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Jul 3, 2001, Old Friends

May 27, 2001

Seismic disturbance

My dedication continued. When asked what I did I said,"I'm a cyclist". The Air Force was how I supported my habit. I was 4th in the Chesapeake time trial, 2nd in the Maryland state time trial, continued to dominate Saturday morning group rides, and beat my best time on my time trial course every single time I rode it. I was in the zone and loving it.

The previous month I had one of my better mass-start races, with about 80 riders flying along a 49 mile course. Although I could barely hang on, I got into three or four breakaways, usually when one of the four laps passed the start area and the fans could see me. At the start of the last lap I took off in a breakaway, my fellow escapees fell back to the main pack, and another two riders came up to me and wanted to work with me. I tried hard but didn't have anything left, so I fell back, so far that I was off the back of the main pack, but somehow got enough energy to scratch my way back.

There was a massive crash on the final lap that almost took me down because a wall of bicycles came across my path from the right and missed me by an inch. I locked up my brakes, then tried to force a chase to the front half of the group in the wrong gear. I had all kinds of muscle spasms but I caught them. The chase used up a lot of energy and I was tired again. I figured into the final lunge for the finish, but wasn't even close. I hate being boxed in, so while the smart guys were all bumping and drafting for position, I was way off on the left side of the road by myself, safe, but not using any positioning to my advantage.
The highlight of the race, oddly enough, was as I was loading my car--a guy walked up to me and told me how admired how aggressively I raced.

On May 27, in Christiansburg, Virginia, I rode the Mountains of Misery bicycle tour, a 105 mile ride with 10,000 - 15,905 feet of climbing (depending on whose figures you believe). In a word, brutal. The ride included a category 2 climb (in cycling terms, the second hardest measurable climb) and ended, at 100 miles, with a 5-mile category 1 climb (most difficult measurable climb). This was the same course the Tour du Pont had done over the years, with the likes of Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong racing here.

The ride started with a cold downhill sprint out of Christiansburg under police escort with 199 cyclists all over the road (by the way---I'm not in any of these photos and none are from 2001). I backed off because I thought there was going to be a major accident. Some riders didn't even stay on the right lane and there were several close calls with oncoming traffic at over 40 miles an hour. These guys weren't being brave...they were being stupid.

I was pleased at how well I climbed that day, and very impressed that I was able to take off my jacket on a downhill without stopping.

Ants at a picnic
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Ants after a picnic
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Early ride descent

Even so, descents were a little touchy because I found out my headset was loose and tended to cause a knocking in the handlebars and some vibration on the fork when I hit the brakes hard. The brakes weren't so great either--the only original equipment on the bicycle, I purchased them in 1985, and all the adjustment screws were stripped, so I couldn't put the pads close enough to the rims for powerful stops. Never fear--there was a set on the way in the mail!

At the halfway point I seriously asked an organizer,"When do the hard climbs start?" The climbs were challenging but not impossible--nothing where it got so hard I considered walking my bicycle. My question was answered in about five miles when we hit the 'impossible' climb up Spruce steep most other people had to stop to walk their bikes. It maxed out at a 14.6% grade.You know it's really steep when you hear no wind, no talking, just panting all around. Below is a photo of one of the Spruce Mountain switchbacks, photo source unknown.

One turn on Spruce Mountain

Just before the final climb to the Mountain Lake Resort, feeling confident, I skipped a food stop. That was a big mistake. This climb was unbelievable...a category 1 climb. With 100 hard miles and 14000 feet of climbing in my legs, I had to ascend 1900 feet in 4.29 miles, and the last part of the climb angled up sharply. I was struggling but surviving until...I bonked. I hadn't eaten enough and my body crashed. I needed sugar fast! I walked my bicycle, rode it, walked it, and people were constantly riding by. It was embarrassing, but I didn't cry. Someone was giving away cookies about 1 1/2 miles from the summit and I stood there babbling senselessly as I shoved cookies down, trying to get energy. I managed to get on the bicycle and finished after losing about 25 minutes from my sugar-crisis. My finishing time for the 104.65 miles was 6 hours, 54 minutes (including all stops and sugar panicks) and I was 46th of 199 finishers . Ugh...this ride wasn't hard enough, so the organizers now have a double-metric century (126 miles). Sometimes, there's just not enough pain.

Approaching the finish at Mountain Lake

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Almost over the Hill!Almost over the Hill!

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