More on my theory later. Just remember; nut sack = happiness
So, Friday, Violator and I packed my little vehicle to the gills and headed to Austin. It was during the drive down that I got word that Adam "MCA" Yauch passed away at the age of 47. EVERYONE knows how much I adore the Beastie Boys and EVERYONE knows that from the first time I ever heard Licensed to Ill back at Bowman Middle School that MCA was my very favorite. That gravelly voice, his brilliant lyrics and later, his altruistic heart. My phone started blowing up and talking it over with Violator, I *might* have shed a small tear. So young, so brilliant, so much more to do. Imma miss you MCA; we all will. So of course, for the rest of the weekend, since I was driving, we only listened to the BBoys.
Violator at packet pickup.
Packet pickup was at Jack and Adams where we enjoyed getting our shop on. Violator picked up some necessities while I squealed with delight over some really cute tri kits. Um, how necessary is THIS? And how come our tri shops don't carry stuff like this? Not pink, but may just end up in my possession very soon...even if it is super thin and see through in the heiney region. Eh, I saw plenty of buttcracks on the bike this weekend.
Next I had the pleasure of introducing Violator to Mellow Johnny's cycling shop where we met up with Ninja and Dat. Okay, can I just say, the cycling community in Austin is so different that the North Dallas area where I live. The city is dotted with cyclists just getting places. More often than expensive matching kits and bikes that cost more than my car, you'll see guys and girls in flip flops and cargos just pedaling around the city. And bikes shops GALORE, especially off Barton Springs. It's like the Cycling District. ("Oh, you mean the hammock district!" Anyone?)
Oh yeah, I sorta forgot to mention that we were in Austin for the Shiner GASP. It's a 100 mile bike ride from Austin to Shiner, TX, home of Shiner beer. I signed up for this back in January when riding 100 miles in the hills and heat of Central Texas seemed like a good idea, fun even. Let's just say that going in to it this weekend I was less than enthused. After Aldeo, I resigned to riding the 50 mile route. I'm just not a strong enough cyclist to handle all those hills for that distance. 100 miles is a long way y'all. Like, far. (is this news to anyone but me?)
Our bikes safely secured in the hotel, we drove to Shiner to drop Dat's truck off at the brewery so that we'd have a way to get BACK to Austin post ride. Driving out there, it really started to sink in just how FAR 100 miles is to ride. (again, duh. I never said I was brilliant with math) It was getting late and I was getting grouchy so we grabbed dinner in town. Lemme just say, tiny town Texas doesn't really offer many (any) vegetarian options. The waiter kindly let me order off the kid's menu and I had grilled cheese. My entire dinner cost less than Ninja's beer, ha!
We got back to Austin late and we were all exhausted. The day before I considered packing a swimsuit and bailing on the ride all together in favor of hanging out at Barton Springs all day. No, seriously. I really didn't want to do this ride. But I also didn't want to be a cotton headed ninnymuggins so I left my suit at home so I wouldn't have an out. Sigh.
I don't know why I'm standing like a dork here. It was early.
Rally morning came early and brought overcast skies and crazy humidity. But I'll never complain about it being overcast in May! Early on everyone was very clear that they were there to ride their own ride so when we got separated at the start I waved them on and wished them luck. I had no desire to push the pace; I knew I'd need my legs and lungs for later. Still, I managed to make it to mile 50 in about 21/2 hours. That was my first rest stop. Not exactly a race pace, with the wind, the hills and my lackluster enthusiasm, I was pleased.
This is what I looked at for 100 miles. This and the butt in front of me.
McMahan, TX founded 1832
At Mile 50, those riding the half GASP joined us. I refilled my Camelbak with water and ice, glorious ice and crammed a tiny slice of pizza down my gullet. One thing went really well this ride, I totally stayed on top of my nutrition plan. Every hour I ate. First, mini powdered sugar donuts, then Clif granola bars. Annnd, this is where the happiness of having a nut sack comes in. I struggle with eating on the bike and I struggle with just eating crap. Crap that I would NEVER eat in my real life. Donuts aside, the rest of the food I brought was in my normal repertoire. Nuts are a great source of protein, fat and high in calories. Just what I needed to compliment all the sugary, carby snacks provided at the aid stations. So every now and then, when I felt my energy waning, I'd reach down, feel around to find my nut sack and get my hands on those walnuts.
No, really, see? Walnuts and almonds! I'm telling you, having a nut sack when cycling is pure genius. You should get your own nut sack and see for yourself. Ah, I cracked myself up thinking about this on the ride. Cracked, nuts, get it? Okay, I'll stop.
Bored out of my mind, I was basically fine until about mile 75. I just don't have enough thoughts to think for that long. I need some entertainment y'all. Right after 50 I talked to Ironman Greg for a bit. He was using this as a training ride for IMTX in two weeks. He informed me that the last 25 miles were "brutal." Thanks for the encouragement dude. Everyone I talked to that has ridden this course before agreed, the last bit is horrendous with really long hills and crazy wind.
Got stopped by a train at some point. Much like me, the train had no caboose. Wonder how well it climbs hills?
Oh, did I mention that it was hot? Riding out on the country highways there is no welcome shade, lots of hot wind and the blacktop roads just radiate heat. I was sucking down water like it was my job and completely drained my Camelbak by mile 80. You would have thought that instant death was going to occur. I just fell apart without water. I had heard rumor that the next aid station was at mile 85 and 5 miles seemed like 50. Thirsty, defeated and just plain overheated, I pulled over at a church around mile 83. There was a group there waiting under a shade tree for the sag wagon. I laid my bike down, took off my helmet and sprawled out in the grass in an attempt to cool off. My plan was to lie there for 5 minutes, but honestly it was probably closer to 20 minutes. Annnd, I forgot to stop my Garmin. The shade felt so good. If I could just get my body temp down a bit, then I could muster the energy to make the next 3 miles without water.
