Feb 28 2012

Chilly Hilly 2012: from FA(s)T Eddie’s point of view

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The cold temperature and the hills each contribute to the challenge.  But for me, the biggest challenge is the fact that I haven’t exercised in any way, since September.  Back then, my conditioning was acceptable.  But I’ve had a lot of cake, ice cream, roast beef, red wine, poppy-seed muffins, and couch time since the Fall.

While last Sunday was the scheduled event, it started a couple weeks earlier for me when I ran into my friend, Sam Ahn, at Red Robin® while gorging on a Burnin’ Love Burger™ and Bottomless Steak Fries®.  We started talking about mountain biking, and then the STP.  I mentioned team IJM’s STP training, and he asked to join.  With the Burnin’ Love Burger™ and half a pound of potatoes fried in “zero trans fat oil” lounging sanguinely in my stomach, I must’ve slipped into a digestive torpor, as I did not fully comprehend at the time how eager Sam was.

I didn’t really “get it” until Wednesday just prior to the ride, through the cyclingtowardthelight.com email.  Sam announced that he registered for Chilly Hilly and wanted to ride with the group.  I cannot have a friend I invited join the group for a ride by himself, so I had no choice but to join as well.  That’s when the training started.  First, I stopped drinking coffee, in an attempt to hydrate by Sunday morning (more on this later).  Next, I tore apart the house to find my cold weather gear, pumped the bike tires, and made sure I had all my stuff.  Done.  Finally, with a day to go, I to did a 30 minute cardio workout on the elliptical machine.  At that point, I was as ready as I was going to be.

Sunday morning.  Sam wakes at 4am, worried about the forecasted snow.  He’s not used to his new Lapierre, as all his recent riding had been on a mountain bike.

6am: I’m awake.  While in the bathroom, I check email.  I see Victor’s.  He sees snow so he’s going back to bed.  Eric writes in that he too is cancelling due to snow.  Doug too.  This is starting to look good.  Then William, who is carpooling with Jon, writes in saying that he’s going.  Bart & Kary are in too.  However, I’m not seeing the email I really want to see.  I want to see that my friend Sam also sees snow, and that given the conditions, he’s going to cancel, and in so doing, allow me to (a) go back to bed, which is warm and comfy, (b) enjoy a delightful breakfast of buttermilk pancakes, eggs over easy, bacon, english muffin, coffee, and OJ, and (c) avoid breaking-in the 2012 riding season with 2700 feet of climbing in freezing & wet weather while I look & feel like Elvis, during his Las Vegas years.

7am: Sam pulls into my driveway, as I wash down the peanut butter and cinnamon bread with a glass of water.  I walk out.  It’s cold.  Bikes load up.  Gear is in the car.  We’re off.  Sam mumbles something about not being able to keep up with the guys, “Will they wait for me if I’m slow?”  Are you kidding?  You have no idea that seated right next to you is the world’s most out of shape and lazy biker.  No, Sam, the question is, will they turn around and pick me up off the chip-seal, when I black out on the first climb.

7:30: We park and make our way to the registration tent.  Bikers are amassed under the viaduct, shivering, milling about, while an organizer on the PA shouts out instructions in between witty quips intended to amuse the crowd.  There’s Bart; he was the first one there.  Everyone soon arrives:  Jon, William, Kary, Bart, Sam, and me.

8:45: We make our way to the ferry.  It’s just like a regular ferry ride, but instead full of several hundred bikers.  We roll aboard, splitting into 2 lines, entering the yawning gaps on the left & right sides, where railing, floor, and walls are lined with bikes.  Upstairs, the cabin is full jackets of yellow, or orange, or another shade of yellow.  Every seat is taken.  This is what the world would look like with no cars.  It’s pretty cool.

9:15: We dock.  This is it.  The ride begins.  Disembarking is a mass of bikes spilling out of the sides, and slowly making their way up the ramp onto Bainbridge Island.  Heard everywhere are clicking from shoe cleats, chains snapping with shifting derailleurs, hub bearings ticking against one another, handlebar bells ringing with excitement, and the occasional hoot & holler signaling the beginning of the ride.  Oh, and by the way, Victor, Erik, Doug, are you still reading?  The sun is out, sky is blue.

9:45:  The first big hill.  Actually, it isn’t so bad.  My legs, lungs, heart, they all feel good.  I’m turning the cranks.  Looking up—um, where are the guys?  Ah, I should turn around and look behind me  :).    Nope, still don’t see them.  Ok.  I’ll pull over when I get to the top, strip off some layers ‘cause I’m getting really warm in the sun (Victor, Erik, Doug) and wait for the group.  Here’s a nice, big, gravel driveway.  Oh, what do I see?  Jon, William, Bart, Sam, Kary…they’ve been here for awhile.  And this is Jon’s mother’s house, with the beautiful view overlooking Puget Sound.  She is a very elegant, friendly, and intelligent looking lady…makes me wonder what happened to Jon…

10am: We’re off again.  From here forward it’s hill after hill, up and down, again and again, interspaced with very nice stretches of scenic road along the water, under the trees, around curves, on and on, for a long time.  Some of the hills are gentle slopes.  Some are steep.  I’m feeling good.  The miles lapse, and I reach down to take another draw from the water bottle.  Uh-oh.  They’re both empty.

