Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Agony and the Ecstacy

I've haven't been training as much on the bike this winter as i did last winter. Maybe due to the unseasonably warm weather, even warmer than last winter, or just lack of motivation to ride the trainer all together. I'm leaning towards the later, as I seem to get outside for rides in the nice weather. I've been doing the Davidsonville rides pretty consistently, but I decided it was time to bump it up a notch and head west to the mountains, well not really, but in Maryland 2,000 ft. of elevation is a mountain.

In keeping with the mantra of "it's always better to suffer with someone else than suffer alone", I organized a group ride for the 4/5 team. In designing the route, I put together what I thought would be a challenging yet achieveable ride for a group at this level. As the days grew closer it seemed as though more and more people were bailing from the ride, then the weather reports made it seem almost doomed, going from highs in the upper 50's and lower 60's at the end of the week to low 30's for a high on Saturday. That may have been enough, even for me. To top it off, the wind was predicted to be 20-30mph. It even had me questioning my sanity, but then I thought hey, I put up with worse at 'cross nat's, but that was only 45 minutes, not 4+ hrs.

As I rolled into the parking lot of Myersville elementary school, I was pleasantly surprised to see a solid group had shown for the ride. Even in the freezing temps of a 9am start with overcast skies. As we assembled in the parking lot, we discussed our sanity amongst the choices of clothing best suited for mostly steady uphill tempo and screaming decents in what would surely be sub 30 degree weather. As the 9 of us with abilities ranging from seasoned vet to realtive newcomer set out for the high country, I think we all knew we were about the share one of the toughest, yet satisfying days of training one could possibly imagine.

The ride started out with a somewhat hurried pace with an unorganized intent, not so much as to go hard, but to get warm. As we began the accent of the first climb of the day, a long gradual 3 miler, the wind made it's precense know and constantly reminded us it was going to be there to stay. Quickly the abilities of the group were made apparent and a sense of what was in store to come. As the day wore on, there was much laughing and cursing, especially on the accent of Buck lantz Rd. I threw this road into the ride as a way to get up to High Rock with som additional elevation gain on the way. However, my memory of this road did not include the fact that for the 3/4 mile or so climbing portion, this road was composed solely of dirt and loose gravel withe the heads of larger rocks protrudung through the errorded soil. At several points on the climb, the grade kicked up to 14%, forbidable enough on smooth pave, but a test of strength, balance and determination on dirt.

As we made our way over to High Rock the feelings in the group were mixed, for some this was already the hardest thing they've ever done on a bike, for others this was was the sort of sadistic fun cyclist are known to love. Personally, I'm the later. We made our accesnt of High Rock with a lead group of 4, Arch, Jon, James and myself. Jon "Mountain Goat" Gdowik and I get a gap early but then Jon pulls away leaving me. James and Arch are behind me as I cruise along at a steady tempo enjoying the scenic view north into Pennsylvania. Then I hear this taunting voice from behind me "I'm coming for you", it's James. As Metallica began to blair into my head, overriding the pounding of my own heartbeat, James continues his taunting. I give the shifter a few clicks and rise out of the saddle to give myself the kick I need to push it up a notch. As I glance back I can see instantly that I've put several meters on him, then I hear, "Oh, man." I knew I had him. Sorry James!

On the way back we managed to have enough juice left in the legs to pace line down Rt 17 from Wolfesville. As we cruised back into the elementary school there was a complete and utter sense of both elation and fatigue. Everyone put in a good ride and eventhough there were sometime when "this sucks" really meant "this sucks", no one wished they'd hadn't come out on this miserably cold day in February.

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