Usually, I handle heat really well. I'm a skilled sweater. As long as I can keep up with my hydration and salt, I've got a great balance of copious sweating and cooling. What can I say, I'm from Texas; it is hot here. But take away the water and I fall apart. The sag eventually showed up and I begged the driver for some water. He offered me coffee. Uh, no. Then he remembered he had a water bottle and offered me a sip. He said I could take the lid off so I didn't get his "cooties." Ha! I replied, "Dude, I'd french kiss you for this bottle of water; I'm THAT thirsty." And, I took it all. Hey, he's got a vehicle and access to more. Of course, none of this happened before I tried to talk several riders out of getting on the sag. They all did. Oh well, I tried. So I laboriously climbed back on my bike and rode off at my painfully slow pace.
I made it to the last aid station, filled up with water and more ice then sat under a gazebo with other tired cyclists for a bit. Actually, much longer than a bit. Fifteen miles seemed like forever. And in all honesty, would probably take me 2 more hours as slowly as I was going. No joke, by this point I was beyond exhausted and the combination of hills, head and wind kicked my pink butt. It did give me some comfort to see so many other struggling too. Nice to know I wasn't just being a wuss.
That last leg was indeed brutal. Long hills that went on forever. And ever. At this point I was going about 6mph. And unlike the earlier, steeper hills which offered a nice down hill, these did not. The wind was so strong that I was luck to get to 18 on the downhill. I can tuck down really small, my size is an advantage there, but I don't have the weight to use gravity to the fullest. Those big boys on the bike can really get to rolling, even with the wind. But I'm half their weight. The wind just tossed me around and a few times I really thought I was going to lose control. And a part of me thought I'd be relived to fall. Medical came around a lot more often than sag!
The sides of the highway were littered with spent cyclists just sitting or sprawled out on the shoulder. That was really disheartening. And then I'd see men, MEN, walking their bikes up the hill. I got lower and lower; it looked like war zone of bikers. People just everywhere looking hurt, sad and haggard. There is no way I would have gotten off my bike to walk. No way. As slow I was going, I knew as long as I kept pedaling I'd eventually get to the top. Right? Although, the thought crossed my mind many times that I could have RUN faster than I was riding. Even in my Sidis. Sigh.
And then it happened. At mile 93 I had a total mental breakdown. I pulled over on a bridge under some shade. Hanging my head over my handle bars, I was done. Totally over this ride. If I had someone to call, I would have. This was NOT fun anymore. I'd been riding for 7 hours in the searing heat, I was out of water AGAIN (came across a girl who missed the last aid station so I gave her half of my Camelbak...like I could deny her water) and just totally defeated. I got off my bike, sat on the guard rail and put my head in my hands. There was a man sitting about 6 feet away from me, on the phone, crying. This didn't not help my mental state. BOYS DON'T CRY. Sheesh. Closing my eyes, I needed to get outta my head. I signed up for this. Heck, I PAID FOR THIS. It was a stupid decision. I wasn't prepared for this distance or the hills. And I'm racing next weekend. Dumb, dumb, dumb to trash my legs the week before a race.
Ponton Creek, the sight on my little meltdown. William Ponton for whom it is named, was scalped by Comanches. Bad juju at this creek.
Dude next to me might have been weepy, but there was no way I was going to shed tears over a stupid bike ride. Hey, we do this for fun. And while I had stopped having fun 25 miles ago, I'm stronger than some stinkin' hill. Here is what I know, I chose to do this. And there is no way in hell that I was NOT going to finish. Not at mile 93. So I did something that I think is terribly unsafe and of which I do not approve. Do as I say kids, not as I do. I plugged in one earbud and started up my iPod. Selecting the Rainbow Sparkle playlist, I got back on my bike and began pedaling at a painfully slow pace. The first artists were, Cake, Goldfinger, Cake, Cake and Self. Not too shuffly Apple, but I thought, "Dang, woman, you make a sick playlist!"
And I rode to town. My friends were waiting for me, shouting and cheering. Violator met me at the finish and hugged me tight, so relieved to see me. My phone wasn't on and they were concerned that I had dropped, or worse. Sadly, there were a lot of ambulances called out yesterday. I drove by a few accidents involving blood and broken bones.
They took my bike, my helmet and it wasn't long before I had some nachos in one paw and a Shiner in the other. I'm not a beer drinker but at this point, anything cold would do. Plus, I had ridden all the way to the brewery, it only seemed fitting.
Spoetzl Brewery, the finish line.
So. I finished. Did I have fun? Eh. It was a stupid decision the week before a race. Am I glad I finished? You bet. No matter how painful, how miserable, it made me a stronger cyclist. I'll take that with me forever. Will I do it again? This rally? Probably not. It was well run but I have no desire to ride those same 100 miles ever again. Ask me in a week, my answer might be different. But I do have another 100 miler later this summer. (on a much flatter course!)
So happy to see my friends! With Violator, Ninja and Dat.
Here is what I know about endurance sports; they either make you or break you. I refuse to be broken. The lessons I learn in racing and riding I can apply in all areas of my life. When you're going through hell, just keep moving; you'll eventually get to the other side.
And a nut sack. Get your hands on a nut sack.