Elise Paradis // Mini Epic

Well…. That was Epic indeed!

In truth, I still can’t really believe I finished this. I have never been this close to quitting a sporting event before. So... read on! Learn it all. Or you can simply look at the activity, here: https://www.strava.com/activities/7061689333

Coming in, I was terrified. I knew this was going to be the hardest ride I had ever done. For two reasons:

1. I am a beginner on gravel, with less than 1,000 miles ever on non-road surfaces.

2. 3 weeks earlier, I had wrecked my knees so badly I could not really walk nor bend my legs for a few days. I had engaged in a radical recovery plan, with lots of core, stretches, massaging, heat, but… I had barely trained in three weeks. And before that, I had taken it easy for at least a week.

I met a fellow racer in the parking lot and we exchanged a bit of banter (Hi Jason!). He told me one of his friends was also doing it today. I wished them luck.

The race started nice and dandy. I felt strong. My knees were holding up.

I crossed a group of four older ladies who refused to make way until I played chicken with one of them. She stepped out of the way at the last minute, but my aggro mode was now engaged. ;)

20 miles and 3 hours in, I still had no pain, and I stopped for 10 minutes in the Castle Rock parking lot to use the bathroom and have a bit of lunch. That was the good news.

But I already was starting to get low on water. I thought there would be water there, but if there was, I could not find it. I had planned to refuel on the way, but I had missed the first two water spot because of a beginner logistical fail: I had entered all the locations for the water and selfies in Google Maps, but the map would NOT load, despite my downloading it the previous day. Zut!

After my 10-minute rest I moved back on.

How did it go after that? The answer, my friends, was: terrible. Or rather: TERRIBLE.

The section between hills was where I thought I would be able to rest was far from restful. The issue here was that it was too technical for where I am at in my biking journey, and so the cognitive demands of the trail were REALLY intense. I had to step off my bike often to get over major rock gardens, hills that were too steep (either up or down), or too loosely packed for comfort. With my glasses on I was exerting myself too much to see the ground; I removed them. After fighting with this section for a while I taped a video for Dave Cohen, telling him he is cruel... while laughing.

Then I started climbing again. I started thinking about quitting on my way to Turtle Rock. I ran into a woman (Jill, the wife of a participant, Hi Jeff!) and asked about Turtle Rock (just ahead she said). I also asked about water. The news were not great. She told me it would not likely be until Page Mill. And that there was Sunny Jim ahead. I told her I was running low and she said: “there’s a lot of climbing before Page Mill.” And I was like: “How bad can it be?”

The answer, my friends, was: horrible. Or rather: HORRIBLE.

Dehydration caught up with me. It was really hot, and I was really depleted. My left knee was stiff and I was no longer really able to push. Climbing up Black Mountain I was unable to climb through anything that was steeper than 13%, and there were lots of little bumps on the way up for which I had to step off my bike and push it up. I kept falling off in weirder and weirder ways, my front wheel peeling off of the dirt. At some point I fell into bushes, no longer able to steer the bike off onto the path. To make light of it I took a photo of the flowers that were semi-crushed under my bike. 5 hours and 20 minutes into the ride, however, I hit a wall.

At that point, dehydrated, forced to walk uphill every 2 or 3 minutes, I had to make a decision. I had two choices: 1) quit; or 2) sit down in the shade for a while. I found the next shaded area and forced myself to rest for five minutes. I took a video to share how discouraged I was. My nose is running, and I am trying not to cry.

After five minutes, though, I felt better. I got back in the saddle, and made it to the top of Black Mountain. There were two men there eating sandwiches. I asked about water. They offered me food. I told them I was good on that front. I asked them to take a photo of me and my bike. One of them obliged, and took a series. He took one while I basically dropped my bike, my elbows giving out and unable to let her down gracefully.

Oh. And did I tell you that my hands were now full of blisters? My gloves had actually bunched up in the crease between my thumb and index. I removed them. I put on my glasses, and I rushed to the descent. It was time to make back some time.

On the way down I saw Jason and his friend Jeff (Hi Jeff! Hi Jason!), and we exchanged some expletives about how hard this thing was. Yikes! Now I knew two things: 1) they had not yet passed me, which I had assumed they had; and 2) I was not the only one suffering. Misery loves company, they say? It actually invigorated me.

I cooled off on the descent, and made my way to the Daniels Nature Center, where I knew there would be water. A woman I crossed confirmed that I wasn’t far, and it gave me a second wind. I pushed on the pedals, got to the fountain, and refilled my first bottle. Drank half of it, then refilled it again.

I took the other one out, and put my hydration mix in it. And off I went.

I soon recognized the area. I had ridden the downhill in the Montebello State Preserve once before, so I had a general idea of what it looked like. I remembered the creek crossing, and the massive ditch. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing. Refueled, knowing that the end was in sight and that there was pavement ahead, I found my third wind and pushed on the pedals and let go of the breaks. The only problems were: 1) my triceps were totally cramped (Yup. You heard this right, my friends: my TRICEPS were cramped on a BIKE ride); and 2) my calves were shaking from standing on the pedals so much. Other than that, everything was just PEACHY!

Since I was totally brain fried from the exhaustion of the technical part, the pavement came as a huge relief. I remembered that descent, and it was beautiful. I was singing to myself along with my music as I went down.

When I reached Mount Eden a slick dude on his road bike rode by me. I said hi. He returned the hello and asked how I was doing. I told him I was wrecked, with a gigantic smile on my face. My Garmin told me it was only 478 feet. I was on pavement. I knew I was going to finish this race.

The final downhill. The city streets. Jason and Jeff caught up with me at the last light, and we made it to the parking lot together.

One hellova good thing done. So, my friends: I am proud to have completed the hardest sporting event I ever participated in. I am grateful to Dave Cohen for ending this race with a paved downhill. And I still have a lot of work to do to become the best cyclist I can.