California Coast Classic-Day 2; The Finish! Day 2-Part 2.
So as I mentioned, I was 2 miles from the end of the ride yesterday; and I “shut it down mentally” and engaged the autopilot.
Why was this a huge mistake? Because the last 2 miles of the ride were up a big, long hill; one that tripped me up mentally, and physically.
Was it the biggest hill I had climbed in my 2 days of riding? Absolutely not, but it wasn’t insignificant either. I had heard whispers about “the hill” at the end of Day 2 up into base camp, but I was still reeling from the rumors of a tailwind on Day One. How bad could it be?
I had just ridden about 45.5 miles. I had met up with “The Magic Roundabout;” my burner phone name for my “old” Rhode Island training mate, Rosemary. The Sun was slamming through the beautiful blue sky, we were riding along the beach, I felt great, I was excited about finishing another day riding, and we were at the base of the hill.
Enough dramatic interlude. That hill kicked my ass; and taught me a very valuable lesson; which was tough to take, because I had been taught “that” lesson hundreds of times before.
There are certain physical activities that you can not “mail-in or skate through on cruise control.” The brain and body have to be in unison. You have to go at them mentally and physically; in the attack mode or you’ll fail your task miserably. A few examples are; skiing moguls, running wind sprints, and yes, steep hill climbs on a bike.
The factors against me piled up fast. 1. The hill grade at its steepest was about 10 to 12%; very respectable. 2. I didn’t know the course ahead of me. 3. I couldn’t get my head and legs to reconcile the challenge at hand, and along with my heart, I didn’t want to, but I began to climb anyway.
“The warning lights were flashing down at quality control; someone threw a spanner; threw it in the hole.”
Lyrics from Industrial Disease-Dire Straits.
Immediately my mind and body did begin to realize that the task at hand was a little tougher than what I was initially too lazy to work for. Not a good sign. In a disgraceful show of “cycling-ship,” I dragged myself up the steep hill through the residential neighborhood, all the while telling my disassembled body and psyche that it will all end very soon. I looked up to the crest of the hill, annoyed that I had made this so much harder on myself than it should have been. Panting heavily, and out of synch, I rolled over the crest of the hill expecting to arrive.
“Everyone has a plan; until they get punched in the mouth.” Mike Tyson
I’m not a huge boxing fan, but the aptest quote from a surprising source.
Ignoring the assault to my temporary, mental and physical condition, I scanned the plateau. I saw no sign of base camp or any of the other riders; only another yellow directional sign pointing up the road, and up another hill.
That was just cruel.
Really Zulu? Cruel as in; people all around the world starving for food, seeking clean water, warm shelter, and an end to war, or cruel as in “Awwwwww; the injustice of it all.” See the “little boy” whining about getting to spend an entire week riding his bicycle on an amazing adventure?
“Yeah, good point!”
As if my mind wasn’t plenty busy enough at the moment; In another far corner of my raging steam of consciences, it occurred to me I forgot to ask a woman I had met, who was initially from a country I had visited a long time ago, and who could speak another language, to teach me some new swear words in that language. I could have really used them now because I was just about out of all the English ones I knew. When I did eventually tell her this story, she apologized and told me she would not have been able to help me anyway because regrettably, she had to empty her profane arsenal out on a few tractor-trailer trucks who refused to “share the road” with her earlier in the day, “Much Respect!”
I began to continue the climb up the next section of the road. I must shamefully admit, that I had STILL not gotten my mind and lungs to accept the predicament at hand, because I was sure that for the 20th time, I would cross the finish point any second now, and for the 20th time I didn’t. I couldn’t see the top of the hill, as not only was I climbing through a wooded area, but the road was filled with switchbacks that alternated directions of my path ahead, only fueling my overactive imagination that I was not making any real progress but literally just going back and forth.
I finally broke.
With no view insight and the start of one more switchback, I quit. I stopped pedaling, clipped out, and just stood there for a few minutes. Out of breath and motivation, this moment would turn out to be the “cycling” low point of the week for me.
It’s O.K. Once again, let’s all remember, this was not a life or death situation; just another tale of a semi-fit fool riding his bike. This story is not as dire as someone trying to save the world from an asteroid strike. What?????? (Editors Note; Ignore him guys….just keep reading).
Not surprising to me, or many others who may be reading this, or have engaged in similar adventures, this particular episode would be the springboard and backbone for all the greatest motivation and inspiration I would need to go on to complete the remaining hills, and challenges of this bike tour. Nobody likes having to learn ( or re-re-learn) their lessons, but I was glad I re-learned this one early in the week on a short 47-mile day.
Meanwhile, back in the story, as I stood there in the middle of the road going nowhere, I heard a cyclist coming up behind me. Before I even knew who it was, I heard his voice. “Come on Zulu; you’re almost there! You can do this. Just a little further.”
Encouraging words from other cyclists were never in short supply during this week, but I was a little surprised and amazed to hear them from Lee R. Not because of Lee’s character. He was also one of the top fundraisers for the Arthritis Foundation, and after I found his bike glove in the hallway of the hotel the first morning, he was very kind and grateful when I finally tracked him down, returned the glove, and met him. Because Lee had done the tour several times, I was picking his brain of the “things to come.” He told me he just didn’t have the time or opportunity to properly train for this year’s tour, and yet, here he was, climbing up the wooded road into base camp throwing out words of encouragement to the “stalled out” first-year rider. Thanks, Lee!
“Pedal, pedal, click, click.” Mustering my remaining dignity, I had to turn my bike sideways and grab a quick lateral move, and then a downhill roll as I clipped into my pedals to gain some momentum to turn uphill and resume my ascent.
The 5-minute respite was just what I needed. I was still a little short of breath, and a little tired from the day’s ride, but the “cycling clemency” the break offered was just enough to snap my brain out of the “soup of gloom” that I was presently muddling in. I “began to see” the beautiful pine-covered forest, regain the desire to ride my bike, and recall the magnificent bike ride I had that day, but most of all realized that this steep long climb through the woods and residential neighborhood filled with switchbacks would become the “downhill welcome mat” to start the next’s days ride out of base camp. I also knew right then and there, I would slay this hill for its insolence!!! Hahahahahahah!!! (Hey, it is a biking website of absurdity!).
With no further suffering, I rolled out of the pine tunnel into the clearing that was truly the end of the day’s ride. As the volunteers greeted me, all I could do is turn my head and silently point back to the way I just came; shaking my fist. We all started laughing; me because I was finished and them nodding because they knew!
All’s well that ends.
I’ll leave a quick video of my ride down out of base camp on Day 3 here. It’s not the exact route or distance we took in, but I’m sure you’ll get the picture. Yes, part of the video has been sped up, because the effect it gives riding along with the sun and wind is more realistic on how it really feels to ride down this route. It was VERY exciting!