Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Elusive Tour Of Hermann

Last years TOH was quite a challenge.  I knew it was exactly what I needed as prep for the Dirty Kanza 200.  I was only available to make Saturday but gave it hell.  I learned a lot and vowed to come back in 2014. As luck would have it...  I played a FB game and won an entire weekend entry into the Tour of Hermann.  It was unfortunate that the Saturday date conflicted with a 1.2 mile run my daughter was doing to celebrate six months of doing the Read, Right and Run.  I wasn't going to miss that so I only signed up for Sunday.

Turns out my brother received a kitchen pass for the day and would be joining us.  Jim loaded his FAT bike, put my Kona on the roof, which made me very nervous, and we were off.  I can't believe I am only 1 hour away from Hermann.  Approximately 66 miles via the Katy Trail. My husband and I rode from our house one day, slept on picnic tables and headed back home the next day.  I will never forget that day as we were caught in a torrential downpour and had to take shelter by climbing the  rocks and hiding in the trees. 

Since last years TOH did not go down as planned I hoped to redeeem myself and do better this time.  I don't put a lot of pressure on myself for this race because its still so early in the game. I use this ride as a learning process to figure out what works and what doesn't.  The hills are challenging, the gravel is tough and quite comparable to Dirty Kanza.  I would almost say TOH is harder but I have yet to complete all five stages.  Maybe 2015 will work out.  This gravel ride will help me to figure out how to carry water, gauge about how much I will need, what works for nutrition, and see how my bike is rolling.

My bike was in tip top shape and Ifelt I had everything I needed.  Let's get this party started!  The weather was a bit chilly, I opted for pants and a thin underarmour under my jersey.  Gloves for sure.  Whatever, I don't enjoy being cold.  My plan was to complete both loops, approximately 103 miles. I had to be in by 2:30pm in order to start the next loop. My goal for the first loop was 4 hours.  I am familiar with the hills, I will walk them if necessary especially early in the day.


We bombed down the steep hill at Stone Hill Winery at promptly 9 am.  Save for one very rude driver we all safely made it out of town for the 15 miles of FLAT Katy.  I picked a group of about ten to hang with,  I didn't know any of them at first and then realized I was FB friends with a few.  We all stuck together for the most part, which was difficult stopping and going through all those gates and crossing the street. Around mile 20 all that changed and the group broke up in to many small groups.  I spent the next ten miles alone, losing myself in the beautiful scenery and enjoying the day.  While I make everything sound dandy... nothing could be further from the truth.

 I was not having a good day, quite the opposite.  I was having an awful day.  My legs felt strong. My mind felt strong. What was arong you ask?  My belly was not happy. My "mental" threw out threats and hoped the belly would just harden the fuck up. The cramps weren't so bad, I could deal with them. It was the fact that every time I stood up to climb or exerted force I felt like my uterus was going to fall out, or I was going to shit myself.  I have never felt this way before. I had no idea what to do for it. Mild gut cramps and feeling like all my guts were going to fall out made for an interesting ride on gravel.   I was alright if I just stayed seated and pedaled. This was going to be a long day.

Dan Singer Photography

I wish I could have just thrown up and been done with it.  It's much easier to puke and keep riding than it is to undress and squat.  It's not like there were a lot of potty opportunities along the route.  Sometimes it just doesn't matter if the situation is ideal or not, this was one of them.
 It wasn't going to happen and that is when 'smart' took over.  I definitely did not want to be known as the chick who shit herself.  But there are some things you just can't overcome.  I was having severe belly issues, the cramps weren't so bad, it was the fact that every time I stood up to climb or exert some force I felt like my uterus was going to fall out or I was going to shit myself. I have never felt this way before.

  Around mile 30 I had to stop, drop and go. I couldn't hold it anymore, hell why would I?  I was a little disappointed because I was moving at a descent pace and stopping was going to throw that off, but maybe I would feel better. I spun my head in all directions and saw no one. It wouldn't have mattered if I did. This was going to happen.  I knew I had to get out of my clothing quick.  I had to get through long pants, next my jersey, and then my bibs, that's a lot of clothing to deal with when you feel like you are going to explode from the inside out. Timing is crucial and can greatly affect the rest of your day. I didn't want to get caught or end up covered in poo either. I siezed the moment,  hopped behind some sparse trees looked for leaves and hoped for the best.  The gravel gods smiled on me and I was not caught and did not end up in a messy situation.  Note to self...always carry baby wipes in a baggie. I resumed my spot upon my saddle and motored on.  I drank my Ignition and munched on a nugget of a Payday bar. Fuck, I did not feel good. Correction, my belly didn't feel good.

Dan Singer Photography

  I didn't know what was going on.  My legs felt strong and my mind was telling my body to Fuck off like usual.  Only this time I wasn't coming around.  Around mile 40 a gold colored Audi passed by me so fast and so close I felt it whoosh right by me.  I could feel the wind and the hairs on the back of my neck went straight up.  WTF? Was that really necessary?  It startled me since there were no other cars around and I was over as far as I could, there was no shoulder.  I watched as the car gunned its motor further and raced to the top of the hill as another woman cyclist climbed.  It sped straight for her and at the last moment veered away.  I came close to throwing up in my mouth.  What the hell was that for, what did that prove?  About five miles later, just on the outskirts of town I had one last altercation.  I was pedaling alone and looked up to see a red truck crossing the highway yellow lines and heading straight for me. There was really nowhere for me to go as I started processing my fate. Could he see the fear in my eyes?  I have kids, a husband, people who love me and here is some douchebag I've never seen before who can take my life away in an instant. The young man laughed as he jumped back over the line a short distance ahead of me. Ridiculous! Fucking ridiculous!  I was old enough to have been his mother.

 I take a big sigh of relief as I rolled back on to the safety of the Katy trail.  As I head back to Hermann, I take the LONG way back because I follow someone else who didn't look at the map, I totally deserve the extra miles. As I climb the hill into the Winery I hear the most familiar yell... GO biscuit!!  What? Jim is there?  Turns out he flatted out around 20 miles, lucked into landing near a bar, at opening time!! and started drinking. The bartender let him flip the OPEN switch.  I crossed the line around 4:15, just shy of goal time. ( official time 4:18)
I told Jim of my crappy issue and he popped two Pepto Bismol tablets into my mouth and told me to harden the fuck up. Thanks babe.  Then I french kissed a dinosaur and was off.  Yea, it's all kind of a blur.  Especially the dinosaur thing, but here are pics so it did happen.

The gravel seemed a bit thicker and I had to pedal like I meant it. The wind had been making itself known all day but wasn't too crazy.  As I climbed the first hill I prayed the Pepto would kick in at any time.  It never did.  My "mental" brought up the fact that I did not want to be remembered as the girl who finished and was also covered in shit.  Good point! I made it about an hour and called in to be picked up.  The feeling just would not pass.  I could not take 40 more miles, maybe ten or twenty but definitely not forty  I was saved by Dennis, who also picked up my husband.

Thanks for the rescue Dennis

Taking the ride back was smart in many ways.  This second loop was harder than the first, the hills were longer and steeper.  Even though I left early enough to finish in daylight there was no guarantee how I was feeling. Coming in early meant I got to see the hardcore gravel guys finish.  Plus I got to hang out with some fabulous peeps.
Mickey rode ALL FIVE loops!

My brother fared very well and finished both loops.
Even had a wheelie, showoff. 

SPECIAL THANKS to Jeff Yielding for putting on a stellar event, Dan Singer for taking your awesome photos, and Aaro for sharing your toys, especially the dinosaur.  Until next year.... 

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