Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Misadventures of Madcap Mac (Wildflower Training Weekend)

What a weekend I've had!

This weekend is my club's annual Wildflower Training Weekend. We go down to Lake San Antonio, camp out, and try out the course. I've been looking forward to it ever since I did Wildflower last year. I took Friday off from work and even convinced Mr. Mac to come down with me. We decided we'd take the  RV (a.k.a. The Behemoth) and have an over-the-top camping experience.

Things went pretty well at first. We did most of our packing the night before, ran a few errands in the morning, and were off by 12:15 pm, only 15 minutes later than planned. We deliberately allowed ourselves a lot of time to get there because The Behemoth isn't very fast and sometimes she's finicky.

So we're driving down Hwy 101 looking at the scenery, Mr. Mac driving, and me trying to catch up in my "Succeeding with Agile" book for my work book club. We get about 30 min. south of Salinas -- 2/3 of the way there -- when the engine sputters. And dies. Mr. Mac does his best to get her to go all the way to the exit, but we drift to a stop about 100 yards away. The exit and its Chevron station are there, taunting us, as we sit by the side of the road getting rocked by every semi and RV that passes.


Mr. Mac tries to get her started again. She turns over, even catches a few times, but always sputters out before we can get moving again. So he calls the Good Sam Roadside Assistance. They were as helpful as they could be, but we were in The Middle of Nowhere (Camphora, to be exact) so it took a while for them to find someone with an RV-equipped tow truck and it took a while for the person they found to come get us.

In the meantime, I'm doing the math and figuring there is no way we're going to get any service that night; it will be Saturday morning before a service place can even look at the thing. With the group bike ride starting at 9:00 am, I can see my weekend draining away. That's when the phone calls, texting, Facebooking (is that a word?) and emailing started. I had this idea that, if most of my club was going to drive right past me, maybe someone could stop and I could throw my stuff into their vehicle and stay in someone else's tent.

I contacted EVERYONE I could think of, sent a message to the SVTC discussion list and waited. Most of the people I contacted had full cars. Or weren't available. In the meantime, I tried to contact my son because I was starting to think through my idea and realized that moving from RVing to camping isn't that easy. It's not like my clothes and equipment were packed in suitcases and most of the food we brought was perishable.

Eventually, son called back. Figures he'd pick that exact time to go swimming with friends and be out of cell phone contact for hours! He was NOT a happy camper when I said he had to drive my RAV4 down to Salinas to pick us up. (The tow guy was towing us to an RV place in Salinas -- 30 minutes in the exact wrong direction from Wildflower.) Plus, he only has a learner's permit, so he had to find a friend with a driver's license to come with him. Road trip!

I told him to go into the garage and grab anything that looked like a tent. I still has this idea that they could drop me off at Lake San Antonio and I'd get a ride back on Sunday with someone. (Actually, I said to bring the tents, then called back to say not to, then called again to say bring them. I'm sure MacBoy thought I was insane.)

The guys showed up just as the tow truck was pulling away in Salinas at about 8:00 pm. It was dark and the RV place was technically closed but was waiting for us to give them the keys. So we started grabbing stuff out of the RV and putting it into the back of the RAV4. My tri stuff moved pretty well, but the fact that an RV is kind of a rolling suitcase was slowing us down. We were grabbing handfuls of clothes and food and giving them to the boys but it was taking forever. Luckily the RV place had some bags and boxes and we were able to throw a lot in there. We only took the clothes, the tri stuff, and the food, especially the perishable stuff, but it filled the back of my  RAV4 to the brim. Plus it was just thrown in willy, nilly, not packed. We put the bike on the bike rack and took off for Fremont.

We didn't get home until 10 pm! At which point, we had to unpack the car and then I had to re-pack for tent camping. I had found a ride down Saturday morning with someone who had room, but I had to get up at 4:15 am to make it! Meanwhile, it took until midnight to get ready. I was so glad I didn't have to drive with only four hours of sleep!

