Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Race Report: Mountains of Misery Century Ride

Mountains of Misery, Blacksburg, VA, Sunday, May 25
Misery indeed, particularly the last climb (CAT 1). I wisely chose the Century (100 miles) over the Double Metric (128 miles) although there is nothing really wise about doing this ride at all. The Century has 10,000 feet of climbing most of which comes from two major and two minor climbs. The rest of the course is small rollers with some down hills and flats thrown in.

There were four waves with the first being the super fast guys. I chose to start in the third wave which was the largest. It was my first mass bike start but being surrounded by experienced cyclists meant there were no issues or crashes and the field spread out quickly.

I was riding with Team Zers Larry Williams, Damon Taafe and Fabrice B. for the first 28 miles (they were doing the Double). It was Damon who put out the email about this ride for those of us unable to go to Placid for training. A big thanks to Damon, she says sarcastically :)

I found myself riding with a small group off and on but mainly with a guy named Matt. They put our first names on the bib number we wore on our backs which means riders can cheer you on as they pass. Anyway, Matt rode the Century last year and we chatted about the beautiful scenery and the climbs to come. All in all we pretty much rode the rest of the ride together. He would surge past me on the up hills and then I would get aero and pass him on the smaller descents and flats. It was a lot of fun.

Yeah it was fun for a while. That is until about mile 60 when we had to climb our way out of the beautiful, flat valley we had been riding through for the last 30 or so miles. The climb started out fine but when we got closer to the hill side it got very steep with switchbacks the likes of which I have never rode on a bike. While climbing, I usually stay seated but not today. I had to get out of my saddle; otherwise I would have stopped as I was going so slowly. This climb was not really long but it was a bitch. The rest stop at the top was like an oasis in the desert. Thank God it was real.

After a five minute break we were on our way with Matt screaming his way down the steep descent. Once down the hill the course flattened out again and I got aero and took off. WooooHooooo! That was fun and it lasted several miles. The next 25 or so miles were not bad at all with a couple minor climbs but they were definitely doable.

We reached our last stop at about mile 93 – right before the last climb began. That stop was very popular as everyone was preparing for what lay ahead. As we left for the CAT 1 climb I said to Matt, “I want my mommy now”. He laughed. I was nervous and had no idea what to expect as I had never tried anything like this before. I already told myself that if I had to get off my bike and walk that I would do just that.

The first couple of miles were ok and we were definitely taking it easy. Then it got steeper and steeper and steeper. With about two miles left to go there was a small flat area right before a major ass switchback where everyone was stopping to rest. There wasn’t much talking going on, just a lot of heavy breathing, but not the creepy kind you would get on a phone call.

I rested a couple minutes and then took off up the steep switchback, out of the saddle, pedaling strong but slow. Christ this was hard. There is actually a rest stop with about a mile and half to go, but since the last stop I had gained momentum and rode past it. It was too late for help of any kind and I didn’t want to stop again, not yet anyway.

I caught up with Matt at the next flat spot before yet another steep switchback. Through the heavy breathing I looked at Matt and said, “This effing sucks”. He nodded and said, “I know”.

There was a “flat” road off to the left about 25 feet ahead and I walked up to that. I walked my bike back a bit to get some speed so that I could continue up what was now straight road and not a switchback but of course steep as hell. I got a tiny bit of speed which helped a lot. I started up the hill and thought I had maybe a half mile to go.

I decided I wasn’t going to stop again. I was afraid if did then I wouldn’t get back on the bike. I slowly, very slowly powered my way up to the finish. Someone walked passed, “Your almost there, keep it up, the finish is at the red tent”. I looked up ahead. There was no red tent in sight.

I kept pedaling praying to see the red tent. Where the hell is the red tent? Then just around a corner it came into view along with the crowds lining the road. It was still almost a quarter mile away. Keep pedaling Stacy. You can’t stop now, the finish is right there! I felt a surge as I approached and passed the finish line. There was a guy there to help hold my bike as I tried to get off my bike. It wasn’t easy but I swung my very tired leg over the saddle and made my way to get the coveted finisher’s shirt. I DID IT!

The ride ends at the hotel and cabins where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed. It is really pretty up there and the view was amazing.
This ride is awesome. From the scenery to the SAG support and overly stocked rest stops, I highly recommend it for experienced cyclists who have a sado-masochistic side to their personalities.

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