Being a two-loop course my options as I neared the end were:
“Second loop this way” and “Bike dismount.”
I rolled past the bike exit that was marked “Bike dismount.”
and chose the “Second loop” path. It was back onto the course again.
12:06:22 p.m. (+5:23:51 since race start.)
Since it was what most people would consider lunch time, one would think that it was time to break out the picnic basket.
(Where would you put it?)
I mention this issue because it was about to become an issue.
(Did you just use the word “issue” twice in a sentence?)
Look at that, I did!
(Your high school English teacher must be questioning her decision to pass you.)
For the record, I had Mrs. Levitt and Mrs. Barishansky...and both of them had very nice things to say when I recently spoke to each of them. Now, where was I?
(The second loop.)
Due to the rain, we were experiencing cooler than normal air temps.
(So, that is good, right?)
Yes and no.
(Yes and no?)
When it is hot out, I consume liquids like Gatorade and protein shakes regularly.
(You forgot to fuel?)
I forgot to fuel and now I was trying to make up for lost time without taking on too much and feeling bloated.
I was many sips and half a banana from where I should have been by lunch time.
The heat of the summer day had dried the predawn rains from the roads. Gone was the fear of skidding out of control on a wet road. As gravity pulled the bike down the descent into Keene, I relaxed my grip on the breaks and the bike speed climbed to 40 mph.
Now when I say “grip,” I was using my index and middle fingers to hold the brake levers. I was using the remaining three fingers to hold the brake/gear shift assembly together while my shoulders tried to keep the bike still. It was like grabbing your child’s forearm to keep a glove on their hand...as they are trying to pull said glove off...and you are only using three fingers! I was still concerned that if I leaned forward on that handle, I would rip out both the brake line and the gear shifters.
In my mind, I saw brake fluid spurting everywhere like a severed artery moments before the gears locked and the bike catapulted me off the mountain.
I wanted to let go of the brake levers and go faster, but I was scared that I might lose control of the bike.
Three ways that could go:
A. Regain control.
B. Tumble down the road, breaking every bone in my body.
C. Go flying off the mountain.
As the front wheel started to vibrate under my grip, I dared to take a peek at my bike computer to check my speed.
The bike computer is the size of a wristwatch and it’s mounted between my handlebars. That meant I needed to take my eyes off the road to check my speed. Traveling that fast, there is no noise. No sounds. Just the beating of your heart. Tilt your head left or right and your auditor canal is filled with the sound of air whooshing past you.
I felt that I had to look.
I was now rolling down a mountain at 42 miles an hour.
At that speed, everything goes by incredibly fast.
Blink and you miss stuff.
Pick the wrong moment and you might crash into other cyclists or hit an object in the road. Don’t believe me? The next time you are in a car, going at that speed, see how fast the objects outside your window go by.
I was halfway to the bottom of Keene and the bike was approaching a level of unmanageability that rivals fighter pilots who push their jets past acceptable speeds. This is the dilemma of using “deep dish wheels.” They make you faster when you are pedaling, but on a descent like Keene with crosswinds, they create a level of instability.
I was gripping the handles so hard that I had to remind myself to relax enough so as not to tire out the hands that were holding on.
After five miles of coasting, the bike slowed to 15 miles per hour and it was time to start pedaling again. The sun was now out, so I had to remind myself to pay attention to my body’s need for food.
I grabbed a banana from a volunteer at the roadside aid station.
Riding a bike, peeling a banana, feeling like a monkey.
I was 80 miles into the ride.
Woo hoo, 20 more to go.
(The ride is 112, you still have 32 to go.)
It’s my fantasy. Denial is not just a river, it is how I’m getting through this ride.
(The sign says mile 80, but it’s a 56-mile loop. You are only 24 miles in!)
Crap, I feel tired and the hard part of the ride is down the road at mile 96 and mile 104.
As I passed through the mile 96 climb, I started to feel a pulsation in my knees.
I wasn’t sure if it was fatigue or malnutrition, but I knew I didn’t want to cause a spasm. All I needed was to fall over. I had less energy, so I pedaled slower, yet I didn’t feel as worn down by the climb as I had the first time. The same for mile 104.
(How could you tell?)
My breathing wasn’t as labored.
3:50:00 p.m. (+9:07:20 Since race start.)
Eight miles left on the bike, with three climbs—Baby Bear, Mama Bear and Papa Bear—waiting for me again. These are three-step ladder climbs with false flats in between.
In other words, eight miles of climbing with no rest.
Ok, I can do this. No matter how tired; I will just pedal slower.
(Don’t go so slow you fall over.)
For what felt like an hour I kept thinking, “Almost there, getting closer, getting closer. Don’t look at the bike computer…”
OMG, I have seven more miles…all uphill.
I should have put in more time training on the bike.
Stupid, stupid, stupid…
“Don’t look at the bike computer, don’t look at the bike computer...just keep pedaling.”
I crested the three bears. There were fewer people waiting on this second loop than four hours earlier. In my euphoria, I want to pedal faster, but my legs just laugh at me.
“Who cares, I’m almost at the end of the bike course.”
4:23:03 p.m. (+9:40:23 Since race start.)
David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6.
He can be reached at [email protected]