I'll preface this story by stating that I actually know better than to ride while I'm still sick, but in a last gasp attempt to save my R12, I had to ride over the weekend. I'd sooner accept failing my R12 for a DNF than for a "didn't get my sorry arse off the couch." And it's full of local references like roads and shops so if you don't ride with SiR it's not all familiar territory... It's x-posted from my LJ, and that's just how it is. That out of the way, enjoy.
I could make all sorts of excuses for why I DNF'd my ride on Sunday, but it won't change anything. Those three letters still stare at me, putting a halt to my R-12 series until I start back up next month from square one.
Last week I rode on Monday. That was it; I rode to/from work and some extra miles. On Tuesday my sinus infection was getting the better of me, so I drove to work, then I had off-site training on Wednesday/Thursday and off-site meetings on Friday. I still hadn't cleared everything up by then and was taking a fair amount of cold medicines to survive my days. But in the end, all of these things are only justifications to take the sting out of a DNF. A DNF on a 200k, even. (Although, the Woodinville - Granite Falls route 0359 is a serious arse kicker of a course.)
Saturday night I patched up my front tire and got all the stuff ready to roll for Sunday morning. It wasn't going to be a really cold day, so I was able to leave things like jackets and tights at home and instead bring extra food and have space to carry more water, which I would desperately need to counteract the dehydrating effect of my cold medications. I got to bed early; an unusual thing for me on a pre-ride night, and maybe a warning that my body wasn't quite up to the task I was embarking on. Pfft. Whatever... I set my alarm for 04:10 and sacked out just before 22:00.
The alarm went off and my head was still full of snot. Blargh! A whole week of starting the day like this had made me jaded to the slight dizziness from the pressure. At least my ears weren't plugged up, so the room didn't spin when I sat up. Quietly I slipped out of bed and got prepped for the ride. I had a little bit of breakfast, but I knew there was a food control 15 miles into the ride so I'd get my fill at that stop; and coffee at the following control. I put on 2 layers of wool up top, knee warmers and my FI.Mille bibs on bottom. Short socks, long gloves, reflecty gear and I was ready to roll. I headed out the door into the morning light (man is that an odd feeling after the winter!) for the 9 mile flat ride to Woodinville.
Home to Tully's (9.5 miles, pre-start, doesn't count)
Fairly uneventful. The morning chill woke me up, but I wasn't "cold". The zip down Novelty Hill pluged up my ears, but I managed to get them popped about a mile down Avondale towards Redmond. This also got everything else running in my sinuses, and I had to stop to blow my nose. It was unholy, the sheer volume of snot... This was to be a pattern for much of the day.
Tully's to McD's: (Miles 0 - 15)
So Tully's doesn't open until 07:00 on Sunday and my ride was slated for a 06:30 roll out. Thankfully the opener crew showed up just as I did, and I talked them into giving me a receipt with a signature and time verification. I hooked 'em up with $2.00 for the tip jar and set off down SR 202, back to Redmond.
The traffic was just about non-existant, and hitting the main roads through Redmond may as well have been the main road through Mayberry. I love riding before/after everyone else is on the roads. I was starting to get my legs back, and the ride along E. Lake Sammamish on the mild rollers felt good. I was keeping a 16mph pace, which isn't screaming fast, but quick enough to build some buffer time for when the hills kicked in. My sinuses were still draining like crazy, and I was thankful I was soloing the ride because I was pretty disgusting. An hour after I started, I rolled into the lot at McD's for some breakfast. I grabbed my usual sausage muffin w/ egg and genuine imitation processed cheese-like product and a hash brown. Not that I find the taste of these items disagreeable, but I couldn't taste either of them because of my sinus issues. This was actually disappointing, since this is one of the few McD's meals I like. I wolfed 'em down, even though all I could really taste was ketchup, and headed back out for the first climb.
McD's to Sandy's Espresso (Miles 15 - 28.4)
Some “real” food in me, I felt ready to tackle the rest of the day. I turned the corner on to Black Nugget Rd. and geared down for the grind. It’s a climb I’m familiar with, so it was no surprise to me when the mild grade tipped up to the 9% for the winding top half of the hill. I was alternating between sitting and spinning or dropping down a couple cogs in back and standing up, but the standing didn’t feel great so I was limiting that activity. Once up the hill on Black Nugget Rd., there wasn’t much more aside from the usual rolling little hills and I easily got my energy level back to normal. I was sipping Accelerade all morning, working on keeping up the hydration along with a steady low intake of carbs, since I hadn’t been feeling well all week. I really wanted to keep from having any problems later during the ride. I wasn’t paying attention as I made my way through Carnation, and I rolled a block past Sandy’s before I realized it. D’oh! Guess I really needed that coffee! I turned around, stopped in at Sandy’s for some caffeination, and got quickly back on the road.
