There were a couple of things I neglected to do to prepare myself for my second century: eat right during the race, wear sunblock, and train properly in the three weeks before the race. I wouldn't call this a recipe for success. In fact, I would call it the opposite of that. . .what was the word for that again? Oh yeah, it's called "Andrew's half-assed long distance bike ride training regimen". I'm going to start selling DVDs this summer!
The course for the Chico Wildflower was designed by an asshole. There is over 4,000 feet of altitude gain on the course, which wouldn't be too horrible except this elevation is exclusively located in the climbing of two mountains. The first mountain comes before mile thirty and is the longer of the two climbs. It is a seemingly infinite series of switchbacks which turned my legs into a lactic acid factory. As I neared each blind turn I pleaded that the summit would be revealed, but I think that I started hoping that in the middle of the climb so I had a lot of disappointment ahead of me. I guess whoever designed this course isn't too bad because they could have put this climb at mile ninety.
The second mountain is situated around mile fifty which occurred, for me, around one in the afternoon on the first quite warm day of the year. On paper, the second climb is easier as it is about three hundred feet less of elevation but in reality it is far worse because I had already climbed a mountain and though this one was shorter, it was still a nearly half mile of vertical gain within a three mile span of road. I nearly passed out, so I walked the last 1/4 mile up the mountain. I felt quite sick at the top of Table Mountain but pushed on thinking/hoping it would pass.
When I got to the mile 65 lunch stop I had reached a special level of exhaustion. It reminded me of the upsetting senselessness of being tired as a small child. My body was extremely sore and I was so fatigued that I felt like crying. I remember thinking that I felt like a 3 year old who had just gotten kicked down a flight of stairs at 3 a.m. The sound that came out of me as that thought went through my brain was a depressing chuckle-sob which inspired me to turn up my mp3 player as I forced down my sandwich.
The rest of the ride was fairly bland. There were no huge climbs and there was also absolutely no shade. Before I get to the eventual failure, however, I must go back to the mountains.
Downhills are pretty crazy for a fat guy. I have always biked alone so when I take on a sweet downhill on which I will meet or exceed the speed limit, I generally just take over the lane. I love it when drivers get pissed because you are on a bike, in their lane, going their speed. They usually want to pass me or attempt to make it look like I am inconveniencing them in some way. By the time I get to the bottom of the hill, however, they are 300 yards back and generally continue to give me a fair amount of space. Do they think I'm crazy for going so fast or have they just realized the size of a dent my extra large helmet would put in their car? When there are bikes as well as traffic, the descent becomes a bit trickier.
After the first mountain, I was excited for a long downhill run. After the second mountain, I hit every down-slope by saying "Fuck this pedaling shit. You owe me this one, gravity." I let my speed get a little out of hand on the first hill, however. I can feel fairly comfortable in the low 40s, but that is when I am the only biker on the road. About three quarters of the way down the hill I was flying by other riders and swerving into the turn lanes hoping to miss the cars driving up the hill as well. Luckily, my odometer stores my fastest time. I was going 48.9 miles an hour. I'd like to try for 50 at some point in time, but not any time soon.
I felt steadily sicker as I rode, and at mile 75 I started experiencing very painful back spasms. I now think that this was probably not a muscle issue as I drank my camelback dry twice (it holds 100 oz) and about 100 oz more of sports drinks at the various stops as well as another 150 oz of water at dinner afterwords and I didn't pee once all day until 7 at night. I'm thinking that back pain might have been my kidneys screaming for help. After dinner, I got the special opportunity to experience the literal reality of a cliched phrase as insult was added to injury and I was completely debilitated for an hour and a half writhing in horrible pain with the hiccups.
Since the ride looped back on itself, I could have cut off the last ten to fifteen miles and go straight to the finish. But, despite feeling ill and being in pain, I had to keep trying to do the full 100. I didn't allow myself to stop and rest in a spot of shade for a moment until mile 93. I figured this was safe because I ride seven miles every day to and from work. I stood straddling my bike with my head resting on the handlebars. After a couple of minutes I realized that I would not be moving from this spot and at that moment one of the ride volunteers drove up and offered to give me a ride back to the finish line.
Just about everybody had already finished as evidenced by the two remaining cars in the parking lot. I thanked him for the ride as I dropped my bike in the grass and called Jen to come pick me up. As I lay on the grass in the shade of some rose bushes, I remembered that I had put my headphones in my pocket without turning off my mp3 player when I hopped into the car. I slipped them back into my ears and heard:
"You do it to yourself, you do
and that's what really hurts
You do it to yourself, just you
you and no-one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself"
Luckily I had turned the music up, because I'm pretty sure the laugh/sob/whimper of pain probably sounded pretty depressing.