Diabolical Double - 125 miles of Smiles and Sweat

Recipe for a great Saturday:
  • Ride 125 miles.
  • Climb more than 16,000 feet.
Looking at this makes me wince.
  • Eat 8 PBJ sandwiches, 2 Honey Stinger cookies, 12 water bottles of lemonade and Nuun, 2 bagels, 5 bananas, more than a dozen cookies, 6 Fig Newtons, handfuls of nuts, pretzels, goldfish, and peanut M&Ms, 1 Hammer gel (one too many), a coconut mocha Clif Mojo bar (thanks, Caroline!), and a pouch of PowerBar gummy thingies during the ride.
  • Pedal up mountains at 4 mph with Sarah, swearing at the switchbacks.
  • Descend these same mountains at more than 40 mph (holy SHIT!!!! - Garmin confirms this!), not breathing or blinking.
  • Make friends with a group of 50+-year-old riders who invited us to their 7 am rides, a gang of DCVC riders who gave us tips for the gravel stretch, and a medley of riders we kept running into at aid stations. 
  • Cross the finish line 10 hrs, 22 min later with a fat smile and bugs stuck to my sweat.
  • Crush a Ledo's pizza at 9 pm.
  • Emerge with only a very minor, ho-hum saddle sore.
  • Gain the confidence I need for IMLP's bike leg in less than one month!
Going into the Gran Fondo Diabolical Double ride, I was excited and intimidated.  My DC Tri/Snapple teammates who had done the course in previous years only had horror stories to share and insinuated that my legs might...not...recover in time for Lake Placid, and that I'd never want to sit in a saddle again.  YIKES.  My IM-training buddy Sarah and I approached the 125-mile ride with an open mind of taking the century ride option (essentially cutting the ride by 25 miles and nearly 4000 feet of climbing) if our legs felt demolished by the hills.  But the whole ride was such a blast that we mutually decided, at mile 40, to tackle the whole shebang.

I actually ended up riding with a Garmin Edge 500 for the first time, my prize for being the 3rd highest fundraiser (thanks to everyone who donated to my fundraising page to help me raise $1500 for the Joanna M. Nicolay Foundation!).  This was awesome.  I mean, who wouldn't want to ride with a computer that beeps at you while ascending Bowman Hill (with a 9.7% grade!!), alerting me that my 2 mph pace was apparently slow enough to warrant the auto-pause trigger.  And, at about Mile 95, it beeped again, and flashed "Virtual Partner has finished the Course".  Ha!!!

Sitting in a saddle for nearly 10 1/2 hours doesn't make for the most thrilling documentary, but here we go:
  • The first 19 miles were nearly all downhill through fog.  A bit chilly, and my arm warmers proved essential.  So did my brakes.
  • The next 20 miles were steady riding.  The pack of 500 riders who started in the initial herd had broken up, so Sarah and I found a comfortable pace and held it.  We kept reminding each other to eat when we hit a flat or slightly downhill stretch, because we both knew this was the key to our happiness.  And sanity.
  • Bowman Hill: a 9.7% grade for 1.5 miles. Holy hell, that was tough.  My Garmin kept auto-pausing, and I remember thinking that I could probably walk my bike up this vertical wall faster than I was pedaling.  But unclipping was not an option, largely because there was so much pressure with each pedal stroke that it was nearly impossible to unclip without falling ungracefully.  But we made it!  The wheezing and grunts that came from my lungs definitely was the most unattractive sound a girl can make (besides a fart). 
  • Killer Miller Hill: an 8.9% grade for 1 mile.  Bart had warned Sarah and me that Killer Miller was not nearly as bad as Bowman Hill, but as we ascended and hit a false peak, we cursed at him.  Maybe our quads weren't yet recovered from Bowman Hill, but Killer Miller felt much, much worse than we expected.
Some lady who was zig-zagging across Killer Miller with me asked if my bike was custom-built.  
Me, wheezing as if having an asthma attack: "Nope, but it's the smallest Cervelo they make!"
Her, shock registering: "You mean they make them that small?  What size is that?!?!?"
Me, standing up on pedals to conquer the hill and make her think I am taller than I really am: "It's a 48."
Her, "Wow. I didn't realize anyone would ever need a bike that size."
Then we continued to zig-zag across each other's paths, me on my 650 wheels and her on her normal-size 700 wheels.
  • By Mile 50, we had made some friends.  Both Sarah and I have a propensity to chat - with strangers, with friends, about food, about cramps, about saddle sores, about pizza.  We made friends with Aero Helmet Austin, Bill the Marine Corps officer, Greg the Chatterbox, a gang of DCVC riders, and a very awkward man in a blue jersey whose name I cannot remember.  We essentially were a group of:
  •  Next up was a gravel stretch that the race director had warned us about.  For some reason, I had convinced myself that this gravel stretch would be the scariest strip of the entire ride.  I dreaded it more than Killer Miller or the deathly steep descent down the Westernport Wall.  Nightmares of flat tires, crashes from the gravel, walking my bike, and injuring myself floated around.   Bart had told me earlier that "you'll hate it. HATE it. But don't stand. Then there's no weight on your back wheel and you'll just spin out."  The five miles leading up to the gravel stretch, I kept asking our DCVC friends and Sarah, "Are we there yet? Is this the gravel part?"  Boy, I can be so annoying sometimes!
Finally, the answer was Yes - the ominous gravel stretch had arrived.  It was a sharp descent, and there were sharp, jaggedy rocks everywhere.  In retrospect, it really wasn't that bad (that's what you always say once it's over!), but I remember hearing Sarah scream out of excitement at bombing it downhill, and I replied with an "EGGGGUUUUHHHHAAAAAAA" that translated to "I am holding onto my brakes for dear life and dear God, I have never asked you for anything but I promise if you exist which you don't but if you do please dear God don't let me crash holy shit my hand is cramping from braking!!"

