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Thursday, November 01, 2007

12' 39"

Art was itching to get the show on the road for tonight. He was making sure everyone was aware of the start time and he wanted every minute to count. So, I did my best to be there early. I even managed to get to Sunshine ten minutes before we were scheduled to pull out.

There was a problem though. I forgot my helmet! I hurried home and made it back just as the clock reached Art's target. Sorry to do that, but I'm not riding without my helmet. As it was, we got out just five minutes late.

The weather was awesome! As Art, Matt, Web, Billy, Mike, Strad, Bob, and I pulled out the temperature was a very comfortable 75 degrees. It was great to have that many guys on the ride as well. The last Thursday I rode there were only two of us.

We followed the normal route until we got near Furman. At that point we crossed Poinsett Highway and made our way through the Furman campus. Matt and I turned up the wick just a little as we went around the front drive. The turns at each end are way fun.

On the way out of the campus I decided I had better slow things down and prepare for the big climb coming up. I got my heart rate down to 120 bpm and took at couple of shots of my Hammer Gel. I wasn't sure how the night would go, but I wanted to give it my best since it was my last time (on this ride) for the year.

As we neared the launch point, I said out loud, "Okay Strad, remember I'm paying you good money to pace me up the mountain." I don't think anyone other than Strad heard me, but I knew Art was going to give it his best try. I also knew that Strad could out ride us without even trying.

I decided to play it smart and just sit on Art's wheel. I figured he would try to beat his personal best (12' 47") and if I could just hang with him and finish just behind I would reach my goal of a sub 13' climb. I just had to be patient and follow.

Then that all went out the window. We started out really fast! Art was just in front in his second rear ring running a high cadence. I just tried to stay with him. Strad moved past us and I figured he would take off. Art jumped on his wheel and turned up the wick.

We were running over 11 mph and maxing out at around 15 mph before we hit the halfway mark. I didn't see how we could keep this up. Still I just tried to hang onto Art's wheel. Then Art slowed just as we passed the halfway mark. "Ah," I thought to myself. "He has decided not to try to stay with Strad all the way up."

Then he really threw me by veering wide left and dropping off the pace. For a moment I didn't know what to do. This wasn't normal behavior for Art. I assumed he had just gone out too hot and was deciding to sit up. I saw Strad forming a gap away from us and decided to keep going.

As I followed Strad's wheel I started to think that I should back off. There was no way I could maintain the speed I was putting out. My heart rate was holding at about 188 bpm and I knew as soon as I reached 193 bpm I would be toast.

I slowed up slightly and started trying to suck as much oxygen as possible. Strad probably thought he had a set of bellows behind him as I tried to get oxygen to the hot coals that were my muscles. I found a rhythm that seemed to work and tried to stay at it.

Strad wasn't pulling away. I realized it wasn't because I was going so fast. It was because he was pacing me. He kept dropping back to me and giving me a target to aim for. I stopped focusing on me and just kept my eyes on his rear sprocket.

Before I knew it we were nearing the final turn! Strad came back to call out the time to me and encourage me to go for it. Of course, the thing I was thinking was, "How can he talk like that? It's like he is out on a Sunday stroll." He stayed with me until we reached the wall.

Strad stood and left me to fend for myself. Really, it was just a matter of me gutting it out to get as many seconds as possible during these last few yards. I shifted into a smaller rear gear and stood. My muscles were tired but they didn't tell me that they were through. There was something left in there.

As I neared the KOM line, Strad was waiting and was encouraging me along. It was a big help and I managed to pull out speeds of up to 10 mph in those last yards. I crossed the line with my heart beating at 191 bpm and pushed the lap button on my Garmin. 12' 39" popped up on the screen. I looked again. Sure enough, that was a 12 and not a 13!

What a wonderful night! If Tuesday night's ride was awful, tonight's ride was awesome! It wasn't just the new personal record either. It was the fun of riding with a bunch of guys who love riding as much as I do. It was the beautiful fall weather that made the ride so comfortable. Sure, the new PR does help :-)

Art also set a new PR. Turns out he got his wind and maintained the gap that was created when he backed off. He finished in 12' 43" - I'm sure he almost caught me on the wall.

Art, Mike, and I all hung around the shop afterwards not sure what to do. We really didn't want it to end. Still, we had to get off our bikes and head home. It was starting to get dark. Next week at that time it will be even darker.

Thanks Strad. You don't know how much of a help you were there towards the end. I owe you one - not sure how I could pay you back, but I do owe you one.



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