I spent a sleepless night anticipating the misery to which I was going to subject myself and thought long and hard about just staying at the Inn at Gristwell Square for a lavish breakfast followed by a more lavish lunch. Stared at the clock from 4:30-6:00am and then got up and was soon headed out through a light rain toward Monterey. Upon entering the forest, I startled this fawn which began running forward of my car for a few seconds, long enough to grab the camera and take this very blurry image.
Rolled into the Monterey High School parking lot and noticed quite a few open parking spots and overall, I'd have to say the turnout was down from last year. However, there was a huge contingent from central Ohio and in addition to Steve O, Mark C, Jimmy in the image, there was Mark V, Flyin Tuna, John Swope, Ted M, Joe G, Kevin Swabb (yes, easy to spell last names get listed), Rich R, Greg Dubois, Steve G, Mike Rea and Mark Waites. On the right is a very special man. This is Rod, Cindy Berard's husband. Most think Cindy to be a very lucky woman but few think the opposite is true. Before a health issue forced Rod to turn away from cycling, Rod was a dominant cyclist with whom I spent many hours drafting. You may notice that Steve O is not in his cycling gear. Is this guy snake-bit or what when it comes to these epic century rides? Got to feel sorry for him, this time felled by a stomach virus that kept him off the bike.
The forecast was ominous and so many of us left early, plus I had to be back in Ohio Saturday night so I was anxious to get this over with. As some of you may know, I have been subjected to months of verbal abuse by Flyin Tuna. After fighting a very serious, almost life ending flu this spring, I came out for a tour in a very weak state and subsequently she pulled away from me on a climb out of Utica and has never let me forget it. In fact, several times she has gotten lippy about what she would do to me on a real ride like Mountain Mama. One of us had to be mature so I just stayed silent and endured the teasing and insults. After finally deciding to participate late last week, I began scheming what my plan of action would be. Flyin usually leaves the parking lot 15 minutes before the 8:00am start so I planned to be ready then but upon arriving, I learned she was this time leaving at 7:30!!!!! If she came across the finish line ahead of me, all anyone would talk about was she finished ahead of me, no matter what was the preceding time advantage. Outwardly appearing calm, I gathered everything I needed and rolled out around 7:40 with Flyin, Mark V and Jimmy.
The first climb begins almost immediately from the parking lot and is a nice 1.5 mile climb with a grade that varies between 5-10%. Not hard, just a nice climb on which you can maintain a high cadence. My plan was to get a gap on Tuna, maintain it through the short valley section and if maintained, it would be all over after opening the gap on the second climb. Unfortunately, I had not eaten enough so I was already hungry when the first rest stop was reached and I stopped for refueling but upon leaving, no sign of Tuna so I was in good shape and never saw her from there, so there Tuna!!!!! Chew on that for a year (I hereby retire from ever doing Mountain Mama again).
Having safely dispatched Flyin, I concentrated on my primary goal, breaking 7 hours. Reaching the 50 mile rest stop in just under 3 hours, I was confident of the outcome but there was one very troubling aspect to this ride....no pace lines. Somewhere prior to rest stop #2, Mark C and 2 others came by and I caught on and drafted for 5 miles but the rest stop put an end to that mini pace line and the nice increase in speed. Prior to rest stop #3 at the 50 mile point, Mark C came by again and I latched on and he and I ham-n-egged it but after 2 miles the rest stop put an end to that. Still, 4 hours to ride 50 miles, who couldn't do that? Shortly after the 50 mile rest stop there is a bump in the road called the "Snowy" climb, a 4+ mile climb with grades between 3-10%. Mark c caught up with me and I had forgotten how long was this climb so I asked. "It's a long climb but you'll know you're close to the end when you start seeing fields of grass" was his reply. Ohhhhh, I eased up preparing to settle in for a longer than normal torture session. By the time I got to the top of this monster, stopped at rest stop and then got to the top of the Allegany climb, another 4+ mile climb I had 2 hours to cover 30 miles. Oh, did stop at a market for a Mountain Dew and more food, apparently finding 5 rest stops not sufficient.
Along the way I was riding completely solo, unlike Mountains of Misery where you can jump in multiple pace lines for the first 70 miles. My only opportunity on this ride was latching onto Mark Waites (yeah right), a 3 man pace line with Mike Rea, (for maybe a mile at the base of a climb then the road steepened so forget it) and Ted M and Kevin Swabb at the start of some other climb (not a chance). That was it, what a LONELY, long ride but hey, I'm no stranger to that experience. Then there was a long time into the wind on Rt. #250 where I kind of soft pedaled looking for someone to come along but nooooooooooooooo. Finally stopped at the next to last rest stop with 3 climbs to go at mile 80. Joe G spent some time throwing up in a gully but got back on his bike and rode away.
Half way up mountain #7, a 3.3 mile, 5-11% grade beast it began to pour. No warning it just began pouring. Soon my bike was cutting a path through deep water cascading down from the top. Toward the top, fog enveloped other cyclists a short distance in front and it was kind of eerie. Unfortunately, the descent is kind of technical and I braked all the way down on the wet pavement. Upon reaching the bottom the road immediately starts up again on a steep, 1.7 mile climb, also ridden in hard rain and glancing at the computer, saw the 7 hour mark was a pipe dream. The rain stopped at the top of climb #8 and then I stopped for quite awhile at the final rest stop where a nice lady made me a PB & J sandwich. At some point while chewing on the sandwich and gulping down a gallon or two of Gatorade, the 7 hour total ride time came and went but little did I care at that point, there was another mountain to climb.
The final climb is a little over 2 miles with an average grade of 8% and multiple switchbacks. Toward the top I began thinking, the only thing that would make this a worse experience is if Flyin Tuna came by me so I spent the final half mile looking over my shoulder but no sign of her, thank goodness. My total ride time was 7:20, It took me well over 4 hours to ride 50 miles but there are 6 tough climbs mixed in there, head wind, rain, no pace lines and weak legs...yeah, that's about the best I could do, 9900' of climbing and close to 6000 calories burned. Well, back to the fun at Canal and New Albany where I will turn this experience into slower riding and crawl to the end of the season.