Sunday, July 26, 2009

24 Hours of Booty, Part 1: Gypsy Road

Booty Volunteer: “How many are you going for?”
Me: “300.”
Booty Volunteer: “Are you going to make it?”
Me: “No doubt in my mind.”

And I didn’t have any doubts through the first 100 miles. In fact, that first hundred was quite easy. But somewhere around 130, things started going downhill fast and I began to strongly consider abandoning my bid for 300.

Anticipating a huge calorie output during my ride, I spent Friday morning and afternoon fueling myself with as much food and water as my stomach could handle. By 2PM we arrived in Bootyville to set up camp. At 7PM, the ride started and within 5 minutes I saw the saddest thing I would see during the course of the ride. A middle-aged gentleman was riding a tandem bike by himself. A white bike helmet sat lazily on the empty saddle behind him. Attached to the frame of the bike was signage with his wife’s name and the day she died; it was just this past April. I got choked up for a second and began preparing myself for an emotion journey. Late in my ride, I would press on relentlessly by telling myself that no matter how bad I was hurting, it was nothing compared to what many of my cohorts have experienced fighting cancer.

Aside from the first few laps (avg. 8 mph), the first 100 miles went by somewhat quickly, mostly because my friend Stacie was setting a blistering pace – one I knew I could not keep for 300 miles – to help get my speed average back on track after the slow parade-like start. I had to force myself to slow down. After our first break, a couple hours in, I knew that my very carefully laid out plan was going to have to change. I would have to stop more often than I thought. And each time I stopped, it took about 20 minutes to get back on the bike…I had not planned on it taking that long. Because of the longer breaks, I started falling off the pace I had set out for myself. In fact, the first 100 took about 7 hours (including the breaks); a full hour longer than I anticipated. But, if I stuck to that pace, I could still be done with 3 hours to spare. No sweat. Throughout the night, though, riding by myself, I started to panic a little that I would run out of time. I kept re-calculating my timing in my head to calm myself.

Somewhere around the 130 mile mark, about 3:30AM, my body realized what I was doing to it and it put in a protest the likes of which could be compared to an anti-war rally. The protest wasn’t coming from my legs, though. It was coming from every joint between my shoulders and fingers – my knuckles, wrists, elbows and especially rotator cuffs began aching tremendously from the jostling of the handlebar. Despite my pre-emptive action of loading up on 8 hour Tylenol, I could barely keep my hands on the bars for more then a few seconds at a time. It was also at this point I realized exactly how bad my sit bones and tail bone were aching. I was already to the point where my comfort had gone out the window. I, of course, had expected this, just not quite so early in the ride. I wasn’t even to the halfway point yet. I had my first thoughts of quitting. “You’re the only one who will care if you don’t make 300. No one else cares.” Then I’d retaliate with myself, “The faithful reader of my blog (Hi Mom!) will be disappointed.” And with that, I tried to laugh it off and keep going all the time asking myself, “If I feel this bad right now, how on Earth am I going to survive another 170 miles?”

Another harsh reality hit me as I saw the first rays of dawn. I had stated that by breakfast Saturday, I wanted to be as close to 200 as possible, with 175 more of a reality and 150 as a worst case scenario. Well, breakfast came and I only had 155. I was really thinking I would have more than that. I know what you’re gonna say. “That’s only 20 miles off.” But, my pace was slower than I expected. At the rate I was riding, 20 miles would take an hour and a half and I was already in so much pain that if I hadn’t been so doped up on Tylenol, I’m sure I would have had a headache from clenching my teeth so tightly. I put it out of my head for long enough to have a huge plate of food – scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, cheesy potatoes, a banana, some coffee and a doughnut.

I was halfway through the ride and barely halfway through my goal. I had 12 hours to ride the 145 miles I needed to reach 300. Knowing I would keep slowing down as fatigue overtook me, I became very emotional when I realized there was a good possibility I would run out of time. Tears tried to form. I fought it off. Quitting was certainly on my mind, “Oh, it would feel so good to go to sleep.” I fought it off. “There are people here who have suffered much worse than this.” I pressed on, barely able to sit and barely able to hold the handlebar.

Breakfast must’ve done me good cuz I was able to stamp out 45 miles to reach the 200 mark by 9:30AM. I kept telling myself if I reach 200, I’d finish the last 100 on adrenaline alone, after all, it was in the plan, clearly written and labeled with a cute little bullet point. I knew the second hundred would be hard because most of it was done during the night, riding alone in the dark when the only thing your body wants to do is go to bed, but instead is suffering through an activity in which it clearly doesn’t want to participate. The second hundred is purely mental and when I hit it, I was elated. I rewarded myself with a Coke at the break. After the coke I was feeling all fine and dandy until I got back out on the course with 100 miles yet to ride. I awaited the arrival of my adrenaline.

So, it was 10AM. I had 100 miles and 9 hours in which to do it. I began to feel confident. However, I think I put too much reliance into my adrenal system. As it turns out, adrenaline alone is not enough to get you through 100 miles of pure pain. I figured this out rather quickly at mile 203. There was no adrenaline. My body was simply not going to do this. I had been so convinced that if I hit 200, the rest would be as good as done. Not. So. At. All.

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