Saturday, August 29, 2009
It's the weekend...
It must be raining. Seriously, this is getting a bit out of hand. Can anyone remember so much rain on such a consistent basis? We had better have an epic fall, we certainly deserve it.
Nothing too extraordinary to write about of late, the girls (Kira, Abigail and Luna) are all good, just rolling thru the end of summer. We haven't had too many great summer days to talk about thanks to the weather. We had some fun afternoons at the pool, a few nice weekends in Brigantine, some BBQ's...but it's been hard to get things going with any consistency...because of the WEATHER! OK, enough about that. Everyone else is dealing with it, so there's no need to dwell on it any longer.
I Rode Hillier Than Thou last weekend...it's a ride/race that my friend Chris Evans first told me about many years ago (Chris was the first one to ever destroy me on a bike. I still remember the first time my skinny little legs showed up for a ride with him...I took one look at his legs, which each measure, roughly, the circumference of my waist, and I knew I was in trouble). Hillier is brutal...it's a 100 mile route with approximately 10,000 feet of climbing. If you're a cyclist in North Jersey, you know the climbs, you've heard the stories...the ride elicits all sorts of dread, fear and respect, quite often within a small stretch of road.
I had no real crazy expectations going into the ride other than to suffer gloriously. I did not train to peak for the race...my goal this season is the American Zofingen up in New Paltz in October...I had an idea of maybe going under 6 hours, which would be a proud effort given the difficulty of the course.
I made the mistake of not reading the cue sheet to start the race and immediately missed a turn after the first hard climb up Stephensburg Rd. This unfortunately was a pattern for the first 20 miles...miss a turn, put myself on the rivets to get back to the lead group, get back on, and do it again. I finally put myself back together going into the first checkpoint/feed stop, where my race to stay in the lead group came to an end, thanks to my inattentiveness. I was under the impression that there would be no attacking thru the checkpoint...everyone had to wait in line to sign in, and I assumed we would regroup and get back after it. Well, you know what they say when you ASSume something. The "opportunists" (There are other, more offensive terms I might choose to describe them, but what's the point) took the single file check in as a sign to start to get a gap, and the group was splintered. I worked super hard to get back to the group and saw the tail end of it right before another climb, this time up Coleman Hill Rd...but that was it. Too many matches burned, too many mistakes, and I couldn't hold on. Let me make it perfectly clear, there is no way I could have won this race...I was not even close to the strength and fitness of the top 5 (which one of my Wednesday night Jay's ride partners, Bob Penn, did...a great ride by a super strong man). But I could've held on a bit longer and likely finished with a better time.
Instead, I spent the next few hours in no man's land...suffering alone in the sun, humidity and hills. The miles ticked by, but they were not idyllic. No peloton rolling thru the fields of southern France. No one to share the work with, to laugh about our misfortune of choosing such a ridiculous way to spend a sunday. But they were glorious miles. Alone on the bike, working hard, not giving up. Maybe I rode too easy for too long in the middle, but I was leery of putting myself in the red with 50 miles to go, knowing what was to come at the end. I started to reel in a few riders who had popped off the back of the main group for various reasons...flats, mechanicals, not enough in the tank or in the head. I would work with them for a bit, thankful for the shared effort and the occasional brief conversation. I suffered on the climbs, I even WALKED up a small stretch of one particular hellish bit at the top of Iron Bridge Rd. But there was relief in knowing I was on the second half of the route. Climbs I recognized from rides with Chris and Michael Worth...Staats Rd and Adamic Hill. Familiar sites like the Glen Gardner Inn. And finally, perhaps a bit too late, the decision to ride away from my mates and suffer alone for the last 15 miles. Perhaps I waited too long to go...maybe I wasn't strong enough in my head to put myself into that painful place. But I went, and I guess that's the point. In the end there was Hoffman's Crossing Rd to Cokesbury, the ride thru Califon and the finish at the top of Sliker. My time was 5:53, good for 20th place overall (to give you an idea of how fast this ride has become, the course record up until a few years ago was around 6 hours...this years winner finished in 5:10 or so).
I take a lot away from a day like last Sunday. Obviously, I feel grateful for the strength to ride relatively well. But there is more...there is a certain glory in such a day on a bike. It is different for everyone, whether they ride Hillier or their local hill. But if you ride a bike, you know the feeling...whether it's pride, joy, relief, disbelief...or something that puts it all together. It's why we love to ride our bikes.