Note: While Fatty is cycling away in France with Andy Freaking “Yes, THAT Andy Freaking” Hampsten, Paul Guyot – proud domestique of Bucky – is guest blogging for him. Don’t worry, it’s almost over.
I’ve learned that German Shepherds can run more than 25mph… but let’s get to that later.
As cyclists, there are certain rites of passage we all must go through, including:
Our first flat miles from home.
Our first time getting dropped on the group ride.
Our first sufferfest – when we realize this cycling thing can actually be painful.
Our first encounter with a nasty motorist.
Our first crash. Yes, folks, it will happen – for there are only two types of cyclists: those that have gone down and those that are going to go down.
Our first time being chased by a dog.
Let’s back up a sec. To that last one there.
Being chased by a dog.
Raise your hand if you’ve already experienced this one. Go ahead, it’s okay, your co-workers will just think you need the restroom or have a question.
Okay, quite a few of you. Well, not me. Not once. Ever. Until now. Let me set the stage for you…
After weeks of intense heat and humidity I awake to find a morning in the low 80’s with even lower humidity. I stand out on my porch looking at the cornflower blue sky and the still leaves, and say, “I christen thee Metric Century Day.” I like to say “I christen thee.” Makes me feel fancy.
I will ride 62 miles on this beautiful day. I will travel roads I have not yet ridden. I will see things I have never before seen on previous rides. I will never take the flat road when there’s a hill to ascend. I will climb like an angel. An overweight, under-trained angel with an anvil tied to each wing, but an angel nonetheless.
I dress in my Ride 2 Recovery kit, pump up the Gatorshells underneath The Goat – that’s what I call my new bike – The Goat. Because it climbs like a goat, and is The Greatest (bike) Of All-Time. I pack my center pocket with a Honey Stinger waffle (I actually do eat these all the time), and fill my right pocket with Gu – have I mentioned while house-sitting for Fatty that I love Gu products?
I know everyone has their fuel of choice, and for me it is GU. IMHO – which stands for In My Heavy Opinion – Gu gels and especially Roctane gels are the best. They pack as much (and usually more) sodium and potassium (life blood for cyclists) than any other product, have far less sugar than most, and they taste yummy. Except for that Jet Blackberry disaster. Whose idea was that? I’d rather chew broken glass on my ride.
You don’t have to carry pills or tablets to drop into your water because all the fuel you need is in the gels – but if you want liquid Gu they offer Gu Brew – which is the second best endurance drink out there – second only to Gu Brew RECOVERY – which is the absolute best recovery drink on the planet. I know because I am still alive after my 100MON.
But I digress.
So I roll out ready to tackle 62 miles of newfound roads and climb at least 3,000 feet. Yes, people, 3,000. I am NOT Fatty, who needs at least 9500 feet of climbing to break a sweat. Did everyone forget my 100 Miles of Nowhere debacle?
I head out of my neighborhood and twelve miles into the ride I get giddy on the bike. Yes, I physically, literally get giddy. Not to be confused with jiggy. I got giddy as I turned right where I have always turned left and started exploring uncharted lands.
I cranked along a nicely paved two-lane that gently rolled through a wooded area with almost no houses anywhere. I saw deer and turkeys and turtles (I got them all off the road), and heard birds I had not heard before.
I found some new hills and rolled up them like Tommy D. Bucky would be arching his eyebrows at me right now if he were reading this. “Seriously, Dad?” Okay, not like Tommy D – but like Tommy D in the context of me. The Hill Slug.
This was going to be one of the best solo rides I’d ever done. I kept riding, 20 miles. 30. 40.
I discovered at one point I was rolling along part of the original Route 66. How cool is that?
Then I saw a little road marked Woodland Meadows Road. I remembered from my scouting of Google maps that morning that the innocuous little Woodland Meadows twisted and turned and wound its way around, only to come back out on the very Route 66 road I was on. Perfect! Add an extra few miles, an extra few feet of climbing, and get right back on my route.
I pedaled along Woodland Meadows, such a lovely little road, let’s say it together; Woodland Meadows. Sounds like a retirement home. A few houses, but zero traffic, and no sounds but nature. I love the sounds of nature.
I came around a curve on little innocuous Woodland Meadows and saw the road went up. Way up. Great! Let’s climb, baby!
I shifted my Ultegra compact into my next-to-last climbing gear (is that a 26, gearheads?) and started to climb. I glanced at Hal 9000 – that’s what I call my Garmin Edge 500 (that I have thanks to Fatty suggesting to my wife she give it to me for my birthday last year) and noticed the gradient was steadily going up.
12%… 15%… 19%… whew, this is tough, but I’m feeling good. I’m loving the suffering… then little innocuous Woodland Meadows turned tightly to the right, and stopped being innocuous and little. Instead it became Woodland Meadows – the Gateway to Hell. And to start our journey to burning death the gradient jumped to…
30%… then 33%…
It would top out at 38%. I know this because as I was walking The Goat up Woodland Meadows I had plenty of time to read my Garmin.
UPDATE: Please see the comments section for updates on the great gradient debate.
I finally got to the summit, breathing as hard as if I’d actually ridden the whole thing. I remounted and began soft pedaling, eating and drinking, and trying to recover.
My mood quickly returned to joyous as Woodland Meadows meandered through horse country. White picket fences, huge yards, and large houses set way off the road. And the lovely sounds of nature returned.
Like a barking dog.
Wait, what? Oh there. A happy little puppy, romping across his big yard… running across his big yard. Fast. And barking. A lot.
I wonder if he’s coming after me? Nope. That happy German Shepherd is apparently just going to run alongside me. About ten yards off the road, running parallel with me now. And keeping up. Wow. I’m doing 23mph and he’s right there. 24… right there. 25… yep, still there.
Apparently, I had forgotten that Woodland Meadows was the gateway to Hell, and what lives in Hell?
Hellhounds. The Hounds of Hell.
One of which is ten yards away from me right now. I stare into its eyes once, then twice, then look back to my Garmin Edge 500. It would only be much later that I would learn if you stare into the eyes of Hellhounds three times you will certainly die.
But running alongside me is not chasing me. He’s just protecting his yard.
And that’s when the Hound of Hell started cutting the angle between him and the road.
If there was ever a big fat doughy cyclist that sprinted as fast as Mark Cavendish after a Renshaw launch, it was me right then. I have no idea how fast I ended up going, but it was faster than I’ve gone on a flat road. Ever. I literally felt the hot demon breath of he Hellhound on my ankle as he made a last ditch effort to devour me.
Once safe, I slowed down, sat up, and laughed. A lot.
I laughed the laugh of the certifiably insane. That laughter that only comes after cheating death. And Hell. I chortled. I cackled. If anyone had seen me, sitting up on my bike, laughing like a hyena on meth, they would have locked me up. And I would not have argued.
You can learn a lot from riding your bike.
Like that German Shepherds can run more than 25mph.