Trials and TOSRV-ations

This year’s TOSRV was truly one of those times where I marvel at how I managed to push myself through to the end of the ride.

First, this spring left very few good days for training. I was less prepared for the ride than I’d ever been since I started doing TOSRV every year since 2008. I only did two long rides in April–a 68 mile ride from my house to Burton, Ohio, after which I felt like crap, and the amazing 152 mile feat of Calvin’s Challenge. In a normal year, I use one day every weekend in April to do a long ride, starting at 50 miles and working up to about 80 miles in the last week. Due to some awful rainy and cold weather in April, I missed the first three weekends of training and only managed to get those two long rides in the last two weekends. Ugh. I came into TOSRV with a pathetic 439 miles under my belt; last year, I had 870.

Second, I made the tragic mistake of going out for drinks with my coworkers on Thursday night. When I hadn’t even packed yet. To be fair, I did not think we would be out that long. We all left work at 4pm. Consequently, I closed down the gathering with the remaining two people–one of whom is my team lead–at approximately 9pm. Five hours of drinking, no food. And I was not in the proper state to pack when I arrived home at 9:30pm. I went to right to bed. And “woke up” (does a person wake up after passing out?) at 5am to puke. I was a sick dog.

I tried to get up for work and pack at about 6:30am. But I couldn’t get my butt out of bed long enough to do anything other than throw a bunch of my stuff–backpack included–in the middle of my bedroom floor. I felt sick to my stomach laying down; when I stood, it was worse. I then logged into my work email and guiltily called (knowing I’d have to eat crow about this on Monday). I went back to bed. I woke again at 11am feeling as though I’d sweat off the hangover. I was finally interested in eating some cereal and drinking vast quantities of water which all (thankfully) stayed down.

But I was still kind of sluggish about getting to that packing. I watched TV, then surfed the internet (mainly the U2 forum), and then I spent an hour logged into my desktop at work to finish a test. In between all of these activities, and taking a shower, I slowly gathered stuff into a pile in the center of the living room floor (so I could watch TV)  in an attempt to pack. But I was frankly kind of distracted. I really need to focus when I pack or I miss things. And I had that tired feeling one has after a hangover so my enthusiasm level was down.

The end result? I forgot to pack the following:

1) A towel. I realized it in enough time to borrow one from my friend Joanna (at whose apartment I spent Friday night).

2) Money. I always carry a credit card when cycling, but I like to have cash. On my way out of town, I forgot to stop at the ATM. Fortunately, since I intended to get cash, I’d placed my ATM card in the wallet I use for cycling (it normally contains my ID, medical card, and one credit card plus any cash if I remember to put some in there) so I was able to stop at an ATM on the way out of Columbus on Saturday.

And–most tragically–3) WATER BOTTLES. Um. Yeah. How scatter-brained is THAT? I didn’t even realize that I’d forgotten them until Saturday morning after I’d placed my luggage in the van going to Portsmouth. As I pulled my bike towards the starting area of the ride, I realized I was missing something very vital. I’ve never forgotten water bottles. Ever. I’ve come close, sure, but I’d never actually done it. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

So I ended up going back into the Hyatt where, fortunately, there was a small Starbucks stand. I bought two bottles of water and put them in the back pockets of my jersey since they were too small to stay in place in the water bottle cages on my bike. The leg from Columbus to Circleville is roughly 30 miles. I spent the entire time during that leg fretting about running out of water so I was not drinking as liberally as I normally would, fearful I would run out in that vast wilderness of fields between the two cities. Consequently, I also took it a little easy and did not push a hard pace in fear that I would sweat too much and become thirsty. Along some of the legs, there are gas stations where one can buy more water, but I couldn’t recall many between Columbus and Circleville.

Fortunately, when I got to Circleville, one of the bike shops that run support vehicles for the ride–Baer Wheels–had water bottles to sell me for a mere $6! It’s a good thing I stopped for that cash on the way out of Columbus. Needless to say, once the water crisis was averted, I was rolling confidently through the remaining miles of the ride and pushing myself as vigorously as usual.

I didn’t spend too much time at the rest stops on the first day. The weather reports had threatened rain (and occasionally the skies looked it too) so I wanted to beat any potential storms to Portsmouth. I arrived in Portsmouth shortly after 3pm (I left Columbus at 7am) which was such an improvement over last year’s 5pm. Thankfully, unlike last year, the headwind was not very significant. It was there, but a steady 5-10mph headwind is much more tolerable than the 25mph wind gusts that brutalized my body last year. Sadly, I was better prepared/conditioned for the ride last year. I was significantly less prepared for the ride this year; however, the weather was much better. I guess, though, I shouldn’t complain since if I had come with this year’s conditioning into last year’s ride, I would not have made it. TOSRV was ultimately forgiving to my–as well as that of my fellow riders’–general lack of training this year. Still, I cannot help but think that had I had this year’s weather with last year’s miles and training, I would have really rocked TOSRV.

Somewhere between Waverly and Portsmouth, Saturday May 7, 2011

Regardless, I made it into town feeling good–not particularly beaten–and I was able to enjoy some time at the park with my friend, Bad Dog, and his crazy group of partying cyclists, the Polka-Dots. Yes, I partook of some beers, as the memories of  Thursday’s over-indulgence was long, long gone (somewhere among those 108 miles of road). The rain continued to hold off throughout the remainder of the party in Tracy Park and only started around 6pm when the festivities were wrapping up.

Bad Dog & Mars Girl enjoy beers at Tracy Park in Portsmouth, Saturday May 7, 2011.

