Monday, August 29, 2011

Bike to the Beartooths

Day 1
This weekend Sarah and I rode in our 5th Bike to the Beartooths, Montana MS Bike Ride.  This year was a different experience than our four previous rides.  Our first two years we had to deal with near freezing temperatures in September and cold rain.  The following two years we had mostly wonderful weather, with a little rain and one day of fierce headwinds, but it was doable.  On Saturday, we were in for a some new treats that I never would have expected.

Saturday morning was warm.  We usually start off the day with jackets on an shed them before we start.  No need for them on Saturday.  I was sweating already just with the horsing around that I had to do to get the bikes ready, find our team and load our gear into the team vehicle. 

At the start, Sarah and I got pushed to the front of the pack in a big mob of cyclists.  Everyone was trying to work out their pace and no one was very consistent.  I was getting pretty nervous with all the swerving I had to do to not get hit.  At some point, I got pushed into the opposing lane.  By then I'd had enough so I sprinted up to the front of the peloton and took the lead for awhile.  We kept a fast pace, more than I'd bargained for.   I was hoping that several lines would form behind me and pass.  Finally it happened and things started thinning out.  Eventually Sarah and I fell in pace with three other Conoco riders and felt much more comfortable there.
At the start line.  I'm in there somewhere with a bright jersey.  Sarah (barely visible) is right beside me to the right.

Somewhere, right before Joliet, I was leading our group and started to drop back to draft and take a break.  As I dropped behind Sarah, she told me she couldn't shift her front derailleur.  We stopped in at the Joilet rest stop and had some mechanics look at the bike.  We were told that the derailleur was shot and Sarah would have to pick a gear and stay in that one the rest of the ride.  That was pretty unnerving.  We were still on the flatter part of the course will the real climbs starting about 20 miles ahead so one gear just wouldn't do.  She picked the high gear and was able to jamb it into the middle gear for the climbs.

Also, by Joilet, it was getting really hot and we had worked hard to get there.  I was looking forward to some bananas to ward off the cramps that I was beginning to feel in my legs.  There wasn't much to eat besides trail mix so we moved on as soon as the mechanics were done fiddling with Sarah's bike.

We pushed on and made it to lunch at the rest stop between Boyd and Roberts.  We ate quickly and jumped back on the bikes.  I was really stiffening up and dreading the climb to the gate.  Sarah took off up ahead and I started struggling.  I was sweating so much that it was dripping off my head onto my glasses making it hard to see.  Then I stated getting crazy painful charlie horses in my right thigh.  I tried to work through the pain but eventually had to stop to stretch my leg.  Not a good sign when you still have 35 miles to go.  I didn't make it even a mile before my other leg started seizing up as well.  It was bad.  Charlie horses in both legs at the same time!  I've had leg pain while riding before, but never charlie horses.  Uggh!

I pushed through the last ten miles to get to Red Lodge, met up with Sarah and started again to climb up to the gate on the Beartooth Highway.  I think pride got in my way.  I've been to the gate every year, once on a mountain bike, and I wasn't about to let some charlie horse stop me.  I didn't even make it through Red Lodge before I had to hang back and let Sarah go.  In fact, I was hurting so bad that I stopped at the hotel, sat on the couch, raided my luggage and switched shoes thinking my old worn out shoes might be more comfortable than my new ones.

I mounted again and took off at a less than leisurely pace hoping that Sarah noticed I dropped in Red Lodge and would just go on without me.  I really struggled the whole way up.  The pain was unbearable and on top of that, I started to have problems breathing.  I took things at my own speed and stopped when I needed to but I was determined to keep going.  It was a long, long time before I saw anyone.  I figured at my slow pace, I'd be getting passed left and right, but as it was, the few that passed didn't look to be in much better condition than I was in.  One of my teammates, Wayne, passed and gave me some gel to eat to hopefully give me a boost and relieve some of the pain.  Another teammate, Jay, caught up.  I shared some of my water with him and kept up with him for awhile until I couldn't any longer.  Finally the end was in sight, but it was also the steepest part of the ride.   I jumped in behind some friends, Chris and Cheryl.   Chris kept shouting back encouragement to his wife who was struggling.  This gave me motivation to keep going.  We finally reached the top and as I hopped off the bike, I noticed that I couldn't breathe.  I struggled for probably five minutes to calm down and normalize my breathing before I could even speak.  I really need to see a doctor about that.  I was so relieved to be at the top, but I still had to go back down.

Sarah had waited at the gate for me, and even though I wasn't quite ready to get back on the bike yet, we started off down the mountain.  I just wanted to get to the hotel and be done.  Usually it's an easy 13 mile decent back to Red Lodge with just a little climbing.  I even struggled on this leg of the ride but I pushed through knowing it'd be over soon.

