Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Training - Picking up the Red Car

The day started off pretty normally - wake up to the alarm...

Okay, from there it was not the normal day. Usually I get up and go to work, but Wednesday is my day off, so after the missus poked me a few times I gently told her it's my day off.

She immediately reset the alarm and went back to sleep.

Tiger, of course, jumped under the covers between us and started purring. Although there are a lot of different ways of starting a day off, this was one of the good ones.


Occasionally I get these weird mission rides in my head. Mission rides are rides with a mission, usually quite long. Some of my old mission rides were things like "Go see Kent, CT" or "Ride to Granville, MA" or "Ride to the Fairfield rest stop" or even "Go do Summer St Sprints".

The latest popped in unexpectedly a couple days ago. The mission - pick up my red car. The trip - get to the red car from the house. I mapped a route from where we live (almost in MA) down to where my dad (and brother and his family) lives in Wilton. It's a 90 minute drive so no slouch of a trip, but one way would be doable on the bike. With the weather cooling rapidly I hoped to get in a long ride or two while still wearing shorts, and this would be a great mission trip.

Gmap-pedometer said it would be about 79 miles - a walk in the park.

Well, for a pro. Not for me. My preparation included a couple rides on the trainer last week. Um. A ride maybe the week before? The last riding I did outside was... in Vegas, I think.

Reality hit about a mile from the house - riding outside motivates me, sometimes too much, and as I rolled along at an exuberant 34 mph, I realized I had about 4 or 5 hours of riding ahead of me.

I throttled back to about 18 mph.

The first 45 minutes traced some of my regular routes. The next 45 minutes followed some roads I'd driven on before. But the following 90 minutes were the best kind of riding - one way, on roads I'd never seen, with an inkling of where I'd end up.

After two hours I felt tired, my legs were twinging, and I had been riding on these long, open roads.

With a headwind.

I thought of the Tour of PA, and of the riders tackling similar looking roads, up, down, up, down, straight line, no curves, just up, down.

With a headwind.

They went 25 mph. I went about 14. I stopped thinking of ToPA.

I ran out of Gatorade (I took about 20 oz plus 20 oz of water) and gels (I took three) about three hours into the ride, just as I turned onto a familiar road, Route 7 up in New Milford. I saw a gas station, the counter, snack shelves, and soda fridges all visible from the door (good for bike security when you don't have a lock), slammed on my brakes, and turned in. 32 oz of Powerade and a 2 pack of Fig Newtons and I was all set.

The guy asked if I was having a lunch, then asked me where I'd ridden from. I told him Granby (because, well, it's almost where we are, and no one knows where Tariffville is). He didn't know Granby either, so I told him it was up by Massachusetts. His eyes and mouth turned into circles.

"That must be... 47 miles!" he said excitedly.

47...? What the heck? I smiled politely and left. I rolled down the road a bit and looked at my mileage - 53 miles. I figure this guy actually knew where the Mass border was, but he knew the highway distance.

I seemed to have caught a couple schools getting out, and that meant some one-on-one friendly time with bus bumpers. I got three of them, plus a really nice eighteen wheeler. My efforts, after (to me anyway) such a long ride, sapped me, and my "in between" bits went along pretty slowly.

My body really started to complain and I started remembering all the things that happen when you ride for a while. If you have thin shorts, and you sit down too quickly and slide back a bit on the seat, the lycra bunches up outside the padding, and you get this irritating lump. Knowing that it's turned into an abraded injury, I'd fix it every time it happened. Frankie Andreau called the last days of the Tour a "six sitter", meaning each time he sat down he had to sit down six times before his tender derriere felt happy with the saddle interface. My ride had become a two-sitter.

Unusually my triceps started to twinge, almost cramping. My inner thigh also started protesting. It piped up only 45 minutes into the ride, threatening to cramp. I rode through it but it got a lot more vocal as the ride went on. My calves were quiet until the 3 hour mark and then started hollering. Even my hamstrings got into the picture.

All this came to a head only a couple miles from the house. I had chosen to hit Route 102 in Branchville, a winding mile or so climb, a perfect sting in the tail. I'd forgotten that it's closed (bridge construction I think). The detour was the insanely steep Old Branchville Road to Nod Hill Road which climbs the same elevation in about half the distance.

