IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Solvang Training Camp - Day 3

These entries are going to have to get shorter! I just can't find the time to do this!!

OK, let's see - Day 3 - Mount Figueroa. This was slated to be the 2nd toughest day of the camp. We were climbing Mt. Figueroa which touts an 11.5 mile climb at an average 7% grade. What I didn't mention in my last post (because I was running out of time) is that when they were going over the agenda for today's ride, this brutal climb was the talk of the evening. People just kept saying how tough it was and that if you just stay clipped in and just keep moving the pedals, you'll be OK. Once you stop, you'd pretty much be done. For 11 miles?? Are you kidding me?

I woke that morning with a big lump in my throat. I did not want to ride. I was terrified. What if I couldn't make it up this mountain? Some of you may know this, but hills (especially mountains) are not my friends. Yes, yes, I need to make them my friends. This was why I came to camp, right??!?? Now, in Chicago, what we call hills are laughable compared to the hills and MOUNTAINS of California. What kept coming back to my mind was the race I did 2 years ago - Wildflower in San Luis Obispo. This half ironman started out with a terrible climb, but about half way through the ride, there's this climb they affectionately call "Nasty Grade". It was absolutely brutal. It's probably the reason I have no desire to go back and do that race. I remember just chugging up the hill for what seemed like forever (I think it was about 40 minutes), sweat pouring off me and just cranking on those pedals wishing for it to be over.

I shuddered to think of what an 11.5 mile climb was going to feel like. My roommate was also not feeling very confident about the whole ordeal. All the talk about it from the night before had us sick to our stomachs. We ate breakfast and headed out to the bikes. The experienced cyclists were talking, laughing, happy to be getting out for a third day in a row. I very quietly put my bag in the SAG vehicle and prepared my bike for the day's ride. "I don't want to do this, I don't want to do this" just kept running through my head. The morning was again, very chilly, but the SAG vehicles were going to meet us just before the start of the climb so we could take off the arm warmers, leg warmers, cloves, hats, etc. With all that climbing, we were going to get pretty toasty.

The groups started in a staggered fashion - 5 minutes apart - then we were to all meet at the start of the climb. Robbie Ventura was starting out this ride with us today and he had a way of taking my mind off the challenge at hand. Again, in the first 15 minutes of the ride, I dropped a water bottle. I guess having 2 pairs of gloves on makes it a little difficult to maneuver that bottle back into the cage! Thankfully, no one behind me hit it, so we just moved on. The 15 miles or so out to the start of the mountain was just beautiful. Very little traffic and the pace was easy enough that it actually gave me time to look around. It was easy to see why people would want to live there.

So now we get to the start of the climb. Every one started peeling off layers, but I had a bigger problem. I needed a bathroom break. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of nowhere, so I just had to ride up the road a little bit, get out of sight and go along the side of the road. (this pretty much happened every day of the rest of the camp) When you gotta go, you gotta go. I thought of my friend Bridgitt...she has no problems with this sort of thing.

The other groups started riding up within a couple of minutes of each other and again, organized chaos as cyclists searched for their bags in the appropriate SAG vehicle to put their extra clothes inside and grab whatever nutrition they thought they'd need during the ride. We filled water bottles and Gatorade bottles. Dave Noda was taking videos.

The groups lined up, fastest in the front, slowest in the back. I went to the back. The goal of today was not to do the climb fast, it was just to do the climb. I was extremely nervous about the hamstring because going uphill hurts. I did wrap the hamstring and put on compression shorts under my cycling shorts, just as I did every other day of the camp, but I was still scared about tearing it more or undoing all the progress I've made in the last 2 months. I promised myself I would NOT get out of the saddle. Yes, it sounds crazy, but I knew if I could stay in the saddle, I would save the hamstring. This is not a's just a ride I need to finish.

