Monday, January 25, 2010

Welcome to Hell...

Few words strike fear into the hearts of serious Midwest cyclist like the following:

Horribly Hilly Hundreds.

It is a one day challenge ride that starts and ends in Blue Mounds, WI. It is billed constantly as the hardest one day challenge ride there is. There are many quotes uttered around the cyberspace world that indicate this particular ride is more challenging than some of the legendary rides out west, such as Colorado's Triple Bypass Ride in which the participant tackles not one, but 3 mountain passes. That is a statement right there. Those of us whom have participated in this ride have been called many terrible things: crazy, insane, nuts, loopy, Yankee's fan. Yet every year from it's inception the ride has lured people from all over the country and has gained popularity each year. In fact, this year the 1,000 rider slot filled up in less than 7 minutes.

I have done this ride 3 times now and I have yet to finish the whole thing. Year one (2007) was my second serious year of riding. I made it 101 miles before my body literally shut down. I was probably 2-3 minutes of sun exposure away from heat stroke. Year two (2008) was the same year Daven was born and as anyone who has children knows, they take up time so I didn't have anywhere close to the training miles needed to tackle the full ride, so I opted for the shorter course. Year 3 (2009) was my best showing as of date. I made it 105 miles, didn't set my foot down once, and tackled the last tortuous 3 mile climb that is Mounds Park Road. This ride not only challenges you physically, but it also brings you to the limit mentally. I would now like to try and take you on a tour of what it's like to ride the HHH. Now would be a good time to get something to drink.

Hey! I thought this was gonna be hard.

The HHH tips it's hand before you even get on your bike. All the ride literature and all the forums say the same thing, "This ride is heavily end loaded. Save something for stages D and E". So you know going into this that the organizers have pain in mind. But those first few miles you are out on country roads spinning along with hundreds of fellow ultra-fit cyclists participating in a ride with incredible status. The sun is just coming up and everyone is laughing and happily chatting away. Those country roads roll on by, and that false confidence that is brought about by rolling in the beginning of a big event come on full force. You forget that on that long long decent into the valley that where you started is 3 miles lower than where you end. That 45 mph decent is nice, but you're gonna have to come back up.

What your day will be like, and we're only 6 miles in.

Once you get to the bottom of the decent, you enter what cyclists call a "working downhill". This means that the road sloaps gently down, so that you can still find a high gear so that you don't spin out, but maintaining that high gear at 23-24 mph is nothing. You roll for about a mile or so and then you turn right onto a seemingly benign road. Your first clue something is up is that this is where your first water stop is. "Water?", you say possibly out loud but at least in your head, "We're only 6 miles in. I haven't touched my water. Pffft." So you roll right on, not noticing that the road sign you passed said "Mounds Park Road." The mere mention of that name to anyone whose down this ride is enought to make them want to go cry in the corner curled in a fetal position. Anyhow, the beginning isn't all that bad. It slopes up, maybe 3% or so, and winds along for a mile or so. Then you come through a tree line, around a bend, and the roads explodes upwards. You cannot see the top, it's just a sea of cyclists churning gears. Some are on the side of the road walking. You go into your granny gear, shut your mind off, and throw the pedals over at 4 mph with the rest of the pack. One of the things you notice right away is how quiet everything is. The playful banter has stopped. All you hear is heavy breathing, maybe a water bottle pull or two, and the occassional cussing. Most people aren't broken yet, but you can see on the faces of many that they have now realized they are far far from adequate training for this ride and are way over there heads. And we all realize we are only 7 miles or so now into our 125 mile day. Last year at the summit of this climb, Ian said it best when I caught up to him, "I've never done a climb like that before." I cooly replied, "We're just getting started".

The hardest 24 miles I've done on a bike.

