Saturday, April 5, 2008

72 miles ... 73 aches

Tomorrow is the Tour of Flanders, about 160 miles of brutish racing featuring short, steep hills and long, pounding cobbled climbs combined with brutal crosswinds and epic length.

Today was the Tour of Ned Flanders. For me, anyway. I felt like Ned Flanders, that is, as I tried to hang with a bunch of overly fit Cat 2's and 3's for 72 miles of brutish riding.

Hi-diddly-doody, neighbor! You're drop-dilly-opped!

We rode to Solon and into Glenwillow, where we caught the Emerald Necklace for the trip across town -- through Bedford, Walton Hills and Valley View, followed by the leg-punishing climbs to and out of the Brecksville Reservation and along the parkway through Broadview and N. Royalton. Then we hit the parkway's flatlands -- Strongsville, Parma, Berea, Fairview and on into Lakewood.

I was out of my league, of course. Each time we'd hit a hill -- whether one of the short, steep variety or a long grind, or even a short, unsteep one -- I'd fall off the pace. (I'm grateful that my six riding companions had the patience to slow up and wait for me at the top of every hill they'd just hammered up, and even send a tow back for me from time to time.)

Then when we hit the flatlands, the frisky big engines kept pushing the pace up to 27-30 mph. I can hang with that OK for a normal flat ride -- but not when we're 45 miles in with 30 more to go. Even when I just wheelsucked as an erstwhile gatekeeper at the back of a rotating paceline, I still got shelled a couple times -- including what I thought had been a final break at mile 53.

I did't care at that point whether I'd catch back up -- the hammerfest (for me it was a hammerfest) was killing me. So I rolled solo at a crawl for the next few miles and watched my average speed drop, drop, drop - below 18.5, then to 18.4, 18.3 ... before I finally crept up the hill out of the park and into Lakewood.

I caught back up at the Nature's Bin on Sloane, where we refueled for the last 18 miles or so. There was a collective wuss-out (Hey, I'm not complaining!) when we hit downtown and decided to skip the chilly, potholed lakefront/MLK route and shave 4 miles or so by going straight up Prospect and Carnegie.

But when we hit E. 30th, the cramps attacked me -- charley horses flaring up in both legs. I cannot remember the last time that happened. But before my legs seized up, I shouted my goodbyes to the gang, jumped off, stretched out, popped another gel and climbed back on for a gentle 14- to 18-mph solo pace until I crawled up the Stokes Blvd. hill and North Park, unzipping my vest and peeling my arm warmers on the way up.

I was thrilled to have made it -- riding 72 miles is usually an August thing for me, not early April -- and grateful for the pack's patience.

But I was very ready to get off the bike. Rolling up the driveway, everything finally was okily-dokily.


Rick said...

Jim, great job!
I share your pain, brother...looks like you need to get the team a supply of the sportslegs.

Mike N. said...

Strong work! I did that ride last August myself, albeit a lot slower and in the opposite direction. The last ten miles were completed only by shear force of will at the crushingly awesome speed of 12 mph. If you're up for a repeat of that adventure in the next couple weeks let me know.

Ray Huang said...

Ride super easy Sunday, do some intervals Monday (whatever you like) then recover ride and I guarantee you'll feel like a monster on the bike in a week!! Nice work. We did 70 miles today. Easy and hills!! I swear!! You would have enjoyed todays ride and hung on for all 70!!

Bench said...

I will never ride with you and your punishing group. Your wife probably has no idea that she married such a "he-man."