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trip report: mountains of misery (24 may 2009)

Activity: road cycling
Location: Newport, VA > New Castle, VA > Newport > Mountain Lake, VA (Mountains of Misery)
Distance: 102.7 (mostly rollers, some big, with two BIG climbs)
Duration: 5:57 (6:17 with stops)
Weather: overcast and mild, a little drizzle, 62-70 degrees
Climbing: 10,000′
Avg HR: 160 (max 191)
Type: aerobic

Year two of the Mountains Of Misery ride, and it went very, very well: 19 minutes faster than last year, without the leg cramp that plagued me in the final 10 miles.

The weather forecast leading into the ride became increasingly unfavorable as the week progressed: partly cloudy morphed into overcast, then into showers and thunderstorms. While Jonathan, Chris, Kelly, Mike, Mark and I were a bit worried, we also kept in mind that weather forecasting involves a lot of chaos theory, and is guaranteed to have a certain measure of inaccuracy.

Luckily, May 24 was one of those days.

Sure, there was some drizzle between miles 10 and 20, which was fine. Our starting wave (third out, four minutes after the first group had departed) settled into a good pace, driven by Jonathan, Chris and James, who would end up having the fastest overall time of the day by “not stopping, save for one quick water fill and two pee breaks.” Chris and I rode past the rest stops at miles 26 and 42, making our first stop at mile 56. This helped keep Chris on track for a sub-7-hour finish time, and me on track to beat my time from last year. The rest of our group rode ahead, which was fine, as I had spent the previous six miles playing catch-up after having to stop and tighten a loose crank arm.

The St. John’s Creek climb at mile 58 was good for me: I placed some distance between Chris and me, while Jonathan was dancing up the climb behind us. I quickly stopped to top off my water bottle at the top, having neglected to do so at the rest stop to save a tiny bit of weight (yup – silly, isn’t it?), and shoved off when Chris pulled in and Jonathan passed me. And just like last year, I quickly caught up with Jonathan on the downhill.

Jonathan and I rode together for the rest of the ride, and were happy to see Chris pull into the rest stop at mile 84 as we were pulling out: it was almost certain that he’d beat his goal! Jonathan and I kept rolling, passing the final pre-climb rest stop and heading toward the final, category 1 obstacle: Doe Creek Road.

This year, Jonathan and I started together on this climb, but he certainly had better form for the climb. I was pushing a higher gear than in 2008 (36/25, as opposed to 34/25), and my lower back was giving me fits. I had to stop to stretch it out a couple times during the climb (20-30 seconds per stop) when it locked up and made my pedal stroke more of a lop-sided lunge. But I still made it up the hill faster than last year, and when I crossed the line at 6 hours, 21 minutes and 15 seconds, I was happy: 19 minutes shaved off my 2008 time! Jonathan cheered me on through the finish, as I did for him last year, and we both hit the massage tables to get the lactic acid worked out of our legs.

As we were on the tables, we listened for Chris’ name to be called by the usually-attentive announcer. However, before we heard his name, along came Chris! He finished in 6:38 (6:34 with the four minute time correction), which totally eclipsed his previous best time of 7:08 – a target smashed, for sure!

Our other group mates fared well, too. Mark shaved almost an hour off his 2008 time. Kelly and Mike – my carpool mates who rode the 124-mile route – finished between 8:30 and 9:00 elapsed time (giving me enough time to fully partake of the free BBQ at the finish, as well as a shower at Mountain Lake Hotel, where Dirty Dancing was filmed).

But the best part was seeing my friend Mariette finish in less than eight hours! Mariette shouldn’t have been at this ride: in early March, she was rear-ended by a motorist while riding her bike in Scottsdale, Arizona. She suffered numerous broken bones (fibula broken in four places, broken pelvis, ribs, vertebrae and nose, lacerations a’plenty) and had only started riding on smooth roads a few weeks ago. Prior to Mountains Of Misery 2009, her longest ride had been 53 miles. Yet here she was, finishing a 102.7 mile ride with insane climbs in a time that is a great feat for most riders. She is an inspiration, and the total embodiment of a tough person – way to go, Mariette!

My goal heading into this ride was to shave 5 minutes from my finishing time, and I managed to do almost four times better. The next big goal is the Harpoon Brewery-To-Brewery ride, only 22 days from today. I think I’m ready, though there’s a lot more prep to do.

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