I lined up with a couple other women who I hoped to try and ride with today...11.5 miles is a long way to ride uphill alone. It was time to go and the fast people were off (Gordo, Gardie, Justin, Matt and several of the VQers). Within seconds, they were out of sight. Also within seconds, I found myself in my lowest gear! Wow, it didn't take too long for the incline to start!! I was now at the very back of the group. I think there was 1 guy behind me (he had a flat)!

I was riding next to Heather, my roommate for the trip, and we started talking. The road was a slow, steady incline, but we soon got into a rhythym and started talking. We talked about her upcoming Ironman, our spouses, our career made the time pass. We were both pushing each other, but not really racing. Just a smooth, steady climb to the top! I can't even remember how far we were into the ride, but the road became muddy. Not just dirt covered, but MUD! I guess there was quite a bit of rain the week before we arrived and this section of the road had not dried yet. Uphill and mud is not a good combination! If you didn't have the gearing right, you'd start spinning in the mud, losing traction, and go down. YIKES! I started slipping through the first patch of mud. Then I could see Robbie Ventura, standing at the side of the road, on a corner, taking pictures and yelling to us to get to the right. Apparently, the right side of the road at this point was dryer and easier to ride up. I saw some big ruts I'd have to get over, so I stayed on my path. My roommate crossed over easily. Robbie's still yelling at me to get to the I turned my front wheel and tried to ride over the big ruts. Uh oh!!

I lost control of the bike. The ruts were deep enough to turn my wheel for me, about a 90 degree angle to the right...I was headed off the side of the road. I braced myself. I hit a small embankment on the side of the road and flipped over the handlebars landing on my right shoulder. My right side now is pretty much covered in mud, as is the right side of my handlebars. But I was uninjured and I popped up, picked up my bike and started walking it up the hill to find a place without the deep mud so I could try to get started riding again. I watched my roommate ride off up the hill and now I was left to ride alone. Robbie came over to see that I was OK, and I was just fine...he was nice enough not to laugh.

I got to a somewhat flat spot to try and get back on the bike. It was tough, but I did it and tried to clip in. I couldn't do it. Neither one of my feet would clip in. Apparently, I had gotten so much mud all trapped in my cleats, I couldn't get my shoes to clip onto the pedals. One guy behind me saw what was happening. He warned me to get off and fix it now because I'd never be able to make it up the rest of the hill without being clipped in. I think we were still less than half way at this point. Figuring he was probably right, I got off the bike to try and clean off the cleats. Robbie Ventura rides up and asks me what's going on. I explain it to him and he promptly asks for my water bottle and squirts my right cleat to flush it out. I still can't clip in. He does it again...this goes on for about 4 times then he finally gets off his bike, reaches down and forces my right foot onto the pedal. He then looks at me and says, "now DON'T unclip that foot!" No problem, Robbie. At this point, I don't think it WILL come unclipped! Robbie rides off (making it look unbelievably easy) and I'm on my way again. Left foot still won't clip in, but I keep playing with it. I didn't want to waste any more time....everyone had ridden off without me.

Now was the hard part. I could see no one in front of me and no one behind me. I just kept pedaling steadily, though not going very fast. I looked down to check my mph and...UH OH! No Power Tap head. Sh*t! It must've fallen off when I flipped over my bike. I thought about going back to get it...that was about 20-30 minutes ago. I then decided that to ride back to try and find it then go back and continue up the hill would take too long. I hoped that after the ride, someone with a car would drive me back to the spot where I fell so we could go look for it. I just bought this 3 weeks ago and it's not so cheap to replace! Now I was bummed because I just lost all my data for the day's ride. We were entering all our data for this contest based on KJs, winner to be announced the last night. Since I just lost all my information, there was now no way I could win. Well doesn't this just SUCK!

