Tuesday, February 16, 2010
80 for Haiti
Somehow, I dragged myself out of bed on Saturday and was able to make it to Pine Valley in time to meet my friends for an 8:15 am start (it was supposed to be 8:00 am; thankfully, my friends got there late too). If I hadn't stayed up to watch the entire opening ceremony of the Olympics, I may have been able to get to bed before 1:00 am, making it easier to get up at 5:30 am, but I love a challenge.
I was a big nervous about 80 for Haiti http://www.adventurecorps.com/80/. 80 miles, 6,000 feet of climbing, in the desert=big gulp. However, Ironman Utah is rapidly approaching. It's going to be 112 miles with more climbing, sandwiched between a 2.4 mile swim and an even hillier 26.2 mile run. Time to put the hammer down and get serious.
We rolled out and began climbing almost immediately. I couldn't believe how warm it was. Since Pine Valley is nestled in the mountains at 4,000 feet and usually chilly (40s) this time of year, the high 60-degree weather and blindingly blue skies forced us to shed our extra layers fairly quickly. I scolded myself for donning arm and leg warmers. After only a few minutes, they were bulging out the back of my jersey. Plus, even though I wasn't technically going to wear them for the whole ride, they would still get drenched in sweat by the end. Does that mean I have to wash them? Ergh. Fine. I guess it does.
I felt great and drank in the mountain and desert views eagerly. Just a bit hungry, despite a large breakfast (banana, coffee, salmon, toast, and oatmeal). I couldn't wait for the first aid station. Meanwhile, I engulfed my Cliff Bar and Cliff Blocks. The first aid station appeared and I gobbled down PB&Js and whatever else I could grab. I snuck into the Port-a-Potty and when I re-emerged, my group of so-called "buddies" had taken off down the road. Thanks! It took off in a futile attempt to catch them, even though they had departed about 10 minutes prior (the line for the loo was long).
--at the first aid station
I pedaled madly into the headwind, which was blowing brutally at about 25 mph. At least I would get a tailwind on the return, I reasoned. Ah, but it's the eerie and evil desert. I would have no such luck. Well, it's good mental training for Ironman Utah. Funny how having a big, scary race looming in the distance on the calendar makes it possible for me to suffer through these ridiculously hard training rides. Otherwise, I think I would have turned at the sign that said "50 mile route riders turn left here". But instead, I put my head down, zoned out, and went to work.
In the meantime, I oohed and aahed over the adoreable baby cows and furry horses adorned in their thick winter coats (they must be hot!) along the sides of the road. Herds of horses grazed on golden grass in an adjacent field with no fence. I wondered what prevented them from wandering onto the highway. The pavement was broken and unforgiving in several sections, telltale signs of extreme fluctuations in temperatures. Pickup trucks and motorcyclists zoomed down the highway, careening inches from my handlebars. I stopped to help a guy with a flat tire. Passing trucks honked and swerved, waving their fists. One truck coming from the other direction stopped in the middle of the road to inquire as to our whereabouts. "Where are you riding to? What are you doing? There sure are an awful lot of youins out here!" I wanted to tell him he was blocking an entire lane of traffic on the highway by stopping in the middle of the road but was afraid if I opened my mouth, obsenities would pour out, so I remained silent.
As I coasted down one of the few downhills (which I begrudgingly knew would be an extreme uphill on the return), I noticed a long, rust-colored, tall fence, stretching for miles, paralleling a set of train tracks. It was ominous and foreign, breaking the land at an invisible boundary. It suddenly occurred to me: it was the border fence separating the U.S. from Mexico. I didn't realize we were so close. Hmmm. So that's Mexico? I'm glad the fence was there to tell me. Funny, but the land on either side of the fence looked identical to me. The fence stretched up towards a large hill and then stopped suddenly, which seemed a little ridiculous to me. Why have a fence at all? If the purpose is to keep people out, and it just S.T.O.P.S., that would be where I would simply walk around.
I finally reached the turn-around in Jacumba and was reunited with my friends. However, my blood sugar was dangerously low (I hadn't brought enough food with me, figuring since it was a supported ride, I could rely on the aid stations), and I was very grumpy, cranky, and irritable. I couldn't even enjoy the spectacular desert views, the Salton Sea, looming in the distance. I chewed out my friends and then complained bitterly to the volunteers that the aid station didn't have any chocolate or candy, which was what I was craving, all the while stuffing my face with granola bars, bananas, and oranges. Ten minutes later, I started to feel much better and a little ashamed at my rude behavior.
