The next time someone from Vermont tells you that a bike ride has rolling hills, don't believe them! Those hills are mountains to you and me.
So yesterday was our 1/2 Century Ride that we were doing through the Mad River Valley. Chris found the ride on-line when we were planning our Vermont trip and signed us up. I mean after all, the feedback was positive, it sounded mostly flat, through valleys - how bad could it be? Bad!
But let me back up for just a moment because funny, small world story time, before the ride, we were having breakfast at the Dutch Pancake House when I'm looking out the window and I see this guy walking down the street. I say to Chris, "Hey, that looks like David M." He says, maybe it is but I'm thinking nah. Well then I look to the entrance of the dining room and I see his daughter and then my friend Jody, his wife. Jody and I served/worked together on the synagogue board a few years ago and while we don't socialize outside of the synagogue, we do stop to chat there still whenever we see each other. Funny to run into them here - and as it turns out, they visit Stowe and stay at Smugglers Notch every summer for a week. Funnier part of the story, while we were hugging and catching up in the lobby for a minute, the bus boy started to clear our table, thinking we had skipped out on the check.
Anyway, after our hearty breakfast of pancakes, we hit the road to the Waitsfield for our bike ride. Now I was pretty damn nervous after Tuesday's ride about the hills. I felt demoralized in my biking skills, so when we found the check-in point (1.6 miles away from the finish line - more on that later), the first thing Chris asked was, "How hilly is the ride?" To which the check-in ladies replied, not bad, it's rolling hills. Liar, liar pants on fire.
A second thing though that irks me about this ride, before we even start, our tee shirts. I threw out all my large and extra large shirts because I have this thing about wearing clothes that fit me. And I take pride in these biking tee shirts I've earned. Now, when we registered, they asked our shirt size and we both said medium. Yet when we checked in, they only had large left. Come on people - if you're going to bother asking our size, get enough shirts.
Now to the ride.
As I've said before, rolling hills implies up then down, then up again, so you can use the momentum from your previous downhill on your next uphill. But not to Vermonters, rolling hills, implies you go up, up, up, up and up some more, then you roll down. Then, you ride in the flats for a while until you encounter your next "hill."
So we park at the check-in point (remember, 1.6 miles from the finish line), and start our ride. It's not a great route - an out and back and I'm thinking nothing is more boring than an out and back. That's what I'm thinking for the first 1/2 mile anyway.
Then I'm thinking, this road sucks! It's cracked, it's potholed, there's barely any shoulder (we're on route 100S for anyone who knows the area), and the traffic whizzes by at 50+ miles per hour. That occupies my thoughts for the next mile or two.
Then I'm thinking, "Man it's windy. We're heading into the wind. Wind sucks!"
After all that I'm thinking, "Hey, we're climbing." Then, "Hey we're climbing some more." Then, "Hey were are my %#$## downhills?" About mile six I've stopped and am screaming at Chris, "Where are my rolling hills?" "Where are my river valleys?" Only what I'm actually screaming is peppered with a bit more "colorful" language. Yep for about 11 miles we're doing nothing but climbing with no warm-up. And man we're heading over one of those "hills," the ones we from Jersey like to call "mountains." Geez Louise.
I don't rest because I'm too busy stopping to yell at poor Chris for signing us up for this monstrosity. I'm angry because my shirt doesn't fit. The road sucks. It's an out and back. And I know to get the finish line, I have to ride right past my car. Also in my head, I have fears of what this will do to my mental state, with regards to biking, a ride like this could kill my desire to ever get on the bike again.
I'm so angry, I don't notice that the road has smoothed out some, the shoulder got a bit wider and the traffic abated. Then, at some point I realize, they can't keep this up, the entire ride can't be like this. Then further on, I realize, we're getting close to the top, and I'm doing it - then ... then ... it's downhill!
And man, is it downhill, I pass the riders that passed us while we were fighting, I pass some more. We're in the flats from Granville to Rochester Green and I'm cranking.
