Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bucket Lists- Part I

Passport to Pain (Sept 10, 2016)

It’s been 6 months since my last post. I start looking at hundreds of photos and it always just ends in an empty bottle of wine, empty wrappers from something I ate, and a coma after more fruitless time on on candy crush, genies & gems, and wwf. When I think of things that I ticked off my bucket list (run the Great Wall, sky dive, get a tattoo) the post high low is so low I barely remember the high. Such is the life of the addict.

I feel myself getting exponentially older, slower every day. Looking at photos I cannot believe how cruel time is- it doesn’t stop yet it doesn’t pass fast enough. I have to live like it may end tomorrow, yet keep going when it doesn’t. Been there/ done that, on to the bigger/ better things, only your body can’t do what your mind thinks it can, so now what? I know just enough math to give up 90% of the things I thought I wanted to do before I even start. But apparently not enough sense to stop signing up for stuff that is too hard for me.

I generally don’t like when stories finish at the end then retrace how they got there, you’d never guess by how I’m always wikipedi’ing endings, but seeing the top of the hill is key, right?

To say P2P (Passport2Pain) has been on my bucket list would be a lie. I remember seeing a poster for it at some ferry terminal back when we used to do a lot more island/ peninsula riding, a guy in a white lab coat showing the elevation profile and likening it to V-Tach, and laughing my head off because there was no way in hell I’d ever sign up for a ride like that.

Billed as the “toughest ride in Puget Sound”, there are 3 options, the full “Idiot” (80 miles 10,000 ft of elevation gain, “the equivalent of the Alpe d’Huez, Col Du Aspin, and Col du Galibier combined!), the Weenie (30 miles, 3400 ft) to increase participation, and the Weasel (52 miles, 6500- well actually closer to 6900 ft) for those who knew they were not Idiots but didn’t want to be a Weenie. 

As a comparison, Chilly Hilly is 32 miles 2173 ft and Ramrod is 152 miles 10,000 ft. It’s a “fun ride not a race”, created in 2011 by the Vashon Island Rowing Club (VIRC) rowers who needed to find some other source of pain in the off-season and thought of stringing all their cycling hills together in one epic event. The only prize you get for getting there first is the “Hot Spatula Award”, meaning you get to flip brisket provided by Pete’s BBQ waiting for everyone else to arrive. You get a passport stamped at each of the checkpoints (7 for Weenie, 13 for Weasel, 18 for Idiot). No one checks it but you can post it on Facebook.

I had signed up for my 8th Bike MS150 but after a really rough week at work I just could not face anyone, even old friends at one of my favorite annual events. I knew P2P was that weekend because Ocean and I had ridden Vashon (Vashon is the new Whidbey) the weekend before, and I pseudo-lamented I could never ride P2P since it always fell on the day of Bike MS). The night before, in the cloud of now-familiar chest pain from anxiety, I immediately felt some relief as I pressed “enter” on my computer to do P2P (yes I signed up for the Idiot). Maybe it’s the gate control theory of pain at work.

The last time I did a century ride with no training (Skagit Classic 2014) I said, “never again”. Other than my first ride of the season 6 months ago when I did 100 miles over 2 days (Mercer Island), I maybe rode once/ month, longest was 35 miles, 2450 ft.

I was up at 4 am without an alarm, so decided to take the earlier ferry (6:05 am) from Fauntleroy. This was a wise choice since it was already starting to fill up with cyclists. They advise driving since the 10 mile ride to and from the ferry to Burton can feel really long after that ride. I asked another rider who assured me there was a lot of food on the course, so I only put 2 scoops of Tailwind and 2 packs of powergel cola gummies in my jersey, along with my cell phone, car keys/ advil/ eyedrops, P2P passport, CO2 gun and spare tube (I had another one in my saddle bag, but after 4 rear flats in 2 days the previous weekend, knowing there was no sag wagon, I had to be prepared).

It was a cool, perfect day for a ride. Looking around, there were virtually no women. It looked like 90% men, I think I counted all the women on 1 hand and they were all super skinny and fit (and some I wasn’t all that sure they were women). The first part of the course was now familiar to me, having scoped most of the Weenie course with Ocean on our previous rides there. Occasionally the checkpoints are at the top of hills, but mostly they put these checkpoints at the bottom of these long hills, then you get stamped and go back up (out and back). After a while you measure out your dread as you speed down these long slopes seeing the faster riders ahead of you churning back the the hill you’re about to descend, even more when you see riders walking their bikes.

At first it was all fun and games, gorgeous scenery, perfect weather, funny checkpoints (the “S&M – your pain is our pleasure” station featuring aid station workers dressed as dentists, or the green man, Blues Brothers, etc).

There was one with bananas sliced in quarters. I asked whether I could have a whole banana. She said they were trying to save some for other riders. I looked at the multiple full baskets of bananas they had and moved on. I should have just taken one because soon the lack of calories caught up to me, when I ran out of Tailwind. They don't carry gatorade out of respect that apparently cyclists each have their own favorite powder for their drinks.

Between checkpoints 7-8 there were winding steep hills with little transition, and I was unable to shift down fast enough, nearly fell off my bike getting up a hill. A guy breezed past me as I was grunting and said, “good thing we like hills… it only gets worse from here”. “Like” is a strong word; “need” might be more a propos.

Shortly after that I actually had to get out of my saddle, either that or fall off. I wish I had my old garmin to tell me how steep it was (my new one only gives an elevation total, not percent grade). I heard a story about a cyclist who actually flipped over backwards as they were pulling hard on their handle bars to go up, and more than once I heard people crashing behind me because they did not get out of their saddles in time before the slope got the best of them. 

The next checkpoint had no plateau so I had to start on an uphill, like at Ventoux. I ate all my gummies, felt better, but it was not enough (or not soon enough). I had to walk up the end of the next hill, and again when I hit “the wall”.
The hill with the devil chasing you is definitely not the worst one; it’s the one coming up from the checkpoint after that.

Then we hit the north end which oddly had everyone dressed in penguin suits (hä?) but they actually had real food. I think I ate 4 hard boiled eggs and an entire PB&J roll up. Luckily those aid station workers said nothing to me about saving food for others, since I had long run out of food. From then on there was good food at aid stations, and it was not as steep though more busy/ car roads which meant no switchbacks to climb. 

Still I hit the mile 50 checkpoint feeling much better than I had at mile 40, but since I was so slow, I only had less than 3 hours to do the last 30 miles before they would start pulling apart the checkpoints. There were plenty of other riders around me intent on doing the full 80 but I didn’t trust my legs to be able to climb another 3000 ft on Maury Island so I headed back. 

Almost immediately after “quitting”, my legs found strength and I passed a few people on my way back to to the park, where at 7 hours in not many people were back yet (I think >85% end up doing the full 80 miles). There were 2 beer kegs, BBQ with chicken, pulled pork, brisket (all 3? Yes, please!) and a stunning view of the water.

It was a different sort of tired than from running 50 miles. I realized the chest pain was gone (though it took about 30 miles of climbing to get rid of it). I knew I would be back next year for the Idiot.

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