I've managed to complete quite a few century rides in May, but
haven't written anything yet, because I was waiting for some fun,
entertaining material. Well, I give up waiting for the good one!
I've been training fairly hard all year trying to prepare for
my summer vacation, a little cross country ride called PAC Tours.
Now it isn't RAAM or anything like it, since we do get to eat
real solid food, and sleep 8+ hours a day, but it does cover an
average of 140 miles per day.
As part of my training, I rode my mountain bike/commuter all
winter on my regular commute, club rides and centuries. I switched
over to my touring bike in April, with an occasional tandem ride
slipped in. Then not too long ago, I pulled the trusty old red
vitus from the cobwebs, and prepared it for a little commuting,
and century riding.
The lovely little red vitus and I have been through an awful
lot together. With the type of riding I do, I want a very comfortable
and light bike. We did both BMB and PBP, a few 24 hour
rides, a hell of a lot of brevets, and club rides. But, I practically
abandoned it last year, when I did most of my riding on the tandem.
So this fall, I promised my old friend a great adventure, PAC
I started increasing my training miles on May 1. I added some
speed work as well as a few more long rides. I really began to
try pushing myself harder and harder. And I feel like it's working
and I'm getting into reasonable shape.But I still was a little
worried about this particular 300K route.
The ride to New Boston, Massachusetts used to be a 400K, and
was by far the most difficult brevet in the series. I did it in
90 and 91. Last year, Steve and I found a much more pleasant ride
to do in its place. In fact, I heard that no veterans rode
the course in 92. Apparently, the organizers decided the course
was a bit harsh for a 400K, so they moved the starting line way
out in the country and turned it into a 300K. (They cut out all
the flat part, and lots of traffic.) I was a little nervous, but
still confident that I could finish with a respectable time.
However, bad omens began to pop up. I couldn't find one of my
favorite gloves. I tore the house and car apart looking. Then
I broke a shift lever mount, and had to replace it Friday afternoon.
Then I read a Chinese fortune that said I would not have a good
trip, and five minutes before the start, the batteries in my little
flashlight that I use to read the cue sheet burned out.
Then the ride started. We had between 40 and 50 riders, with
one tandem. Barb, the tandem's stoker was celebrating her 30th
birthday. Maybe I shouldn't have told her that no tandem had ever
even attempted this ride before, because they dropped out very
early on in the ride. But they stayed with the group long enough
to help us navigate in the dark. Stokers are really great for
navigation. They can sit up and read the cues as we go along.
It started out quite cool, and many riders were underdressed.
I was really bummed about my missing gloves, but the glove liners
worked very well. I probably could have made some serious money
on leg warmers (and low gears), as a few cyclists rode with bare
cold legs (and had tiny freewheels).
I was quite surprised that the group stayed together well past
daybreak, and didn't really fragment until a few miles before
Bigelow Hollow State Park. If we didn't split up before, the hollows
definitely would have done it. I stopped at this point to remove
my heavy jacket, and then flew down into the next hollow, and
trudged back up the other side. After the second plunge, I found
myself in a small group with Dale, John, and a very quiet rider.
We rolled up and down hills together until we reached the Stafford
Springs McDonald's and the first checkpoint. I took the opportunity
to use the restroom, dump some lights, and put more food in my
And we were back on the road, for a few big rollers, a little
traffic, and some flattish terrain. Our group swelled to about
8 or 10 riders. I knew what was coming up, so Dale and I pulled
off into the McDonald's, 25 miles from the turn-around checkpoint
for a quick undressing (to get out of jacket and leg warmers)
and a little break. Here we found Rick and Eric. We stayed with
them for the next 4 miles, until the climb began. Route
57 is very deceiving. It seems to roll on the way out, but it
really is just a big climb, with about 2000 feet of elevation
gain in 15 miles. It definitely wears on riders' egos. Eric and
Rick took off as the grade became steeper and Dale and I just
rode along at a steady pace making our way up the hill. We soon
met up with John (one of five people named John on the ride) His
42-24 low gear was not going to cut it on this ride, but there
was nothing we could do for him then, other than offer encouragement,
and we tried to do that.
Charlie Lamb, one of the ride organizers, took advantage of the
time between when riders passed through his checkpoint going out
and coming back, and drove to the base of the climb, where he
planned to ride out and back. He passed us on one grade like we
were pedaling backwards. I hollered out that he really knew how
to bruise an ego. He later confessed to passing us in his 52-17.
(I was probably in my 24-21.
We soon passed David and Steve taking a break off in the woods,
and I had to pick up the pace. (Steve was my tandem partner last
year, and David, his brother had crewed for us.) I knew they would
catch us, but I wanted them to hurt, and I wanted to be smiling
as they went by. Both goals were accomplished, and the four of
us rode the rest of the way into New Boston together.
One of the things that makes this ride legendary is the 1.5 mile
stretch into New Boston. After climbing and climbing and climbing,
there is a big sign overhead that says CAUTION, STEEP DOWNHILL
AHEAD, USE LOW GEARS, TEST YOUR BRAKES, RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMP NEAR
BOTTOM. They aren't kidding. The hill bottom out into a T, with
a store off to the right that serves as a checkpoint. Then riders
have to turn around a go back up this thing, from a dead stop!