Now here's another silly thing they did on this ride, to do the full "50" you have to pass the rest area, ride another mile into Rochester Green, turnaround and then stop. It's such a tease and I notice many 50 milers not doing this but just stopping. We though, do go all the way to the "Green" in Rochester, turn around and stop at the rest area.
Lots of bikers at the area because it's also the last rest stop for those doing the century. We talk to a bunch of different riders and the century riders tell us it was pretty flat (wait until they see what's ahead of them). We also talk to this other couple because the wife is wearing a Long Trail beer shirt that we love, and they tell us about a supported tour of Vermont they did last week. There were some pretty hefty climb days they say, rattling off some mountain passes that are unfamiliar to me, and some flat days. But the husband says, even on some of the "flat" days, they climbed 3500 feet (that's total if you add up all the hills). Well, I guess Vermont flat and Jersey flat are two different things.
We have some food, and get some Powerade, refill my camel back and then hit the road. Oh we also talked to another woman from the South Jersey Wheelmen bike club - talking about their century in September and the fact that we had passed the Short Hills Ski Club a few miles down the road, where I commented, gosh didn't know we road that far (Short Hills is in New Jersey) and Chris commented, "Yeah, where's the mall?" (they're famous for their mall). As it turned out, she was staying at the Central Jersey ski club - who knew New Jersey had such a presence in Vermont?
Anyway, back on our bikes, knowing that we have that mountain ahead of us, but also knowing I had already climbed it once, the return wasn't nearly as bad. I never got into my granny gears (the low ones - mostly because they weren't working) but had to stop once as we approached the steepest part of the climb. While I was there sucking down my Powerade, the woman wearing the Long Trail jersey and her husband, passed us and yelled, "Don't worry, you're almost done." I called back, "Promise?" and she replied, "Yes." It was just what I needed to hear.
We climbed back on our bikes, and up and over we went - and man, from here all the way back to the sign in point at the intersection of 100 to 17 whizzed by since it was mostly downhills. Incredible.
Now here's the third thing, that got me about this ride. That flipping 1.6 miles from the sign-in point to the Hyde Away Inn that was the finish line. So while other bikers had stopped at their cars, and were just driving that last 1.6 miles (probably the same ones that didn't bother to ride all the way to Rochester Green for the turnaround), Chris said, c'mon let's just ride there; it's only 1.6 miles.
Yeah, 1.6 miles flipping uphill! It was like adding insult to injury. But we made it! Pulled in, helped ourselves to lemonade and then went into the bar and bought a beer - man that was a good beer.
While we were waiting for the barbecue to start, I was talking to one of the ride organizers - sweet lady - even offered to drive me back to the car to bring it to the finish point so we wouldn't have to ride back there later on our bikes. We talked about that hill we had to climb on the 50 and she had no idea what I was talking about. Finally, she asked, "By the falls?" To which I replied before the falls. Turns out, the century route came back over that hill but didn't go out that way. The 50 was an afterthought and no one considered the out and back 50 climbing over that hill from the beginning with no warm-up. We also talked about the fact that rolling hills to people that live in Vermont means something totally different than to those of us from other areas. Nice lady.
Now, Chris and I were debating whether or not to stay for the barbecue. Some information said the bbq wasn't starting until four and some said 3:30 yet it wasn't even 3:00 when we rode into the Hydeaway Inn. But my new lady friend said it would start pretty soon; they were just waiting for some more riders to arrive (the tent was filled with the families of said riders).
So Chris rode back to get the car, and by the time he returned, we put my bike on the car and got another beer, the food was served. We each enjoyed a hot dog and some side salads before we hit the road for home. The barbecue is a nice touch.
That's it - the ride from hell but I learned something on this ride. I may kick, scream, complain and curse but I'm no quitter any more.
This chart shows the elevation for the ride total climb, 2836 feet.