I have a habit of challenging myself a bit too much sometimes. Perhaps it is hubris, or ego, or simply being over-confident about my own abilities. In any case, sometimes I end up in trouble for it. I know it when I am walking up a steep grade that humans shouldn’t consider as roads, or when I am wondering how or what I am going to do about the undertaking I have started.
Tour of the Battenkill was no different. According to the stats, it is a “tough” ride, with 75 miles, and just around 5,500 ft of climbing. There are 13 dirt sections, spanning 19 miles. It doesn’t sound terrible.
After 3 solid days of rain, those dirt sections were really soft. On 23cc tires (the only tires that fit on my Cervélo S5), that means I was sinking in the mud. Between the mud, the muddy hills and the headwind, my power was being sapped like a sponge.
The first 20 miles were either completely, or relatively uphill. It seems like we didn’t stop climbing. I expected to be like Icarus, and see my bike start to melt as we rode too close to the sun. The hills seemed to go on forever, on dirt, at 10-17% for mile after mile.
By mile 37, the halfway point, I was spent. My back hurt. My legs were jelly. I was completely, and utterly cooked. Unfortunately, I was only halfway done. So I tried to see if maybe there was a cliff I could throw myself off of. Perhaps my bike would have some unsalvageable mechanical issue from the abuse of streaming down pock-marked dirt roads at 40 mph. Perhaps one of these cows would jump the fence and trample me. No such luck. I soft pedaled for a while, hoping to recover some energy.
On I rolled. Past farms, up hills, over ridges, through foreign territory. I questioned my own existence at some point. I wasn’t sure if I was still in the race. How did I know I didn’t die somewhere and this was hell; being forced to ride a grueling ride forever.
By mile 50 I resigned to finishing. I wanted to cry. I wanted to quit. No, I was going to finish! I trained for this! I rode in 22 degrees up mountains to be ready for this.
When some of the dirt hills kicked up to 21% grade, I got off to walk for a section, and pass people trying to ride up the hills. I am not proud of walking up a hill, but self-preservation was the main concern. At mile 65, the temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and then the rain started. It was a cold, biting rain. It stung my arms and face, but I put my head down, and found whatever power I had left in my legs. I threw myself at the storm. I poured every last shred of energy left in my body in to the pedals.
After 6 grueling hours, I rolled over the finish line. I didn’t realize how spent I was until I got off of the bike. I almost collapsed. I was delirious. I drank a quart of the most delicious chocolate milk in under 2 minutes.
It has been 4 days since the race, and I finally feel like I can talk about it.
Would I do it again? Yeah, probably.