"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


March 10: One hundred three miles

My first Century. There were no donut stops. No coffee breaks. And there were certainly no recumbents.

We started with the beginning of a regular camp and all-around popular area ride, the "Atascadero 50". We had a relatively easy climb for about 5 or 6 miles and the group stayed together for the most part through the beginning of it. The paceline was a bit lurchy, but soon we crested and had a few nice rollers, keeping a good speed up. Then there was a turn, and we hit another "stinger." I stayed with Randy and a few of other 3's and 4's, but below one switchback we watched some expected quick climbers and some surprising efforts. Jacques was right on Ed's wheel heading up towards the top of the day's first big climb. We crested soon after and those guys were waiting for us, but were gone in a flash down the first truly technical descent of camp.

I tried to keep the speed up, but I am still trying to visualize my lines better, and I rode the brakes far too much. Before camp, we talked about braking hard but less, so you don't heat up your rims too much, just enough to slow your speed down to take the turn at a safe bank, but swinging through freely and using gravity and the camber to get you through. I lost several places but I am here to learn, not win. Getting down safe is the prime objective here.

We reached a gas station and had to stock up on extra food and water as the sag wagon was still waiting on a slower rider to come down from that last climb and wasn't there for us. It was on to Peachy Canyon.

I sorta wish I'd could've gone a more recreation ride through the Canyon. Peachy Canyon's Winery was one of our best sellers at Sam's when I worked there, and was one of my favorites as well. I had no idea what to expect with this climb, although I did know we were doing over 7,000 feet that day. But as I've never really done any paced climbing before this trip, how could I really gauge that in the first place?

Climbing is a funny thing. The pack is riding along, the hammerfest is usually done by that point, and the experienced guys are saving themselves, guys like me are just watching and learning. The chatter is going, the spin is fast, and there's an easy, steady hum of the drive trains working over cogs. Then, very subtly, the grade increases in the distance, then reaches the pack, and gradually, everyone shuts up, the chatter replaced by the clicking of dérailleurs.

Gaps open up as weaker riders in the middle of the pack fall off. If you're behind one of them, you have to make a decision fast, before the gap gets too wide to bridge. And in a climb where the lead pack has the billy goats of any experienced cycling team, even a gap of twenty yards can be too much. And if you crash at the beginning of the climb?

I was trying to find my rhythm. Looking at my computer, and having just bridged a gap. I'd found another wheel to pace on with the group. I wanted to stay on as long as possible, but I knew with the first real attack I'd be dropped hard. But I brushed the wheel in front of me. Too bad we still had a day until the skills clinic.

Instead of keeping my weight to the side I touched, I instinctively went opposite and down I went. Several riders came by, but no one stopped. I probably wouldn't have either. My computer broke out of its mount bracket and several items fell from my pockets. I was still a bit in shock after the jolt from rhythm to reality, and I was grateful to find Peter at my side, handing my a Clif bar and my baggy with ID and cash in it.

"Alright, Morrissey. Let's go."

And together we climbed. We picked up Bob soon after, and the three of us paced each time the other two slowed. I am not a goat by any stretch. And probably never will be. I'm just big. But I found a rhythm and we caught every single rider who passed me when I crashed and then some. With my computer in pocket I worked on RPE alone, and probably to my benefit. Without that feedback, I was much more in tune with my body while going through such uncharted territory. I drove the pace for much of the climb and hitting the top, I felt drained, but surprised at myself.

Too bad they they all got me on the descent.

The 3rd group, as it turned out, was waiting for us at cross roads midway down the descent from the Canyon. They left when we arrived, and I stayed back knowing there were several other teammates behind. Bob showed up soon after, and he chased, and when Heidi and Rick arrived, they agreed to take the relay and I began the chase after the group.

It was mostly a fast descent with several fun rollers that I was able to take in the drops without changing gears. You'd keep your momentum going, mashing big round pedal strokes, reaching the top before your cadence got too low, and then building up steam for speed down the next descent...2 inches down, 1 inch up, 2 inches down...

I finally sighted Bob just as he was turning right back on the highway 46 and the back half of the "Atascadero 50" and the group was maybe 50 yards up from him. I had to bust it bit but was soon on to the back of the group in time for pretty big rollers. We were pretty tired and at first the tempo was fairly easy, but it began to pick up quite bit.

Soon there were a few off the back and I was fighting to stay in the somewhat lurching unorganized climbs and gapping descents. Suddenly I heard Jeff and Kirby yelling from behind.

I thought I'd missed the turn, but when Jeff reached me, I'd heard my worst fear.

"Leonard crashed."

I remember there being a large rock in the shoulder. You must hold your line and think in positive terms. Thinking "don't hit rock" is still thinking about the rock and not your line (around the rock). The brain just works in absolutes and only hears "rock". But you also must rely on your wheel to point out those hazards. Whatever the case, it appeared Leonard hit the rock and launched out into the highway.

Lucky Leo

It could've been bad. Like Beth bad. Jeff said later he was over the yellow line. Lying there. Had a car or truck been there?

I don't want to think about it.

Once the van came and Leonard was picked up, it was downhill and downwind all the way home. The view from the top of the last roller before the long descent into Cambria was almost heart wrenching. The tops of the lower hills stretched to the coast like a soft, cloth green napkin, touched with mist. I wish I could've grabbed a shot but by that time the roller coaster was already rolling and I was passing 30mph.

We hit the bottom and still had thirty to go. I will close with this. My feet hurt. Like they were on fire. A hot spot like stepping on coals every time I stopped pedaling...so being in the draft was strangely painful. The coast was beautiful, but I just wanted to get home. The Pepsi in the van was inviting, but the shade and relief inside were even more so. But, with Kirby and Tamera suffering as they, for me to give up then would've been a flat out insult.

The ride ended with me back in the room, fighting a bit of nausea, making a recovery drink and eating a builder bar in nearly one bite, my body screaming for protein. 15 minutes later I felt human again.

Pizza for dinner. Sleep came hard and fast.

The ride out:
Ride Day 3a
Coming into Moro Bay, Chris MacFarland:
Chris MacFarland at Moro Bay
29 miles to go:
Almost Home
One last grab-n-go from the van:
Last Stop

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