This event also explains why Saturday I went for a solo ride as he was, quite rightly, engaged in family activities.
For quite some time I have wanted to challenge myself on Banks Vernonia. I wanted to push myself to my limit, to see how quick I could ride this trail, climb those hills, destroy the downhills.
So I started planning for the ride. I ate half a pizza Friday night to "carb-load".
Knock knock knock
I also had some popcorn. I took Friday off from exercise as a rest day. I was psyching myself up to open the can of crushinator on that ride. There was just this faint, nagging voice in my mind as my legs were still sore and tender from the excessive mid-week ride I reported in my last post where I got gassed after a mere 24 miles. What if I could not get the can of crushinator open?
You see, unlike most cans, the Can of Crushinator has no pull-tab, no bottle-cap easily ripped off by a bottle opener. The Crushinator Can is a custom designed job that can only be opened through mass expenditure of effort...spinning with extreme speed, mashing with incredible power, whichever you prefer...and maintaining that for a considerable amount of time. It takes strength, endurance, and will-power to get that can open...and to keep the lid off.
Knock knock knock
Excuse me a moment, I believe someone is at the door.
Sure enough, as I open the door, there is HuedewLou.
"Just yesterday you talked about a warning you once received." He delivered the cryptic message, smiled, and with that he was gone.
What could he possibly have meant?
Anyhow, I was out the door at 6:29. I had tried to go to be early Friday night but was still awake at midnight. Fail. I tried to sleep in. Was up at 4:45. Fail. So I might as well head out early.
I had stopped at McD's for a nutritious breakfast* and was the first person at the Banks trail head.
By 7:05 I was on the bike and heading down the trail.
About the one mile mark my legs had a suggestion for me. "Call it a day. You are still worn down from your midweek ride and from over-doing it last week." Fortunately, I had my I-pod on so did not hear them.
Either that or I decided I could just will my way past this...that they would get warmed up if I just rode at a moderate pace**, I would get stronger later in the ride as I always do and I pushed on.***
I was spinning at a moderate pace and happened to glance down at the Map My ride function. 17.1 mph. Not bad for warm up. See, legs? If I had heard you, I would have pointed that out to you. I am not working particularly hard. Lets ride. Good thing I had been unable to hear my legs telling me to quit so do not know they told me that.
When I hit the beginning of the hill climb, I noticed a problem. Typically when we ride together and start the hill I am in about 23rd gear. (3 on the big ring, 7 on the small). This time I was slightly lower than that...2 on the big ring, 5 on the small. 13th gear?
At the 6 mile mark I was scuffling so hard to keep going I actually thought (and this is almost verbatim) "I could turn around now, go back to the car, and not one person would think less of me. But I would. I am going to finish this ride."
I put the hammer down...by which I mean I started bouncing back and forth between the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th gears on the 2nd ring. I punished myself up the hill.
After all, the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook tells us to get better, you have to push yourself. If you just do what you can already do, you will never get better. So push myself I did. Actually got off the bike and pushed myself up the hill. Probably added a quarter mile per hour to the overall speed.
I kept rotating my legs, trying to lose myself in the music, but instead kept losing myself in "I have come x miles in y time and have z miles to go so I should finish at abc-thirty". Fortunately, I then had an event occur that changed my mindset.
One of the Beagle Boys showed up. He plumped his not inconsiderable weight on the handle bars and announced, "I am going to join you for the rest of this ride."
"So I can Escher you."
"Usher me where."
He laughed. If you have never heard a Beagle Boy laugh, it is not a comforting thing. "Escher, not Usher. Usher is a bad singer who should have never sold a single album, much less however many albums he has sold. He is a miserable excuse for a pop music star."
Although the Beagle Boys and Junior Woodchucks are traditionally enemies as we foil their nefarious yet oddly incompetent crimes with mind-numbing ease and regularity, one must always compliment them when they speak truth. I patted him on the back. This drew strange looks from the joggers I was passing**** who quite naturally could not see this fictitious character.
"So what did you mean you Eschered me?" I asked, panting a little from having climbed approximately a zillion miles at 99% grade.
