Well, I've always heard that if you didn't have problems in training, you will have problems during your race-- so, I'm hoping that with the past 2 weeks of rides out of the way, I will now have NO PROBLEMS on the bike-- I've had them all already.
July 3rd was an OYO (on your own) 75 mile ride. SO, I set out to ride the Marin Metric Century course which starts around my house. I rose early to assemble my magic potions (Carbo Pro and Gatoraid mixes). Problem number one: there were no more Gatoraids. Not sure who drank them all (although I have a sneaking suspicion), but still. No Gatoraids. Given it was 430 in the morning, I certainly wasn't going out to buy any (moral of this part of the story? LESSON #1: check the night before) so I mixed up my Carbo Pro with Iced Tea. Halfway through my second Potion-- I ran out of Carbo Pro (see lesson #1, above).
I loaded up my bike, put my Chamois butter in the car and grabbed my phone. I was off. I reached the starting place and started to unload. You guessed it-- no magic potions. I'd left them sitting on the dining room table. OK. Now what? Well, I didn't want to go home-- the kids would have been up-- and there was a 24 pack of water in the back of the car, so I loaded up with water bottles and Gu and headed out anyway.
So far so good. It was a warm day and it was beautiful. I powered up Lucas Valley Road and to the top of Flat Rock Hill without even really feeling it. I was having fun and began the long descent into Nicasio. Feeling like a Rock Star, I got into the little town and immediately noticed something: THE PORTA POTTIES WERE GONE!
LESSON #2: When you are bent over in the aero position and have to go to the bathroom it is REALLY REALLY uncomfortable. Miserable actually. And, being a beautiful Saturday morning, there really was no good place to stop and just go. I thought about "practicing" going on my bike, as people tell me others do during the actual Ironman to avoid having to stop, but seriously? I just bought a new saddle. . I can't do that to my new saddle. Not to mention: GROSS.
A few miles down the road I found a good spot to pull over and solved that problem. Now it was back to the bike and I was headed out towards "the big one". This is a hill that humbled me (and Sandy) the last time we rode this course. Well, I clearly won round two. While I'd made it up the hill the last time we rode here; this time I ate that hill for lunch. ONE more nasty hill to go (and the return up flat rock) and I'd be done with this ride. . .
I was feeling really good. I was "flying" (a relative term in my book but still, I was going pretty fast for me-- over 20 mph on the flats of the course) when I turned into Petaluma.
LESSON #3 Don't forget your course map at home. Well, I had ridden the course once-- how bad could it be? I found my way through Petaluma with only 2 small detours. . . Then it was onto the last big hill of the day. Now this beast had beaten me into submission before. I had made it to the stop but had required a 10 minute recovery stop the last time I rode this one. NOT TODAY. Although it still sucked, and I'm sure I was super slow, I was doing fine.
I was also doing fine on water. Although I had no carbopro, I still wasn't feeling bonky. I was hydrating. I did miss my aerodrink bottle (the one that sits right in the middle of my handlebars so I can drink without really having to move), but otherwise it wasn't so bad. Amazing how athletes survived on just water for so long.
Well, then things got interesting. As I was whizzing down the backside of that last hill, I took a left on to what I thought was Nicasio road. Well, it wasn't Nicasio road. It was Novato Road (memorandum to self: learn how to read). Now, I didn't know this at the time. I was just happily oblivious as I rode on down the road. Until I saw the large body of water on my right hand side.
"Hmmm" I thought to myself, " I don't remember seeing that before. Well, it was early both times, maybe I missed it."
"Hmmm, I would have sworn that the town would have been here by now."
"Hmmm, Wow, I'm in downtown Novato-- HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN?"
See Lesson #3, above and add, Bring the Course Map and Pay Attention to Where You Are Going.
Fear not, avid reader, your erstwhile Iron Woman was not concerned. I was only 50 miles into the ride and feeling really good. So, I figured I'd simply follow the bike path signs to San Rafael from Novato. . . (those of you who live in the area know where this is going). . . Down the road I went, merrily unconcerned about getting home until I followed down the path and came across the big sign of doom in the middle of the road:
Freeway Entrance. Bikes Allowed.
Seriously? Are they kidding? NO. The bike path from Novato to San Rafael actually puts bikes on the HIGHWAY. For those of you not from the area? The same 101 that runs all the way down to LA! Good Idea? NO.
