Ryo’s Rule of Three

May 09,2013

It’s been 3 weeks since my last mountain bike race. Lord, forgive me for my sins. But, here is the low-down on the past 3 weeks, with an abnormal frequency of 3’s:

  • 3 Palermos to get one on a Leesburg Podium
  • 3 Strangers become 3 friends in my 2nd ever road race
  • My 3rd Pittsburgh Marathon – from an entirely different vantage point

(1) 3 Palermos

This April I set out for yet another attempt at the Leesburg Baker’s Dozen (13 hour mountain bike race) in the solo women’s category. After following up a year-long furlough from good mountain biking and acceptable race results with fairly consistent winter training, I was hoping my 3rd attempt would bring some redemption. My preparations on the home trainer left giant sweat stains in the basement carpet, so I figured I had a chance at glory. But, with bad weather and other obligations popping up on the daily, it was only my 3rd mountain bike ride of 2013. This scenario sounded all too familiar.

I have to say, until almost the bitter end, my legs, lungs and heart felt awesome – a testament to consistency from January through March (thanks, Cycling Fusion!). On the flip side, my upper body felt like it was being beaten like a rented mule, apparently unprepared for holding onto the bars through 13-hours of rocks and roots. Back and triceps pain made my between-lap stops at the pop-up tent whiny. Just when my mind was about to sink into the abyss of the pain cave, a most glorious turn of events occurred, albeit stemming from one unfortunate one: Jeremy’s flat tire. This, indeed, saved my life. For, without that Stan’s spraying in his face, destroying his chances of a fast first lap (despite being a leader in the race until Murphy’s Law took its first prisoner), I would not have gained the 2 best riding partners hidden among the baking cow patties of the Rockland Farm. Yes, the boys ditched their own destiny of a come-back (which I’m almost certain they could have attained), to follow me through the woods. They were my cheerleaders, my drill sergeants, my constant source of encouragement and accountability. They gave me props for the same obstacles they so gracefully negotiated, and were kind on the few occasions that I flew off my bike right in front of then, narrowly avoiding their tread marks on my face. Jeremy even stopped to rub my shoulders and pumped me full of his favorite energy Gu Roctane chomps (the same ones that are usually hoarded and hidden from me at home).

I’d like to think that I have mental toughness, but sometimes that quality needs dragged out of the depths of my soul. To say I was grateful would be an understatement. Three Palermos are always stronger than one. I finished in 3rd place and rode 130 miles (including the officially counted laps plus a partial lap at the end). All of my longer pit stops took their toll on my final time, but it was a good experience and a character builder. I won $25. I did spend it all in one place.

(2) 3 Strangers

Patty decided to register for a road race in Springfield, OH called Calvin’s Challenge. There were 12- and 6-hr options. Always wanting to get the most “bang for my buck,” I was leaning toward the 12 hr. Realizing we had to be up at 3:30 am the next day to prep for the Pittsburgh Marathon (story below), we decided it was more practical to do the race that allowed us to get back home before midnight, instead. It would be the second road race I’ve ever done (the first being the ABRA Morgantown Road Race two years ago). Time to break in the new Cervelo S5, “The Chameleon.”

I knew the race was going to be flat, but wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. I’m not really sure where my strength lies in road cycling yet. I tend to believe I’m a good climber, but that wasn’t going to be a factor in the plains. What was going to be a factor- the wind. Head winds, cross-winds, every-which-way-winds.

We got to the starting line and I didn’t know what to expect. The whistle blew and we started down the course… much faster than I thought. Was there a 2 hour race option? Freak! Not only did the race start faster than I expected, a breakaway happened around 2 miles in. About 5 guys in a full-on sprint. I’m stupid, so of course I tried to jump on the back of that. I shifted into a monster gear and pedaled full-gusto to catch up, got on the last rider’s wheel and hung on for dear life. I’m really not sure how far I hung on. We were averaging well over 20 mph without any assistance from the wind. Then, the guy who ended up winning the overall took the lead position of the pack and it was off to the races. At that point, I’d hung on as long as I could. It was fun(?) while it lasted. See-ya boys. I rode solo until the next group caught me. This group was the ticket.

