Last May I had to have open surgery to fix my 90% blocked artery, known as “the widow-maker.” Then one of the bypasses collapsed this January. Bummer. The prescription? Vigorous exercise. My goal? Finish the Enchilada Buffet. This was my first year to actually ride it. I’ve volunteered and come out to cheer friends on in the past. My longest ride to date has been ~20 miles and always in dirt. But I had something to prove this year. I rode more. I even enlisted the help of Sean Ahmadi to help me get ready.
I rolled into Walnut Creek well before 6 and wondered if I had the wrong date. No one was in the parking lot. Then I saw the wonderful EB crew getting ready and was already thankful for their hard work. Thanks EB staff! I enjoyed the gathering at the line and immediately started meeting new friends. Thanks to Gorge for spotting the long twine wrapped around my front hub that I’m sure the 4 year-old put there to help Dad out. Left unchecked, that would have made for a short ride! I started my Garmin but decided to turn off the heart rate monitor to conserve battery life — and also because I probably didn’t want to know.
I got my first sense of the camaraderie among the group when we got to the WC creek crossing. Everyone was joking and laughing through the bottleneck. “Cross the creek you woman pansies!” won as the best quip.
Everyone split during the ride to BCGB. It was pretty uneventful on the ride down, but I got to meet Jeff and others. Soon, however, I was by myself, as I would find myself being for most of the ride. I had brought music but was too in the moment to care about listening.
When I got to the Hanging I was smiling – finally some off-road and not boring-ole road (I’d learn later I would miss the road). I saw a group crossing the old route at Sculpture Falls. I called to them but they seemed determined to take the old route.
I went on to the root crossing up to Easy Up. I had already drunk my water in my camel back so was looking forward to re-filling at the next station. Ride up HOL was good but I walked some. Last year my kids and hung out w/ water at the top of HOL as well as some folks from NICA. No one was there this year so I pushed on to 360. I was getting a little nervous about being out of water. I had heard there was a station, but where? I waited up for a rider: “Where is the next water station?”. He had a very confused look on his face. I looked down at his skinny tires – he was a roadie and hadn’t a clue about EB or what I was asking! I rode on… and on… until… there…! On the horizon…! The “Furious Frenchmen”! They were graciously handing out water and Nutella Crepes. I think Iheard one of the hosts explaining what the EB was to one of his friends. I can’t be sure, however, because he was speaking in French. I caught “Enchilada Buffet” and “Tour D’ France”. I was concerned that (just miles in) one might actually have something to do with the other!!? This thing was only 80 miles, right!? I don’t remember “Tour D’ France” pain mentioned anywhere in the brochure.
Climbing up West Courtyard is where I discovered I didn’t have granny or second. Somewhere on my pre-ride checklist I forgot to add “check that the bike actually shifts”. I made it half way, then walked.
At the climb to City Park I was energized by seeing the riders coming down the hill in the opposite direction – a good hour past my group. I then saw my friend Paul coming out of CP as I was entering. He looked pretty busy so I said hi but didn’t stop to chat. City Park was fun and familiar territory. I didn’t need to worry about missing a turn and just enjoyed the ride. I got the opportunity to help lead Gorge out of the park near the end. At the end of CP, EB Angels provided P&B sandwiches, water and encouragement. I overheard someone talking about bonking and not wanting to continue. My fear took over. Is that going to be me at Thumper? What if I cramp? I’ve got to finish! I have something to prove.
Riding down City Park I clocked at 44 MPH. I was grinning. I’m not a roadie – I’ve never biked so fast.
Stephanie and Lindsee pasted me going up Spicewood. They overshot St Edwards so I got them on track and we rode most of St Edwards together. This would be my only group ride of the event.
Thumper. Thumper. Thumper. Having ridden Thumper once before I knew what I was in for. Walking, cursing and pain. I think I would like Thumper if I rode it often. I do not like Thumper and I do not want to ride it often. Sorry. I found myself discouraged but I never felt like quitting. I was frustrated and tired but not done. The night before, sitting around the dinner table I voiced that I wasn’t sure if I would finish or not. My daughter, Clara (I don’t think she’s the one to blame for the twine – I got 7 so odds are with her) said “You can finish!” That was my mantra through-out Thumper. Also Cody told me during a pre-ride tenacity is the key. Out of Thumper I took my time resting. The EB Angels there were great. I feasted, drank and relaxed.
At WC, I knew the trails (or so I thought) and pushed the pace and found extra energy. I realized I probably had more matchsticks that I should have used earlier. But, this being my first year, my goal was to finish first and foremost. Then — 2 miles away from the finish — I got lost. What? I found myself riding the tangle of trails a couple of times. Fortunately, I did eventually escape, thanks to Matt, who led me out.
I am an EB 2014 finisher. I have the fork to prove it. Next challenge.