 meters. The highest capital city in the world. Neener. What is this sanity-forsaken ride? It's none other than the Triple Bypass ride, sponsored by Team Evergreen. 10,310 ft of climbing over 120 miles. On a bike. In one day. I am well aware that this amount of altitude, not to mention distance, falls far beyond what a normal human can comprehend. I often find myself in the company of atypical humans. In fact I find them more interesting. Two of those friends will be the co-stars of this little drama. Triple Bypass is a monumental bike ride by nearly any one's standards. You may already be questioning my sanity by committing to such a ride. Question away. I have. The following should clear up any doubts you have about my mental stability: A little cycling history:
YearTotal MilesLongest RideNotables
200356875.2First Metric Century
20041070100.2First Imperial Century
20051330101Second Imperial Century (Waimea Canyon)
200611813Not a typo.

While training for this ride, I did the following: 45 Rides, both indoor on the *Vomitron and outdoors for a total of 1187 miles.

*Vomitron [vom-eh-Tron] noun. Loving nickname (coined by Tiff) for an indoor resistance trainer. It's like breathing real hard and watching paint dry. But less fun.

I burned an estimated 90,879 calories and climbed over 48,000 vertical feet. I lost 14 lbs.
I also spent a nice chunk of change with Walter at
The result of Walter's patience and expertise and a few hours building bikes for cash yielded Kathleen. A 2007 BikeFriday New World Tourist. All the advantages of a touring bike, but in 20 minutes it packs into an suitcase. I love this bike. If you travel and take your bike with you, you need to talk to Walter. Tell him Maarburg sent you. Or ping me and I'll get you in touch with him.
Fast forward to the week of the ride:
Location: Colorado, ZenLC's House

Thursday before Triple Bypass (TBP)
The training ride was quite discouraging... The altitude seemed to be a bigger problem than I'd expected. ZenLC (the evil bastard that he is) is so used to riding with no oxygen, that he was his normal chipper self. Tiff, seemed to have lungs to spare and at one point took off. ZenLC dropped back to me and we rode with amusement about how Tiff had no idea where she was or where she was going, and when she would look back and see that we were a few hundred meters behind her. Tiff is like that. Strong, independent, focused. She did look back, then slowed and allowed us to catch up.
I spent 55 out of 73 minutes in oxygen debt. Oxygen debt, if you're unfamiliar with the term is that intense burning feeling that occurs when you're pushing hard and need more oxygen than your body can process. Similar to suffocation, but takes longer. If ever there was a bad juju, this was bad juju. Bad juju indeed.

Friday: Today's training ride seemed to be a bit better overall; we rode faster and it seemed a little easier at the same time. I was still little discouraged, but there really was nothing that I could do. I'd trained how I'd trained and my nutrition was what is was. All there was to do was to ride my ride, and try not to ride anyone else's. That's what they say, ride your ride. No way in hell that I was going to back out.

The night before The Ride.
This was it. The single most difficult thing I have ever attempted. (So far.) I should feel nervous. Butterflies in the belly and all that. I didn't. I might not be normal. I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
ZenLC and Tiff were sitting on the floor in between ZenLC's living room and family room. The are going over gear, double checking, triple checking. Taking things out of bags and putting them back in, only to take them out again. And put them back in. I have introduced ZenLC's most excellent and exceptional son, Kevin, to a classic game, NetHack. If you've never played it, you do not qualify for a Geek Card. Period. (I mention that Kevin is an excellent child, and there's a reason: ZenLC and his wife are excellent parents. I bring this up, simply for the fact that there is so infrequently a time in which I can.) Kevin and I are playing NetHack and ZenLC and Tiff are packing for the Big Ride. It dawns on me after a good half hour that "Holy Crow, I should be packing too!!". I finish the game with Kevin and gather my Big Ride gear.
Ten minutes. Done. Shouldn't that have taken longer? I mean, this is a serious ride. This is the ride of rides. The Epic. There's no room to kludge this up by forgetting, my helmet or something.
By the way... I have done that. I've ridden away from the house without my helmet. Turned around went back and donned the melon cap, only to have to turn around and ride back to get my CamelBak that has all my food and water.
Suddenly, I feel anxious. Very Anxious. I pause and gather my nerves, there is little use for fight or flight feelings now. (I'll get to use that reflex tomorrow) The nerves that I'd expect for an event of this level, just seemed to have passed by. The bikes and gear go into Tiff and Mr. Tiff's van.
Note to self; Let Tiff pack her own damn van. Period. Laughing didn't help. And was potentially painful. Possibly fatal. I mark that up to a lucky escape.