So, I pulled out my phone (which I usually don't ride with) and re-routed my self another way home. Well, just about then, some other folk came by and headed down the bike path. I hollered at them "can you go this way?" and they responded "yes." SO, I tried it again. But yet again, I was going to end up on the highway. NO THANKS. (not sure why I didn't believe myself the first time). LESSON #4: ALWAYS bring your phone on long rides. You never know when it may come in handy.
I found my way home AND managed to get all those miles in AND it took me 2 hours less than it had taken me the last time I did that ride. SO, all in all, it was a good, if not stressful day.
FAST FORWARD A WEEK to IronTeam's 100 mile Tour of the East Bay Alps. Saturday morning, July 10th dawned bright and early with a wake up time of 430 am. I double checked my potions (mixed the night before) and loaded them into the car 1st thing (along with my bike). Then it was time to wait for my babysitter to show up so I could leave the house. I'd allotted 1 hour to travel the 49 minutes to our start time. . . but, of course, my sitter was a few minutes late and I found myself with 53 minutes to get to Walnut Creek, unload myself, get ready, and GO.
Pulling in, I found that most of my teammates were ready. For those of you that know how much I HATE TO BE LATE, you can imagine how this felt. Especially when Coach Dave told someone that they would have to wait for me while everyone else got rolling. I ran through the bathroom-- pulled out the Chamois butter- and flew back to the pack. I got ready, got set and GO. I rolled with the group: Coach Dave even called out "way to rally, Paula" as I biked by. (Warning to the Reader: This is as good as the day gets. . . you may want to stop reading now).
Well, to say that I ignored LESSON # 3 would be an understatement. As a group ride, I knew that the ride would be marked. Coach had even spent 4 hours attaching markers to the route for us AND printed out pocket sized route sheet. SO, I hadn't even looked at the course. In fact, I hadn't even thought about the course.
If you can't wait, scroll down to the end now and see the course-- or, you can see it unfold as I did. . . in wonderful technicolor hell.
The first mile was out to the beginning of Mt. Diablo park. And then the climbing began. No, seriously, the first 10 miles were an uphill climb of Mt. Diablo. And a climb it was a total of 2200 feet (give or take) in elevation. And how beautiful it was. I was enjoying the slow climb; looking out over the valley; looking back towards the city; taking my time; getting my legs and lungs warmed up. At 10 miles in, however, we reached the junction and a number of teammates turned in for a rest. I kept going and found myself on the downhill side. Given that I'd rather go UP the hill than DOWN the hill at 30 mph; the mileage down the hill, riding the brakes, with huge drop offs on both sides of me were harrowing. One of my teammates, Katheryn, who had pulled off at the Junction raced by my, calling out "not a descender, eh?" as she flew by.
For some reason, I'd gotten into my head that that was the worst of the ride. So, as I headed out, I was having fun, feeling good and really enjoying myself. I had a blast chatting with Susie about Oakland politics as we headed back towards Oakland (and San Francisco). Pulling ahead of Susie after a while (and having long lost site of Katheryn), I though I was headed to the first water stop. Not surprisingly, I missed it-- no idea where that first water stop was-- still haven't seen it.
But, as I turned right onto Bollinger Canyon Road, I noticed that there were a number of bright green flames wearing folk not very far ahead of me. In fact, I started to "chase" them up that road. Now, chase is a relative term. The road had started to climb again AND we were headed into what felt like a 15 mph headwind. But kept them in my sights I did as I climbed, and climbed. It seems like I was getting closer until-- Poof-- they disappeared all together. Where the heck did they go? I kept riding, and riding, and riding but didn't see any turns in the road and didn't see my fellow flames wearers. Finally, I reached the end of the road. (and the top of the hill). There was nowhere left to go. Cursing, loudly, I grabbed my route sheet and turned around. Well, fortunately, the correct turn was only about a 1/2 mile down (meaning I'd only climbed a 1/2 mile more hill than necessary). and I was back on my way. I had, however, lost my brethren; and, given my cycling woes, I wasn't planning to catching them anytime soon.
Imagine my surprise as I pulled into the first (I guess second) water stop. Being out of water, I was very happy to see Roe waiting for me. Roe is one of the many spouses and significant others who help us out all the time by patiently waiting for us (sometimes for 9 hours) to get to these water stops. She, like all of these folk, is a hero. I could also see my flames brethren just pulling out of the water stop. But, I stopped, filled up, found the potty (see lesson #2, above) and pulled back on my way.
The first turn was onto Redwood. Well, apparently while I hurried through the bathroom back at the beginning of the morning, Coach had warned everyone that they would be on Redwood the longest of any road of the day. Having missed the warning, I had no idea what I was in for. Redwood started to climb almost immediately. It went up, and Up, and UP, and UUUPPP. I swear, I think that road went up for 23 miles. (looking at the elevation chart-- it pretty much did).
