As a bike rider we often encounter bike rides that could be classified as a “sufferfest”. Those are the rides when you have to bike so hard, or under adverse conditions that “normal” people would not consider riding their bikes. Most of the time we do this by choice. But occasionally a ride that we expect to be a suffefest goes one step farther and becomes what I would call a “suckfest”. There are many ways that a ride can transition from sufferfest to suckfest. The Fat Cyclist discovered that riding in the Breck Epic race the day after Leadville can do that. Friday I discovered another way.
Up here in God’s Country (AKA the Adirondack Mountains) on Friday it was raining. I was in Lake Placid for a Luge Officials Course (I am now an internationally qualified Luge Official BTW) and brought my bike with me. I needed to meet with the coaches at USLA and figured I could get a couple of hours of riding in before my class. The weather forecast was pretty consistent for the day. Rain. Rain. And more rain. In the morning before I left it was cloudy, but the clouds broke and some sun came out. As I drove to Lake Placid the clouds filled in and the rain began. Let’s just say that the rain “picked up in intensity” as the day progressed.
My friends at USLA asked why I was up so early for class. A bike ride I promptly said. Oh yeah you have goals for your riding (they know about Leadville), have fun? I reminded them that when they were sliding competitively they probably had to go to the track to train on days when they would not have ordinarily even gone outside. Yeah, OK, have good training then.
(And aside. I was talking with Duncan Kennedy about my bike ride. He rides off road motorcycles in the same place and he gave me some idea what the trails were like. We also got to talking about the Whiteface qualifier. When I mentioned a section of the course we had hit 45 mph on out bike on, he promptly called me insane. Boy this world is filled with irony. When a former world class luger calls you insane, you have to be doing something,
I went and grabbed a quick lunch. But while I was eating I realized something. I was going through my equipment check list one more time. Bike, helmet, rain coat, shoe covers, shoes… Oh shit, I grabbed my booties but not my bike shoes. Finishing lunch I went to my car and looked. Sure enough I forgot my shoes.
Now for those of you who do not ride. When you get to a certain level of riding you buy fancy peddles and shoes that clip together like ski boots and skis. It helps to transfer energy to the peddles more efficiently and allows you to put energy into your peddle almost all the way around. The problem with not having your bike shoes is that regular shoes are hard to peddle with when you have the special peddles. My particular peddles (Crank Brothers Candy) do allow you to peddle somewhat with regular shoes. And I figured I would give it a go and so off to the trail head I went.
My plan had been to ride about 30 miles of the Willmington course. It would have had 3 big climbs and taken about 2.5 hours to do. I was ready for the sufferfest (I knew it was going to be wet).
On the drive out it began to rain hard. My stomach began to hurt from my lunch. My little voice started to chirp. “This is a bad idea. The cost benefit ratio is low on this one dude.” I am still learning to filter my little voice. When is it just whining and when is it telling me real information that I need? OK. I will shorten my ride if I need. A quick trip into the woods to take care of my stomach and back to gearing up. Bike socks? Crap forgot those as well. I put on my sneakers and put my booties over my sneakers. Pulled out my gloves. Crap. I forgot my middle weight full gloves at home. Little voice a little louder. Now I am already soaked.
“Lets just see what happens. You cannot always pick the conditions you are going to ride in.” Yeah it was a lame pep talk as I rolled out. (Low cost benefit ratio on this expedition dude. The voice said.)
Onto the road and towards the first climb. Boy I wish I had my sunglasses (as the water shot into my eyes making it hard to see). Onto the dirt road and into that sandy muck that just stops your tires cold . Up I went. This climb is kind of gradual at first and I suffered through. Then the second part is steep. That’s when I began to slip on the peddles. Turns out that 20% grade with sneakers on bike clips is not easy (duh) and that’s when I transitioned from sufferdom into suckdom. When I lost my foot from the peddle completely on a 20% section and came to a stop I made a command decision. Its time to be done. Its time to go back.
I did finish that section but then I turned around. Down hill in the muck is when I really missed my glasses (the water going into my eyes turns into dirt going into my eyes). Back to the car, totally soaked. Bike no longer shifting correctly.
Totals for the day: 11 miles (out of planned 30) in 1 hour. 1 climb out of 3 planned. Suckfest all the way around.
(Addendum 1: I stayed the night in Lake Placid because of my course. I went to run the next morning but could not because all of my exercise equipment, including my shoes, were completely soaked. It was, BTW, a bright sunny day. And I spent it inside learning about Luge rules. The suckfest continued.)
(Addendum 2: I did buy a new pair of mtb shoes on this trip after my ride. They are Mavic Razor shoes. I was going to get these shoes anyway. I should have thought about that before I went on my ride, but I didn’t. I rode with the shoes yesterday. They are hands down the BEST shoes I have ever ridden with.)
(Addendum 3: Still learning how to filter the voice. I believe that will be a lifelong process.)