Strangely enough, my attempts at sleep were taken by other worries in my life.. and very little was spent thinking about the ride. Saturday. Ride Day. Everything had been taken care of the night before. All that was left was to get to the event start, and ride. Or is that 'get to the ride and start'? Who cares. I'm here. I'm doing this! The trip up is gorgeous. I spent most of the time looking out the window at the spectacle that is Colorado, and thinking about the last crazy thing that ZenLC talked me into, and listening to "Up" music.
"You can't hurt me (NO)
You can't stop me (NO)
You can't beat me (NO)
You can't bring me DOWN!!"
"If I hadn't made me, I would of been made somehow..
If I hadn't assembled myself, I would've fallen apart by now.
If I hadn't made me, I'd be more inclined to bow.
Powers that be, would have swallowed me up
But that's more then I can allow. (But)
If you let them make you, they'll make you Paper-Mache;
At a distance you're strong, Until the wind comes.."
"I need you to trust who I’m gonna be
And in everything I’m going to do
Cause I’m not afraid of what I don’t know
For understanding is all that I earn
But what is for sure is I’m going to go
I’m going to live and I’m going to learn"

I think long and hard about what I'm going to do. How it's not the body that gives up. How growth all stems from adversity. I know that I've not put in the hours into training or taken my weight down to where it needs to be to do well on this ride. I know that right now, sitting in the Tiff-Mobile on the way to this ride with two of my most trusted friends, I can throw in the towel and they will not think less of me. They'll argue against it, they'll be disappointed, but they'll let me bow out. I guess that I am scared. There is nothing that is making me do this. I choose this. I want this. Even though, when I look at it objectively, I have serious doubts about my ability to pull this off. I need this. Like I need air, I need to throw myself at this with everything. I can't wait. I may succeed, I may fail, but there is no chance to succeed with out the attempt.
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
-Theodore Roosevelt
You tell'um Teddy!

When we get to the parking area, I can feel the electricity pulling my hair straight out from your head. I B-line immediately for the loo. Looks like I've hydrated sufficiently. The line was about fifteen Spandex clad cyclists long and both sided of the loo were being treated as unisex. One line. Tiff joins me in line. Never the patient one, after a few moments she says "Screw this. I gotta go.", and heads off past the line. She walks around back to take care of business. One of the cyclists at the front of the line said to the equally matching spandex clad rider next to him, "That's my kinda girl." The guy in front of me in line just looked back at me and raised his eyebrows, presumably in admiration. Or fear? It's hard to tell. Was he looking for approval? Comfort? Camaraderie? Who knows. A short moment later, Tiff walks out from behind the bathrooms and heads back to the van. When the guy in front of me gets into the bathroom, I could hear him calling Earl. Repeatedly. Not a good way to start a ride. Ever. I feel for him. I try to remember what he looks like. To see if I see him on the ride. I don't.