The inner thigh suddenly piped up, at the most inopportune time - when I was in the 39x25 and just trying to stay upright. I shifted my pedaling load to the right leg, but that quad and calf weren't happy.

It's times like these that make me appreciate cycling. I suppose folks like desperate people running from homicidal soldiers have this same opportunity, but for me it just takes a bike ride. I'm referring to the idea of pushing physical limits, of reaching a breaking point, and of pushing through. With various parts of my left leg in serious trouble and with other parts of my right leg in trouble, plus arms that didn't want to support my weight, and the knowledge that I'd just fall over if I tried to clip out, I somehow managed to get the bike up about 300 meters of very steep hill. My pedaling had turned into some caricature of a bike rider - it probably looked like I was riding a bike with two different crank lengths, oval wheels, and a twisted frame, but my hobbling, gyrating, lunging pedal stroke (in other words just a little less smooth than normal) probably could have gotten me half way up Palomar Mountain before I actually cramped or pulled a muscle.

Of course, once the road leveled out, my legs were fine. Funny how your body forgets pain quickly.

At some point during the ride I realized that I had absolutely no supplies at my dad's house - no clothing, no shoes, nothing. I figured I'd have to drive home in socks but that I should be able to borrow some clothing from my brother.

Finally, just about a half mile from the house, I glanced at the woods and almost fell off my bike. I saw so many turkeys it looked like a Thanksgiving Day supermarket dressed up in feathers. I was shocked enough that I climbed off the bike and took two really bad shots. I tried to be Phil Ligget when he counts the group of 32 moving off the front of the group and counted how many there were - I got to 19, thought I might have missed one, but 19 for sure.

Turkeys, sort of.

The road in front. The dark jellybean type things are turkeys.

I made it home and told my sister-in-law I saw 19 turkeys trotting along in the woods.

"I saw 19 turkeys in the woods! All together! I was so amazed I stopped and took pictures!"
"19? I think it's 20. Three adults and 17 kids."
"Oh, in the spring the little ones were little. Now they're all about the same size. They walk through the yard and stuff."
"Oh. Um, I have a question. Can I borrow some shorts and a shirt?"

So much for my incredible siting.

I tried to eat, but after about 5 hours (80 miles) I simply didn't feel hungry. I had a glass of OJ because, well, I always have OJ when I go there, and I had a very small serving of soup. I felt very, very pro. I decided to wait out rush hour and sat and talked with my dad for a bit and forced myself to down a second glass of OJ. Then, with time rapidly running out for the day, I made the trek home, this time in the car.

Cold, I cranked the heat. The biggest thing was getting the rust off the rotors. The car pretty much slid down the driveway, the chattering pedal went away after an hour on the highway. When I got home the brakes were fine. I remembered one of the reasons why I like the red car - I started with half a tank and ended with half a tank. It's only a 10 gallon tank too.

You'd think that it'd be all good when I got home, but no. The garage looked like this:

Car belongs here.

And I needed to park a car inside.

I finally had a semblance of an appetite, ate a couple bowls of pasta, drank Gatorade, and tackled the garage. An hour or so later I pulled in the red car.

I was too tired to take a picture. But it's in that spot now.



Mike said...

Enjoyed the post, those limit pushing rides are always better when thinking about them later.

I didn't know you were so close to MA, I moved up to a bit south of Amherst for grad school in September. Maybe we'll have to do some cold, slow miles this winter and you can tell me about sprints and such.

Aki said...

lol "cold slow miles". I ride up to Granville semi regularly, or did during the summer, and it wouldn't be inconceivable to head up a bit further, even if it meant driving a bit. With a couple other readers/riders we could have a good little ride.

I have to admit that I prefer either mtb on the road (to 25 or so) or trainer stuff when it's below 25 degrees.

Mike said...

I hear ya, my limit isn't much colder. More readers would be fun, it could be a "sprinterdellacasa ride".

How about next week end?

Giles said...

you should put Tiger in a basket and take him too!