Monday, July 18, 2011

Rockwell Relay Ladies Ride Chapter Two

Leg 2: Huntsville to Morgan

Leg Notes
Shortly out of Huntsville you will take a left and start the climb of Trappers Loop. This is the steepest and most difficult climb of the whole route, making you the hero of your team! The ascent is about 1100 feet over 4.3 miles (average 4.6% grade). The descent is one of the steepest as well, fast and fun! At the bottom of Trappers Loop you will go left and pass through the quaint farm towns along the Morgan Valley Drive, including Mountain Green, Peterson and Milton. Watch for farm dogs and tractors along these roads. Finish this leg in Morgan at City Hall.

Elevation Map – Leg 2

Leg one is in the books and spirits are high. Other than the short initial climb the ride was flat or downhill and involved some amazing scenery. Just a beautiful Saturday morning bike ride and both the Swede and Red Rider eat up the miles faster than their fellow lady cyclists eat up the free pre-ride pancake breakfast. But reality is about to strike both teams in the form of the first big hill climb of the day.

Liz after leg one "that was easy, what else have you got?" She'll find out soon enough.
Red Rider and Swedish Liz feeling strong and confident after leg 1

Nothing feels quite as good as knocking out your first relay leg in record time and then sitting back and letting others work. This was especially true on the men's Rockwell. The legs were longer but with four men on the team your rest periods were 8-9 hours instead of 80-90 minutes (or less). There was a 4 person option for the Rockwell Relay Ladies Ride. And yes, had there been 4 ladies riding ~ 40 miles each then this would have been a pamperfest and in my opinion would hardly have been worth getting dressed up for the occasion. I was surprised to see how many more four person teams there were than the two lady configuration. A four person didn't seem like much of a challenge, certainly it wasn't worth paying the entry fee just to ride 40 miles. At least that's how La Canadienne saw it.

Which brings us back to her, and her hill which she is trying to get over:

Thought bubble: "If this were a 4 lady team I would still be on this hill and it would still hurt but my suffering/mile ratio would be greatly diminished. Maybe it would have been a good idea?"
Did I mentioned how frequently and thoroughly La Canadienne studied the route and leg info? Apparently not thoroughly enough because she is now climbing that same five mile hill she was yelling at the other cyclists for not cannoballing an hour earlier. She new this would be a brutal climb. The description says so: 1100 vertical feet in 4.3 miles. Suncrest is 1200 feet in 4.5 miles, so yeah, it was bound to hurt some. but for some reason we didn't make the connection that Trapper's loop would be just that, a loop back on itself, climbing the same hills you had just descended.
Most of La Canadienne's ride strategies were based on how climbs on the Rockwell compared to training ride climbs. She had done Suncrest half a dozen times and while not completely comfortable with it (I don't think comfort is an adjective that many people use when describing Suncrest) she no longer felt overwhelmed by it. Red Rider had one Suncrest ascent under her belt and while we've established that she climbs hills (and does so quite well thanks) her Suncrest experience was not an encouraging one. In the end La Canadienne figured better not to kill her legs and her confidence on her first ride of the day. It was a decision that as a group (Rodzilla, myself, and team Over the Hill) questioned all day long as Red Rider climbed one nasty hill after another but I think it's because we forgot* how taxing this first ascent really was.
* My guess is that La Canadienne has not forgotten

Hill climbs are not for chatting

This hill felt like more than 4.3 miles/1100 feet. Watching it was painful, I can only imagine how it felt to ride it.
We bolt down the back side because I know La Canadienne's tendencies. She will tuck & run and I want to get some video of that (it's always fun to watch video of yourself going fast on a bike even if it never looks as fast to the casual observer as it feels to the rider on the bike). We catch her but not until she reaches the bottom of the big hill. There's another drop coming up but it's nowhere near as long or fast but I decide to roll camera anyway ...

Perfect video sequence as La Canadienne hits her top speed of the day ~ 45mph. This video is a keeper, as long as there are no cryptic or creepy comments like "nice form, lady!"

Nice form, Lady? Where did that come from? I sound like I'm channeling Jerry Lewis. An awkward silence settles in the support vehicle and I tell Rodzilla "maybe I'll just dub some music over my comments in that video." He agrees that's a good idea. The incident is a good reminder though; when you're rolling a camera with audio, get your thoughts organized before you open your mouth.

Seventeen miles out of Huntsville, six miles to the exchange. Barely time enough to snap a couple photos and then move out. The way La Canadienne is chewing up these miles she'll cover the last six in under twenty minutes.

Everything about Rodzilla is XXXL sized, even his truck.