The air is thin and crisp, though I'll find out soon enough just how damn thin the air is. ZenLC and Tiff look ready. I don't feel the weight of this ride just yet. I'm too calm. I'm too relaxed. Shouldn't I be freaking out right now? Calling Earl? I'm going to try to ride 120 miles over three mountain passes on a folding bike that I took out of a suitcase four days ago. Getting prepped, I had the distinct feeling that I was missing something. I had a mental checklist. Too bad sanity wasn't on that list. You won't believe how many times I checked to see if I had my helmet on. Believe it or not, I don't care, I ran through my checklist a few times; Shoes, helmet, socks, tights, Wuss Switch in "off" position, shorts, helmet, jersey, jacket, helmet, bike, brakes hooked up, ditty bag with tools, pump, bottles with fuel, Camelbak with H2O, PayDay bars, Perpetuem, HammerGel. Check helmet again. Check Wuss Switch.
The phrase, "you could feel the tension in the air" is used and abused. But true. Zen seemed calm. I thought to myself, "Be like ZenLC, be like ZenLC..." Oooohhmmmm. Tiff, on the other hand was jazzed. I could tell that she was nervous, but excited. We ate bananas while standing next to the back of the Tiff-Mobile. Banana peels go into the Crocs. Um, don't ask. I'm not even sure I understand at this point. Everything is in order. Everything in it's place.
Pose for photos.
We are off. Meaning that we're riding.. not just that we're not well. I will leave that as exercise for the reader. We cycle along side other cyclist. Each has paid over $100 to have the privilege to be here. To ride together. We loop around a pond littered with goose poop. The image of my skinny front tire dodging flattened globs of goose goo stays with me. I don't want to start this ride with goose goo on me. The road turns upward, but gradually and evenly. It will be this way for many miles. Uphill. Make that up-mountain. Hills are what they have where I live. They have something else entirely here. I'm tempted to ride at the pace that Tiff and ZenLC are going, but I know better. They are both in better shape. Stronger. More disciplined. I ride my ride. My pace. I pass very few people. A group of ten or so riders, all with Texas state flag jerseys are bunched up on the side of the road. Waiting for another Texan or fixing a flat? I don't know. The road turn up, just a bit more. Four to six percent grade. Nothing serious, nothing to laugh at either.
After about 40 minutes I see Tiff and ZenLC on the side of the road. Pee break. I hydrate the foliage. What a supreme joy it is to be male. We head off again. The miles pass slowly. Tiff and ZenLC are far ahead. Team Texas passes me. A lot of people pass me. I can't ride any faster without pushing to far and too hard. My heart is running at around 160 beats per minute. Too fast and too early. I have to go to the bathroom. The non side of the road type. Mile seven, there's a faux flat. Small respite. I gear up and make up some time. I pass a handful of riders.

This ride has been what I've been waiting for. The anvil that I have thrown myself upon. My head as begun to pound a steady beat like the rotation of my pedals. I pull off to the side and take a picture. More riders pass me. Twenty minutes later, I pull over again. Is that...? Holy Crow, that a ski lift. The top of a ski-lift. Ouchie. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. This first ascent is around sixteen miles long. Goose goo to rest stop loo. I stop a total of eight times, taking pictures at most. I spend a great deal of time looking at the Heart Rate Monitor mounted to the handlebars. I'm watching my heart rate. It's too high. I'm venturing too quickly into oxygen debt. The headache grows. My desire, or need, to find a porta-poty increases. Uncomfortably. My stomach is protesting almost as much as my lungs. And my head. I need the rest stop. Sooner the better. There are riders near me, riding about the same pace. When the pace quickens a bit, I realize that the first rest stop it just up ahead. Woot! One massive leg killing, lung torturing mountain done. From 7,819 ft to 11,162 in 3 hours and 40 minutes. 4% average grade. Damn, sure felt like more. I'm late. I look for Mr. Tiff, but he's not there. I'm running way behind. Now, where is that honeybucket?

I head straight for the first PortaPotty in a line of about 30. It's a banana. Note to self. Either chew better, or avoid bananas before epic rides. I needed to refill my shake bottle. I top off the Camelbak with water, and realize that I do not have any fuel to refill my shake bottle with. It's in the Tiff-Mobile. As long as I find Mr. Tiff at the bottom of this hill, I'll be ok. I grab some oranges and a cookie and hop back on the bike.