~11-ish?  Frankly, I’m not sure with time it is at this point.  But it’s slowly starting to happen.  This hill, I can start to feel it.  Fortunately my lungs, heart—they still feel good.  That 30-minute cardio on Saturday workout really paid off!  But the legs are getting heavy, and my tongue is thick.  Need water.  Like a  lightning strike, my sartorius—or  is it my medialis?—it binds into a tight ball, and my leg seizes up.  The pain flares, and feels like it’s shooting out through my eyeballs.  Aaagh!  Cramps!  (Dan Ko, can you add some color commentary here?)

The cramps are crippling.  I struggle to turn my cranks.  I move close to the right shoulder, as riders of all shapes & sizes pass me.  I just need to make it up one more hill.  And then I see Kary and Sam.  They’re waiting for me at The Stop.  Not just any ordinary stop.  This is the cookie and hot cider station.  Kary asks if I want to take a rest.  I’ve heard so many stories about this one, so I’m going in.  And besides, I’m completely dehydrated and need to work out my cramped legs.  Sam, on the other hand, decided to move on.  We’ll end up meeting up with him at the end.

After 15 minutes of hobbling around, and downing a couple quarts of water, I feel good enough to sit down and enjoy the cookies.  Inside the heated America Legion Hall, where I find that Willy Wonka has relocated his chocolate factory here.  Laid out on the tables are piles and piles of cookies, brownies, rice-krispy treats, banana bread, and all sorts of biking goodies everywhere.  Off in the corner is the river of hot cider.  And oompa-loompa volunteers are everywhere.  As I finish my rice-krispy treat, one of them stops and says “I can take that trash for you!” all with a smile and a twinkle.  Wow.  I would not go as far as to call this heaven on earth, but it’s close.

Alas, we must move on.  At this point, it’s Bart, Kary, William, Jon and me.  Let’s finish the ride.  From here out, it’s more hills.  I’m feeling much better than before, but the legs are tired.  Each climb is slower than the last.  Kary has slowed to ride with me, and I appreciate it.  But the truth is, it’s up to me to gut this through.  Sam calls—he’s at the finish already, and he’s wondering where I am.  I think he’s shocked that he got there ahead of the rest of the group.  “Sam, just enjoy the chili.  We’ll find you when we get there.”

I think I counted 5 big climbs since the cookie stop, and it is the last one that did me in.  My legs were already cramping pretty badly, and at this point I’m in my granny gears.   But I can see the top, and I’m almost there.  100 yards: Turn the cranks.  Slowly.  Steady.  Grit my teeth as my leg muscles squeeze and the daggers of pain slice through.   50 yards: I am not getting off my bike!  25 yards: almost there…I can do it.  50 feet:  Aaaagh!  My entire right leg has completely given out.  It feels like every single muscle is flexing all at the same time, and I cannot do anything.  I close my eyes and see lightning flashes.  I cannot move.  The agony of defeat, just 50 feet from the top and the end of the ride.  I have to get off my bike before falling over.  Walking helps to loosen it all up.  And 10 feet later, I can hop back on for the final push to the top, where William is waiting for me.  It’s finished!

Arriving at the finish, we found Sam and we all went in together, to sit and eat our chili.  Overall I have to say that despite the debilitating cramps I really enjoyed it.  Hopefully I can use this ride to launch myself into riding shape, ready for the 2012 season.  Just as soon as I finish up this blog entry, get up off the couch, and—oh look.  A chocolate donut!



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  1. Tailwind

    Nice post Eddie. That pretty much sounds like the ride!

  2. Kurt

    Awesome write up Eddie!

  3. David Allen

    I’m so with you Eddie! My brother and some friends and I took the earlier ferry so we weren’t able to ride with your group.

    Like you, I was doing fine until those fateful cramps. They hit me with five miles to go and just killed the momentum! Still, the sunshine and the feeling of accomplishment more than made up for some temporary (albeit extreme!) pain.

    Ride on!


  4. Janine

    Great Summary! I’m glad I WASN’T there, oh, but I could have kept you company, Eddie. I’m imagining the piles of sticky sweetness and river of apple cider . . .

  5. Hiepster

    Enjoyed the great summary Eddie! I laughed, felt your pain, thankful I didn’t have to experience it first hand.
    Kudos to Sam for his first Chilly Hilly!

  6. blueneck

    This is hilarious! Thanks Eddie! Your description of the beginning of the ride is exactly how these things start out. All you hear is people clipping in and a ton of cyclists rolling off the ferry and out onto the road. As long as there were no crashes the ride is good. Of course, the ride would achieve the “excellent” rating if there were no cramps!

  7. Sam

    Great blog about the Chilly Hilly. A difficult ride is always more meaningful and enjoyable than an easy one. We both got our moneys worth. I would say it was more sunny than cloudy. I lost sleep about the weather for nothing. It was an awesome day for a ride. Thanks for letting me join you guys for the fun. Sam

  8. Dan

    Great writeup FA(s)T Eddie….not sure if I should be honored or insulted to have been mentioned in this great piece of…mmm…oh..literature! Oh well, I missed out on the sun and blue skies and got to hang out with those weather wimps and enjoyed the “SNOW” in Bellevue!!!

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