Red Rider makes last minute preparations. She'll be in the saddle again less than ninety minutes after she finished her first leg. In the 'Pamperfest*' 2-lady version you are always on deck.

*see chapter one

Baton exchange #2 goes off without a hitch. La Canadienne has covered the 24.7 miles in an hour and twenty seven minutes at an average of 16.1 mph. It's a phenomenal performance considering the crippling hill at the beginning.

1/4 of the way done and it's smiles all around ... for now.

I congratulate La Canadienne on her heroic performance (The race bible promises that after that first vicious hill climb you will be your team's hero) and ask if she needs a rub down. Only if I want to lose a finger or two as it turns out. Being touched is not what she wants at this point (I'll warn the pamperers providing facials and pedicures to keep their distance) but a cold drink and a cold towel? I'm on it.

Ladies Pamperfest Challenge – Leg 3

Leg Notes
From Morgan head back out to Morgan Valley Drive and go south. Follow the scenic valley road as it hooks up with State Road 66 and winds up the canyon toward East Canyon Reservoir, the second reservoir of the trip. This section of the road has a narrow shoulder and has the potential for vehicles with boats, so take care and ride defensively. Crest up over the dam and take in the beauty of the lake. You’ve got a couple of steep but short climbs up to a gentle summit, then a nice gradual descent into Henefer. Exchange 3 is at the Memorial Park right as you enter town.

Elevation Map – Leg 3

Red Rider is pumped for leg #2. She gets the baton and is out of the saddle and out of the parking lot before you can yell 'hustle up!'
Here come the hills. The leg info talks about brief short climbs and a 'gentle summit'. It didn't seem short or gentle when you watched it unfold from the comfort of the air conditioned support vehicle.

It's one hill climb after another for the next sixteen miles and to complicate matters the Dreamcycle is having shifting woes. Apparently it received the 'Rodzilla in-home bike tune-up' treatment yesterday or the day before and now it's jumping in and out of gears. Nothing kills your confidence on a hill climb like having your bike start ghost-shifting. We're unlikely to see Red Rider out of the saddle again until this problem is addressed and fixed.
Did I mention the number of hills? Hard to say where one stopped and the next began.

More hills, more spontaneous and random shifting from Red Rider's cogs. She shouts something that sounds like "thanks for saving us money by not taking the Dreamcycle to a Real bike mechanic!. Love you. you're the best!"

Time to make up for the bike tuning. Can't fix the gears while she's riding so a push up the hill is the next best thing. Jealous fellow riders request a similar service to which Rodzilla responds that he's on a 'one butt' contract. They will have to find a free agent to help them over this hill.
And a wicked hill it is; steep and hot. It's the last in a relentless series. I saw this leg and the little blips in the race bible and new it would look and feel exactly like this. But again, Red Rider handles it all with aplomb. I can't speak for the others but after this leg I'm moving away from surprised and anxious about her performance and into the confident and inspired camp. There will be more hills, plenty more actually, but this leg looked to be the worst. Not in the clear yet but Red Rider is almost halfway there.
One of literally dozens of photos that Rodzilla snaps of La Canadienne's Cannondale 6/13. His affection for the bike borders on the unseemly. He was the one who found it listed on a local website. Within 48 hours it belonged to La Canadienne and Rodzilla was left trying to figure out how to make his 78 inch body fit on a bike with a 56 cm frame. Last I heard he hadn't ruled out removing 2 inches of bone from each femur to make it work.
If he weren't waiting for Red Rider to finish her leg and get in the truck, this might be the last we saw of Rodzilla and the coveted black Cannondale 6/13 that he refers to as 'the Stealth Bomber' but that La Canadienne decided to officially christen Pachelbel (Cannon in 'D') because by the end of the race they were making sweet, sweet music together.

Red Rider finishes the hills and has the baton off and ready to exchange before she's within shouting distance. Her shifting woes were compounded by a chain drop on the steepest climb (I know how that feels) but she's done climbing hills for the present and that's got to be a good feeling. Ladies are being pampered at the exchange station (manicures and whatnot) but I'm assuming they are the 4-person squads with two support vehicles because this next leg is a short one. Fourteen unsupported miles (support vehicles are routed away from the cyclist, this is the last we will see of La Canadienne on a bike until the final leg of the relay) and maybe 50 minutes are all that separate Red Rider from her next shift in the saddle.

Next up Legs 4 & 5 Henefer (rhymes with La Canadienne) to Oakley

1 comment:

  1. Hey, kids (you both look like you're 17 in one of those shots). Great job, Jenn. This is all excellent training for London and Paris; there are a lot of steps to climb at the Arc de Triomphe. (Je plaisante.)