To make a long story slightly less long, we had an uneventful trip down to Lake San Antonio and got there at 8:30 am as planned for the 9:00 am ride. But pretty much no one else was there. So we stood around for 45 min. waiting for everyone to collect. Just think of the extra sleep we could have gotten!

It was cold and windy and looked like it might rain. I started off pretty slow and I felt like my legs were not willing to move at all. Then, on Beach Rd trying to get out of the park, I down-shifted a bit late on a hill and my pedals froze. I tried to clip out but couldn't, so I called out "I'm going to fall!" and then ... I did. I controlled it pretty well -- no big damage to the bike, no scraped knee -- but my elbow was stinging like crazy so I was pretty sure I'd skinned it.

I decided it was better not to know (plus it was COLD) so I didn't take off my jacket to look at it. I got back on and the friends I came down with and I continued out of the park. Everyone else was long gone by this time.

So we're going up beach some more and I'm thinking "why is this so hard?" and "I miss my triple" when I realized I was still in the big ring in front! But because of what happened the last time I tried to downshift on a hill, I didn't want to get into the small ring. Finally, there was a spot where the climb eased up a bit and I shifted and nothing bad happened and I was able to finish the climb.

The first part of the long course is the same as the first part of the Olympic course. It's mostly rollers. I was still not really feeling it, probably because of the cold. But at least the rollers felt like rollers this year and not like the mountains they seemed last year. I could see that I was getting behind schedule so I was very happy when my legs finally turned on about one hour into the ride.

The second hour had much nicer terrain as well. There was still quite the head wind but it did become more of a diagonal wind at some point -- probably the point where my sunglasses fell out of my jacket and I had to go back for them. Even with the sunglass incident, I was able to make up a bunch of time. Maybe my planned four hour finish would actually be possible instead of my 4.5 hour realistic finish.

At about 2 hours in, I was only off plan by 2 miles. I'd also managed to pass a few people so I knew I was making good time. I started to get excited and that's when it happened. I was just pedaling along and my chain dropped. It was right in front of two club members so I stopped and they offered to hold the bike while I put the chain back on. But I suddenly had to pee very badly and I left them there holding my bike while I ran into the bushes. Poor people -- I'm sure they hadn't expected that when they made their offer of help.

Anyway, I got things working again, and took off. And dropped my chain again. And again. And again. The last time, I also had to fix my bottle cages as they had come very, very loose. As I was twiddling with the bike, Coach Randy came by. He'd gotten to the park late and still had managed to catch up to me. Phooey.

At this point, I decided I'd just have to do the rest of the ride in my big ring on the front. I had no idea how I'd get up Nasty Grade that way, but I didn't see that I had any choice as I couldn't figure out the root cause of the problem. I went up another hard hill that way and it was miserable but doable.

Then another club member came by. He was there with Team in Training so he'd actually swum before biking. (And, yes, he still caught up with me.) He said he was tired so we pedaled along together for a while and I told him my tale of woes. He said I absolutely could NOT go up Nasty Grade in the big ring. I had had an idea by now so I moved up from the small ring in the back and cautiously shifted down in the front while he rode behind to see if he could see an obvious issue. He couldn't, but it didn't matter because the chain held! It seemed the problem only happened in the most extreme cross-chaining situation.

Bring on the Nasty!

The first part of Nasty Grade was actually okay. Hard. But okay. The second half sucked the life out of me. Then we turned and went up that last bit which isn't technically part of Nasty Grade but it's still a big hill. At the top, I was so wobbly that I dropped my water bottle trying to get it back in its cage. Grumble, grumble.

Everyone I started Nasty with took off while I went back to get it and I could see my four hour finish was history and my 4.5 hour realistic finish was looking tough too. My legs were pretty dead so I couldn't see making up any more time. All I could do was plod along so that's what I did.

Until we got to this most awesome descent. I wanted to fly down the hills but the people in front of me weren't going that fast and they were obviously better bikers than me. So I did lay on the brakes more than I like to just in case they knew something I didn't. But eventually I decided they were just chickens so I threw caution to the wind and just screamed down as fast as I could go.