Sandy’s Espresso to the Sub Shop (Sultan) (Miles 28.4 - 55.7)
Most of this segment is flat and fast. A quick zip through the valley along Carnation Farm Rd, 100th, and Snoqualmie Valley Rd to Tualco out to Ben Howard. A pretty typical route that we’re all familiar with. Ben Howard is the only section along there which I don’t enjoy. The road is nice enough, and there’s barely any traffic, but the wind seems to turn when you hit that last section of Tualco out to 203 and B-H, and it’s right in your face for that 8 mile rolling section. My pace dipped down to 13 – 14mph along here, which was expected; especially with a couple of the short, steep segments on B-H which is where I started to notice some issues.
I went to stand up on the little steep bit, and felt my right quad beginning to pinch up on me. Obviously, at less than 100k into the ride that’s never a good sign. Especially when the 6000’ of climbing are backloaded on the last 100k of the route. Sitting down alleviated the pre-cramping pains, and I continued on to my lunch stop.
At the Sub Shop I nabbed a bag of chips, a big bottle of water, and a half sandwich. I also polished off half of the poppy seed roll I brought along. I made a quick stop to the can and this was the first time it occurred to me; I’d been riding for over 4 hours, I drank 3 bottles and a coffee already, and hadn’t needed to pee. (cue ominous music) The medicine I’d been taking for my sinuses all week is very dehydrating (guiafenesin, DM cough syrup and the occasional ephedrine tablet), and I thought I had managed to keep ahead of it, but maybe I wasn’t as well hydrated as I initially thought. I vowed to keep a close watch on my hydration level, and really push the water intake. On my way out of the sub shop, I bought another bottle of water and stuffed it in my Carradice.
The Sub Shop to Info Control #1; Jordan Trails Rd. @ Burns Rd. (Miles 55.7 - 87.8)
Now, the climbing began in earnest. I remembered this section from the 300k after the Vinaccio Control (next door to the Sub Shop). Old Owen Rd. is a steep climb to Reiner Rd. which rolls along until the very steep segment leading up to Old Pipeline Rd. It was at the top of that steep hill that I stopped to strip off my cold-weather layers. I ditched the knee warmers and the wool base layer up top, and switched to shortie gloves while having a chat with a guy who stopped to see if I was OK. I suppose I didn’t look so healthy, plopped down in the grass and ditching half my clothes. Looking back, it was a prime indicator that I wasn’t doing so well… Difficulty in regulating temperature is never good, and it wasn’t really that warm out.
Well, the road continues climbing and rolls up Bollenbaugh Hill, up to Woods Creek, up some more to Lake Roesiger, and my legs were feeling fairly slack at this point. I was continuing to force water, NUUN, Accelerade and Endurolytes into myself, hoping to stave off majour cramping if I rode “lightly” for the remainder of the miles. Little did I know what was still in store… I took a quick break at the Subway in Granite Falls to apply some sunscreen and put my head down on the table for a couple minutes to regain my strength. I felt alright after a few, and went back out to it.
I zipped down the hill on Jordan Trails Rd, through town, back into the rolling hills and up to the park entrance. I took a quick break for some more chow at the entrance to the park, rode across the very noisy (metal slat) Jordan Bridge, and out through the little trail (with a very tight squeeze through the gates!) onto the opposite side of Jordan Trails Rd. Then some jackass folded the road on me. Holy crap, the hill leading up from the park to Burns Rd. was a killer. Even in my lowest gear I couldn’t put enough oomph to the drivetrain to keep moving. When I tried to stand, my quads locked up. All pride aside, I had to disappoint my inner Brudvik*, get off the bike, and make the walk of shame up the rest of the hill. At the top, I heaved myself back onto the saddle and rode off down the rollers of Burns Rd and back into Granite Falls (at Mile 94.4) for what would be my final control.
