Scott MacDonald // Mini Epic
PART 1: GRAND DNF
In my ride report for last year's Epic, I said that I try to maintain a general fitness level that allows me to ride a century at any moment.
Apparently not *this* century.
I set out on April 20 to ride the Grand Epic, all 106 miles and 14,500 feet of it. Things started to go sideways in St. Joe's, where the first cramps started grabbing at my legs. On the Black Road climb they got so bad that I dropped onto the pavement in front of some fancy house, just 2 feet from the white line, rubbing a charlie horse out of my lycra-clad thigh as cars sped past me. I sat there for at least 15 minutes before I was able to stand up.
Fortunately I was able to move past the cramps and have a good ride up JNT and through the single track to the the Hwy 9/Skyline parking lot, where I promptly laid down on a concrete bench, nauseous and sore and tired and realizing that it was now after 5 pm and there was no way I was making it through Fremont Older without a ticket for night riding, if I even made it there at all. I was 10 hours in, 70 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing. I turned right and cruised down Hwy 9 back to my car.
PART 2: MINI REDEMPTION
I felt pretty bad about not finishing the Grand route. As far as I can remember, it's the first time I was not able to complete a big ride that I set out to do.
But when I described the Grand route to a fellow cyclist, he said, "That's like 5 rides!" I totally agree. I figured if I could complete the rest of the Grand route that I missed while generally following the Mini route, then I'm probably doing ok. So on April 29 I set out to knock out the Mini, adding in the Fremont Older bits.
Immediately the ride was turning into a comedy of errors. In the REI parking lot my Wahoo wouldn't load the route (or any route), I forgot my water bottles (fortunately I had backups), I missed the first turn (then returned to the start), tried to get my Wahoo to cooperate (no luck), started the ride over ... it wasn't looking good.
Fortunately that was the worst of it. Aside from the extra time it took to check my phone occasionally to make sure I was on route, everything went great. No cramps, no nausea, no wanting to quit. Even ran into my friend Bill, one of the strongest riders I know, at the same parking lot where I gave up last time. He was out doing a 40 mile, 7k ride of his own, and it was nice to see a friendly face and get a fair warning about Sunny Jim, which I hadn't ridden before.
Whenever I see cycling events that have multiple course options, I always look to the biggest one, assuming the others are just there to allow less serious cyclists to participate. Not so with the the Bay Area Epic -- each of the routes are serious business. Having the bigger routes go up and over El Sombroso the hard way is just absolute punishment. The folks who were able to manage the Grand ride are serious badasses, and this year my fitness level was just not badass enough to join them.
No worries. If I'm being honest, there's a sweet spot for these long rides to be personally challenging while still being fun, and for me it's right around the length of the Mini, maybe a little less than the Big. I look forward to seeing what's on the menu next year.
(Photos are from both rides, the DNF and the Mini)