Success… and Disappointment
Well, I only went 102 miles, not 180.
I fully intended to ride the 80 miles back the next day, but sometimes the spirit is strong and the flesh weak. On Thursday evening before the Pelotonia 2011 ride I took a fast 20-mile ride. Unfortunately I wrenched my back somehow, and thought this was going to be a major problem during the ride on Saturday. It wasn’t the back that gave out ultimately, it was the legs.
I rode the first 42 miles with my business partner, Colin Parks and his friend, Jeff. They are regular cyclists and have done triathlons. And they are young. Big mistake!
From Columbus to Groveport we averaged over 22 miles per hour. After a very quick drink and some trail mix, we hit the road for the next 20 miles to Amanda. Still fairly flat, but little hills starting. On the flats I drafted behind Colin and Jeff, and was still able to keep up with them for the first 10 miles. I then fell a little behind, and arrived at the next water stop a few minutes behind them, still averaging over 20 miles per hour. It was a gorgeous morning, riding through the mist and cool temperatures, at that speed for a guy who is not a regular cyclist was truly invigorating.
Colin and Jeff took off, and I stayed to rest and have some more trail mix. I never saw them again. Oh to be that young and strong again!
I filled up my water bottle and took off for what I knew would be the hardest part of the trip… the next 30 miles through the beautiful Hocking Hills of Ohio. The very rough but cool, tree covered trail wound through some of the most scenic parts of Ohio along the Hocking River, gently rolling over the small hills of Hocking County. All along the way, even in this remote part of the State, people were cheering us on along the road, motivating us to push on as we all rode to raise money for the cure of cancer.
At Clear Creek Metro Park rest stop (mile 54) I got a refreshment from the Gator Aid stand, a couple of Tylenol from the Human Aid kiosk, and a tightening of my handle bars from the Bike Aid folks. I drank some water, and set out for the first of three major torturous climbs over the next 30 miles. From here begin the most difficult 15 miles of the Pelotonia route. This portion of the route includes the Starner Hill climb, which is 2.2 miles long with a total elevation gain of 374 feet, most of it in the last mile. The route reaches its peak at 1,159 feet above sea level approximately 6 miles before the Logan Rest Stop at mile 69. As in last year, this hill was murder. There is no shame in getting off one’s bike and walk. I did that. It is quite humbling, however to see some cute young girl, weighing no more than 110 pounds PEDDLE up the hill past an old guy! The reward of this climb was a great downhill run for about three miles during which I reached speeds of over 40 miles per hour without even peddling! I thought to myself, “The exhilaration far outweighs the risk of knowing the serious consequences of coming off the bike at that speed!”
The second brutal hill was not as steep, but longer. On this hill my legs gave out.
I was standing on the pedals to get more leverage, and was doing just fine. Suddenly I was overcome by such severe cramping in my inner thigh that I had to stop. My quads were frozen and I was in agony. Didn’t even feel my back pain anymore. I finally calmed the twitching muscles down, and was able to lift my left leg high enough to dismount. I sat there on the side of the road massaging my quads, and was joined by at least five other riders with the same problem. It was very hot, and very humid. I have not realized how much I have been perspiring while riding, but now the sweat just poured out of every pore in my body. I knew I was getting severely dehydrated, but I was almost out of water and still 10 miles from the next stop. I got back on my bike and peddled for less than a mile, and had to repeat the process: standing there in agony until the spasms subside, dismount, massage, walk a few hundred yards, remount… This happened multiple times and cost me more than an hour, totally ruining the excellent average speed I had up to that point.
I arrived at the Logan Rest stop at mile 70. I was hot, exhausted, dehydrated. I downed almost a liter of Gatorade and followed that with as much water. I ate some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my first food since the trail mix at Amanda. I got a couple more Tylenol from the first aid folks because my left knee was now aching. After some rest I set off for the last 32 miles. Some lovely rolling hills, with one more grueling hill where my legs gave out four more times, costing me more valuable time, followed by an exhilarating two-mile downhill coasting and on to the Hocking College rest stop, the last before the beautiful (and flat) Hocking trail into Athens for the last 12 miles.
I arrived at the finish line very tired but totally pumped for having completed the first 102 miles of the 180-mile ride in spite of my severe cramping. And wondering how I would be able to ride another 80 miles the next day.
I was quite relieved when Katie convinced me that I should pack my bike and ride home with her instead. I am disappointed that I did not get to do the next day’s ride, but feel that the 102-mile ride from Columbus to Athens is probably as much as a guy at 62 should do. I am grateful for that!
I wore my son, Thomas’ biking helmet. Tommy, his wife Yuki and our grandson, Ryusei now live in Saigon, South Vietnam. I miss them and wish he could have done the ride with me.
I dedicated the ride to my father; Willie Grové, Sr. My dad had his 62nd. birthday in 1979 in the hospital and died shortly after of complications from a lifetime of undetected hypertension. I am grateful for modern medicine which prevents people from dying from that disease.
Someday, hopefully soon, we will be saying the same about cancer.