21 June 2010

Derailed

Is that gray skies I see over the Grand Mesa???Day Two
Grand Junction to Delta
60 miles
14 June 2010

Since the first Sunday in February, the day the 2010 Ride the Rockies route was announced, I have been planning to ride seven extra miles today if my body could handle it. I wanted my second century.

Today was the day I trained for. Well, Wednesday is a biggie for me, too, because I've never done three mountain passes in one day before. But Wednesday isn't 6,000 feet in elevation gain all at one time. And it's not 93 miles.

Pears! Mmm! Breakfast!Today also was a personal challenge for me because the first time I did this climb, I'd had back surgery six months earlier. I didn't do the first 30 miles through the vineyards of Palisade because I knew I couldn't do 93 miles. I wanted to climb the mountain. That was my goal.

I did climb the entire Grand Mesa, but I've felt ever since that I cheated myself out of that first 30 miles.

Today was my chance to make up for that. I was going to do the entire 93 miles, plus some.

I needed to prove to myself I could do the entire 93 miles. I wanted another century under my belt. I wanted to prove I could do it.

It rained most of the night, but I slept well. I felt so ready.

We'd heard it snowed on the Mesa, so I wore extra layers, just like training all spring long. We left at 5:25, just ten minutes later than planned. We had drizzle almost all the way to the vineyards.

Cherries! Mmm! Breakfast!This was my first time ever doing The Tour of the Vineyards, which officially occurs in the fall. This section of the ride was so aromatic and visually stimulating, I think I may do the official ride and claim the fruity jersey this year! I could smell the pears through the entire orchard route. The cherries look ready to eat. Every once in a while, I caught a good whiff of the peaches and the apples. Made me SO hungry! In just two more months, we'll be back for fresh Palisade peaches!

Today was the first time I'd ever ridden on an interstate (although portions of Vail Pass parallel the very same highway further east). This portion of the ride was as hair-raising as I'd anticipated. They did cone off a lane for us, thankfully, so we were safe, and this portion was only about five miles. Nevertheless, having so many big trucks right next to you going so fast and making so much noise in dusky mist is a bit unnerving.

Then the true climbing begins. This is where I got dropped off to begin my ride five years ago. Drizzle and cloud cover kept the temperature comfortable until about 9,000 feet, and then it got downright cold. Out came the layers again.

Hotcakes! Mmm! Breakfast!Meanwhile, Agent Orange kept things interesting. Agent Orange is a volunteer who carefully scans our route the day before we ride, marking with fluorescent orange paint all the hazards and route instructions, plus some one-liners that keep riders smirking.

"1-70... What were you thinking?!?" was the first bright orange highway message of the day.

Then on a more difficult section of climb came:

"Things could be worse. You could work for BP."

Later I was annoyed by rest stop volunteers who cheerfully told riders, "Only three more miles to the summit!" -- for NINE miles!!! I've done this ride before, so I knew better. Other riders who've never done this don't know how much further the summit truly is, and to me, that would have been utterly demoralizing.

Darn it, tell the truth! You do riders a disservice when you tell sweet little lies.

Loaded SAG WagonAt the top of the climb, I was ready to dance in my saddle because I'd made it! I fueled properly, I'd stretched adequately, and I was mentally in great position for a century. I'd taken a lot of great shots along the way, too, so I felt almost as if I was double-charged.

I shifted to begin the descent. The pedals absolutely froze. They wouldn't go forward, and they wouldn't go backward. I thought the chain had slipped off the chain ring. I looked down, and the chain was still firmly in place.

As I jolted to a stop, I looked back at the cassette, expecting to see the chain caught up somewhere.

I gasped.

The derailleur was between spokes, and the chain looked as if someone had run it through a curling iron.

Ouch!!!Without further inspection, I think I instinctively knew the bike was done. Dead in the water. Or dead in the drizzle. But I'm no mechanic. I was so traumatized by the thought of sagging, I allowed my hopes to soar unrealistically. They'd be able to fix my bike at the next rest stop, I fantasized. If I could just pull the derailleur out of the spokes, I could walk to the next rest stop and not have to sag. (SAG is an acronym for Support And Gear. Each SAG vehicle is equipped with bike racks so volunteers can transport riders who are unable to finish to the next destination.)

A few minutes later, I was on my way, yet missing out on a great straight and smooth descent. Once the road leveled out again, passing riders had time to ask if all was okay.

"Lost my derailleur."

"Bummer! I'll send help!"

