The Death Ride team ride yesterday started in Marinwood, headed out Lucas Valley Road, Nicasio Valley Rd, Pt-Reyes Petaluma to Hicks Valley, over the infamous Marshall Road and down to Highway 1, though Pt Reyes Station and then back inland on SFD, Platform Bridge, back to Point Reyes-Petaluma and onto Nicasio Valley Rd where we retraced our route back to Marinwood.
At the end of the ride we had a potluck at the Marinwood Community center to celebrate our TNT Honorees.
I approached this ride with a lot of trepidation.
It was going to be my longest, toughest ride since the end of last March. I had visions of me continuously holding back my group, and our group arriving at the Community Center late in the afternoon after practically everyone else had left and the last scraps of the potluck were being packed up. Or worse yet, I'd need to be sagged back. Gahhhh.
It was raining like stink all day the day before, and the weather report called for rain at least for the early part of the ride. And then there was the possibility of a tsunami, yeesh (OK, I'm stretching it here, the likelihood of a tsunami was very very low where we were, but it didn't help matters :D)
And then there's The Potluck Curse. My crash occurred the day of the DR team's Honoree Potluck last year. I was briefly on the Solvang team this past fall, and on the ride preceding that team's honoree potluck, there was also a very scary crash (not me this time, but still). Does bad luck really come in threes? We shall see.
Well. To cut to the chase -- I completed the ride, I didn’t hold up my group (well, not too badly, anyhow), and I felt fine at the end, woo-hoo! There were lots of people to chat with and lots of great food to enjoy at the potluck. It was rainy and chilly at the start of the ride, but thanks to Appropriate Attire, it wasn’t bad. No sign of a tsunami descending upon us.
And no word of any crashes, horrific or otherwise, occurring on the ride. The Potluck Curse is broken!!
I have to admit, I had some very low points during the first part of this ride. Once the grade on a climb kicks up around 8% (aw heck, 6%) I still get very, very slow. And it takes me a while to get into the groove. So, I had a grand old time on our first climb on Lucas Valley Rd, only about 4 miles into the ride. My “who am I kidding?” mantra promptly kicked in. I was already thinking to myself “I SO don’t belong on this team!” and “maybe I should switch to the STP team” and “no, I’ll just quit and help out with SAGing on this team”, and so on.
I got a bit of a respite from the negative singsong in my head heading up Nicasio Valley Road, but it all came back in full force on the slog up Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd heading towards the Cheeze Factory. I was so down on myself I almost started crying, pathetic but true! I was in my great-granny gear (a triple crankset with a 32t mountain cassette, oy), trying to maintain a reasonable cadence, trying to pedal in reasonably smooth circles, with my speed dropping under 5 mph, 4 mph … gahhh.
Our wonderful SAG guy Ken was parked on the side of the road at the top of that climb cheering us on. When I finally reached the top he couldn’t help but notice how slow I was going, and he cheerily called out “you need to be in a higher gear there!” or something along that line. Luckily by then I had pretty much gotten over the urge to spontaneously burst into tears, but I might have shot poor Ken the Jobob Death Glare(patent pending). He didn’t spontaneously combust, so either I didn’t shoot it at him after all, or I was just too whupped to zap him full force (in which case I hope his jacket wasn’t singed).
My companions -- Susie, Maggie and coach Peg, all Death Ride veterans -- were great. They gave me lots of encouragement and helpful suggestions. Peg would occasionally have us pull over and give us really good tips, checking on how much we were eating and drinking, that kind of thing.
The self-defeating noises in my head receded by the time we reached our first SAG stop on Hicks Valley Road. There, Nancy and Grace had a fabulous spread of food waiting for us right by the Lincoln School. It was so awesome to see Nancy again, I first met her during the Crater Lake Century, when I reached the rim of the crater – which was my first significant ride since my crash (this one being the second, I suppose).
Hmmm. There’s now a link between Nancy and the good outcomes of my significant rides. Hope she comes to the Death Ride. :D
The climb up Marshall Road was of course hard, but not as demoralizing for me as the climbs up Lucas Valley Rd and Pt Reyes-Petaluma Rd. Go figure. I took the descent down the Marshall Wall very cautiously – didn’t want to push the Potluck Curse!! – but all went well.
Once I made it over Marshall my self-defeating mantra was pretty much gone. Heading down Highway 1 I started having some fun with coach Peg and the rest of my group, plaintively whining every time we passed some landmark known for its good eats – the Marshall Store and the clam chowder, Tony’s and the BBQ oysters, the Bovine Bakery and everything in it, the bar in Olema… Coach Peg would just smile every time I kvetched about the snack opportunities we were missing.
We had an excellent time pacelining and riding the rollers on Highway 1. But, perhaps I was having too excellent a time, I kind of forgot about keeping up with the all-important eating and drinking. I was so busy whining about Missed Snack Opportunities that I neglected to refuel – and yes, I get the irony! :p
So, once we were heading up the relatively shallow grade on Sir Francis Drake towards Platform Bridge, I started feeling what I call a “pre-bonk” coming on. It’s where I feel a little jittery and lightheaded, and, based on past experience I know when I feel that coming on I must stop immediately and refuel to avoid a full-blown bonk. Seriously, I have maybe a five minute window to chow down or suffer the consequences. I pulled over and sucked down some vanilla Hammer Gel from my flask and swallowed some more Spiz drink, and was good to go again within a few minutes. But clearly I’ll need to stay on top of my refueling a lot better than that!
The rest of the ride went fine. I was starting to wear down a bit by the time we reached Nicasio, but the short break we took there helped. And by then the rain was long gone and it had cleared up considerably so we had some beautiful scenery to enjoy.
The climb heading up Lucas Valley in the other direction was yet another long slog, but by then I knew I could manage it. And I had a blast heading down the other side of that climb – I went down it ahead of the rest of the group and had the descent essentially all to myself. I didn’t take it at breakneck speed, but I did it at a good clip and felt pretty relaxed and confident. That’s huge for me, I’ve been a tentative descender since last year and it looks like I’m getting better at it.
I slowed down a bit at the bottom of the descent to let the others catch up, Coach Peg got us into another paceline, and we cranked it back to the finish. Peg gathered us for a short and informative post-ride debriefing, and then we headed off for the potluck.
By the end of the ride I was thinking, hmm, maybe I really can do this!, which is a big about-face from what I was thinking during the early part of the ride. Many thanks to Maggie, Susie and especially to Peg for helping me through my self-doubt, and for making it fun.
An excellent day!
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