The descent is awesome. The ride organizers posted these silly signs "Slow! Sharp Corner" in black on neon green cardboard. I drop my speed to 20 mph around the first corner. And keep looking for the Sharp Corner they warned against. I take the next few corners at similar speeds and then give up. I fly the rest of them, taking some at 30mph plus. I pass 15 or so riders on the way down. One of them, a guy wearing the day's jersey, already, is wobbly and unsteady. I ride on the far side of the road, the opposite road edge, when I pass him. I don't want to hit this guy and end both of our days. "Yeah, I was doing ok until this ass on a freak-bike slammed into me." or "I was doing ok until this poser in the TBP 2007 Jersey wobbled out in front of me."

One of the guys I pass near the bottom of the descent has taken issue with me passing him. He chases, then passes, then slows to catch his breath. We play leapfrog for three miles. My speed does not change. I'm tired, but I have found a rhythm, it is a quartet of my legs lungs and throbbing head. My stomach has settled down and I sip water almost constantly. One major climb is behind me. Fishing around in my pack, I find a Payday bar. Yup, sugar and nuts. This one, this particular bar, looks like it's been on a few rides with me. The white wrapper is no longer crisp, it's not like paper. It's been through a lot. The bar itself is smooched and flatter than it was when it left the store. I tear open the package with my teeth and can smell the pea-nutty goodness. Now here's the magic of this particular candy bar. It keeps. Try this with a snickers and it would be a nasty gooey mess. Now the Payday bar. Now that's a perfect candy bar. Not too sweet, with a nice touch of salt. High glycemic sugars for that instant pick me up, and the lower glycemic sugars for a little longer energy.

Down in Idaho Springs, I find Mr. Tiff and the Tiff-Mobile of goodies. He says that Tiff and ZenLC have just left. They waited for me. Striping off my tights and jacket with the zip off sleeves, I grab my spare shake bottle and a third of the food I have left and I hit the road. I make this pit stop quick, hoping to catch them, delusionally. Though I no longer have the sense of mind to realize that even if I can catch them, I won't be able to hang with them. Back on the bike, I try to pace myself. Content with the fact that Tiff and Zen, even if I were to catch them, are too fast for me. Details of the ride seem to fade from this point. I do remember volunteers at intersections waving me through. My heart rate monitor was my guide. I had to try to keep it below Zone 5, or I'd be toast for sure. There seems to be a bit more oxygen here in this valley, and I make good time. Good time, considering that my body has definitely thrown in the towel. No matter how deep I try to draw breathe, I only seem to get my lungs half full. The deeper I try to breath, the more intense the desire to cough. The altitude has had more of an effect on me than I had feared it would. Good thing I brought my attitude.

For a brief time, I rode with a dude from Minnesota. I think he was wearing the ride Jersey already. I hope he finished. I don't think he did though. We chatted, and rode. I don't recall what we talked about.

A few miles up the road, when I was ready for a break, I saw a cyclist talking to a civilian. I stopped near them. She was the support crew and he was a UMCA rider, not doing the Triple Bypass Ride. Just out for a brevet. Folded up in my jersey pocket was the Planet Ultra Motto. I showed it to them and we all had a nice laugh. I wasn't really concerned about the pain. My head still hurt, and my legs were getting numb, but it was the inability to maintain any speed. I was not getting enough O2. My lungs could not get enough oxygen into my blood to fuel my legs. I didn't know how to fix that. All I could do was ride on. They wished me good luck, and I mounted my bike again, and set off.

