The Fort Jackson Awareness Ride is a 36 and 72 mile cycling event held at Fort Jackson on Father’s Day that gives to a nonprofit on base. This is apparently called a “gran fondo” because its timed, though not necessarily a race. I may be wrong, because I am completely clueless when it somes to cycling. But, as anyone familiar with me knows, once I clip on a bib and a chip – its on like Donkey Kong.
Or not so much. This is my first cycling event, period. I’m not counting my ill-fated tri on a whim in March, because, well, that would be an insult to the sport. I’ve been trying to train for my first real tri , Tri the Midlands, which is next weekend. I admittedly have given less time to the bike, because my fear of sucking it up cycling pales in comparison to my sheer terror of drowning in the open water swim. Thus, I’ve been making the Golds Gym pool my second home the last couple of months, but have been relegating my cycling to the weekends and maybe once during the week.
Part of my lack of cycling has to do with it being so damn complicated. I’m used to putting on some shoes and heading out the door on a run. Cycling involves having equipment and trying to operate a machine which I am pretty much completely unfamiliar. I went ahead and took the plunge a couple of months ago and bought Anton’s bike, and quickly realized there were a whole lot of things I was hopelessly clueless about. In other words, I am a Fred. Fred is apparently a term for newbie cyclists, which Diesel is particularly fond of.
The first thing I realized I needed was a helmet. This is unfortunate, because I have been blessed (cursed?) with one of the largest melons on the planet. Seriously, I have to special order hats. One-size-fits-all hats dont. I have an ancient extra large helmet I bought about 15 years ago, which I used a few times and let it sit in storage. After using this helmet in the tri, I realized that a) It probably wasnt safe and b) I looked like a complete moron. Looking ridiculous is something I deal with on a daily basis, but I figured the safety thing wasnt good. Thus, I went online in a desperate search. They actually have sites dedicated to this kind of thing. Finally, I found the Bell XLV. Its product page mentions “some people with various medical conditions may have a need for an extra large helmet”. It previously was called “the Triton” and before that “The Kinghead”. Really, Bell? I hear the name before that was the UltraMelon 5000. Either way, that helmet had my name written all over it. Sure enough, it fit like a glove. Awesome.
Another equipment issue was the shorts. After a few rides in my running shorts, it became painfully evident I would need to get some cycling shorts, lest I wanted to get the sensory equivalent of a black mamba bite to the crotch every time I went more than 5 miles. And then I got my gears cleaned, and a lock, and a light, and gloves, and a flat kit, and damn this was getting expensive. Not to mention the pedal issue. My bike came with shimano clipless pedals, so I agonized over whether I would get the cycling shoes versus the old school platforms. In the meantime I realized I could pedal with regular shoes on top of the clipless, so my lazy butt never got around to doing one or the other. So apparently Ive chosen to handicap my already questionable biking ability by being remarkably inefficient.
But I digress. I got to the Fort about 45 minutes early, and registered. I finally managed to put my front tire on in a reasonably smooth manner, rather than the bumbling and stumbling that I usually do. Mark, who has been cycling for years, thankfully showed up and helped me with my tires, one of which I had managed to completely deflate with my new pump. Fortunately for our training group, Mark has provided a much needed guiding influence against the tidal wave of Freddery going on every time we try to ride.
There were over 160 cyclists in this event, so a pretty impressive crowd. I only knew a few of them, but Ken Lowden and most of his training group was there. My Blue Ridge Relay captain Pete O’Boyle showed up. Team Schmitz was there, of course. Kat and Kimi were manning the registration. After the national anthem and a brief prayer we were off. I made sure to keep to the back, because there were lots of people all tricked out in fancy uniforms and bikes that look like (and probably do) cost more than my Saturn. Some serious traffic in the early going as some people were just there for the ride while others were apparently looking to qualify for the Tour de France.
The course is a 12 mile loop around the Fort, 3 laps for the 36 and 6 for the 72. I shouldnt have to tell you that I opted for the 36. This was already 22 miles more than I had ever done. First couple of miles were mostly downhill, nice cruising. This was going to be easy! Then came the turn onto Dixie Road. Dixie apparently was one evil bitch, because this road just kept ascending. Sure there were a few rolls downhill, but it felt like mostly climb. I has heard that there was a killer hill near Wildcat Rd, and as we approached Wildcat, there was a half mile quad buster. I dropped down to the small wheel and was dying already. Finally we made the turn and had a nice downhill. Then I realized that horrific Dixie stretch was just a warmup for the real hill. As soon as the downhill ended, a mountain arose and all of a sudden I’m standing up in the lowest gear trying to power up this thing. I get to the top and promptly get Schmitzed by Crazy Legs. Passes me like I’m standing still, while I’m sucking some serious wind. The rest of the loop was yet more rolling hills and my small wheel was getting more and more action. I slowed down because this was not good to be likt this on loop freaking one. Finally got back to the start in a shade over 40 minutes.
And then I got passed by more people, this time a group with Schmitz #2, Kristin. I actually did keep up with these guys for a few miles, but once we hit Dixie again I was left in their dust. Loop 2 was even more fun. Basically all the quad burning action of Loop 1 with that previously mentioned Black Mamba effect mixed in. I was able to handle Mt Wildcat a little better, finding the right gears more quickly and using more of my momentum form the previous downhill. I did manage to pass a few people, though I think a few returned the favor as well. Clock was at 1:23 at the second loop finish, so I had slowed down by a few minutes, but not too bad.
Loop 3 was actually a little better. I think my legs had started to get acclimated to this different kind of abuse and were not complaining as much. The same could not be said for the nether regions. The Black Mamba had invited the two cobras from the downtown tri and it was getting tough to sit down. Damn tri pants. Need to get one of those pillow butted cycle shorts. Dixie and Wildcat were so much more fun the third time around. On the other hand, I was getting a crash course in gear shifting that seemed to be helping. At the top of Mt Wildcat I heard voices, and sure enough, I got the lap of shame from a peloton of Lance Armstrong types pulling about 20+ mph on a 10 percent grade. I even got a “good job” from their leader. Ouch. This was of course the first of a couple more lappings that happened in the next couple miles. My only solace is that I managed not to get passed by other Freds on basically the whole loop. Finished in 2:07 on the nose, with a 43 minute split almost identical to loop 2.
I’m pretty happy with the result, as I’m definitely (obviously) still learning things. Number one is to get a pair of freaking cycling shoes. No need to do extra work when you already suck. Hopefully I can use this experience to help with my 14 miles at the tri next week. If I dont drown, of course.