There was the guy in the aero helmet who made some comment to the effect of “Girl, slow down!” His name is Terry. There was the guy with the RadioShack team kit, but I always looked for the “Nissan” written across his butt and his pink shoes. That was Doug. Then, there was the guy on the steel single speed–the kind of guy that I can never seem to avoid (they are everywhere!)!! That was Bill. We rolled through the course in a 4-person peloton, taking turns pulling then enjoying short reprieves from the pounding wind. A few times we picked up a 5th rider, but mostly, just this “Gang of 4,” as Bill said.


Terry, Ryo, Bill and Doug

I felt pretty good for the pace we were pushing. My legs felt powerful and never dead, but later in the ride they started to ache- that deep ache where it feels like they are cannibalizing themselves for calories. Not that pleasant, but just under my tolerance threshold. I ate nuts and searched for my elete electrolytes to try to dull the pain. After we finished the 50-mile loop we passed through the transition area and started on a 7-mile loop that we would repeat as many times as possible before the 6 hours expired. On several occasions I thought this is the last lap, then I’ll take a short break, but every time we rolled through the transition zone I just kept pedaling, keeping rank and file. I just couldn’t bring myself to lose this group of guys. My impromptu team. I hoped Patty found one, too.

It wasn’t until the last hour that I decided to stop and empty the bladder, chug some Coke. I missed heading out with my gang by a minute or two, thus starting my rogue laps. I did catch Doug who had slowed down after suffering from some cramps. We road together and chatted for awhile on that lap, and found each other one more time after that. I came through the transition zone with about 20 minutes to go. I hit the road with renewed vigor knowing it was my last lap and stood up on the pedals to try to recruit some new muscles, but was quickly reminded of the cost in wind resistance that the position incurred. There were now volunteers stationed at each mile post. We were allowed to ride through each one until the time expired. I sprinted as hard as I could to hit one last post.. but found myself 30 seconds ahead of schedule, allowing for one more (the cherry on top?). I ended up with 118.5 miles. Patty wasn’t far behind with 111 miles, and we both set the distance record for our respective age groups. It came as no surprise to me that the 3 strangers-turned-friends from the Gang of 4 each finished on the top of the podium for their age groups, and Bill broke the record for the Single Speed category. What a hammerhead!

(3) Third Pittsburgh Marathon: A New Perspective.

Patty did an amazing job recounting this experience in her blog post. Here’s my take:

Marathon weekend. My first time was back in my Seton Hill days when I did the 2-person relay option with my friend Courtney. I only trained to 8 miles and I remember a thought coinciding with each stride after that 8 mile marker was “this is the farthest I’ve ever run” and 2 seconds later, “now this is the farthest I’ve ever run.” I believe that my mile 10 I realized I should have run farther in my pre-race training, but I still made it into Heinz Field for the finish. Not bad for a soccer player. Then, the Pittsburgh Marathon got discontinued. Huge bummer. A few years later, it came back. So did I.

Pittsburgh Marathon 2: I decided to run the full 26.2. The idea didn’t seem too crazy, but maybe the fact that I did all but 2 of my training runs on a treadmill did. My longest indoor run was 17 miles. I think I watched “School of Rock” on the TV at Snap Fitness while I knocked each mile off the to-do list. After coming out of the gate with the Boston Marathon qualifying pace group and getting dropped around Mile 16… (that was soooooo dumb), I came in a few ticks after 4 hours. If I had kept to my original pace plan I probably would have been able to walk down the stairs the following week instead of sliding down on my butt, but anyone who reads my blog knows that’s just not how I roll.

Marathon 3. A whole different beast. No, I didn’t train for it, but I wasn’t running. The UPMC crew inviPittMarathon_doug on bridgeted us to participate in the marathon by being lead-out riders for the wheel chair racers. Honestly, it was a huge honor and a huge responsibility. The racers are on hand wheels that are very low to the ground. They needed us so that they could follow our lines through turns and to make sure the foot racers knew we were coming. I had my whistle and my booming voice, and sometimes I worried that wouldn’t be enough when my partner, Dean, was cruising at over 20 mph down a hill!

There were two things that truly impressed me about that day- 1) Dean’s absolute perseverance to finish and push through all of the climbs despite some mechanical difficulties with his bike that started very early in the race, and 2) the generous response of the runners to the wheel chair racers. They weren’t interlopers, in fact, the racers would pass us on the climbs and cheer for Dean by name, offering encouragement and smiles while they fought through their own pain. They were all there for the same purpose, to overcome perceived physical, emotional or mental limitations. They were all champions, and we got some great views of an amazing city along that journey.


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