My overnight in the Southern Ohio Medical Center gym was a little rough despite the fact that I packed my big air mattress this year. I had been battling a cold of some kind that was attacking my lungs specifically, causing great coughing fits whenever I wasn’t cycling and especially when I laid down to sleep. Once I fell asleep, I usually didn’t wake up to cough. The problem was, the gym was excessively noisy this year with the air conditioner knocking on every hour or so with a loud bang. Not to mention the thunderstorm that came through at some ungodly hour, its rain so hard I could actually hear it pounding on the roof despite the white noise of the running air conditioner. I even caught a few muffled rumbles of thunder (which were apparently loud to all those sleeping in tents elsewhere in Portsmouth).

Needless to say, I was up with every noise. And every time I was up, my lungs, tight with pain, convulsed as if to reject the air they held. With every breath of air I took in, I coughed. Ugh. I was really self-conscious that I was keeping other people up, so I tried to repress each cough. Which, of course, only made the coughing worse. Fortunately, I had brought cough drops and that seemed to help. Still, on the ride back to Columbus the next day, my ear was constantly tuned into the conversations of people around me, fearing I’d hear that one person complaining about the coughing all night in the SOMC center. Thank God, I didn’t hear any complaints of this type–just similar complaints about the air conditioning. At least I wasn’t louder than that. But if anyone out there reading this was indeed kept awake by my coughing, I heartily apologize! Though I really hope that if you’ve decided to overnight in the public venue of the many gyms in Portsmouth, you expect to be disturbed by some noise or another. At least I wasn’t snoring. At least I hope I wasn’t (that problem was supposed to be fixed with the septoplasty and removal of my tonsils).

Sunday morning yielded the characteristic fog so ingrained in my memory of departures from Portsmouth. It was damp from the rain and a bit chilly. My muscles protested in the work of the climb out of the valley. I had brief moments of 16-17mph, but for the most part, I was a steady, slow 15mph. I could tell it would be a long day. The legs just didn’t want to participate in this event. Again, I might have been in better shape with last year’s training… Ah, well.

A foggy departure from Portsmouth.

It was pretty chilly all the way through to Chilicothe. As I got back on my bike after lunch, I actually felt cold. The sun was fighting to come out and did not in fact show itself until towards the end of my trek to Circleville. Things warmed up pretty quickly after that and I was able to finally shed my arm warmers and windproof vest. I even had to put on some sun block. Not that it helped, I still got a cold sore on my face a few days later. Ack.

I spent a lot of time at the Circleville stop. I admit that I felt a little defeated. It was one of those times where I had to talk myself back onto the bike. I wasn’t going to quit, mind you; I just needed to rest longer than I knew I should. All told, I spent about 45 minutes at that last stop. I pet a greyhound dog owned by one of the people supporting a TOSRV rider. I talked to Brad–a friend from both my church and the ABC who was taking pictures during the ride. I drank a lot of gatorade and water. I reminded myself inwardly that I’d performed the magnificent feat of completing this ride three times before. And then I reluctantly remounted my bike and set off.

I spent a lot of time in my middle gear ring. I’ve learned that I mentally prefer to spin a lot than push a hard gear when I’m exhausted. It turns out that I end up going the same speed either way, but when I spin a lot, I’m in much less pain. I’m not sure it works this way for other people. But when I’m spinning, I feel like I’m accomplishing something. If I’m in a high gear with a lower cadence, though I’m going the same speed, I feel like I’m not moving.

Mars Girl in Circleville, Sunday May 8, 2011. Photo courtesy of Brad Bolton.

I saw Brad along one of the long roads outside of Columbus and he later said I looked strong. Which is funny because I totally didn’t feel that. It was admittedly the hardest return to Columbus I’d done. It’s so strange how this ride changes so drastically from year to year. It all comes down to weather and your level of conditioning. Last year, I felt like I could have done an additional 60 miles after the ride; this year, 107 was almost too much. Also, since I wasn’t with any friends at all this year, I had no one to pull me. But that’s okay. I also was the most relaxed on a TOSRV I’ve ever been because I wasn’t stressing about staying with someone else. Still, it might have been nice to have someone to pull me a few miles. Oh well. I probably would have resisted anyone’s efforts to help anyway.

I got into Columbus at 4pm which really wasn’t that bad. All told, I had a 15.0 mph average the first day and a 14.9 mph average the second. That’s about average for me. So despite how I felt emotionally and physically, I didn’t do too bad.

I think this is my last TOSRV for a year or two. I need a break. This year’s horrible start to spring taught me that you can’t always get the kind of training in during the spring that you expect. And I’m not sure I always want to. It’d be nice to spend the spring only cycling when I want to cycle, as opposed to doing it because I know I have to. Perhaps if next year’s spring is more fortuitous, and I get a lot of miles in, I”ll consider registering late. But I’m definitely not jumping on the boat in January. It’s nice to remind myself that I don’t have to do something.

Yeah, I”d like to do Calvin’s Challenge again. But that’s a one-day event. I think it’s much easier (and less painful) to do a lot of miles in one day than to do 100+ miles one day, and then get up and do 100+ miles the next day once your muscles have stiffened. I think I’ll play Calvin’s Challenge by ear too. A little spontaneity never hurt anyone.

So as I write this, it’s a rainy evening at the start of what promises to be a rainy week. I’ve yet to ride my bike to work. So what does the summer hold for Northeast Ohio? Will it ever stop raining? I think soon I’m going to just give in and ride to work in the rain… It’s time to grow some balls. Someone remind me again why I moved back to this godforsaken state…

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