After the Mounds Park Road climb (which you know from reading the map is the same climb you have to do at the end of the ride only you go another half mile or so), you get a few more decent climbs in before the first rest stop. But before you get to that rest stop, you will have your first taste at just how sick and twisted the organizers are. You come up to the climb to get into the first stop only to be stopped at a busy intersection as the police let motorists by. That's right, you lose all rythym and cadence, (which is essential to have a good climb on the bike) stop, and then be immediaetly assaulted by a gigantic climb. You curse their names and wish a pox on them. By this time it's somewhere around 9 o'clock or so, and the temperature is on the rise. So is the humidity. You pull into rest stop 1 feeling springy still, but definaetly a little worse for wear than any other 24 mile mark you've put on the bike computer. You can see it in plenty of faces, "What did we get ourselves into?"

Garfoot/Barlow Road

1 mile or so out from the first rest stop you come across Garfoot Road. This climb is nothing more than a wall. It's one of the ones cars have trouble getting up. It's horribly steep and relentless. Thankfully though, it is shaded, because after taking time at the rest stop the sun is a little higher now, and the humidity is in full swing. Every year I've done the ride the temp has been in the mid to high 80's, and the heat index has been close to 100. But then you make a quick turn at the top or Garfoot, go down a road, get a decent downhill that leads you into the Barlow Road climb. This one isn't bad because that downhill carries you up almost half of it. And there is a photographer waiting for you at the top. My favorite picture of me taken while I'm on a bike was taken my first year at this point. You feel good still, are climbing well, and someone just took your picture. The rest of stage B is short and steep hill climbs that you tackle far from easily but you make it up with little problem. You start to notice more and more people walking their bikes, and that sun is beating down on you something fierce now. The jersey is at least 3/4 of the way open, and you feel hot sticky air rise up from out of it when you slow down on the climbs. You're now starting to feel some caloric deficiency as well.

Screw off! We already did this one!

Just before your computer shows you're at the next rest stop, you realize the country you're cruising in looks familiar. "Haven't we done this already?" people ask. Before you realize it, you are indeed stopped at that same police controlled intersection, looking up at that same daunting hill, only this time your 44 miles in instead of 24. Your legs aren't nearly as springy, and that climb involves a few more stints out of the saddle than it did the first time. That second time at that rest stop you see sorrow in a few faces. Some people are starting to crack, and we still have 3 more stages to go. Food is starting to lose it's appeal, which is the black cirlce that is endurance eventing: You need calories, but you start losing the will to ingest them. You start wishing for a blender and an IV line.

The easy miles.

Stage C is billed as the "recovery" stage. It is supposedly designed as less intense so that you can spin your legs out a little bit and replenish your food and hydration needs in preparation for the last 2 very brutal stages. Bullshit. Stage C has Spring Valley Road, which is a quaint little climb in the middle of nowhere. You've just cruised back down into the valley only to make a left curving turn and have the road go shooting back up. I came across a guy sitting on the guard rail at the side of the road last year whom I asked if he needed any help. "Just waiting for the sag wagon" he replied. I nodded and put my head down and churned away. I will say that I do not in any way look down at those who take the sag wagon in this ride. I myself took it the first year. The thing is until you do this ride, you absoluetly have no idea what it will be like, so you can't train properly for it. As a funny side note, Ian was about 10-15 minutes ahead of me at this point and came across members of a cycling team waiting at the top of this hill. They asked him if he happened across anyone wearing a jersey like the ones they had. Ian replied in the negative, and they said something about their teammate went right instead of left at the bottom of the hill. The other member of the team flipped out exclaiming "I'm not going back down that hill! Screw him! I'm not going back down there!!" It is a nasty nasty climb.

I could curl up and live here.

