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DNF: A Setback

by on January 3, 2012

This Ride: 60.1 miles
Month: 60.1 miles
2012: 60.1 miles
Total since 1/1/2010: 13894.8 miles

My first ride of 2012 would also be my first 200k of the year and my first attempt at tackling Big Flat.  I was excited that we had 17 riders on a day that was blustery, chilly, and posed a challenge.  This was SPP’s first ride of Cumberland County Creeksides, although the route was quite familiar to those who had ridden the 300k last year.

To say that the start was chaotic was an understatement.  Most of us arrived at about 6:30 finished our prep and were waiting around for the 7:00 start.  As 7:00 rolled around, one rider appeared suddenly, ready to check in and by 7:06 some of us were anxious to leave.  We started out and gradually grouped up.  At the first turn, we realized that several riders were not with us, as we took a head count, and we waited again.  Someone forgot water bottles, someone else was having trouble with gloves, etc.  That is very frustrating, waiting for those who arrive late and are not ready to go.

Once we were on our way, I started fussing with my Garmin.  It just wasn’t working properly.  Eventually, I figured out the problem, then waited until 10 miles into the ride to restart it, making the math easier for the cue sheet.  All this was done while rolling along enjoying the scenery of the day.  We quite naturally divided into a faster and a slower group.  The goal was to know where everyone was so that in the event of trouble, someone wouldn’t be alone.

I developed a chest cold a couple of days before this ride.  I had a nasty, productive cough and my throat was a sore from the coughing.  By about 10 miles into the ride I noticed that my air exchange really wasn’t up to par, and I would occasionally get a coughing fit that would create a moment of dizziness.  I commented to Mike early in the ride that this one was going to be a struggle.  We were in good spirits and occasionally would slow enough to make sure that the slowest riders were with us.  We took in the scenery.  Diary farms, orchards, horses, cows, mules, a donkey, mountains, streams, and more people out walking dogs than I expected.

We had rolling hills until Mike told us we were at the start of the long climb up Big Flat.  It is about 1400′ of climbing, long and steady.  We ground our way up the mountain.  I was able to stay mostly seated, but it was a long slog.  I targeted climb to my heart rate, trying to keep it around 150 as the valley fell behind.  That translated to about 4.5 – 5.5 mph.  Occasionally we would regroup at a short summit or flat spot, but for the better part of an hour we climbed mostly alone.  It was a great feeling of accomplishment to reach the summit.  We re-adjusted our clothing for what would prove to be a bone chilling descent.  In planning for this ride, I had hoped to achieve my highest speed ever on this long descent.  With snow flurries in the air and a steady wind in my face (even before getting on the bike) I knew at the summit this would not be likely.  I let the bike go, and didn’t touch the brakes until near the curve at the bottom of the hill.  It was a lot of fun, but it was cold!  We were dressed for cycling (moving, generating heat), not for skiing!  By the time we got to the first control, I was ready for hot chocolate and a warm fire.  I got the chocolate.  No fire.

Arriving at the control, we sent the faster group off after a quick photo.  Soon it was time for us to climb back on the bikes and head out.  We were looking forward to new scenery, a gentle descent, and probable tailwinds for our next section of our course.

When cycling becomes increasingly difficult on a gentle downhill, with a tailwind, with friends it is time to re-evaluate.  Each breath I took was painful.  My throat was raw from coughing.  I was getting dizzy more often and nearly ran off the road a couple of times.  Food and hydration were not the issues.  I knew there was no way that I would be able to finish this ride with only half of it under my belt, and I would be impacting the ride for others too.  I was too sick.  I started looking for a place to bail out of the ride.  In Plainfield (about as far away from the start as possible on this course) I found an open restaurant, said “bonne route” to my friends, and abandoned the ride.  I notified Clint and the course owner.  I made some phone calls and found a friend who was willing to drive from Severna Park to get me and the bike and take me home.

Two other riders abandoned the ride after I did.  One had too many flats and one, riding alone, got mixed up between the cue sheet and a GPS, got frustrated, and missed the time limit on a control.  The rest of the riders finished between 11 & 12.5 hours of riding.

This ride was important to me, and abandoning it was hard.  It will stop my continuous string of monthly 200k rides at 13.  But it was the right thing to do.  With my goal of the Fleche in April, I need to be well enough for the surgery to happen on Friday so my recovery time is maximized. It is all about timing.  There is a saying Jeff has repeated to me often.  “Cold in the head, get out of bed.  Cold in the chest, get some rest.”  I guess I’ll just have to call sixty miles with a mountain, “rest”.


From → Cycling

  1. I’m very sorry to hear this but very happy you weren’t so pig-headed that you pressed on and did some serious damage to yourself. When you’re so dizzy on a bike that you occasionally risk running off the road, it is definitely time to reevaluate what you’re trying to do. Get well soon and you can start your next string of 200k rides!

  2. saltyvelo permalink

    Thanks for the write up! I love hearing other’s experiences out on brevets.

    Hope you get better and good luck with the surgery!

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