The Beagle Boy started rapping. Because MC Escher is without a doubt the worlds greatest MC. He is also famous for paintings and drawings...such as the one where you start at the bottom of a staircase, go up one, go up a second, go up the third, go up a fourth...and are at the base of the first one.
In other words, he explained in his musical poetry, he had used skills learned from MC Escher to rap and alter reality so the entire route would be uphill.
There would be no average speed-enhancing downhill plummet. Just a continuous uphill climb until I passed the moon. Or out. As long as I passed, he would be happy. This statement would come back to haunt him.
The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook is wonderful, because it has advice for specifically this situation. When you encounter the unclimbable, expend more energy. And I did. Big ring to 3. Small ring to 5....6...4...5...3...4...5...6....7....here I go!
I was powering up the hill, hitting 17, 18, 19 mph...I was doing just as I hoped. I was literally willing my way past the fatigue, willing my way past the growing ache in my legs, willing my...
Uh oh. I am on a bike. In the middle of nowhere. There are no doors in sight. So on what could anyone be knocking?
I look around, and as you might suspect, there was Superman pacing me, carrying a door in one hand and knocking on it with his other.
"What can I do for you sir?" I asked, mustering as much politeness as I could with my legs on fire, my bike weighed down by the Beagle Boy, and the strange looks from the older biking couple I was passing at the moment who heard the question but did not see the figments of my imagination it was addressed to.
He pointed at the speedometer, the Beagle Boy, my legs, then at himself. "I just wanted to point out you are not me."
I stuck my tongue out at him, plugged my ears and rode straight into a tree. Wait, that is not the Junior Woodchuck way. I respectfully replied, "No, sir, but you are a fine individual to emulate."
Nevertheless, my legs had heard his words and I slowed down a bit. then I crested the hill.
Typically when we reach this point we have been following the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook suggestion on hill climbing. We ride a reasonable pace a gear or two under the peak of our capability, conserve energy and have lots of juice left.
This, by the way, is one reason Robert tres is such a good riding partner. He actually reads the Guidebook. I just flipped through the comic book version. Even worse, I pretty much just looked at the pictures and did not read the words in the little bubbles.
So when we ride together we do it right and have energy left at the end of the ride. Included in that is energy for bursts of speed in situations like this where we crest hills and ride downhill.
And I did increase speed...but whereas in fresher times I can rightfully expect to exceed 20 mph with ease with numbers like 24 and 25 not unheard of, this time 20.1 seemed like almost too much effort.
Then I hit the switchback.
Someone decided the best way to handle this one valley is a twisting, turning mile or so sharp downhill...followed by re-climbing all that height in half the distance.
I had never before failed to climb the hill on the way out.
I trust you noticed the word "before" in the preceding sentence.
Because this time, about 80% of the way up I was willing my way up the hill. I cannot use the small ring and was down to gear three in the second ring. But I was going to force my way up that hill using pure will power.
Until Hal Jordan, in his Green lantern uniform, pointed out I was not a Green lantern. Hence my will power was not, in fact, the strongest force in the DC Universe. My legs gave out, i dismounted and shamefully walked the rest of the way up the hill.
Epic fail. And a testament to how fatigued my legs were. Fortunately, there is a good deal of downhill after that and I was clicking off miles at a respectable pace...not the 23 or 24 mph I have planned to ride that section some day...I never got past clicking 6 on the small ring and 3 on the big ring...but I was still about 21.
Also, it was misting on me, making the path a bit slick.
Then something happened about mile 17. I noticed the Beagle Boy had disappeared from the handlebars. It did not take me long to figure out where he had gone. He had turned himself into a gall stone.
At the risk of sounding unbelievably disgusting, the rest of my ride felt like I was passing him. I told you that word would come back to haunt him...yes, I was in agonizing pain in the sphincter region, but he was in worse shape...he was in my colon being passed. Just sayin'.*****
So adding to the leg fatigue, leg pain, shortness of breath, and mist, now it was miserable to sit on the seat. The insides of my thighs were screaming at me.