A little over halfway out, we saw the first rider headed back.
A few minutes later, we saw Charlie hell-bent on catching this
rider. Maybe it's appropriate that his name is Moriarity. A little
later we saw another 5-6 riders, including Kenny Goode, the 16
year old wonder-kid, just before the start of the hill, and waved
We were greeted at the checkpoint by former RAAM champion Cathy
Ellis. Cathy did some major damage to her knee while hiking last
winter, and is still recovering from surgery. She was quite chipper,
and encouraging about our ride. I bought some juice, ate a banana,
and a few Cliff Bars, and after too long of a break, started back
up the hill. The bottom part is like climbing a wall, and yes,
I admit it, I couldn't keep the front wheel on the ground, so
despite having a triple, I walked for a feet feet. No one passed
me, nor did they put any time on me, until I stopped to get back
on the bike! After that part the climb wasn't so bad.
The rollers were so steep going down, that I was able to coast
up the other side of most, and only had to pedal hard on a couple.
Linda, Dale and I were riding together, with Steve, David, Rick,
John and one other rider all within site of each other.
As we began the really long final descent back to 202, I started
thinking about real food, and decided I would be stopping at McDonald's
for a grilled chicken sandwich. I was feeling great about the
time I was making, the speed, the weather, and how good everything
Then a one eyed German Shepherd decided it was the time to get
up and dart across the street. It was so sudden that I'm not sure
if I had time to even apply brakes. I hit him square on. Linda
was behind me at the time, and said I lurched as if I were going
over the bars, but my pedals stopped me (Thank goodness, otherwise
I probably would have landed on my head!), and I went down on
my right side, collecting some beautiful road rash, before falling
backwards to obtain a massive bruise across the back, a cracked
up helmet and a bump on my noggin.
It was amazing how quickly people were on the scene. An EMT kept
me from moving. Someone took my shoes off, as I began talking
about numbness in my toes. Linda is a physical therapist, and
did her best to calm my fears. A little massage to the feet, and
they didn't tingle anymore. Since I landed on my back, and was
complaining of lower back pain, I was not allowed to move. A passing
driver with a ham radio called an ambulance, and it seemed like
they were there right away. Someone took off my (wonderful, worked
great, saved my life, sacrificed its own) helmet. Linda and Dale
searched in my bike bag for my wallet, but we finally realized
it was in my back pocket and a little hard to get to. I was also
wearing a Camelback at the time, and while it isn't designed as
a safety device, it save my back a lot of potential damage as
I landed on it. (My bruise starts just below where the bag stopped.)
I heard people talking about the dog, and the owners, and someone
said they had leash laws in the town. Another neighbor said he
had complained several times about this dog running loose, and
I really began to get upset at the irresponsible dog owner. It
wasn't until Monday that I discovered that the dog is blind in
his right eye, making his owner even more loathsome for letting
him run loose in the road.
The EMTs put a neck brace on me and put me on a back board, and
carried me away. Jennifer, who was driving one of the support
vehicles gathered up my bike and shoes to take back to the start.
Dog lovers would not like my response to the question, "How's
the dog?" But honestly what answer do people expect from
me, when I'm lying on a back board, with a neck brace, waiting
to find out if I've broken my back.
After a few hours of x-rays, the good news arrived that my back
was not broken. They cleaned out my road rash, and sent me home.
Dave Jordan, one of the ride organizers, picked me up and took
me back to the start, where lots of riders were quite relieved
to see that I was up and moving around.
But I really wanted to see my old friend, my dear red vitus.
Unfortunately, it didn't fare as well as I did. The top tube and
down tube were both crimped, and the fork blades were bent back.
I'm really going to miss her, but I did express just a tiny bit
of excitement about getting a new bike. I checked the computer
for my distance. I had 171 km.
I went to my own doctor's office Sunday, to get the road rash
cleaned up a little more. My right arm had a lot of swelling,
so they decided to do more x-rays and check out the arm. It was
fine, just tissue damage. I then headed over to the start (or
rather end) of the club ride, to see friends and let them know
I was okay. I then went to my local shop and put a deposit down
on a new frame.
Sunday, I felt pretty good, but Sunday night, things started
to go downhill, as I started experiencing a lot more pain in my
back and chest. By Monday morning, I couldn't move, so a neighbor
carried me back to my doctor. More x-rays showed no broken ribs,
but he believed the pain was caused by muscle spasms. I hate shots.
I already had to get a Tetanus shot and gave a vial of blood.
But now he wanted to give me two more shots, one a muscle relaxer,
the other for the nausea caused by the muscle relaxer. Have you
ever seen projectile crying. Just watch me get a shot in the bum,
when I'm already in so much pain that I can't move! To add to
the insult, they were ready to x-ray my kidneys, and had to inject
me with a dye! I begged to drink it, but they turned me down,
and put yet another needle in my arm.
Well, it is another day later, I feel much better. I still can't
raise my arm over the head, and the bruises and road rash will
take some time to heal, but I am alive, not paralyzed, no broken
bones, and hopefully able to ride again soon. The malice toward
the dog (not the owner) has subsided. The dog is fine. I hope
the owner has learned to be more responsible, and not let a blind
dog run around it the road! His insurance will cover my new bike,
and the medical bills.
I sure hope June goes better!