Thursday, December 1, 2011

Something To Push Me

I find myself wishing I could find a cobblestone section to ride up on this climb number three of the Tri-States Gran Fondo. A section of pave on this mountain to go with this cold headwind. Something to make this last real climb a little bit harder. A little more epic. Something to push me a little bit more here in the wind and cold going up this last 7.5 miles which is climb number three. I need something else because I am comfortable and I won't push myself any harder than this against this cold headwind.

I have passed the guy with the flat at the beginning of this climb, somebody from Team Mort (again) that was going slowly uphill, various other guys that were going slower than me up the hill against the wind, the only guy with hairy legs because he was the only guy that didn't have his legs covered that looked like he was riding his wife's purple Specialized something or other, and the guy that was walking his bike up the hill and stopping about every three feet trying to stretch out a horrible, debilitating hamstring cramp and explaining it to everyone that passed by in his thick Middle Eastern accent.

I have also passed the lady with the flat that had her bike flipped up on the bars and seat on the side of the road (I felt bad for her bike) and the guy that had stopped to help her who had laid his bike down in the road and was pretty much out in the middle of the road himself almost getting run over by every car or truck that passed by. Later on I was passed by a pickup truck heading back down the hill and that must of been her husband in there, because he was asking everyone on the way down if we had seen the lady with a flat. I had also passed a few riders after checkpoint number three on the way to the u-turn left that marked the start of this climb number three back up the backside of Utah Hill to checkpoint number four, and I didn't see any of them again. I don't know if they quit or just couldn't catch back on.

All the way up this climb. pushing against this cold headwind, I have been feeling pretty good, except for the few seconds when I got passed and dropped by a couple of young women climbing the hill while down on their aero bars. As they pulled away I quickly got over my feeling of weakness as I realized that they seemed more like 110 lb men on road bikes and were only female because they were female, otherwise you couldn't tell. They were sucking on the energy gels that were taped to their top tubes and chatting casually in their man voices as they glided past. I wondered if they got a late start this morning because they were making this hill look pretty easy in this windy cold and with that in mind, it seemed they should have passed me a long time ago.

So as the wind is gusting and pushing hard against my effort to overcome gravity on my way back up this climb, I am really feeling good. Not super strong or anything, just really good. I am cold but sweating under the effort. My legs are doing pretty good and not complaining too loudly and my breathing is remarkably easyish, which is a good indication that I could push things a bit more if I wanted, but I am comfy and in the climbing zone. I have found that sweet spot where I can climb all day, pushing for miles without blowing up. I decide to keep it right here on the effort-o-meter as I start looking for the summit.

I know the summit is coming up soon because I have passed the Shivwits Indian Reservation sign and the road is starting to twist and turn a lot more. It is also getting a lot colder as the sun is constantly sinking lower behind the clouds in the wind. I am running out of time to make the finish before the sun sets and I don't want to finish in the broom wagon getting a ride over the finish line in the dark. I know that when I get to checkpoint number four, I need to hurry. I need to take the time to check my blood glucose, fill my bidons and probably get something to eat.

I keep pushing up the hill at my never-going-to-blow-up pace, breathing easyish and feeling my legs burning slightly. With every foot I climb, it is getting colder and a lot more windy as the temperature is dropping with the sun. I am sweating heavily even as this blustery cold headwind tries to evaporate my warmth and notice the Tribble grass all bent over again on either side of the road back up Utah Hill. I alternate standing and sitting, even though standing makes me much less aero, as I try to keep things loose and comfortable in this freezing headwind as I push and push and push and push my way against this wind up the hill in the cold.

Finally I have made it up the 7.5 miles which is the back side of Utah Hill, climbed the 1440 feet of elevation gain from the u-turn left at the bottom, pushed my way through this brutal headwind in the cold to the summit and can see checkpoint number four waiting up ahead. Not many cyclists are here as I pull up, stop and clip out. I lean my bike up against the table, remove my windproof full finger gloves and stuff them into the cut-out on my saddle and look for a place to set up and check my blood glucose. The lone volunteer is bundled up deep inside the biggest thickest sleeping bag I think I have ever seen and all I can see is one eye peeking out of the tiny hole that is left as he pulls the sleeping bag up around his face.