The first sag wagon that came by was already full. Grand Mesa traditionally claims more riders than any other segment of any RtR in history. Before my technical problem, I'd noticed each sag wagon that went by was full.

Aid StationI told the driver I didn't need a ride, I could walk to the next rest stop. He insisted I be picked up by the next wagon with an empty seat. Probably liability issues. Or maybe they were worried I might succumb to hypothermia. I didn't worry. All the wagons had been full, so they wouldn't have room for me, and I could just keep walking. The next stop couldn't be more than about a mile away, and that was a piece of cake for me.

As my luck would have it, the next sag that came by was empty. Dang!!! The driver was going back to the previous aid station.

A light bulb went on in my head. The previous aid station was seven miles back!!! I'd actually skipped that station because I didn't need anything when I passed it. If the bike shop stationed there could fix my bike, I could re-ride that seven miles of climb, and I'd have my century!!!

Another Fully Loaded SAGThe next stroke of luck actually was a stroke of luck, even though it didn't have the ending I'd fantasized. The bike shop at the previous aid station was Wheat Ridge Cyclery, the very shop where I bought my bike in 2004! Exactly one month to the day before my first date with The Lizard, when I rode my bike into Arches National Park! Woohoo! I just knew the whiz dudes from Wheat Ridge could work the magic to fix my bike!

"Gnarly," was their initial breathless reaction upon first sight of my tangled derailleur. After surveying the damage, the news got worse.

"This is a nine-speed," one mechanic explained. "These were discontinued a long time ago. We can put a mountain bike derailleur on it, but it's not going to shift as smoothly. If you put a 10-speed derailleur on it, you'll have to change everything."

Major surgery. Major investment. Major discouragement.

In other words, I'd be better off buying a new bike.

Oh, and the derailleur also knocked my wheel out of true, and it damaged two spokes. No kidding.

Drizzle CityWords cannot describe the deep depression that followed as I was sagged, along with my broken bike, to Delta. My century day was held to 60 miles, the same number of miles I'd done five years ago. Back then, I was broken. Now my bike was broken.

On the bright side, I still completed a mighty climb. I'd made it to the top, and I'd done it the long way. But my dream was shattered. What would I do for the rest of the week??? What would I do for the MS-150 next week???

Losing a bike, to me, is like losing a camera. My equipment is a part of me, an extension of me. I feel as if a part of me literally has died.

Back on the bright side, I did finish the climb. I felt I could do another grinding seven-mile climb if given the opportunity, and feeling that strong after 60 hard miles is simply amazing for me. I also didn't have to ride in "The Meat Wagon," the heated, comfy charter bus full of hypothermic and altitude sickness-affected riders who couldn't go any further.

Cold and WetI also got to hear the expansive variety of situations the SAG volunteers must navigate on an emergency basis all day long every single day of a week-long ride. I appreciate the volunteers even more now than I did before, and I already thought they are all super heroes.

I also got to hear the radio report of the official ride photographer capturing a shot of a black bear running across the road near the aid station where I broke down. If only I and my camera could have been there... with my bike... in working order...

My bike is now part road bike/part mountain bike for the duration of the week. I guess I've come full circle. After riding my first RtR on a mountain bike with knobby tires and my second RtR on this road bike, now I'm on a makeshift hybrid!

8 comments :

  1. "OOOOHHHH" what an adventure..

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  2. Oh man - that is SO disappointing for you. I understand... but, at least, they put together your bike so that you can do the rest of the ride this week. That's good news!

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  3. I am enjoying reading about your experiences on RtR. Can't beleive your bike broke! Glad it didn't throw you, though.

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  4. Hope you can continue on your bike and that it doesn't break down any more.

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  5. You went with the mountain bike hybrid? I'm glad you're still getting to ride, but so sorry that your cherished bike is broken :-( I snowboard and remember the first time my board got a de-lam (where the plies of the board pull apart at the edge) and i was heart broken.

    Do you have any idea how your deraileur got bent around like that?

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  6. Hi, Liz

    Age. The bike has about 7,000 miles or so on it, so it's not like I didn't get my money's worth. That was the factory derailleur, and I've done a LOT of climbing on it. Supposedly, heavy duty shifting puts a lot of stress on the derailleur. The metal sheered right off. The guys at Wheat Ridge were amazed at the damage! And, as Iron Needles said, it didn't throw me. It very well could have. Then this report would be totally different from a totally different mindset, as I was moving pretty fast when this happened.

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  7. I'm sorry you weren't able to complete your goal. That bike tried! lol

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  8. Well in that case I'm glad it didn't throw you :)

    Happy riding!

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