MLK2 did not disappoint

This is the ride that many of us crazy folks have been anxiously waiting to come again since the car ride home from last years event.  Read about it here: http://team-virtus.com/2012/01/16/the-inaugural-mlk-ride-and-oh-what-a-ride-and-party-it-was/

This year there were promises of more beer, more food, more people, and better temperatures.  How could this get any better?  I submit that it cannot!

Sorry for no pictures.  There is a better reason other than I forgot.  It’s to keep the incriminating evidence to a minimum.

Actually, about 6 weeks ago, I began training for some long gravel events in the spring.  I have been using the spin bike, some outdoor gravel rides when the weather permits and also been hitting some weights in the gym to try and develop some power for the pedals.  I decided that I was going to try and ride it as hard as I could for as long as I could, so I didn’t want to stop for picture time.

For me (and others), Berryman Trail is a great way to find out where I stand in mountain biking skill and fitness level.  Last year, I was way behind where I would have liked to be.  I was struggling through the climbs, and walked several in the single-track that I rode.  The last point of bail out was 19 miles in, and that’s where I took the gravel and paved roads back to camp.  Overall ride time last year was about 4.5 hours.

This year, I figured that I was a little better off in the skills department.  I felt much smoother anyway.  It was my overall fitness that had me a bit concernicous.  I just wasn’t sure how I would hold up after only 6 weeks of actual training.

As we rolled out, I couldn’t believe how many people were there for this ride…we estimated around 40-50.  I’m sure the promise of 60° temperatures helped that number, but it didn’t matter, it was going to be a good day.

I started off feeling pretty decent, a little cold in my feet, and I may have overdressed on my core.  Once I got my warm-up time in I felt great.  I ended up shedding a layer off the top, taking my knee warmers and shoe covers off, and switched gloves out for the summer pair I packed just in case.  I believe a summer jersey and shorts would have got me through the day just fine.

The ride was going great…the trail was in really nice shape, and the big mud hole re-routes were awesome.  I was feeling pretty good on the bike, and hanging with guys that would have dropped me in a heartbeat last year… even passed a few on the climbs.  For a while, I led a fairly large group of riders, and nobody wanted to pass.  I eventually got separated from this group, and was by myself.  I don’t mind riding by myself, since most of my training is done this way, but it’s always nice to have someone faster to ride with if you are going for time.

As the miles past, I seemed to get stronger….and when a group of three caught up to me and told me there was only ten miles left, I couldn’t believe it.  I was only 2 hours 45 minutes into the ride, I could crush my overall time from last year and ride 7 more miles (2 miles of reroute were added this year plus the 5 that I bailed on).  To anyone who has rode this trail, you know 10 miles at Berryman can be brutal, and my enthusiasm was quickly beaten, thrown on the ground and stomped and spit on.

It was around mile 16, and I had just finished my last water bottle.  About 10 minutes later that my left quad started cramping.  I could baby it, push harder with the right leg and it would ease up, but then my right would start cramping.  I was starting to worry, but kept on making the pedals turn, despite what gear I was in or if I had to walk the climbs.  I tried to lay down on the trail and stretch a few times, and would feel better for a little while, but still not able to put much power on the pedals.

I made it to the point where I bailed last year, and decided that the hills going out the gravel weren’t anything to sneeze at from what I remember, so I made the bright decision to take stay on the trail, and finish this 26 mile loop.  This was in retrospect not the best plan of action.  I had a pretty good ride for the first mile or so, good flowing trail down a hill and some creek bottom, and then the climbs began.  These hills are acclaimed for beating you down one by one, 5 total.  The first climb I didn’t make very far before getting off the bike to walk…and even trying to walk was cramping my legs, and the cramping had moved to my hamstrings too.  My hammys were much more painful the quads, shooting pain from my knee to my groin.  It felt as though someone was cutting the muscle out of my leg, and setting it on fire.   Around mile 21 I was walking the hills and flats and barely able to handle coasting or even being on the bike.  At mile 23 I was pedaling along a ridge top and my legs cramped worse than ever…I threw my bike down and laid down next to the trail.  I was all alone…no one has come from behind me in almost an hour; I thought I might have to call for help.  I looked at my cell phone …dead battery.   OK…I might have to find shelter and water for the night…would anyone realize I didn’t make it back in and go looking for me?

So I lay there trying to stretch out and getting an idea for what to do…it seemed like forever but I think it was about 20 minutes.  To my surprise and delight, 2 guys came by who were finishing up the loop.  One of them was Jim Bacon, the other was Matt I think, Jim asked how I was doing, I told him the situation.  He jumped off his bike and threw a water bottle at me; it was about ½ full with water and what I assumed was lime Gatorade mixed in (my favorite).  He also gave me a package and a half of shot blocks, and filled one of my water bottles up for me.  I sat there waiting for a few minutes then took off again feeling better, but not even close to 100%.  I walked up 1.5 of the last big climbs, but wasn’t feeling too bad all things considered.  Jim and Matt stayed with me the rest of the ride; I owe them a lot for helping me out.  Hopefully I can repay the good deed someday.

When I finally made it back to camp, I checked my watch and it said total ride time was 4.5 hours.  I can’t believe that all that trouble cramping and I still made it back to match my time from last year.  I guess this means I just need to work on my food and water preparation and maybe I’ll be able to crush this with no cramping next year.

We arrived back to the campground only to find that we were missing out on a hell of a party.  There were 40+ riders there and several peeps that showed up just for the after ride festivities.  I ate many deer brats brought by the Hoosier Daddies, drank a few hard ciders, and played some washers.  I eventually decided to abandon my plan to camp for the night and headed home for a soak in the tub and a good nights sleep in my bed.

It was a great day to catch up with friends that I met here last year and haven’t seen since, and great to meet knew friends.  Heard some great stories about one person sharting way too many times in their adult life.  If you are wondering who this might be, I’ll just say, if you see anyone wearing see through bike shorts, stay in front.

To everyone who I got to ride or hang out with…I had a blast.  To everyone that I didn’t get to see, I hope you had a blast, and to everyone who didn’t go at all…sorry you missed out.  Also, thanks again to Jim Bacon for everything…I wouldn’t have made it back with your help.

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