and this morning I am feeling almost everyone of them. What a great experience. Sort of. I woke up at o'Dark 30 on Sunday morning to meet my friend Sandy on the route. We were starting an Hour earlier than everyone else so that we could get done (and home, and back to the kids, and so that we were not the last ones to finish since I'm so freaking slow).
I was terrified. Not only was this the longest bike ride I'd ever done by about 30 miles, it was also advertised on the Marin Metric Century website (that was the course) as "not for beginners" GREAT-- no stress here. Then I started talking to people who had done the course. HA Lots of great big hills. Lotsa distance and few potties. . . sounds like a great combination.
After finding the start line, Sandy shared that she had been so nervous that she'd been throwing up all morning. . . at least we were feeling the same way about this upcoming ride. We started with a short potty stop at Safeway-- where, not surprisingly, the potties were broken and we had to explore the entire grocery store's backroom in order to find the employee backroom. You'd be shocked how your milk is stored before you get it.
Off we went. Headed out Lucas Valley Road (named after a little place you may have heard of called Skywalker Ranch. . . ) and up "Big Rock Hill" aptly named for the large white rock at the crown. It was the first climb of the day, and probably one of the toughest. I always seem to find the climbs harder when I'm cold. . . And BOY was I cold. The weather was supposed to heat up into the 60's, but it started out in the 30's. My fingers were frozen in my cycling gloves as we started up that hill. Although at the top, when Sandy stopped to give a facebook shout out to the team letting them know that we had conquered that first hill, I was feeling plenty warm.
The warmth was not to last however as we began the 11 mile decent into the town (my British Friends would call this a hamlet) of Nicasio. Down the hill we went, into the redwood forest and out past the reservoir. We stopped for a break after passing the reservoir and found that my Power Bar and Sandy's Camelback pack had frozen. Yummy.
After a short stop at the porta potty (the last porta potty to be seen for 40 miles) we were off. Here was was where Sandy had warned me about the first "big" hill just after the Cheese Factory. Yes, seriously, that was the description. I started climbing, waiting for the hill to get bigger and to get tired, but to both of our surprise, we were suddenly at the top of the hill-- no stress, no heavy breathing. We were beyond happy with ourselves as we took the turn onto Hick's Valley Road and headed out towards Wilson Hill. According to the MMC website, Wilson Hill is the killer-- it comes at about 25 miles into the ride and is very steep. So, with a great deal of trepidation, I began to climb.
And Climb. And Climb. I'd fallen behind Sandy on the flat, but I found myself catching up to her as we ascended Wilson. I looked up and noticed that she had dismounted and was walking her bike up the last 1/2 of the hill. Despite the temptation to join her, I kept going. God was it hard to keep going. It wasn't a physical pain, it was a mental pain. She was walking up that hill. She wasn't breathing like a freight train as she struggled to get up that monster. WHY was I too stupid to get off my bike and walk?
Pretty soon, I found myself at the top-- with a view of what seemed to be half of Marin County as my reward. I waited a few minutes for Sandy to catch up (and laugh at me because she'd been listening to me hooting and celebrating my "victory" for the last 1/4 of the hill). As we were regrouping, three guys came up the hill--our "victory" celebration was somewhat muted by their appearance-- they weren't even breathing hard.
Down we went, and off went Sandy-- by the end of the ride, we had come to the conclusion that together we made one complete biker-- she is faster than I am on the flats and the downhills, and I'm, in her words, a hill goddess. We wound through Petaluma--with a few rolling hills and one nice little detour--read, getting lost-- where we missed the porta-potties that were supposedly on the course. Finally, we were over 30 miles and on our way back home.
Heading home, we knew we had to face Flat Rock Hill again, and we knew we needed to go over the "killer" hill that we had handled with ease on our way out. . . what we didn't know, and soon realized, was that the "killer hill" was NOT the hill that Sandy had been anticipating. In Fact, we had to go over the REAL KILLER HILL before we got to that point.
Maybe it was because I wasn't expecting it; maybe it was because it was at mile 40+; maybe it really was that hard but that hill SUCKED. It went on forever. I caught up and passed Sandy about 1/2 way up that hill again. She started to walk, and again I had a mental battle with myself-- to walk or not to walk. I didn't and made it to the top where I stopped to wait again for my partner. She came up and was feeling pretty down because she had had to walk the two big hills. We had a bit of a tete-a-tete at this point.
Neither of us had every ridden over 30 miles before. . . Both of us have had trouble on our bikes since day one. Here we were-- almost 40 miles into this ride-- which is know to consist of "Mostly Rolling Hills and Steep Climbs" with 20 miles to go. We were going to make it. We were going to do it. There was nothing to feel bad about-- were we running or swimming, we wouldn't have even tried to increase our mileage this way-- we were going to do it.
Pep talk over-- we were off again-- some stops at the SAG stop and the porta-potty in Nicasio again (looked better than a 100,000 shopping spree at Tiffany's at this point), and we were on Flat Rock Hill again. We were up-- and we were down and it was only a quick 5 miles back to our cars.
Coming across the last stoplight, I'd pulled slightly ahead of Sandy again. . . We both waited together at the light and we were off-- crossing the last street, 400 yards from home, when BANG-- a noise like a gunshot went off causing me to actually scream and start shouting out Sandy's name. I jumped off my bike and turned around to see Sandy-- standing by her bike-- she called out that she was fine but that she'd blown a tire-- gotten a flat with 400 yards to go before we got home. I started to laugh like I've not laughed in a LONG time. It was unbelievable-- slightly over 60 miles and her tire blows NOW. Thank God. I can't imagine if we had had to change a tire while we were out there as well-- I know we could have done it-- but I think it would have been a morale killer.
We made it back to basecamp where our teammates were waiting. We must have looked a site-- me walking my bike next to Sandy carrying her bike-- both of us laughing our fool heads off.
We were done-- we had done it! 5 hours of riding time-- 60 miles and a lot of laughs. I'm so glad I did it-- and I'm so glad that I was able to ride with Sandy-- she made everything better and really gave me the motivation and confidence to finish that ride.