I kept thinking about the lost Power Tap head for the next 20 minutes or so. I would look ahead and see the windy, uphill road carved into the side of the mountain. I kept thinking to myself, "we're riding up THAT??" But by the time I got to the part I was looking at, it didn't feel any harder to ride up than what I was already doing. I could see a biker or two up in the distance and set my sights on trying to catch up. It was perfectly silent out there, the only sound was my heavy breathing to continue uphill. The wind was non-existent. The sun was bright, but not overwhelmingly hot. I was sweating, but I've ridden in much worse. Maybe it was the lack of humidity, but temperature-wise, I was comfortable. Climbing, climbing...ok, passing a guy. I try to make small conversation with him, but we're both breathing much too heavily for anything more than a couple of short words. I keep going and finally get to pass another guy. I think to myself, "Woo hoo, I am not last!" I wonder how long it is until we finish.

Pedaling, pedaling, I now see my roommate up ahead. She seems to be looking very comfortable and strong. One of the coaches, Dan, comes back and rides with me for a few minutes. He graciously gives me some of the water out of his bottle ( I had none left since Robbie cleaned my cleat out with it). I was really, really thirsty. Dan coaches me along, tells me I look strong and gives me a few pointers about climbing. He came at just the right moment when I started to doubt myself and wonder if I was ever going to make it to the top. He has such a positive, friendly attitude and it was contagious. He was only with me a couple of minutes, I explained to him what happened with my Power Tap and he said he'd talk to the SAG guys to see if someone could swing back and look for it. I was hopeful they'd find it.

I kept climbing...caught up to my roommate, we chatted for a bit, and I think we had just 3 miles to go. It was tough, but I had paced myself well. Once again on the streets were painted with the 2K, 1K, 500m and then 200m marks. I just kept on grinding out the pedals and then could hear the voices at the top of the hill. When you're out in the middle of nowhere and it's so quiet, the voices travel. So they always sound much closer than they are! You feel like you're pedaling forever after you start hearing them, but they slowly get louder and louder until you can finally see someone up there, waiting to cheer you in.

I think Dave Noda was up there, taking pictures and videos. It was awesome to reach the top. I was so proud of myself I nearly teared up. I made it. It took FOREVER, but I made it. My roommate then reached the top and I congratulated her. We were so nervous coming into this ride and now we were both exhilarated. I filtered through the bags laid out so I could put on some clothes. I hear the descent is very, very cold. We all gathered for a group picture at the top and then several of us were preparing to ride down. I went to the water bottles and began to work on that left cleat that I never really was able to clip in. Oh - yeah, I also had to unclip my right foot using my was in there so tight! I drank a ton of water, maybe too much, but I knew I was dehydrated. I filled my water bottles and prepared for the descent.

I won't go into a lot of details, as this post is already too long, but the descent was terrifying. I don't know what was harder, the uphill or downhill. It was scary fast and my hands and fingers ached from keeping pressure on the brakes the entire way. The road was rough and had potholes in spots and shaded. If you hit a pothole while you're flying downhill, you're pretty much toast and I was a nervous wreck. I was definitely one of the last people on the downhill, perhaps too cautious. I did learn later that someone flatted going downhill and took a nasty crash. I was happy to have not heard that before I attempted the descent.

The rest of the ride was nice, but hurt as my legs were wiped out. I got back to the hotel, took a shower and headed out for the "Skills and Drills" instruction. We rode out to a school parking lot where we were challenged with a variety of things - picking a water bottle up from the ground, riding in a small circle several times without putting a foot down, figure 8s, 90 degree turns and turning to look back without veering off the side of the road. All good things to know and they're tougher than they seem.

Dinner was shortly after that...with a recap of the day and the agenda for the following day. I was happy that the next day was scheduled to be a recovery ride!!


Kickstand Pam said...

I want to go to camp - you did awesome! I have white knuckles just reading about you going down these hills.

John said...

so, wait - you PAID MONEY to do this?

you could have duct taped your foot to the pedal like in breaking away. go cutters!

Anonymous said...

Hey MJ - sounds like camp was a great experience! Looking forward to writing with you this season....maybe I can pick your brain on some of the things you learned out in Solvang!