Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Swami Ride

(This was Saturday Morning's Ride. I finished the recap Sunday night... just a quick note.)

I never knew what it was to cry on the bike.

But today, I learned.

The task: Ride with the Swami's.

The mission: Be aggressive, work hard, hang on as long as you can.

The result: tears, anger, frustration, more tears, resolve.

I was downright scared going into this ride. Liz gave me some very helpful advice: 1) Shift smoothly 2) Don't coast. (Sherpa Thomas advised me to, "Ride like hell. Whatever you do, don't stop!")

I was oddly quite in the van on the way over to ride headquarters (Nytro). But this is what I wanted, this was part of the reason why I came out to California to train.

The group was fast, they were intense, and holy shit! Their bikes - fully carbon, many decked out in race wheels, the latest high-tech weight saving devices to reduce weight and conserve precious grams. I was mortified. My bike - my trusty old Giant road bike, 3 chain rings and all (Big ring, Little ring, Granny Gear) - looked downright pitiful compared to everyone else's speed machines. Chris assured me that it would take 3 of "their" bikes to equal my Giant's weight.

Thomas, sensing my fear and doubt, assured me that the weight of the bike was the least important, the least of my concerns. I needed to focus on myself, on my riding, on my ability - on the factors that I could control. What good would an $8,000 bike with $1500 race wheels do, if the person in charge could't ride, didn't have the "right motor?"

A theme that stuck with me through the day.

I may not be the fastest - may have a 3rd "Granny Ring" - may carry a camera, extra gels, salt, baggies of CarboPro, and other misc items that make me heavier - but at least I would try.

And try I did.

I managed to hang with the "A" group (mostly Cat 1/2 Men - Liz, and I were the only women who rode with the group, save 1, something that neither of us wanted to point out to each other, but discussed in great detail afterwards) for around 30 minutes, before entering the wonders of Elfin Forest.

During the "warm up", I was amazed at how tired my legs were, how labored my breathing was, yet listened in amazement as the incredibly fast guys all around chattered away. They weren't even out of breath, and I was huffing zone 4 up a few longer climbs.

Right before turning into the Elfin forest, towards the top of a fairly long climb, I could feel myself slipping. It was so, incredibly painful - I kept watching the wheels of the guys in font of me pull futher and futher ahead.

Just when I thought my time was over, that I was bound to be enveloped by the pack and spat out the back - left to my own devices to ride some Elfish-road in San Diego County, I felt a strong, solid hand on my back, giving me a huge push forward. Before I knew it, my speed had increased, and I found myself again with the group. I had never been given a push like that - some stranger coming up behind me and willing me forward, helping me to bridge the gap. (Later I discovered that my savior-of-the-moment was Chris. I thought it was either Chris or Thomas, but was unsure due to my delirium at the time.)

After makeing a quick right onto Elfin Road, the pack drew together, bunched up, and then... BAM! Attack the rollers, attack off the front, attack attack attack.

It was all I could do to hang on.

I was helpless, watching rider after blue-clad rider go around my tired and weak body, and rejoin the group. This time there was no hand on my back, no one to give me that extra push forward. I looked back, and realized there was no one behind me.

I was all alone.

And I was maxed out.

My heart was pounding, my legs were screaming, my tricpes were aching, and emotionally I was spent. I had just worked my hardest to hang on, to ride as strong as I could - and all within a matter of a minute, I was discarded off the back end.

I took a deep breath, and looked at the empty road behind and then focused forward, on the pack quickly growing smaller in the distance.

I was working my hardest, but there wasn't a damn thing I could do.

And that's when the tears started.

I cried out of frustration. I cried out of pain. I cried out of sadness. I cried because I didn't know what else to do. I was broken, riding as hard as I could through the Elfin forest - a "magical place" according to my own friendly ELF - yet sobbing on my bike.

I quickly realized that if I wanted to maintain any semblance of pace whatsoever, I needed to stop my crying, get my act together, and push forward. I had 2 options. 1) Stop. And where would that get me? Absolutely no where. PLUS - I had no clue where to go, and I figured that once this damned road ended, there would be some sort of direction about where to go. Or 2) Keep going.

So ride I did.

There was a rider ahead who had fallen off the pace, and was adjusting his ipod (who bikes with an ipod?), who happened to look back and see my pitiful, lonley self, biking forward. With a quick hello and a few encouraging words, "Big Mac" as he called himself (the guy was seriously over 6'5 and named Mac. As in Mac Truck) said that we would work together and pick up the stragglers one by one.

I gathered myself as best as I could, and rode his wheel.

After a few minutes, he upped the tempo and I matched his speed as best as I could. After questioning me on how I was doing, I replied, "My legs are toasted. I climbed Palomar yesterday."

"Oh yeah?" he replied. "I'm a 52 year old Dad of 5-year-old twins. Are we even."

That shut me up. And I didn't complain anymore. Not one bit.

Not about my tired body. Not about my heavy bike. Not about anything. I just shut my mouth, held back the tears (a few came out on occasion), and simply dealt with it.

I couldn't control my bike. I couldn't control how my body felt.

But I could control how I reacted to my situation.

So me and Big Mac rode through the wonderous Elfin Forest, picking up stragglers along the way. After 15 minutes, we had amassed another 4 or 5 bikers, and were our own little pack. We were all hurting, all had been spat out the back. But we were still going.

I was still going.

Looking back on that ride - it was incredible. The range of emotions, how I felt, how I responded, my tears, my anger, my pain - those are the things I was hoping to experience on this trip.

I am so happy - looking back - about this ride. It was good for me, it was good to crack. To experience it all. I want and need to ride with faster people, to push myself beyond my limits.

Because yesterday, I met my limit and broke. And now I'm stronger for it. I pushed past it, discovered more about myself than I knew before the ride, and found that (inspite of tears), I can keep going.

And - to be brutally honest - I hope it happens again.


Ryan said...

Welcome to "crackville"

Population. . . YOU!

Hey don't try to shove in on getting sympathy for cracking, that's my deal.

At least you were able to continue functionally.


Well let's just say a 6 1/2 hour marathon for the ironman wasn't in my play book.


Great job riding!

I'll be in SoCal on Thurs.

Home Sweet Home!

Pedergraham said...

Thanks for sharing this. I kpet wanting to hand you a virtual tissue! Whenever runners ask me the difference between running a marathon and racing an Ironman, I alwasy tell them "tears". They don't get it...but I know you do!
Have a great time for the rest of your time in San Diego.

Katie Weaver-Jongerius said...

You should give yourself more credit girly! You just got done with HTFU camp, then off to California to train with the did awesome! Less then a month now until the big'll be ready now. Once you hit the tears, its all down hill. =)

Courtenay said...

but there's nothing wrong with crying on the bike! i do it all the time. for one thing it helps get road grit out of my contacts. for another it helps me weigh less because i get rid of excess fluid ;). but really it just helps me get out whatever i am frustrated about and then refocus on the ride.

and race equipment on a group ride?! that sounds like a douchebag boy maneuver by true pro standards. pay them no mind.

have a great last day! you are going to be soo strong after this.

TriGirl Kate O said...

All that on a Giant? Wow! I may bequeath you my deserve it more for having the guts to hang with the big boys.

kerrie said...

wow - great ride story! way to hang tough...i've had my share of those moments(they usually include a lot more profanity) but they make you a better rider :)

Sally said...

Marit ... I'm wishing you healing thoughts as I pray for your quick and thorough recovery. Sally Long