A wise person would have turned around. I grit my teeth and committed to riding at least 40 miles. So I pushed on. Every rotation of the pedals hurt the backside. I made it to the 20 mile mark and stopped.
It was my second stop of the ride...the first one being when I simply could not get up the switchback.
I spent a couple minutes there and sent the first Map My ride report back...and it was at that moment I noticed a major, major problem.
See, Map My Ride said I was 31 miles into my journey...as it turns out, I STILL failed because now it has been updated and says just 19.75 miles...which means I fell a half mile short. Anyway, it nets out to 13.94 miles per hour...more than 2 mph short of my goal.
With no leg strength left, my liquid gone, and standing there pondering calling a friend or brother to pick me up and drive me back to the car so I did not have to sit on the seat again it did not look good for a quick return trip.
I did get up to 17 and 18 mph at points re climbing the hills I had just descended...but I also spent time at 10 or 12 mph.
And the switchback defeated me worse than it ever has. I was mentally destroyed at that point and did not even attempt to climb past the first switchback. Honestly, it felt so good to be off the seat that I was looking for excuses to get off the bike.
Somehow, someway I got to the crest of the hill and put the hammer down one final time. For 7 or 8 miles I was in the top two gears...except now I was hitting all the uphill traffic and people were riding 3 and 4 wide, not getting over to let me ride by, even though they could see me coming.
One thing I did not mention in my rant about safety that got moved to the other blog is how the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook feels about riding etiquette. It feels quite strongly.
Robert Tres and I make a point of allowing faster riders to have a clear path when overtaking us, and to leave plenty of space when they are going the opposite way so as to not inhibit their ride. It is common decency and courtesy.
I have words to say to all those spandex and jersey wearing group ride creeps on the trail today. I choose to keep them to myself. Suffice it to say they are not kind words.
Anyway, the I-phone sucks up a LOT of juice and I was getting shut-down warnings. Fearful of losing my return data, I saved it and turned off the phone. What I got was decent...but at scarcely over 15 mph average in the direction I typically go faster, it was a huge disappointment from my preset goal.
I had no way to gauge my speed the rest of the way back, but I knew it would be slow. That trail is the roughest portion, and every vibration spoke straight to the Beagle Boy still crawling around my buttocks. Painful.
I did the last 4.6 or 4.7ish miles, whatever it was, in 18 minutes....so less than 13 mph, probably closer to 12.
Now, on the one hand, this day was an epic failure. I started out discouraged thinking I had screwed up my ride before it started. I missed my speed goal by 2 or 3 mph. I fell short of my mileage goal. I failed to accomplish either switchback climb. I was in more pain than I have been in from riding a bike since launching over the handlebars on the BMX-type bike I mis-jumped the ramp on when I was like 9.
On the other hand...I finished what I believed at the time was my assigned distance. I overcame any and all obstacles to stick to it to the bitter end, rediscovered how important it is to have a riding partner, and somehow, despite all that, managed to enjoy the ride. A lot.
I will be back, Banks-Vernonia. Robert Tres and I will defeat you many times together, and I will take another crack on you on my own. I am studying the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook now. It will teach me that which I need to know.
* Some part of this sentence may contain lies It may even be just one word that is false. Who knows? The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook does...
** Of course, my plan here was to push myself from start to end of the ride. Something about this statement and the one preceding the asterisks above does not make sense. If only I could figure out what it was...
*** In truth, within the first mile my goal changed drastically. Prior to the ride, I was shooting for a 16 mph - 17 mph average for the entire ride. At this point it changed to "finish the ride and hope I get stronger so my time is good." This is a hard admission for me to make, but the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook tells us to be honest with ourselves. Lots of planning for whenever this challenge would take place...and it was shot down in 5 minutes.
**** I passed numerous joggers and bikers on my route out. I think they started at various trail heads further up the trail towards Vernonia.
***** As disgusting as that image is, in truth I started getting a really intense and genuinely painful feeling I needed a bowel movement. It truly hurt to sit on the seat. A lot.