--the Desert View Tower at Boulder Park in Jacumba, CA (turn-around)http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/9178
--gorgeous desert views
We rolled out, all together in a group again. I think it was my inattentiveness to proper nutrition but I felt a little loopy. Maybe it was the eerieness of the desert, or maybe I was starting to hallucinate but everything around me took on a weird vibe. Strange rocks made odd piles and formations. Out of the corner of my eye, some of them looked like people, spying on me. Had someone arranged these piles of rocks into weird configurations? They couldn't have naturally formed like that. Or could they? Someone had painted a large fish with a gaping mouth on one rock. There were other rocks with strategically placed paint to form faces, turtles, and other animals. Shivers started running up and down my spine. A sign as I left the park read, "Park Closed if:..." Following this was a list of conditions that occurred commonly enough for someone to have made a sign and included "Temperatures over 120 degrees Farenheit", "Winds over 90 mph,"...I stopped reading. It was like riding a bike on the moon. I was in a harsh, unforgiving and alien land.
As we made the return route, I kept waiting for the promised tailwind. And the downhills. Afterall, I had toiled up and up and up on the way out and the headwinds had been ridiculous. Now, the winds had died down. Everything was still and silent. And we were still climbing. Finally, the winds picked up again. Only the direction had switched. Just for us. Now, we would have a headwind on the return as well. (We had to climb uphill into a headwind both ways, and we ate nails for lunch....and we LIKED IT!!!).
Everything started looking very strange. The people, the houses, the road; I think the desert was starting to get to me. It takes a special kind of person to live in the desert 24-7, 365 days a year. As we passed by a ranch, I noticed what looked like militiamen out of the corner of my eye. Snipers? Migrants from Mexico hiding in the bushes? I gave a start and was thankful that my Joy was right next to me. Otherwise, I wouldn't have believed my eyes. Tusken Raiders from Star Wars? They certainly were in the right place!
No, the owner of the ranch had strategically place countless midget-sized war veteran voodoo dolls around his front yard. Were they scarecrows? Scarepeople? Maybe dead bodies he had murdered and dressed up to scare off trespassers? There were 2 by the chain across his driveway with a sign that read, "No Trespassing". If that was the point, it was working! My weary legs found new energy and pedaled like a maniac to get the hell out of there.
A bit further down the road, a much more inviting but also very odd inhabitance passed by. "Peacock Blue", the sign read outside a very colorful home. Ah, I love hippies. So warm and friendly with lots of pretty colors. Peacock Blue, the name of a tropical island, a fruity alcoholic drink designed to get girls drunk, an acid trip, or the name of a porn star? What do you think? Anyway, I like it.
Yes, by this point, it's safe to say, I was bonking. We regrouped at a market where I refueled on a Butterfinger and a Red Bull. I don't know why mile 60 is always my breaking point, but that's always where the trouble starts for me. I felt immediately re-energized, and using the Red Bull to my advantage, took off down the road. Until my stomach started churning. Damn Red Bull! It gives you wings by giving you gas!
We turned left down a steep hill with broken pavement. I stayed relaxed and prayed Torch's front wheel wouldn't catch in a giant pothole. We hit smooth pavement and careened down at 40 mph. My IMAZ water bottle was gone but there was no way I was going back for it. I let my legs recover and enjoyed the descent. Soon, we were climbing again. It was more of a false flat but at mile 70, I was dying. Red Bull: it gives you wings, and then you crash. Miles 75-80, it was all I could do not to fall asleep. I coaxed the pedals to turn over, and I refused to succumb to the negativity drills escalating in my head. Somehow, someway, I reached the finish, but it's all a blur to me now.
I rushed home so I could reach the fridge before collapsing, diving into my stash of fried chicken, sushi, and ice cream. I had never been so hungry and tired in my entire life. This was a good wake up call. I have my work cut out for me before Ironman Utah. Because "80 for Haiti" will feel like a warm-up in comparison. Gulp. I fell asleep afterwards in a deep coma, wondering how on earth I was going to be able to run the San Dieguito Half Marathon the following day.
Photos courtesy of Chris Kostman & Elizabeth Jefferson, 2/13/2010