Your 3rd rest stop you come into is a park in the middle of a small town. It goes by the name of Veterans Park in Black Earth, WI. It's the same set up as the last rest stop, however it has two magical things about it: A large tub of water with hand towels to dip and wash your face and neck with, and next a person with a garden hose with a sprayer attatched that will hose you down with wonderfully cold cold water for as long as you want. The hose is refreshing, and I have commented how I would love to just lie down and have the spray on me for 10 minutes. I don't know if that feeling is because I'm so hot and the water feels good, or I'm so beaten down by this point that I'm hoping that act would result in me drowning. Whatever the case, you find a tree after your hosing with a handful of food and drink and try to eat it realizing that you are only a shade past the halfway point. And the worst is yet to come.

The long pull into "The Graveyard" and Sweeny Fu%^ing road

Stage 4 is the longest of the 5 stages. It's 33 miles long, which by normal century rides is excessively long between stages. For this ride, it's completely insane. At this point, you just don't feel good anymore. You're lacking proper nutrition, you're sick of the energy drink in your bottle, you're baked from being in the sun, and your chamois is starting to grow new lifeforms from the humidity. The sag wagon is coming by in force now, and it seems the trailer is always full of bikes. The more people you see quit, the more you realize you want to as well. It's demoralizing to see people dropping like flies, because your own self doubts start yelling louder in your head. The climbs are brutal on stage 4. They seem to never end. You get done with one, thinking you're out of the valley, only to be assaulted by another one. Forget pedaling circles or any form whatsoever. You're in survival mode, and if that means pedaling blocks and standing out of the saddle or swearing up a storm to try and get adrenaline going, you do it. Everyone is so delirious by that point that they aren't gonna remember how sloppy you look. I remember last year that at this point, my gloves were so soaked with sweat that I was slipping off of my handlebars because of it. Life sucks at this point.

I'm coming right out and saying this: I hate Sweeny Road. This gem is at mile 95, and it had been nicknamed "The Staircase". Why? Because it's a series of one false flat after another, thus making it seem like 4 or 5 giant stairs leading to the top. And it's incredibly steep, at one point hitting 12% or so in it's grade. It doesn't stop, and I have seen many people make this the end of their day. I've seen carnage such as people heaving over their handlebars, or laying on the side of the road in the shade trying to get their core temp back down. I have never wanted to quit so badly then on this road. I'm now convinced that if purgatory truly exists, it involves biking Sweeny Road. You go and go and just when your legs are on the verge of shutting down, just when you are about to fall over, just when your lungs about explode, you're coasting downhill, and you see a sign indicating the next rest stop is just around the corner. You pull into the last rest stop, which is literally a local guys front lawn, and you realize you are almost done. You survived until the last stage. By the way, this last rest stop is called "The Graveyard" because those who've made it this far are scattered around like dead bodies strewn about the lawn. It should be noted that year one, this is where I stopped, and last year I cheated and took the short cut to Mounds Park Road, but year 2 I did do this last stage into Mounds Park Road, so I will briefly summerize here what Pinnacle Road was like: It sucked.

Mounds Park Road Part Deux

Last year, when I was leaving The Graveyard I heard on one of the volunteers radio that half the field currently climbing Mounds Park Road were on the side of the road throwing up. With good reason. This is the same Mounds Park Road as the first time we did it, however now you have at least 100 miles (if you did the whole thing, at least 120 miles) in your legs. You've climbed close to 9,000 feet, and you've been cooking in what feels like 100 degrees. You're beaten down, and you are broken. Mounds Park Road in it's entirety is 3 miles long, and you gain almost 1,000 feet in the climb. I have seen people topple over because they don't have the strenght to clip out or keep pedaling. I've seen people crying on the side of the road. I've seen people staggering up while leaning on their bikes. And I saw one guy heave his $3,000 bike into the woods because he snapped. I don't know how to describe this climb. For me, it's exhaustion at it's highest. Any wrong movement and my legs cramped up entirely. You stand, you sit back down, you sit back in the saddle, you concentrate on pulling up, you concentrate on pushing down. Over and over. You try to ignore the roaring voice screaming to stop and just put a foot down for a minute because you know you'll never get back on the bike. You go what seems like forever, and then you see them. Volunteers and specators. They're cheering for you on the side of the road, and you hear the music playing up ahead. You're almost done!! Then you see it! A cone in the road. And then another! And then mercifully, the road eases just slightly, and you see it: The finish banner. You've made it up Mounds Park Road. For me, I crossed the line, weaved to a spot in the grass, and toppled over. The impact from landing caused me to unclip from my pedals. I tore off my helmet and glasses, and tried not to vomit. A concerned looking volunteer came over to me, but I indicated I was OK. I was just glad to be off that damn bike, and vowed that would be the last time doing this ride.

