Sunday, July 06, 2008

Best ride ever?

For those that may be reading this, what's your best ride ever? Seriously, I'd be interested in hearing about it, so please comment if you feel up to it. Your best ride may be one in a race or in training. It may be one where you felt amazing from the start or one that you built into. It may be one that was incredibly scenic or surreal. Many have asked which is my favorite discipline of triathlon. I love all three of them for their own unique offerings. Swimming may easily get the shaft, although swimming in Kailua Bay is one of my favorite things. Running is pure and simple and nothing can match the mental and physical benefits one receives bang for the buck from running. Cycling is probably the most amazing though. the territory covered leaves the other two disciplines dwarfed. The exhilaration of a huge climb or a fast descent is hard to match.

The tour has obviously started. One year ago, I was getting ready for my birthday trip to France, the most amazing gift that has ever been given in my opinion. I have been fortunate to do some amazing rides. I have raced the infamous lava fields on the Big Island many times. I have ridden up famous climbs in the US like Mt Lemmon, Whiteface, and Kitts Peak. I have raced with broken parts through 70 of 112 miles and persevered. My best day on a bike though is an easy choice, a clear cut memory. It was my ride last year from Luchon, up the Col D'Peyressoude, then the Col D'Aspin, then finally the Tourmalet. Why was this my best day on a bike? I rolled out of Luchon all alone at 6am with my ipod on a clear, mild day. You start climbing the Peyressoude almost right away. There were trailers and tents everywhere from the stage the previous day, yet everyone was still asleep, making it peaceful. There wasn't a bit of litter anywhere from the day before. My legs felt stiff from the big climbs I had done the two preceding days. Looking up the mountain at the switchbacks jutting through the light clouds was an incredible site - one that could feel daunting, yet exciting at the same time. The first descent was long and chilly and I was still all alone. I rolled through some picturesque towns and soon found myself ascending the Co D'Aspin. This climb isn't that tough compared to the others I experienced on the trip. It's long, especially compared with anything we have in the states, but my legs were coming around and seeing faded paint spelling "Indurain" or "go Lance!" certainly upped the adrenalin. I had to skirt my way around roaming cattle and goats on this climb, then another long, fun descent before starting the monster - the Tourmalet. I pulled over to take some pictures and was joined by two guides from the trip I was on, one being George Alteri. I climbed with them up to the ski town La Mongie, then stopped to refill my empty bottles and take some photos. In hindsight, I wanted to finish this surreal day the way I started, all by myself. This was my day. The switchbacks and wind from La Mongie to the Tourmalet summit was incredibly challenging, especially with beat up legs from the six huge climbs I had done in the 48 hours leading up to this moment. But not once did I question what I was doing. I sat at the cafe on the top of the mountain downing double espressos and really trying to take in the coolness of what I just did and was doing. As I did, hundreds of cyclists appeared, out capturing there own memories on one of Frances most famous climbs. The excitement of the morning stays with me to this day. I'll do this same ride again some day. It won't omit the raw emotion from the newness of the adventure that it did on that day last summer. But I'll be doing it with my son Ryan and it'll bring on a whole different meaning I'm sure. I just hope I can stay with him. It's rides like these that remind why I do this in the first place, and that ground me, allowing me to feel unbelievably fortunate.




mrpsam said...

Okay, I read this while I was at work today, but then I had to work (go figure). So anyway, I've had the time to mull this over and I keep going back to what I refer as my "defining moment" ride. It was actually at LP camp! It was our last ride -- Saturday morning. A group was heading out at 6:00 a.m. sharp, don't be late. I woke up crabby, sore, pissed off, didn't want to go, but I dragged my sorry butt out there anyway. Angela, Trephina and I left for our ride. It started off as a nightmare. I'm doing that initial 9 mile climb and I'm just grumbling, pissed, thinking "how am I going to make it around this course." But I kept grinding away anyway, and then the five mile downhill came -- the defining moment in my cycling. I was always afraid of downhills, but this day, I let it go. I went down that whole stretch with the wind blasting my face and not once did my hands reach for the breaks. I just steered and enjoyed the speed. I had a max speed of 39.2 mph and I loved every minute of it. It was what the "doctor" had ordered for that day to get me into the groove. Now, I am totally addicted to speed on the bike -- and, I realize it can be dangerous as Mike keeps reminding me, but I just can't resist. So now, I'll ride up a hill -- why, so I can turn around and go down. I've come a long way in the past 2 years since I first got my butt onto a bike. And this ride is just so memorable, I have to give its due! -- Mary

Eric said...

great stuff - i remember you on that ride Mary. Thanks for sharing.

BuckeyeRunner said...

So...yesterday morning I was on a business trip in Boulder Colorado and I got up early to run before work. As I walked to the hotel lobby to get some directions on where to run, I bumped into another guy that was obviously getting ready to run. We headed out together...he told be he was in Boulder for the launch of the new Cervelo....and that he was from CT....and owned a bike shop. I asked if he happened to know Eric Hodska...the reply was yeah...he is my coach! Small world! Greg and I had a nice run through some small parks in Boulder.

Eric said...

In 2004 Aimee and I were training for our first Half IM. We had a long ride Sat. morning and we woke up to rain. We encouraged each other as we started out the garage door into the rain. This was the first time I've started a ride while it was already raining.

We rode for 2.5 - 3 hours that morning enjoying each others company and being badasses in the rain.

On the way back home we stopped at a convenient store for a package of American Cheese. It was expensive but the grilled cheese sandwiches back home tasted better than ever.

It's one of my most memorable because I shared the ride with Aimee. Priceless

Eric said...

Greg told me about this - small world! Nice pplace to have a business trip.

Eric - great stuff! That's certainly a ride you'll remember for a long time.

Anonymous said...

hodska. cat 1 here.

the first time (almost 15 years ago) I made hodska "tapout" with my monster roadie pulls.

cat 1 out.

sgalla1234 said...

Of course I am reading this way late. Story of my life. Mine was climbing White Face at last years LP camp. After having a terrible morning with something like 3 flats in the rain I had to give in, running out of tubes. But later that day around 3pm I headed back out. It was the hardest ride I have ever done, but by far the most fulfilling.

alan said...

I wanted to wait until after the Ironman to write this, hoping I'd have a great ride. I recently had one of my worst rides in one of my favorite places- Lake Placid. I went out on a Sunday afternoon in June and limped to a six-hour plus ride where I was never really comfortable.

The one thing that I didn't have to deal with on that hot, sweaty day, was rain. I've never really rode the course in hard rain.

Until Sunday. If you'd told me that you could go out in that rain and basically ride the course the same way- attacking the downhills, managing the uphills, and putting together a solid ride, I'd have disagreed.

I'm not sure how many of the 2100+ athletes I actually saw out there Sunday, but what I did see was almost without exception people who hadn't given up or given in to the elements, but rather accepted them.

It wasn't that I had a great ride Sunday- my own effort was really pretty pedestrian. But being out there with so many other people, just getting it done, still concentrating on shifting, on eating, on continuing to move forward- I saw one guy walking his bike in Wilmington, still moving.

It was an inspirational day just to be surrounded by so many people working through a tough day...