Banjo player...too cool!
After I survived the gravel descent, I came across 2 hill-billies playing the banjo.  That's right, in the middle of a gravel stretch, I found music. It was like the deliverance.

The gravel stretch then ascended...sharply.  "Don't stand, don't stand; pedal, pedal; don't fall, don't fall," I mantra-ed to myself.  And it worked!  I survived that horrible gravel stretch and eventually broke out onto the pavement with no flat tires, no crashes, and no walking!
  • Next up: Descent down Westernport Wall.  I don't think I breathed for the entire 1-mile descent down the 12%-grade descent.  The deathgrip I had on the brakes was giving me a terrible hand-cramp, but letting go meant SUICIDE.  I was so terrified.  I don't even want to write about it.  Too many horrible memories.
  • The day got better from there!!!  The three things that I had dreaded about this ride - the Bowman/Killer Miller climbs, the gravel stretch, and Westernport Wall - were over.  Crossed off.  Behind me with no flat tires, no walking the bike, no mental trauma! 
  • I kept munching on my salty snack mixes of pretzels, Goldfish, nuts, and M&Ms.  I pounded cookies and PBJs at each aid station and kept my calorie-loading slightly healthy with the bananas and oranges.  Gotta say, the spread of food at each aid station was perfect!!
  • At about mile 95, my Garmin double-beeped.  Apparently, my Virtual Partner had finished the Diabolical Double course.  Oh, goody.  Mr Robot was finished.  A very sarcastic congratulations to him.
  • Rollers and coasting...Sarah and I were on Cloud Nine.  Chatting with everyone, commenting on the beautiful weather.  I didn't mind that one of the last hills, 4 miles long, took us an hour to climb.  I was so happy!  Bike riding can be fun!  Then, just before the last hill, I saw it:  

Sarah and I were ecstatic. There's a Ledo's in Deep Creek!?!?!?!?  Thoughts of real food - not Clif bars and cookies from a bento box - made both of us pick up our pace a little.  Just one more silly hill to conquer...

  • We hit the last climb up to the Wisp Resort.  It's only a mile long, but it's more than an 8% grade and after 124 miles, climbing is NOT what your legs want.  Aero Helmet Austin, who had ridden the last 80 miles with us, spun out, and Sarah and I were horrified as we stared at some part of his bike go flying off.  Not even joking.  We passed him at our bombin' 4 mph pace, and he reassured us that "I just dropped my chain".  Then, suddenly, a meek "Guys??? Help..." came up, and we both grumbled about who would draw the short straw.  Urgh.  Since I had abandoned Austin at the gravel stretch when he fell off his bike (yes, I did.  I am a horrible friend), I turned around and pedaled laps around Austin while he told me that his chain was stuck on the big ring.  I selfishly told him "Wait here. When I get to the top, I'll tell them to come get you."  And pedaled on.  Sorry, Austin, I just didn't want to unclip!  
Half a mile left, head hanging low, I saw friends from Team Z cheering us on!  Scott Knight caught this picture of me looking way too happy for having ridden 124 miles.  I bet I was just thinking about Ledo's...

Up and up we go!

And then we were done! 10 hours, 22 min in the saddle, and Sarah and I were as chatty as two high-schoolers after prom night.  We hung out at the finish area for 45 minutes, munching on salty french fries, pretending like we were best friends with the other riders who we'd seen along the course.  I was all smiles and laughter, a sweaty mess of pure delight.  Sometimes, after days like this, I realize that my weakest leg of cycling is potentially the most fun. 

Found Bart and Todd in the hotel bar, making friends with the bartenders.  Told them our wildly hilarious stories from the day which weren't so funny to them (I think Bart was shocked that anyone could ride a hill at 4 mph without falling off their bike), and headed to Ledo's.

To anyone who lives within driving distance of Garrett County and owns a bike, this ride is a must-doSeriously.  All the warnings I received about the elevation, the quad-crushing hills, and the defeat you feel when you see a series of switchbacks ascending into infinity are (admittedly) true...BUT the sense of pride...and confidence boost...and absolute BLAST that I had outweigh the moments that warranted thoughts of "This f*#^ing SUCKS". 

Big High-Five to my riding buddy Sarah Littlefield, who is more than ready to crush IM Mont Tremblant in August, and Caroline Lauver, who made friends with Fat Tire drinking fans.  And huge Crowning Congrats to the KOM Bart Forsyth, who won the final summit climb up Wisp Mountain! 

Next up is the big one: Lake Placid! 

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