After we finished, we jumped into the hot tub and pool to relax and recover.  I thing we were both pretty spent.  Our ride to dinner was leaving at 4:30 but we decided to take our time and pedal (coast) down to the MS village when we were ready.  After dinner, we stopped at the supermarket and bought a half gallon of ice cream and brought it back to the hotel.  We vegged on the couches for a bit before busting out the ice cream.  We shared a suite with Mike and when I saw him coming to the front door, I jumped up to let him in.  Instantly, charlie horses attacked both legs.  I couldn't move without searing pain.  I jumped around in agony and then fell back onto the couch while Sarah laughed at me.  Mike had to let himself in.  Then we dove into the ice cream and polished off the entire carton in a matter of minutes.  We all conked out soon after.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our suffering on the first day of the MS ride.  I'll follow up with Day 2 later.  Day 2 was much better.  In the meantime, take a look at the video link below about the ride.  Sarah, Mike and I all make an appearance as well as some of our other teammates.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Catching Up

Looks like the last time I posted was the Big Sky State Games.  I haven't been super active on the bike since but I have gone out for a few small adventures. 

Sarah and I participated in our fifth NAMI Bike Ride, a 33 mile loop from Molt, MT, down Molt Road, over to Buffalo Trail and back into Molt.  This is a fairly easy ride up until about mile 25 where you turn up the 7 mile accent up Buffalo Trail.  The weather was perfect and I got pushed to the front of the pack at the start line.  At the start, I shot off, not so much to take the lead, but to get out of everyone's way.  Much to my surprise, I lead the pack at a good pace for several miles and could have kept going except that I wanted to ride with Sarah who wasn't too far behind.  I felt good and really excelled on the rolling hills on top of the rims near Molt.  Mike always says "Your feet don't see hills!"  Sarah, said "Mike lies, your feet see hills and they speed up!"  That's probably true to some extent.  I hate to drag out a hill, but that's my downfall too.  If the hill is too long, I burn out quickly.  That's what happened at the State Games and that's what would happen at the end of this ride.  As we turned up Buffalo Trail, Sarah took off like a rocket and I could only watch as she disappeared into the distance.  Having spent myself early, I couldn't respond.  I watched as people ahead of us struggled to climb the hills and she passed like they were standing still.  I'd love to have that kind of drive, to push on when it gets tough and keep going.  I think I'm kind of all or nothing on the hills.  In fact, it's usually all, then nothing.  Got to work on that. 

I've done a little mountain biking as well.  Mike and I have been road riding in the mornings when we can but have snuck away during lunch for the occasional mountain bike ride.  Two Moon is finally dry enough to ride but some of the trails have been washed away.  The trails are not as smooth as they used to be.  I also planned a mountain bike venture with the youth.  We were to ride the rims and then head on down to the bishop's house for a pool party.  I guess the pool party was well attended but Nathan and I were alone on the bikes.  We decided to ride anyway and had a great time, and we didn't have to wait for the slow pokes!

This last weekend we went to Island Park and stayed in a cabin with my parents, grandmother, two sisters and their families.  We had a blast and hopefully I'll get to post more about that on the family blog (with pictures).  Sarah and I really wanted to do some mountain biking while we were there but time was short so we didn't get much of a chance.  I had planned a route that climbs to the peak of Lionhead, a 2,500 foot elevation gain over 7 miles.  Since it was a 14 mile round trip with steep climbs, we decided to forgo that idea (not enough time) and searched out a place to go off-roading with ATVs on Sunday.  Dad told us about the Divide Creek Road so we decided to check it out.  It was about 2.5 miles away from the cabin but there were some double track in the burrow pit next to the highway.  We took the burrow pit, which was a rough ride, and found the entrance to the Divide Creek Road.  At first, it appeared to be a nice dirt road but quickly got steep.  We had to turn around at that point but it was all downhill back to the cabin.  This time, riding down the double track, we were able to catch some good speed and even some air over the jumps.  We had a great time. 

The next morning I decided to explore the Divide Creek Road a little more.  Once I passed the point that we turned around the night before, the road started to deteriorate and get steep.  I had to lock out my suspension and shift all the way down.  My chain fell off a couple times and I had a hard time getting back on my bike because the road was so steep.  The rear wheel would spin out beneath me before I could get going and I'd have to start all over again.  Once I did get going, every time I pushed down on the pedals, my front tire would lift off the ground.  I finally just decided to go with it and let the bike take me wherever it wanted to go.  When I needed to correct, I'd slam the front tire down hard until I was going the right direction.  I climbed long and hard, really trying to get in at least a 10 mile ride for the morning.  I finally crested the mountain with just a little over 5 miles on the computer and decided that was good. I looked out over the valley and watched the sun rise.  It was a breath-taking view, granted I was already out of breath. 

The road continued down the mountain on the other side, and again, short on time, I decided to turn around and go back.  I flew down the mountain holding my brakes most of the way.  It was steep and there wasn't much room for error.  It was fun but scary at the same time.  In 17 minutes, I undid a whole hours worth of climbing. I got back to just in time to watch the sunrise again over the mountains behind the cabin.  We had a really great trip which I will have to post more on later. 

As for now, Sarah and I are doing our 5th Montana MS 150 bike ride tomorrow.  We are mostly set and ready to go but there are some last minute preparations I'll need to take care of tonight.  (Sarah is making me take the rear rack off my bike because it looks ridiculous if I'm not going to use it.)  Wish us luck!