The Day After

I remember each year that the day after my legs are never hurting. They are just drained. I wouldn't be able to generate any power under any circumstance. And I remember honestly hating my bike. Looking at it, I always think I'm never gonna get back on it. Last year, I lost 10lbs. on the ride. My body was so broken down that it took me almost a full week to feel normal again. One of the things that sticks out most from last years ride is that the morning after I didn't have the typical morning urge to pee. My body was using all the fluid for other purposes I guess. The HHH lives up to it's billing. It is the toughest ride I do, and I have no doubt believing it is one of the toughest out there. Like years before, people asked me if I was gonna do it again. At that time I honestly didn't know. I was broken.

Ian and I are signed up for this years ride. I guess it wasn't so bad after all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Transformer: Not just computer generated!

I love Transformers! Optimus Prime ranks easily in the top 5 favorite good guys on my list. I'm a huge fan of the noise they make (the old school one), so much so that I have it as the notification noise when I get a text. And with Hollywood taking it one step further and bringing my beloved characters to the big screen I enjoy them even more.

However, Transformers in real life are not as neat. They aren't fun to be around, and they don't make a cool noise when they transform. The noise sounds like the following:


Transformers in real life go by a different name of course: Toddlers.

It is amazing how one minute Daven can be the sweetest little boy and listen nicely and be pleasant and talk quietly with you. The next SECOND he can be a flailing need to be picked up tear streaming drool spewing demon spawn screaming at the top of his lungs for absoluetly no reason. Seriously, these guys would make Megatron shake.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Hero of mine and of many...

For the man who went against the grain of public thinking, who spoke his mind, and stood up to the idiots of the world, we celebrate this day.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Great Taylor Family Excursion to WI Dells!!!

Elli and I decided a while ago that for this winter break from her studies we were gonna take a family vacation. It would just be the three of us. After debating choices and weighing costs, we decided upon a hotel over in WI Dells. We figured with an indoor waterpark in a touristy place such as that, it would provide plenty of enjoyable activities for us as well as our little guy. After looking at a few places out there, we settled on the Wilderness Resort since it is geared towards the youngins. We booked for 3 nights and were all set. The date came and off we went. If this were a horror movie, this is the part you would hear "chh chh chh, shh shh shh, ahh ahh ahh".

Weekend before Departure

As I was about to leave from work on Friday, I got a call from our Daycare provider saying that Daven had just thrown up all over the place and we needed to come and pick him up. "Great" I remember thinking, "just a few days before we are leaving. Figures." When I got there he was happily running around and not looking much worse for wear. His teacher thought it was just from swallowing too much air when he was eating his snack and it all just kind of got burped up. Sounded reasonable, and he did look ok. Maybe a little pale, but not bad. And he was still eating. He hardly ever eats when he is sick. The rest of Friday went without incident, and he really did seem OK. Saturday came and he had nothing really out of the ordinary. He had a slightly messier diaper one time, but nothing that caused alarm. But then Sunday morning came and a few hours after eating his breakfast, the juice and waffles he had made a reappearance on his bedroom floor, the bathroom floor, and the bathroom sink. "Damn" I thought, "there goes the vacation." But by the time I got it all cleaned up, he was already singing happily away and ready to go again. The rest of Sunday, like Friday and Saturday, went without incident. He ate plenty and went to sleep fine. Looking back I now remember that my stomach was starting to feel a little off Sunday night, but I just wrote it off to being nervous about Daven and whether or not he was up for the trip. Elli and I decided we would see how he was Monday morning and go from there. Little did we know that we were the ones who would need care.

