Enjoyed an awesome day on the bike last Saturday and, purely as a byproduct, churned out my first 100+ mile day in, um, let me check, yep, uh (Saturday minus June 15, 1996 equals...) -WoW- almost fourteen years. And if you, my friend, made it through that last sentence you deserve a Purlitzer readin' prize.
Really I shouldn't say I churned out MY first 100+ mile day since it was a team effort (ie other people involved with putting up with HOURS of my yackety yacking and dragging my cramping legs over the last ten miles). I surprised teammate Carl by showing up in his driveway at 6:20. My sarcastic tone in emails earlier that week led him to believe I was blowing off his idea to ride in the cold dark to Sunol. There goes my "sense of humor" making a muck of real communication again...
Anyhoo, we set out for Sunol to meet up with more folks. Everytime I thought I knew where Carl was going, he made a right turn and I got all miscombobulated again. But I have 110% faith in Carl's wayfinding abilities so I was no worries. When we were a few minutes from the Sunol train station, I started hearing these strange mystical cowbell sounds from the hill above. Finally, Carl said something like, "That's probably Janet calling." My freezing up-too-early brain took another minute to figure out that was his ringtone. (And to think I used to be a morning person!).
There was no one at Sunol so Carl left a quick message for Janet (ride leader) and we headed down Calaveras briskly at first. Finally I was starting to warm up but the lower and shadier parts of Calaveras had me riding with my hands in my armpits still. Just shy of Milpitas, Carl and I parted and he did me a solid and used his phone to get in touch with Janet. I swooped down into Milpitas and, voila, there were teammates Janet and Ludin and former teammate Allen and Janet was talking to Carl on her phone.
We threaded through Milpitas and the easternest reaches of San Jose and I recognized my surroundings (barely) as we began the looong hump up Mt. Hamilton. As we climbed I finally started warming up and soon enough the effort of going up combined with sunshine and maybe even stellar views over San Jose had me removing clothes and feeling my toes again. We enjoyed a long slog uphill with Allen showing the lungs and legs that won Copperopolis last year and Cantua Creek this year (very humbling!). Janet took it easy on me and climbed with me all the way up. I was starting to feel the effort towards the top but once we got to Lick, a little rest and stretch had me eager to get back to work.
Time to admit something... I probably should have skipped this ride! After being sick and having such a spotty training schedule over the last six weeks, I poured the miles on over the last two weeks. As a result, Thursday found my right achilles tendon super tight. Not quite a full blown bursitis/tendonitis/whatever flare up but right at the point where some rest was in order. But an ankle brace seemed to be keeping things together and so, what the heck, why not go ride for seven hours?
Up to Lick, I felt just fine, other than some heavy legs toward the end of the climb. Shooting down the East side of Mt. Hamilton was fun and, though I didn't stop to pee on my crash sight, I did give it the middle finger as I swooped by. Down at the bottom and heading toward San Antone valley it was time to start stripping clothes again and the warm sun, valley views and good company are one of the reasons we dress up silly, swing legs over these costly contraptions and thrash away like we do. Good times!
Okay, time to admit another thing... I've had a brand spanking new SRAM 9-speed chain sitting on the bench for about two weeks. I sort of knew I was playing roulette with my year-old Dura Ace chain but I kept putting off replacing it for one reason or another. When Carl and I were riding to Sunol earlier in the day, I sucked up a twig. I worked it out of the drive train back pedaling and didn't think anything about it. But going up Mt. Hamilton, I obviously was having a problem as my chain had an obvious fat spot in it. Somehow it stayed together but when we got to the Junction I found the troubled link and was amused to see that the plate had pulled off the pin and the only thing holding the chain together was spring tension against the pin. I pressed it back together with my chain tool and we headed out for the last leg back into Livermore.
My hard climbing legs were sort of done for the day and I watched Allen and Janet fly away up the last two climbs of the day and chatted with Ludin and that was a great distraction from the battle with gravity. Allen and Janet were nice enough to wait for us at the top of the last climb. We got a decent paceline going and I was surprised to find I had any horsepower left at all at this point.
At the Santa Clara/Alameda county line I employed all the strategies that led to my "1996 Best Saturday Morning Sprinter" award.
1- Let someone else ride at the front until 1 km to go.
2- Attack and get a gap trying to go away over the next 800 meters.
3- Sprint for all you're worth and take no prisoners until the county limit sign is over your right shoulder.
4- (And this is probably the most important tactic for success). Make sure on one knows where the county limit sign is or that you will be racing for it.
After my glorious county line victory we continued on with a pretty brisk paceline with no one really looking like they were feeling the miles. Except me about five miles later when I came off the front, pulled onto the rear of the train and then -boom- my right quad locked up on me. That was about the quickest I've ever gone from "just fine" to cramping. I backed off stretched and got it back but I could only spin form this point on, no real strength riding. My three compatriots motored away rapidly into the headwind and that was fine. I ate, drank, stretched and maintained the best pace I could. About this time I suddenly realized my right ankle was really starting to hurt -but not my achilles tendon, more on the inside. Dammit.
A couple of miles later, I came around a bend and there was everybody soft pedaling and waiting for me! How nice! After that, I was okay for the rest of the day, though I was only using one leg since I was afraid of another cramp and trying to put as little pressure on my right ankle as possible. Janet was nice enough to stay with me while Allen and Ludin stormed off down the last few miles of Mines road.
We regrouped just before town and on my 99th mile, we got the only flat of the day. Allen whipped off his back wheel and I offered up my frame pump. Allen looked at it as I'd handed him an antique boat anchor and said, "You carry THIS thing around with you!?" And a minute later the joke was mine as he blew his only CO2 cartridge on a bad tube. Ah who am I kidding? I'd trade lugging that thing around for getting up hills half as fast as he does!
Back into Livermore city limits, Ludin first split off to his house and I split back to Carl's a few miles later as Janet and Allen finished their loop back to Sunol. (At this point I imagine them flying away at some insane pace free of the burden of dragging my failing legs and bike along - but that's probably just an esteem issue I should work on.)
What a day! I had a blast and it really feels good to be feeling sort of fit again after the long layoff last Fall. My left wrist was kind of sore after such a long day but not too bad. I don't think I have the same raw horsepower as last Summer but with twelve pounds less to haul up the climbs, I feel alot better when the going gets vertical. And the best bonus is that I was naturally kind of tired on Sunday but riding my Mt. bike around with my son wasn't unpleasant at all. Butt feels fine, neck, shoulders, crotch: all say GO! And my legs this morning feel absolutely fine. Recovery is a good thing!
BUT. But. There is always a but. But my right ankle is screwed up. It's the same pain/creaking sensation that I have been dealing with in the Achilles off and on but it's in a different place. It already started feeling a little better yesterday and today a little better still but it's really not near ready to go. But with Copperopolis five days away, I can't exactly stay off the bike this week either. Dammit. It's always something. The way I feel right now, I would just wrap up the ankle, deaden the sensation with something topical and go race. But I'd really like to show up to a race ready and without a "but" in my story.