Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Heartbreak Double Century--Have You Thanked Your Lungs Today?

Most cyclists like to give thanks to their quads and bum for getting them through 15,000+ feet of climbing in 200 miles of straight riding.

I propose we give these body parts their due respect, but not at the expense of an even more important, often overlooked participant in these types of ultra excursions: the lungs. (OK, and the heart, in unison.)

Upon completing the Planet Ultra Heartbreak Double Century this past Saturday, Coachubby, Robyn and I sounded like chronic smokers. Our lungs had had it with us, and wanted a break. But with no inhalers, and no way to massage the little airbags, they had to continue their air-transfer duties while inflamed and fatigued.

Whoda thunk a non-asthmatic athlete could reach a point where her lungs began to rebel? Breathing too much is not something most people worry about...unless they're SCUBA diving.

But our lungs were happy to make the sacrifice to allow the rest of our bodies to ride 200 mmiles of peaceful, beautiful, rolling back country roads with clean air, little traffic, and the most blessedly perfect weather a cyclist could ask for.

Unlike riding on PCH in LA, which induces heart palpitations every few minutes when some arrogant psycho in a Hummer drives into the shoulder, there was only one heart-stopping shoulder intruder on this ride: a ginormous rattle snake.

Thankfully he made his suicidal appearance on a big downhill, so his presence was felt for only a second as we descended right by at 20+ mph.

Well-spaced, well-stocked aid stations with friendly volunteers were also much appreciated. However this event is run in conjunction with the Heartbreak century ride, which starts from the double's 50-mile aid station and ends at the same place, 150 miles into the double (the course is like a lolly pop with the Heartbreak hundred as the sucker part, and the extra 100 as the stem.)

When we arrived back at the hundred's home base, the century riders had consumed all of the coke. Coachubby, upon realizing this travesty, literally looked like someone had punched him in the gut and told him his bike was ugly.

Thankfully the last aid station had the most spunky, helpful volunteers I've ever seen at an aid station in any race-- Nancy Baisch and Karla Johnston--who literally ran out from behind their table of goodies to grab our water bottles and fill them with whatever we wanted.

Coachubby chose Mountain Dew.

In an effort to give my heart and kidneys somewhat of a break, I attempted to not use any caffeine or Advil for the entire ride, but caved at 30 miles left, eating a beloved Chocolate Mint Gu and downing 2 Advil--my big toes felt like they were severing themselves off.

Robyn, ever the climber and amazing ultracyclist, forged ahead after I told her at mile 50, where she'd been waiting for my slow bum for quite a while, not to let me hold her back any more. Coachubby, on the other hand, is married to me. He had to stick by my side.

We triumphantly rolled in just after 8pm, just at the end of twilight, successfully riding without the need for any serious lighting, save for a blinky and a mini head light.

Robyn whooped us by a good 40 minutes.

I highly recommend this double to anyone considering one. Don't let the "15,000 feet of elevation gain!" make you think it's impossible. I'll gladly trade the stress of traffic and urban riding for hilly, barely trafficked terrain. It's also nice to change up your position going up and down. Our first double, Camino Real in Irvine, led us down the freaking 5 freeway and was relatively flat for very long, painful stretches. Palmdale is just as easy to get to from Los Angeles, as long as you don't leave on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend.

Do the Heartbreak Double Century! Just be prepared to be yelled at if you drop off your bike light for the race directors to take to the 150 mile point, then don't pick it up because you're making good time. They haven't figured out how to get it back to you politely.

And don't get lost. They're not too keen on coming to find you either, even if your wife calls them while she's desperately searching for you.

Ride on!

P.S. And if you're really crazy, you'll jump back on your bike for another hilly 100 miles the next day, then remain unable to move for two more days...and counting.

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