Those aren't hunger pains

Monday morning came and Daven looked healthy and ready to go. So we made the decision to go for it. We loaded up the truck (as a side note a crew cab truck is AWESOME for traveling. We got everything in the seat area next to Daven and didn't need to use the truck bed at all) and pointed it East to the land of the waterslides. I do remember taking note that again my stomach felt a little off still, but when I was out and about gathering last minute things for the trip I was fine. We set out a little after noon and put it on cruise control and sat back and watched the miles tick away. About half way through we stopped for some fast food lunch. I thought I was hungry but when it came time to order I realized I didn't want a big meal. So I ordered a junior version and managed to eat the burger but only a few fries and a few drinks of the soda. Back on the road, I made the comment to Elli that I thought maybe I picked up a touch of what Daven had. "My stomach doesn't feel sick, it just kind of feels weird." "Huh", said my incredibly thoughtful and concerned Wife. Things deteriorated rapidly once we go to the hotel.

I'll just sit over here while you guys wander around

As we were getting all settled in and I was unloading the truck, my stomach starting coming up into my throat. A lot of burping and gurgling was going on, but damn it! I was determined not to sit by and watch the first family vacation go by. So when Elli suggested that I hang out in the room and see how I feel after relaxing for a bit while she and Daven go explore, I said no to that and wanted to tag along. "We'll take two keys then", she said, "so that if you need to go back without us you can." Deal. We decided it was too close to Dav's bedtime to try a waterpark so we went for the big indoor playground instead. It was only a little walk from our room, but by the time we got there I knew I was done for. I sat off in the corner at one of the tables and tried to feel better, but then I caught Elli's eye and signaled I was going back to the room. Once there, I crawled into the bed and proceeded to succumb to violent fever induced chills, to the point that I was actually cramping from shaking so much. I would just get warm when my stomach signaled to head for the bathroom, only to get there and have nothing happen, so that I would be completely chilled and crawl back into bed and do it all over again.

This Caesar salad looks good

While I was in the clutches of a nasty shake and bake, Elli was entertaining our son. After exploring the hotel for a while, they decided to look for food. After settling on a place, Elli orderd the caesar salad. According to her, she thought she was hungry (sound familiar? Remember the horror music from before? Now would be a good time to start playing it in your head again), but about half way through it realized that wasn't her stomach saying it was hungry. So, she loaded Daven up and headed for the safety of the room. When she got back I was curled up with a hooded sweatshirt and all the blankets on top of me and explained to her the routine of the false alarms. She then pointed out that her stomach was starting to get very very queasy as well.


So thankfully Daven went to bed with little incident. Elli, who by then was also starting to shake and have the pressure rising in her stomach as well, and I agreed to make use of both of the queen beds and each take one and try to get some sleep.

And let the games begin

I think it was sometime around 10pm when the fun began. Throwing the blankets off and running to the bathroom this time I knew wasn't gonna be practice. No no, it was show time and it didn't disappoint. I'll spare the details, but when it was all said and done I visited the bathroom only once but Elli was in there 3 times. Like the last time I threw up from a stomach bug though I pulled a muscle in my back. So from about 10:30pm or so until 6am I got zero sleep because it felt like someone was driving their knee into my back. Not kneeing and then stopping, not laying a knee there. Driving with all of their weight into my back. And it was constant and there was absoluetly no position I could lay in that offered any sort of relief. I can't convey in words how much that sucked. Either from the pain of all of that or the fever though, I do remember having this strange dream/hallucination that I was someone named Hugh and that I was some sort of armorer or organizer of some late mid-evil revolt of some type. It was very weird, but very vivid as well. Long of the short, it was a miserable night for both of us.