The wind is blowing super hard here at the summit and it is now freezing cold since I have stopped and am now just standing around as the wind is beating on me and quickly evaporating my sweat. I find an ice chest to sit on, pull out my windstopper beanie and put it on, get my Ziploc bag out of my jersey pocket, remove my case, get my meter, lancet and strips out and check my blood glucose. The wind is howling really hard and my fingers are going numb from the cold. The three cyclists that are huddled around at the checkpoint are all staring at me as I do this, wondering if I'm going to be OK. I have no idea what they're talking about as they stare and point, because they're speaking a foreign language that I don't recognize, but I think it's Slavic as I wonder what they're saying.

82 mg/dL. I need to eat something so I look around the table for something that I recognize, but I don't see anything that looks familiar, so I grab something that sounds good with some chocolate and some carbs and check the label. 39 carbs. That should do the trick and I start to eat it as I pack my stuff back up and try to get it all back into the Ziploc bag and back into my jersey pocket. My face feels frozen and it's at that point that when I talk I sound pretty stupid to myself because I can't move my lips like I want to in the cold and I notice that my fingers are going numb and turning white on the tips.

I am starting to shiver now in the wind as I fill my bidons, both with water, and ready myself for the push to the finish 27 miles down the over 3000 feet of descent back into Mesquite. I get my rain jacket on and pick my full fingered windproof gloves up off the ground and dust off the footprints before I put them on. Everyone has left except the volunteer, and a few others have simply passed checkpoint number four since I've been here, obviously concerned about the time. I finish eating, and still hungry, take my turn in the honey bucket, get my bike ready to go and notice that my nose is already running in the cold and I haven't even started down the hill yet. This checkpoint has taken me a lot longer than I have wanted it to.

I guess in a perfect world it wouldn't be freezing cold and I could soft pedal all the way down Utah Hill out of the Beaver Dam Mountians into Beaver Dam, past the Dam Jam, the Dam Deli and the Dam Store, down and up under Interstate 15 until I get to the last 11 miles of rollers that will take me to the finish in Mesquite, but this isn't a perfect world and I know I won't be soft pedaling at all today. I look for the sun again, hidden behind the clouds, and it is low in the sky. It is freezing cold and I can't feel the tips of my fingers as I clip in and push off away from checkpoint number four and start hammering down the hill toward the finish.

It feels like I've got about an hour, maybe a little more, of sunlight left. I am shivering cold and the freezing wind is blowing strong right in my face, and will be all the way back to the finish. I cannot feel my fingertips and my eyes are watering but crusting up with salt as the cold wind dries the tears almost as fast as they flow. As I start down Utah Hill in the freezing cold, I quickly hammer down the cassette trying to gain as much speed as I can carry at a reasonable cadence against this cold headwind. Now I am racing the sun as it heads for the horizon and I head for Mesquite, and the effort needed to carry the speed necessary to beat it there is much harder than it was to even climb this last hill.

I get in the drops and tuck my elbows trying to make myself as small as possible against the wind. My rain jacket is whipping violently in this freezing headwind and my fingers and face are numb with the cold. I need to average around 25 mph or so over the next 27 miles which should be easy on a mostly downhill but it is definitely not proving easy today.

My bike is getting pushed hard by the freezing headwind and I try to smooth my pedal stroke and apply as much power as I can, hoping I can maintain that output to the finish. I glance down at my cassette because I'm tired. I glance at my computer. 28 mph. I glance back up toward the sun. It's sinking lower behind the clouds in this freezing wind and I know that I'm in for the time trial of my life to push my way against this cold headwind back to the finish in Mesquite before it gets dark. I have found something to push me. I am racing the race of truth - against the sun.

No comments:

Post a Comment