Rocky road


So, I’ve whined talked about the haphazard quality of my training this year enough already. Both T and I have entered the futile “trying to cram some last fitness in before the race” phase. T has drastically altered his marathon plan to a more reasonable “finish the distance uninjured” plan and is running short distances more often with some carefully selected long runs thrown into the mix. I’ve been trying to run and swim as often as I can and am hoping that all of the bike riding for RSVP translates into some kind of bike fitness. So today, while T was running his 15-miler, I was going to test out that theoretical bike fitness by doing the toughest route in my arsenal – the Cougar Mountain loop.

I’ve only written a little bit about this loop before, it’s got some crazy climbing on it and was good practice for Grand Columbian last year. Not only was this the first time doing the ride this year, it would be the first time riding it solo. I brought my new gels to try out, so I could get some more practice with them. I bid T farewell and hit the road.

The first part of the ride was nice and smooth. I felt great and the weather was perfect. When I started to approach the first big climb, I felt myself getting nervous and had to focus on calming down and finding a positive mental place. I made it up the first section of the climb in my usual fashion (panting, sweaty, cursing under my breath, and wanting to quit in about four different spots) but I made it to the top of that part. Then there is a tiny bit of flat where you think you’re done, followed by another section of climbing. I’d previously called this section the hydra, because it has three big hills on it. I think the hydra has sprouted more heads because I swear there were more hills than I remember. Or I can’t count. As I was climbing what I thought was the third hill, I stood up and worked really hard to get to the top, thinking that I’d be able to rest on the downhill. Only to see the third (and biggest) climb ahead of me. I was breathing so hard, I thought I was going to hyperventilate, so I had to stop and pant on the side of the road. Boo-urns… Okay, let’s chalk that up to bad pacing…

But now I was rattled and I let the last climb get in my head. Something that hasn’t happened in a while. There was another stop and then some walking up the hill. I’d forgotten how much that sucks and vowed not to do it any more. I also realized that one of my gel flasks that I’d thought was half full was in fact a quarter full and I was down to one gel flask. So much for testing nutrition! Throw in some getting lost and today was turning into a real comedy of errors. Awesome race prep. 😦

As I was riding on the lovely multi-use path section of the ride, there’s a sign announcing that the trail is closed ahead. Since I have no idea where I am, or how to get where I need to go save for on this path, I’m reduced to praying that the path will end after my turn. No such luck, I reach the closure with still a little ways to go. Good news: there’s a detour! Bad news: it involves riding the wrong way on the shoulder of a busy 2-lane highway. Followed by this:

Honestly, this actually made me laugh out loud. Talk about “duh!” Since I was running way later than expected and nearly out of food and water with another two hours of riding ahead of me, I made an executive decision to call the boy and change our meeting spot to a shorter ride. I was sad not to get the distance I’d originally planned on, but since the main point was to test my race nutrition, it didn’t seem sensible to buy food I wouldn’t have access to on race day, in order to ride a distance I wasn’t worried about.

It took a couple of tries to reach the boy, but “luckily” I missed a few more turns of my route, so I had plenty of chances to stop and call him. 😉 But I did finally reach him and arranged for him to meet me in Issaquah. Luckily, the last section of climbing is just long and not particularly steep. Plus it ends in the FUNNEST DESCENT EVER!!! And while I was feeling the lack of hydration and calories, my legs actually felt fine.

The best part of the decision to meet in Issaquah was the proximity to this:

Home of giant root beer floats, the perfect reward for a 15 mile run or a hot and frustrating bike ride:

So, now I’m trying to manage my expectations for Leadman. It could be a total disaster. I think, like T, I’ll have to reframe it to be more of an “experience” and just do the best I can. And look forward to tracking down a giant root beer float in Bend. 🙂

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