Granite Falls to Intersection at S. Carpenter and Creswell (Miles 94.4 - 104.3)
I wandered into the gas station/McD’s combo in Granite Falls and headed straight for the water. I bought two big bottles and went to the counter in a semi-fog. I wasn’t walking straight, I couldn’t keep my quads from cramping up, and in retrospect I should have just bagged it right then and there. But somewhere in the back of my mind was this ridiculous justification: “If you’re gonna roll with the big dogs, you have to find out what your breaking point is; and you’re not broken yet, so keep riding.” I realize now that this was not smart. The ride reports I’ve read, where people push onward disregarding physical pain, mental anguish, and the common sense that tells most people to stop hurting themselves… Those people were physically healthy to begin with; not fighting the trailing end of a week-long sinus infection. Regardless, I decided that the most appropriate course of action would be to sit and shiver on the curb in front of the gas station for a while, drink a half liter of water, eat the other half of my poppyseed roll and a few bites of sausage from the Polish store in Bellvue. Then I washed it down with an Ensure and some Endurolytes. After a few more minutes sitting and reviewing my condition, I dragged myself off the curb and gracelessly dumped my butt onto the saddle.
The ride out of Granite Falls immediately starts climbing when S. Granite Ave turns into Robe-Menzel Rd. The combination of riding, rocking, illness and effort of the hill was just too much and I made it just past the edge of town before stopping at the roadside and ejecting everything I consumed at the gas station and anything else that was in my stomach. My legs and abs were knotted from the effort, and I leaned back against my top tube as a seat in fear that if I sat down right there I wouldn’t be able to get back up. The cramping subsided after a few minutes and a few sips of water, so I slung myself back over the saddle and started soft pedaling. There were many hours in the bank, around 30 miles remaining, and it was now a matter of seeing how far I could force the machine to work.
If you haven’t tried it before, I’ll save you the experimental trouble and tell you: There is a finite amount of work you can expect from a broken machine with no fuel. If you pack the car for a trip to Spokane and the “Check Engine” light comes on at the end of the driveway, you’re better off calling Triple-A right there and cancelling the weekend. Don’t try to make it there in your broke-assed hoopty on a quarter tank of gas.
That being said, we all know I didn’t follow my own advice. In for a penny, in for a pound; right? If I’m going to DNF, I’m going to do it in spectacular fashion. I kept pedaling at the mediocre pace I could maintain, carefully sipping a very heavy mix of Accelerade to try and get some calories back into myself. I made it another 2 miles before stopping to rebound all of it. All I wanted at this point was an effing Tic Tac. I rinsed my mouth with some plain water, didn’t drink anything, and got back on the bike. Finally, I made it to Creswell. I turned the corner, headed for the fence line on the opposite side of the road, and leaned against it while calling Keith M. for a rescue ride. We sorted out where I was, he mapped it and gave me an ETA, and I said “I’m not going anywhere.” Then I sent my last FB update for the ride; it was over. I managed to get my baselayer out of my Carradice to use as a ground mat, I set up my helmet as a pillow, and I laid down in the grass and gravel.
Twice, people stopped their cars to ask if I was OK, and I told them I was just taking a nap. After a while, Gary and LeMay (IIRC) came over from their house across the street and invited me to sit in a chair on their porch instead of worrying everyone who drives past. My legs had locked into place during my 15 minutes of broken sleep, and I could not stand up without a huge effort and some help. Gary took my bike for me, and I plunked down on a chair to wait for my ride. I had a nice chat with the both of them about cycling, and why I ended up laying in the grass across from their house, and thanked them for their hospitality. I’m sure they’ll tell the story to their friends about the crazy guy who rode his bike until he couldn’t walk but he seemed like such a nice fellow when we got to talking…
When I feel better and have another go at this course, I’ll bring a thank you note and drop it off at their house before setting off on my way.
The following day I still hurt, and my sinus problems had gotten worse. I had 2 lock-up cramps at work, and had to hobble around like a fool until I could get things loosened up. Tuesday morning, I woke up and could barely hear. My infection had migrated to my ears, so I stayed home from work and dragged myself to the doctor for some antibiotics, which are currently fixing my sinuses but ruining my g.i. tract. I’ll be getting back on my rollers to do some light resistance riding and keep my legs moving, but I won’t be back on the road until my sinus infection clears up. For everyone who’s DNF’d a ride: Did I do it right? Hahahaha… ouch. (laughing still hurts)
*Inside joke with the Seattle Randos. Bob Brudvik became the voice of my hill-climbing conscience earlier this season when he caught me slacking and yelled "STAND UP, BIG MAN!" as he rode past.