It was the most amazingly awesome descent and it made up for everything. Even the fact that we had a headwind in BOTH directions even though we made an entire circle around the lake. (How unfair is that?!)

Between the descent and a long stretch of relatively flat / gentle rollers, my legs recovered and I was able to get back to the start point. I did have to stop at some point to help someone fix a flat tire (and pee again). So between the wind and the mishaps, it took me 4:45 min. and there was no way I could run after that, but, hey, I'd made it.

I waited around for my friends, but it was still cold and there was nothing to do so I rode back to the camp. I hoped they'd figure it out and meet us there, but I kept worrying about it. Plus, I had no warm clothes or food or anything since it was all in the car. But kind club members rescued me and fed me and gave me warm pants and sneakers and I dithered about going back to find them until the car showed up.

I had recovered enough to put up my tent and throw my stuff in it, take a wonderful hot shower, and get my skinned elbow bandaged up, at which point it was BBQ time. But after I had my dinner, I was so freaking tired that I went back to my tent and passed out. At 7:30 pm. I woke up around 9 pm hungry and having to pee. Then I went back to bed again, but this time in my pjs like a normal person.

I was actually rather warm during the night and ended up taking off a lot of my layers and my blanket. I woke up hungry and having to pee at 4:30 am and then crashed again until about 7:30 am. I felt much better at that point.

However, it was cold and extremely windy. I was a bit concerned about the open water swim. I realized then that I was a bit afraid of going back into the cold water after my experience last week. A lot of people were saying they were going to blow it off, too, so it was really tempting... but those people were still planning to run after and I wasn't and I have a race next weekend and I can't go into it afraid to open water swim. So I made myself go in.

It wasn't too bad actually. I love my new goggles -- they are much easier to see in because they are so big -- and the neoprene cap helped a lot with the heat issues. So did getting out after 30 minutes. Plus, I just love swimming in open water.

After that, I hung out at the campsite while my friend went running. (No way I was going to do that -- my legs were thrashed after that bike ride.) While I was waiting, I got a text from Mr. Mac -- our RV was fixed and it was under the $500 limit we'd set for how much money we wanted to sink into it! But I needed to meet him in Salinas so I could drive the clown car (his Ford Focus) home.

My friends didn't mind so we went to Salinas and I gave them the big tour. They were much impressed with The Behemoth. We loaded all my stuff from their car into it and were just chilling in the main cabin when Mr. Mac (and Mini-Mac) showed up. I hadn't seen Mini-Mac in a week and was quite excited to see her again. Mr. Mac paid the RV place and took off in the RV and Mini-Mac and I took the clown car.

We were telling each other about our adventures (Mini-Mac had gone to Disneyland for Spring Break with friends) when I saw The Behemoth in front of us with its emergency flashers on. Uh oh. I followed behind it and pulled over when it pulled over. The engine had conked out again!

I had visions of a repeat of Friday only this time with cold freezing rain but she did eventually start up and we did make it successfully back to Fremont. Where I passed out again.

After a blissful few hours nap, I awoke to find that Mr. Mac had unloaded the RV for me. Aw. I finished putting everything away, had some dinner, and Mr. Mac and I drove down to pick up my RAV4 from my friend's house so I could get to work in the morning.

So that was my weekend.

Next weekend I'm racing Showdown, the weekend after that is a tri clinic at Lake Del Valle (my favorite swimming place) and then it's back down to Lake San Antonio for the actual Wildflower. During that time I have to come up with a workable strategy for the race because I can't do what I did yesterday and actually get through it, let alone finish in under eight hours (which is my goal).

I assume I won't be dropping sunglasses, water bottles or chains so that should help. Maybe it won't be so windy either. But I think the bike course needs some serious pacing so I still have some left in the tank for the run. I will have to have an actual strategy -- something I've never really had to deal with before.
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