From this point on, I'm very unsure of the sequence of events. Memory and reality and altitude sickness blur all lines. I see an old train that passes over the bike path, and wind through a park. Riding along side the highway, I see no riders in front of me, and no riders behind. I've lost track of how much or how little fuel I'm eating. I ride alone for what seems like along time. There seems to be only one way to go, so I'm not concerned about getting lost. I have begun to stop frequently. This ride, all of the training, has come down this battle between my brain and the mountains of Colorado. I have nothing left. Every thought is boiled down, distilled into a zen-like meditation of slowly turning over the pedals. There is a solace in this. My concerns about Escheria Coli's ability to adapt to modern antibiotics and the crushing effect of the Earths dwindling petroleum supplies are gone. My goals for life, now absent from my mind. All that exists is my bike, this small patch of asphalt in front of me and the throbbing of my head. A sensible person would stop. For, perhaps, the tenth time I check to make sure the "Wussy Switch" is in the off position. No sense trying to do this with the Wuss switch engaged.

A fellow rider catches up to me. bmclaughlin807. BMC looked like his was out enjoying a nice little jaunt on his bike. He slowed up his pace and rode with me. We chatted, but I have no recollection about what. I do remember that he and his wife had come down with some stomach bug. Funny, he didn't seem to be hurting. I'm jealous of him. Not in the evil-want-to-hurt-him way, but in the idolize way. BMC, to me is a very strong example of the type of person that I seem to find in the cycling world. Mellow, confident, friendly, intelligent, caring.. . Caveat: he could also be an axe murderer, I have no idea. Read the above description of my separation with reality. BMC rode with me to the Georgetown feed station.

Georgetown, or a lake. I'm not sure. I meet up with Tiff and ZenLC, and feel much better about things in general. I don't want to walk. I don't want to see Kathleen ever again. I want this nightmare to be over. On the other hand, I don't like to give up. And I can walk. If I can walk, it means I can ride. If I can ride, then I will. I don't want to let ZenLC and Tiff down. I don't want to remember this ride as something that I gave up on. I think ZenLC talked me into pouring water on my head. I don't remember. Sounds like something that he would do. It's possible that I chow down on a bunch of oranges. I'm not sure. I remember laying down in the gravel and grass beside the Tiff-Mobile, and figuring out how much I had left in me. Not much. Not sure how long I lay there, but I gathered the mindset to head off to the Loveland feed station.

I guess, at some point, I got back on the bike and headed out. I don't recall leaving the Georgetown feed station.

I'm alone again.
One of the official SAG vans stops a few hundred feet ahead. When I get there, the ask if I need a ride. I tell them that I don't, and I'm just going to try to get to the Loveland station. On the other side of the van, three large Big Horn Sheep trot down from the hillside. I blink a few times, not trusting that I'm see that large of an animal less than twenty yards away. While talking to these nice people that want me to give up, I try desperately to not look at the sheep. Partially because I don't believe that the are there, and partially because if I ask about them, they might not let me continue on. I eventually pointed and offered a questioning look, and the lady offered, "Big Horns, they've lost their fear of humans.", and proceed to inform me that I'm the last rider. I must have seemed at least a little coherent, because the let me ride. It took a good 20 minutes for me to process that last bit of information about me being the....Last Rider On Course.

Further up the road, I ride off the road into the gravel and unceremoniously fall off my bike. Not really a crash, as my forward momentum was too low. Nothing seems broken on the bike, so it's back out on the road. I'm crawling now. There is nothing left in the tank. I crash again, but manage to unclip and catch myself against a tree. I don't remember when I've eaten last, or had water. I rest by that tree for awhile, unsure why I'm doing this at all. The Perpetuem tastes really good, but the water doesn't. I ponder why I'm pressing on and pushing myself. I must have found an answer, for I climbed back on my bike, and started up the road again.
If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
My legs are weak, my lungs are dried out, and my head is throbbing. I ride with my head hung down, staring at the road right ahead of me. Occasionally I look at the road ahead, then back down at the road right ahead my front tire. This continues for about three days. When I look up again, I see, not a Big Horn Sheep, but a Lion. Lounging on the opposite side of the road. I lower my head, thinking how strange. My oxygen starved brain finally processes that image and I jerk my head up. The Lion is gone. Or never was. I'm not sure. I saw Big Horn Sheep less than ten meters away, so why not an African Lion? (Because you're in Colorado you eeediot!) Wildly looking on both sides of the road, I ride up to where the Lion was. He's nowhere to be found. I'm nervous. I have either had a tremendously vivid hallucination, or I have the potential to be Lion chow. Neither option is comforting. Actually, both are slightly disturbing. I weigh the options over in my head and decide that the hallucination option is most likely, but not ruling out the possibility of a Lion.