I am not kidding. It just kept going and going. There may have been a few downhill sections, but I didn't notice them. What I noticed was that every time I looked up, I was ascending again.
Finally there was a break. And a water stop. And conveniently, there was Coach Dave. Who I proceeded to chew out. Who I proceeded to tell that "there is not a single hill in Kentucky the size of this monster." Who very nicely pointed out that "at the top of the next hairpin turn by the science center" we'd get a flat section for about 45 minutes or so. Well, you may have heard this before, but COACH DAVE LIES. Needless to say, Katheryn, who I'd met up with at the water stop, and I took him at his word and headed off in search of the flat section. (Note to the reader: I'm still looking for the flat section).
Around this time I found some pretty ugly head space. I started to think about quitting. Who really wants to do an Iron Man anyway? Who really needs to climb these hills since there is no way the Louisville course is anything like this? How long would it take a SAG vehicle to find me? I kept calling out to Katheryn "you have got to be kidding me" every time I saw another freaking hill looming. My right knee started to hurt. My left knee started to hurt. My right hip started to hurt. My head started to hurt. My neck started to hurt. Well, I think you get the picture. I started to wonder if I should "save my body for my race?" None of this was made better by the AMAZING view over Skyline Drive in the Berkeley Hills towards Oakland, San Francisco and the Marin Headlands.
I knew we had Pig Farm looming. For those of you who have kept up with this since the beginning, you know what Pig Farm is. For those of you who haven't, well, it is the hill that I've fallen off my bike 2X on because it is so steep that I can't keep moving. I knew it was about mile 73 or so. . . I didn't want to go there.
But I kept on keeping on. I passed Katheryn on the uphills; she blew by me on the downs. We made it up and over Pappa Bear; up and over Mamma Bear; up and over Baby Bear and into the BEST WATER STOP EVER. As we pulled in we saw a cadre of the faster folk pulling out. They, apparently, had camped out for a while munching on Magic Bars, Chocolate Bars, Pretzels (my favorite) and other assorted goodies. Katheryn and I too took a few minutes to rest up, recover, and munch before heading out. I was disappointed to know that "baby bear" hill was NOT, as I'd hoped, Pig Farm and that I still had that demon to slay.
I wish I could say it was in epic battle between me and the hill. I wish I could say that something amazing and wondrous happened, but really, I just powered up that hill buoyed by Coach Simon's words that "when you get to the top of Pig Farm, you are done with the climbing." Well, folks, COACH SIMON LIES TOO.
I got to the top of that hill and started to POWER HOME. I felt good at this point I was not going up hill-- and, believing Coach Simon, I wasn't going to have to go uphill anymore. Until I saw the next hill. It was all freaking over at that point folks. The tears started to flow. From that point on, every time I started to climb, the waterworks started as well. It was not a pretty experience.
I also missed my second, and third turn marker. Making the course LONGER and even HILLIER than the one represented in the graphic. I have NEVER, EVER in my life wanted to quit anything as much as I wanted to quit this course. At the last water stop people were talking about some of my teammates who had been SAGGED forward and OH MY GOD did I want someone to ask me to SAG forward too. It had been 8 1/2 hours; surely I was so slow that they needed to move me ahead on the course-- PLEASE! ANYONE ? ASK ME TO SAG? CAN"T YOU SEE I"M DYING HERE?
Apparently my coaches had other ideas. After getting lost 3 times and completing a full 100 miles (which most people did 96), I was DONE. It was 445 in the afternoon. Now all I had to do was fight the East Bay traffic on the way home.
I can officially say that I came, I saw, I conquered. The coaches have admitted that this was their scheduled "mind-fuck" ride. . . and believe me, when it comes to me, IT WORKED. This was by far the closest I'd come all season to quitting, to giving in. I'm still amazed (3 days later) that I didn't give up. I'm not sure why I didn't other than fear-- the fear that maybe if I did give up I won't be able to finish Louisville. The fear that I'd let you all down. The fear that I'd let my self down. The fear that I'd let my babysitter (who'd been with my kids for 11 hours) down. I did it. I made it. And we are 7 weeks before the big event.
And now, for course map and the elevation profile:
As always, without out you, the readers and donors, I'm not sure that I would have made it through this experience. There is still time to get on board and help out those suffering with Cancer. Click http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/louisir10/paula.hamann