I am sore and hurting. Not from a crash but from being so out of shape for an event. Including the time I stayed in Pennsylvania after my father died, I was two weeks without a bike ride leading up to the Jeremiah Bishop Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. If that wasn’t bad enough, yesterday I refereed a couple of soccer matches – something I haven’t done since April or May. My legs were sore going in.
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I arrived in Harrisonburg and went to the front of the line as a prostate cancer survivor and supporter of the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. There I met Joe Dombrowski, of Cannondale-Drapec for perhaps, the fourth straight year. I was able to ask him about contracts for next year for Ben King and Phil Gaimon. He said Ben has (or will have) a contract. He doesn’t know about Phil. It’s a tough business.
I also met Jeremiah Bishop at the start. His wife, Erin, came over and gave me a hug. Neither of us knew if I would make the start today. Robert Hess, of the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project, also came over to greet me.
We rolled out at 8:00 a.m. It was a ceremonial roll out. Two miles in as we turned off US 33 onto Eversole Road I was briefly at the front. I did not position myself here and did not want to be here. My legs felt like crap and I wanted to ride easy with no pressure, certainly not wheel to wheel with the main peleton. When I saw a safe place to exit I bailed out and let the main group pass.
I also had a reason to doing that. My heart rate monitor wasn’t reading and I wanted to see how high it was as I was pushing it. I adjusted it and it was recorded 35. Then it was zero. Guess the battery is shot.
When I jumped on I was pretty much at the end of the Alpine Loop and Century riders. The timed section of the Shenandoah mountain climb seemed to start at a different location than in the past (I didn’t ride this route last year). When I passed the bridge over Dry Run I started my timer.
On the climb I passed some (eight) and was passed by some (seven). In the past in this position (near the end of the main group) I did much better. Crossing the top I looked at my time and knew it was bad. RidewithGPS has a segment for this climb and confirmed what I knew: This was the worst of my five timed climbs on this route.
Going over the top was sweet. I can still get down the mountain pretty fast. I passed many and was passed by no one. My top speed was 46 mph. Would have liked higher but it was a technical descent. I blew by the first aid station and joined up with a line of riders in the valley. It wasn’t really a pace line because one guy was doing all the pulling and there were six or seven of us getting a free ride. And he didn’t mind.
The second climb was Reddish Knob. Like the first, it was my worst time recorded except for the first year when it was a dirt climb. So worst on pavement. But a good descent.
Leaving the third aid station I came to the moment of truth. I had been thinking all day I would skip the 27 mile loop and ride on home making it a 77 mile day. I came to the loop. I turned onto it.
The loop was nice but I was all alone. I stopped for a picture then was passed by three women. I first thought about joining them but that may have been creepy and I was worried I would not keep up. I let them go. I was passed by a guy who told me to grab his wheel. I declined and then as he pulled away I caught up to him I told him my dad died last week and this was a day for me to just ride by myself. He understood.
Then I came to it. The John Deere tractor. My dad’s favorite. He loved his Chevrolet, John Deere, and Arnold Palmer. And I would learn later that Arnie died today.
The loop ended at the same aid station (#3). A brief stop and I was off to ride the last segment. And there was a timed climb on Mole Hill. I told the guy at the timing station I hated him. (I was kidding, of course. I think.)
The day was cloudy and cool, around 60 degrees, all day. It never warmed up. I wore arm warmers and needed them, except for the climbs in which I sweated my butt off. At the end, I saw Robert again, but still not feeling great, headed for home. I even skipped the meal.
It was a day of suffering. I think the circumstances leading up to it made it much worse than it should have been. But a bad day on a bike is better than a good day on the couch.