Glancing in all directions I ride nonstop, and a faster pace than I have in the last hour or so to an intersection. Flight of Fight syndrome to the rescue. I'm far enough from the Lion sighting to feel a little safer. The course of the ride crosses over a freeway and continues along the freeway all the way to the Loveland feed station. I have enough functioning brain power to realize that the two (or was it three) crashes and the possible hallucination are not positive signs for me riding near fast moving traffic.

I throw in the towel and call Mr. Tiff. I've run myself down to the core. I'm not disappointed. I'm not frustrated. I'm not proud. I'm not even afraid of the Lion. I'm empty.

Mr. Tiff says he's on his way to get me in a bit and I plop down by a tree and finish my fuel and water. I remember calling my wife. She's disappointed for me, which works just fine as I can't drum up the energy feel anything at all. I try to sound positive, but am rather numb, and still freaked about the Lion. The SAG van from earlier spots me and picks me up. I call Mr. Tiff and let him know that I'm on my way to the aid station. I wasn't that far away.

Final Ride Stats:
Elevation gain 6,390ft
Overall grade: 7%
Max grade: 11.2%
Start Elevation 7,819ft
Max Elevation 11,162ft
Average speed 7mph.
Maximum Speed 41.3mph
Distance: 51.57 miles
Climbing Distance: 21.02 miles
Max Hart Rate: 172 BPM
Time in Zone 5 : 1:00:27.... way more than my training.

When I get dropped off, I get the pleasure of walking my bike across the gravel parking lot that is the Loveland Aid Station to the Tiff-mobile. I don't recall if ZenLC and Tiff were there already, but I think they were. Curious about my own sanity, I ask ZenLC if Lions are indigenous to Colorado. Surely he'd know, or know if there was some recent zoo-break. Calmly, he informs me that Mountain type are, but not the African variety that I've seen. Ok, it was a hallucination. That doesn't make me feel any better.

Tiff is frustrated, I can't process what about. I sit in the front seat of the Tiff-Mobile, talking with Mr.Tiff, fading in and out of consciousness. ZenLC and Tiff are in side by side HoneyBuckets holding a conversation. It not until the next day that I realize how funny that is.

At one point the conversation focuses on Tiff's hydration levels. By the side of the Tiff-mobile, Tiff drops shorts and pees, allowing ZenLC and Mr. Tiff to check. She's hydrated. Even so, I avoid taking any of the Gatorade or water, leaving that for these two brave friends that are going to continue on.

Tiff and ZenLC head out again. I ride shotgun in the Tiff-Mobile. I'm sure Mr.Tiff an I talked, but I'll be damned if I know about what.

Mr.Tiff and I wait at the Frisco feed station for ZenLC and Tiff. Mrs. Zen and Kevin show up. I try to be chipper and happy. All I want to do is pass out.

Tiff and ZenLC ride up. I cheer. I'm proud of them. I can't manage to be proud of myself, but I'm very proud of them. I try to be cheerful, but can't seem to muster the energy.

I'm delirious. We went for food. Pizza, I think. I remember wanting a beer, but deciding that I didn't want to be carried back to the Tiff-Mobile Triply Bypass 2007 was an anvil upon which I had lay my being. Each pedal stroke, a strike of the hammer. It was too much for me. No excuses. It was more than I could endure.

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. -Sidney J. Harris

Am I stronger now, for this year? Have I put in the training I need to survive this ordeal. And yes, the big question; why the hell would I try again... Next time....because it is AViciousCycle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what a douche.