Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Notes From a First Year: Hitting the Wall

After taking 2 weeks off the bike to deal with my Grandmother falling sick and passing away, I knew it would be hard work to get my fitness back. Generally, according to my coach, for each week off the bike, it will take 2 weeks to get back. So, I was looking at a month to get back to form. I had been doing so well with my program for 6 months, rarely missing a workout if a t all, and the thought of being a month behind wore on my mind. I had to get to it and I wanted it to happen fast.

The Saturday after my Grandma’s Funeral I decided to do the 8 AM Bolt Brother’s ride, a ride I had done plenty of in the past, a 50 mile ride around Waxhaw, NC. A quick call from my teammate, Christina, and the plan was to meet at her house at 7, ride to the bike shop, do the 50 mile ride and return to her place. By the end, we would see 80 miles pass us by. Perfect! Just what I need - a good long ride to remind my legs of what we love most!

The Bolt Brother’s ride turned out to be a little faster than normal. The Boltie teammates were attacking each other left and right and my teammates and I played along with them. It was a good day in the saddle and by the time I got back to Christina’s house, I had been convinced to go on a hilly ride the next day – 70 miles around Wilkesboro, NC. It sounded like a great idea. Besides, the Blood, Sweat and Gears ride (13,000 ft of combined climbing) was the following weekend and I had yet to ride some good hills. I was excited.

The pinnacle climb of the trip was a 6 mile climb up Brushy Mountain. The climb started about 30 miles into the ride. We started the day nice and slow, trying to spin out the aches from the previous days ride. I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I couldn’t find a comfortable gear; not even on the flats. At the bottom of Brushy Mountain, there is a sad face painted on the road that reads “6 miles.” I was confident I would conquer the climb.

Unfortunately, that confidence quickly waned only a half a mile into the climb when I started falling quickly off the back of the group. Within a minute, everyone was out of sight and I found myself struggling to turn the pedals over. I fought at my own pace up the never ending 6 mile hill. After turning what I thought was the last bend, I saw someone coming toward me. It was one of the riders in our group, no doubt coming back to see what was taking me so long. “I’m just looking for a place to go to the bathroom,” she said. She was being nice. I rounded another bend and saw the rest of my group in a church parking lot. A parking lot surrounded by trees. Trees perfect for going to the bathroom. We descended the hill and stopped for refreshments at a gas station. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I had eaten plenty, drank plenty. I even took some salt pills. I simply did not have it in my legs.

After our rest stop, we continued. I looked at my odometer - 40 miles left. How the heck was I going to survive this? I was told the worst climbs were behind us, but I had been lied to. My legs were so worn out that even the smallest bump in the road had me falling back huffin’ and puffin’. I had never felt like this on the bike before. I was so helpless, so weak…so pathetic. Then we hit another steep one. I saw everyone disappear around a switchback ahead of me. When I arrived at that spot I got out of the saddle and gave it all I had…and came to almost a complete stop. My legs were absolutely killing me fighting back at my will with searing pain. A tear dropped from my eye – what is wrong with me? Was I crying? Seriously? Crying? Sadly, yes. Arriving at the top of the hill, everyone in the group was off their bikes and having a little siesta beneath a huge oak tree. For a minute, I thought I even saw sombreros and cervezas. The hallucinations had begun.

The ride continued. Every turn of the pedal started a stinging bolt of pain through my thighs. Even coasting downhill, the burn in my legs did not cease. There was not an energy drink in the world that could save me now. I just needed to get back to the car.

There comes a point when you’re hitting the wall when those around you start willing you on by telling you you’re “almost done.” If this happens to you, do not believe a word those sadistic bastards tell you. They will start saying that crap 10 miles out from the finish and when you feel this awful, “almost done” means something more like 100 yards. 10 miles feeling this bad could easily take over an hour! That’s not what I need to hear…I need someone to go get the car while I sit here on the side of the road and teeter between unconsciousness and death. So go on…go finish your stupid ride…leave me to my maker…let me go in peace.

Snapping back to reality, I finished the ride. We refueled with large burgers for lunch. We laughed at me. I promised not to suck so bad next time. It was a hard lesson to learn…but at least it was a learned lesson!

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