A New Day

Tuesday morning came and both Elli and I were miserable, but feeling a little better. Good enough at least that we realized we wouldn't have to completely suffer through the day trying to keep Daven entertained. After finding Advil for my back at the gift shop and drinking some fluids, we headed over to the first waterpark of the trip. A big ol' wavepool. The rest of the day we managed to hang in there and go to the arcade and climbing area again and take care of Daven and make it fun for him. Elli said it best though by putting it like this: "It was like being hungover all day but not doing anything fun the night before to get to that point." As the hours past our health restored a little bit and we managed a rather enjoyable vacation. Daven didn't seem to notice, other than getting a little pissed off when we forgot to feed him Tuesday since neither of us wanted anything to do with food, and seemed to enjoy himself.

We had fun but it definaetly drove the point home that there are no sick days when you are a parent. You just gotta man up and go for it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

And I now have officially no say in my house anymore...

Elli pays the bills, does most of the laundry, shuttles most of the errands, organizes Daycare for the little guy, and generally controls any and all in the house. So when she is gone at work and I am the only parent around, I'm in charge.

Or so I thought.

Today, much like many, I am keeping an eye on the football games. Or at least that was the plan. Every time I go into the living room where the TV is playing, Daven comes running in after me saying "NO" very emphatically and then grabs my jeans at the leg and pulls me back out.

I have no say in what goes on around here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Doktur will see you now

Now I know that Docs are overworked. I know especially when it comes to clinic and ER doctors they are pushed to their limit each and every day. Patients are stupid, impatient, and rude. They hardly ever take advice, and I can see where a Doctor would just get worn out.

And I know that new Doctors going through the motions of residency are worked even harder and have much smaller paychecks for it. They grind each and every day to gain more knowledge and get a more solid foothold in their fields and gain more respect as they go.

But seriously. Today down in the Blood Bank we got this as an admitting diagnosis: "Hemodinamic instubility".

I'd better be a shoe in when I turn my Med School application in.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jake's year 2009 review

2009 didn't bring as many huge changes as 2008 did, however it was still a good year. As such, for your reading enjoyment I'm bringing you my highlights from 2009 presented in list form. Note that this list is not in particular order, it's just a smattering of memories from the year. Enjoy!

-Elli and I got to plan and host our first child's first birthday. It didn't go so well, as a 12 hour flu bug tore through our house the same day. We each got it in succession, and it was an action packed day, both for the good and for the bad.

-Daven started walking. Then he started running. He hasn't stopped.

-We got to experience the thrill of seeing our very good friends welcome their first child into the world. We then worried with them for little TW's first couple days as he dealt with pneumonia and did time in the NICU. He thankfully bounced back nicely!

-Another of our good friends announced they were expecting their first. March of this year is gonna be a busy time!

-My wife and I celebrated 10 years together (5 of those married). They have been some of the best year I've had so far.

-I snuck in a truck purchase just before the deadline. I like being behind the wheel of a tank.

-I read along with the Fat Cyclist Cycling Nation and suffered the loss of Fatty's wife with the rest of them. I then marveled with the rest of the nation as he single handedly declared war against cancer and with the help of many raised over $700,000 for the Livestrong foundation. Along the way, he ratcheted up my faith in humanity a few points.

-Along with the rest of the world, I was captivated by Susan Boyle.

-I had my best showing to date at the Horribly Hilly Hundreds. I also got another one of my friends hooked on it as well. It's been fun having someone else get as into biking as I have and motivate me to push myself farther in the sport.

-I learned a new level of patience dealing with a toddler son.

-I made the decision to try my luck and attempt to get into Med School. It will at least make for an interesting story.

-I watched Elli complete her first "Half Ironman" triathlon. It was fun being on the support side of things when it comes to Ultraendurance.

And so on. It was another good year, and I hope you had a good year as well. Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best in the New Year!!
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