I started the day like normal, with the same alarm clock time as I use for work. Turns out the whole thing was in Gaffney, so the drive was a little farther than expected, but I still got there about 45 minutes before the start. The race packet had 2 t-shirts in it (bonus!), one for the tour and one for a local cycling group www.cyclecarolina.com. Went through the bathroom line, changed into bike clothes and got up to the starting point.
I was going to stretch out some while listening to the pre-ride announcements. I knew the ride benefitted cancer research, which I fully support. But when I pulled up the only announcement I heard was "mass start at the horn -- GO"! and we were off. I literally only had a few seconds to prepare mentally.
There were 30 and 60 mile rides, with aide stations every 20 miles. So both routes were the same into the first aide station. The rain started just a few miles in, and didn't stop for 2 1/2 hours. There was three solid climbs before the first aide station. I took the climbs in stride, but wished I had done some more stretching before the start. Still, the first 20 went pretty fast, and one of the aide station volunteers was joking about how the worst hills were in the last 20. At least, I hoped he was joking.
40 miles in, starting to feel it a bit
So the last 20 is where all the trouble began. The first 8 miles in there did have a tough climb, but it wasn't really that hard. But 8 miles in, I busted a spoke on my back wheel.
I don't know if you have ever busted a spoke, but the spokes keep tension maintained on those wheels. And with 110 psi of air pressure and 200 lbs of Flynn sitting on top, the tires really have to hold up well under pressure. A broken spoke warps the wheel rim so it looked like the back tire was waving at me. And every revolution the rim rubs against the brake pads. So the bike is actively working against me at that point. Even going downhill, the bike would slow down almost to a stop if I didn't keep pedalling. So I left it in a low gear on the big chainring and just kept on pedalling. FOR 12 FREAKING MILES.
There were no big climbs left. I didn't have to put it back into the small chainring. I also did not have a cell phone with me to call the SAG van, I just walked out of the house without it. If I could have gotten a ride back to the start I would have gladly called it a day at 48 miles and been happy to get that far before mechanical failure. But my only choices were pedal or walk the bike home. I figured pedalling would be faster.
At least it had stopped raining at that point. But that was still the hardest thing I have ever done. Maybe even harder than the marathon. The first 48 miles took about 2 1/2 hours, the last 12 miles took about 1 1/2 hours. At least the course was cool. We went through downtown Gaffney, even going past my great-grandmother's former cotton farm where my grandfather grew up. Turns out most of his side of my family grew up on that road. But I didn't know that until I was told later. I didn't even recognize the farmhouse as all I was thinking of was the finish line.
I was never so happy to see the Jesus store. It's actually a shoe store, but the sign out front says "Jesus is Lord at Bargain Shoes" so everyone calls it the Jesus store. That's how we roll in conservative SC. It's on a frontage road next to the highway, and when I saw it I knew the finish line was close. I stopped long enough to take a picture of the Giant Peach, which is right across the highway from the Jesus store.
Then I made it back to the car. Unbelievably worn out. My legs shook worse than Jello. It was insane, and it shows. The funniest part was in the parking lot after the ride. I'm sure Glaven will love this, but I actually saw cocks-a-floppin when the other dudes just started changing out of the wet bike gear outside in the public parking lot. Nothing like finishing a 60 mile torture ride with throng of naked men outside in a public parking lot. They did at least check to see if there were any chicks around before stripping down, but still geez. At least I had the decency to close the doors up and change in the back of the van. The funniest part is, I was not far behind the rest of the pack, and there were still about 8 people that finished behind me! Only around 30 people ended up doing the 60 mile route.
Just glad to be done.
So for the rest of the day I rested, and I had muscle soreness in muscles I didn't know I had. Like the outside top of each calf. And the muscle right behind the knee. How do you make that one sore? That was some serious pain.
How do you follow that? Sunday I did 7.5 miles in 56 minutes on the elliptical for this weekend's long run. My hip actually feels great right now, but I'm not trusting it for a few more days. Then I'm going to try some drills, as it is supposed to be cool (mid 70's) and mostly sunny for the rest of the week here. As long as my form feels ok, I might try running again thursday.
The whole first 20 miles of the bike ride I was thinking about posts to write on here, and all the great friends I met through the blog. You guys really pushed me through those climbs. Can't wait to read all of the race reports from Augusta and beyond! have a good monday.