We make holes in teeth!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


So the biking season is "over", having come to a close last Sunday with the 50k All-A-Muchy ride. As you'll see from the link I pulled 70th with a 5:23 ride. That's a long time on a bike, especially when you consider my longest training ride was about 2:40 leading up to it. So to say the least, I came into it a little underprepared. I knew what I was getting into and hoped to limit the pain as much as possible.

In the days leading up to the race I discovered a biking metric called TSS, which stands for Training Stress Score. I don't have a power meter, so I wasn't able to measure this exactly. But I can estimate it, and when I did so I found the numbers before me suggested that I was, well, that I might be in for a long ride. I had built up a minor peak for this event. But when I looked at it this way, it wasn't so much a peak as a sort of lull.

Regardless, this was an estimate and the numbers aren't entirely predictive of how things will go. Plus, I was fresh. So how bad could it be? I was out the door the morning of the race at 6:10, the thermometer reading a mere 33 degrees. It would warm up later, which made it a tough event to dress for, 33 or 55? If all went well I would be done by noon (ha, I say in retrospect, ha) and it would barely be 50. I chose to prepare for the warming option. Four hours was a distant goal, and 5 hours was my official hope.

I arrived at 7:00 by almost missing the entrance but other than that there was little of note getting everything together. Woody was already there as was Kirt, who got there at 6:00 to help registration. I also met Sean, a guy from the message boards because I recognized his bike. Odd that. "Hey, are you checking out my bike?" "Why, um, yes. I think I recognize it." "What the...?"

At 8:00 we gathered in a fog covered field that was reminiscent of a Vietnam movie where an unsuspecting bunch of suckers gets gunned down by the enemy hiding in the weeds. You know the movie, Bike Suckers at Ho Chi Min? Anyway, that wasn't the case and we were warmed by the sun cutting through the fog for 30 minutes leading up to the race. At 8:30 we did the Lemans start, where you run in a frost covered field and get your bike which is laying in frost covered grass. Not caring to burn out, Woody and I lightly jogged the field and back. Then we took our time getting back up the road and to the trail.

At this point I would guess I was in 100th place. Since I know most people shoot their loads early, I suspected I would slowly start to catch person after person through the whole race until I would finish, you know, like first or something. My game plan was to pace myself in a negative split fashion, where the first half effort would be less than the second half effort. Since the course isn't uniform, you can't expect to shoot for a negative time split.

After an hour Woody bailed, which was his plan all along. He hadn't registered so he was just along for a short ride. When he was done, he said, "I'm having a tough enough time keeping up with you." Of course, I felt good about this, since I had been training and felt pretty good. In hindsight, it should have been a red flag to slow down. But I had already started knocking people off and I was on a roll. Why slow down now?


One by one they dropped like flies, as I suspected they would. I never upped my pace and I felt fine. So it never crossed my mind to slow down. At about the 2 hour mark I thought the rest stop had to be coming up. I knew it was down at the rail trail and I was recognizing some trails that I had ridden on that side of the part several years ago. "Must be close now," I thought. Everything was going great, until the 2 hour mark turned into the 2 hour and 30 minute mark.

Somewhere in there I burned too many matches. I was done with my water bottle and figured it was a waste to stop and switch. So the last 30 minutes was a ramble to the rest stop, no bottle to sip from. Of course I didn't know this, and every hill I figured was the last, wasn't the last, until finally I got to the bottom where a gnarly technical section with water awaited me. I cleaned it, and was told I was only the 4th person to do so. Yet I was tired as I rolled into the rest stop.

Here I inhaled coke and PBJ sandwiches as if they were going out of style, which they were considering I was only halfway done with the ride. I filled up my 2 bottles with Gatorade and was off 5 minutes after I got there.

The climb out was tough but not super awful, as I thought it might be given its reputation. After that I saw almost nobody for about an hour, several time stopping to make sure I was still on the trail. With the leaves on the trail and nobody around, I certainly questioned myself a handful of times.

After about 3:30 I started to break down. I could see it coming, since the Gatorade tasted like liquid god. Not gold, but god. Strange since I don't love Gatorade. I knew I was hurting and tried my best to slow-and-steady it through. I figured 3:30 was going to be about where I started to struggle, but it was a little tougher than I thought it would be. The hills were getting steeper and my legs heavier. Trees started menacing me.

For whatever reason, the 50-75% part of every long ride I do is always dreadful. It's obviously a mental thing because the time frames are never the same. I think it may have something to do with my poor nutrition in the first half of the rides, then an overcompensation in the 3rd quarter. I couldn't drink the Gatorade fast enough but I only had so much and I wanted to spread it out over more than just 2 huge guzzles, even though my body wanted it all immediately.

Through 4 hours I had passed 3 people, all walking back to the rest stop because their days were over for either mechanical or physical problems. At about this time I was passed for the first time. This is when I suspected I would be passing people exactly like myself, people who were breaking down and couldn't keep the pace. No, I passed them all in the first half.

Anywhere in here the demons came out and were telling me what I already knew, that I was an idiot for doing this ride with such little training for it. Over the next 30 minutes, more demons, saying more or less the same thing. Somewhere around 23 miles the demons were replaced by actual people, with a cow bell. More cow bell?

I looked at them as if they were aliens, and one of them said something to the effect that we had 7 miles to go. I now know it was 8 but whatever. The 3rd quarter was over, I was uplifted! But my legs still hurt and my rear derailleur was bent, making shifts into the smaller cogs impossible. A half mile later and I was at the 23.5 checkpoint. Shortly after, I hit the 25 mile checkpoint which was the same one as the 23.5 mile one, but it looped around to that same point. I made the same joke the previous 67 guys had made, that I've been pedaling all day and getting nowhere. Give them credit for laughing 67 times in a row.

At this point, other than my exemplary math skills which told me I had 6 miles to go, I could tell the course was coming to an end. There were a lot of runs and fast areas, which I expected. If they make the end too difficult people will never want to come back and do it again. If I had any energy I would have been loving this part. As it was, I was loving it because I wasn't in pain.

At one point I recognized I was going the opposite direction of the 24 hour course, which stunk because I knew I was about to climb a hill. Rather, I should say walk a hill. After that, the course was a flat flow that brought the course back to the beginning and I hobbled across the finish line at 5:23, at which point I immediately went for the free hot dog.

That night, I drank beer out of my complimentary All-A-Muchy beer mug and listened to Radiohead's Hail to the Thief. I'm not one of those people who like to tell everyone what they're listening to when they do things like taking a crap (Wilco) or chopping wood (N.E.R.D.). But this is the first CD I've listened to in the house since our daughter was born in April that wasn't some form of kids music. And it was nice to sit back, be sore, and enjoy it along with my beer.

Undoubtedly, I'll be back next year.

Accommodation in aviemore