Thursday, July 1, 2010

2010 Horribly Hilly Hundreds: Preracin'

From July before the ride until the actual ride itself in June the following year, there really isn't a day that goes by that I don't have at least a fleeting thought of the Horribly Hilly Hundreds. It's even worse during that time whenever I'm on a bike. My entire biking career now is centered around this ride. All the centuries and 50 milers and even the time trial workouts are tune ups for the ride. I experiment with different cadences, work on techniques out of the saddle, position in the saddle while climbing, food combinations, water/energy drink ratio, when to go hard, when to back off. You get the idea. Once you do the ride, and if it's something that connects with you, you can never let it go. It's all consuming.

This was my 4th attempt at this ride. The previous 3 years all resulted in failure. Year 1 I pulled myself from the course due to heat exhaustion. Year 2 I failed to train properly and opted for the short course. Year 3 I foolishly tried to keep pace with Ian and that plus the stifling heat caused me to bail on the last stage and shortcut to the final climb. With that in mind, I was unable to completely shut off the doubts in my mind. But that didn't dampen the enthusiasm for the ride in the least.

The week before the ride is my taper week. Basically I go out on low intensity 30 minute rides just to keep the legs spinning and loose. These are not stressful in the least bit and they serve as a way to let your mind start playing all kinds of tricks on you. "Was that a twinge I felt in my quad?", "What's that noise, was that my bike?", "Son of a bitch that chick on that bike is TOTALLY kicking my ass!", "I'm screwed for this ride". I also added up all the training miles that I had for this ride and came up with a number right around 650 miles. Ian then informed me he had double that mileage. Taper week sucks in that you have too much time to think about you and your bike and you psych yourself out.

I also keep a weather vigil up the entire month before. probably flags my domain name in it's registry since I'm there so often. Ian and I emailed/texted back and forth for about 3 weeks before the ride. And mother nature was less than cooperative. One day it would predict 85 and sunny, the next 79 with partly cloudy, then rain, then back to high heat, then humidity, then no humidity, than hail, meteor showers, snow, back up to 107, etc...It finally settled at around 80 degrees with a very tolerable 56% humidity level. I remember thinking that this year, finally, may yield desirable riding conditions. "Could it be this year we will actually be able to breathe on the course and not be beaten down by the sun?" I asked Ian. "Perhaps", he replied, "but look at the wind prediction."

16-18mph N-NW winds. Remember that, it will play a factor later in the story.

The fateful Friday finally came. This day rocks. I've taken it off every year so there is no rush to get going. I'm in an awesome mood because it's race weekend. Ian and Jen pull up to the driveway with Kaitlin loaded in the car, Ian and I crack jokes how the other one looks fat and how the other guy is saving his legs so he needs to be carried to his car and what not. The atmosphere is one of excitement and anticipation. Even Jen smiled this year when she noticed that Ian and I had our matching shirts from last year on. The ride looms on the horizon and all we have to do today is drive the 4.5 hours out to Verona WI where we are staying.

Upon making it to the hotel, we drop the wives and kids off and go pick up packets. This year Specialized had a demo going on so we got to see the bike that both of us want. It weighs about as much as both of my water bottles filled. I comment how this would make the ride that much easier. Anyhow, packet pickup also serves as a way to size up the competition. This ride is different than the other ones I do. This being a challenge ride means that most of the riders have a few miles under their belts, and looking around I always feel like a fraud among these people. They have uber nice bikes and deep bronze tan lines. But it also adds to the excitement because I feel that I'm also running with the big dogs and we're all members of some special club.

Once back at the hotel, we decide to go and load up on the calories for tomorrow's event. I make the wise and sensible choice to go with a bacon cheeseburger. I wolf it down, make the comment that I managed to beat Ian at one thing this weekend, and even ate a few slices of Dav's pizza. Apparently nerves aren't affecting my eating yet. Don't worry, that shows up later. Once dinner is done we walk back to the hotel and the two families go their separate ways for a night of good sleep and prepare for early rising. We get Dav put to sleep, I set the alarm for 4am, and try to will myself to sleep. Will this be the year I finally make it? Did I ride enough? Did I train smart enough? Am I gonna go out too fast?

As the cliche goes, time will tell, and although it felt like forever before I fell asleep, 4am Saturday morning came awfully fast.

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