First I just have to say if it weren't for Carmen not letting me quit and Kelly coming back to ride with me I would've ridden back to the FJ mobile and called it a day.
It started out alright as we left the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa. Then we hit Calistoga road and my HR immediately stayed in the upper 170s - low 180s. I thought I was going to die but I knew I wouldn't so I just decided to keep it slow and steady. (FYI 1 hour earlier I had just wrapped up an hour spin class where I realized I must be fighting a cold or something - my heart rate AVERAGED 170 when it normally averages about 156 in spin)
Then we hit the top and I thought 'okay, it will be okay.'
Nearing the bottom of the hill, I looked ahead and saw Carmen miss the right turn onto St. Helena Road so I had to chase her down. At the same time, she was thinking she had to hurry up because she wanted to catch the rest of the group. So she was moving fast. Yelling at the top of my lungs, I gave it about 10 tries but she didn't hear me. I had to sprint twice to get closer; with everything I could muster, I yelled in the loudest voice I could ever imagine, "CAAAAAAARRRRRRRRMEEEEEENNNNNN!"
She heard me. We turned around.
We rode quickly along the road to make up as much time as possible. Kelly came back to ride with us, which was nice. St. Helena Road was hard but I was cheered up by the fact that I love it even if the climb is hard at the end.
As we neared the top, I looked behind and noticed some other folks coming up on us. It's Liz Hatch and two friends (whose names I later learned were Bob and Eric). I say "where did you guys come from?" and Bob says "SOMEBODY was late!" He was smiling - Liz had been running late. Liz rode up next to me and I said hi and reminded her we'd met last year at the Risibisi ride and she said 'oh yeah!' Then they dropped us.
We got to the top and enjoyed the view. Kelly and Carmen had never been up that way so it was cool. Then I cautioned them and said "now be careful on this descent. There's some really tight turns so just take it easy around the corners."
Away I went. I was cautious but having fun, reveling in this descent I'd worked my butt off for. About halfway down, this guy is waving a wheel saying "SLOOOWWW DOWN! PLEASE SLOW DOWN! SOMEBODY CRASHED."
I brake hard as I come around the turn. It's Liz. She's on her side, crying, her friends are there with her. Two motorists have stopped to help, one is on the phone with 911. Kelly and Carmen soon arrive. We all stop to, I don't know, be supportive? It didn't seem right to just ride away. I called Steve and Chris. We decided to at least wait until the ambulance arrived. Liz didn't know why she was there or what day it was. The way her fork was broken was crazy. I'd never seen anything like that. (We guessed she'd swung wide into the curve, slid on some pine needles into the guardrail and broke her fork that way; her helmet was severely cracked as well. It seemed like, thankfully, it wasn't anything more than a couple broken ribs - I am hoping that's all it was and that the concussion wasn't too severe)
Anyway, once she was in good hands, Carmen, Kelly, Steve (from West County Revolution - awesome bike shop), Eric and I all took off. A few turns later we see a cyclist with a wheel. His rim tape had scrunched up to the side so the spoke was poking through. Steve and Carmen stopped to help. The rest of us stopped briefly but realized we couldn't help in any way so we kept going.
We hit the bottom and waited a bit for Carmen but didn't see her and I knew she would be okay with Dennis and Steve so we took off. Thank goodness for Eric. He pulled us almost the whole way to Calistoga (only 7 miles but my legs were still stiff from all the standing). Again my HR was in the upper 160s - low 170s. My legs hurt. Everything hurt. I was so bummed about Liz. Seeing another crash in the space of 6 months sucks (Click here for my Santa Barbara Tri experience).
Finally hit Calistoga. Glad to see everybody. Relieved. Dreading going back. Legs hurt. Tired. Bummed out. Chris from Fitness Journal was so awesome. He took my bike and said 'what do you need?' and made me a PB&J sandwich. Mmmm. Having the FJ mobile and Chris on a ride is the best thing ever. His presence (and the entire FJ crew, really) made a big difference in my mood.
I tried to shake it off and enjoy the moment but it was hard.
We pushed off. Calistoga Road was hard. But I did it. And I was proud of myself. Carmen and I worked together for a little bit after the climb. I was just about to have her pull but then the next hill started. I think that's where I really lost it. Cardio-wise, I was okay. Yes, HR high, but I can sustain high HR. I just felt like I didn't have any strength left in my legs and the grade of some of those hills was forcing me to use strength, which I just didn't have. I could feel my calves beginning to cramp. Ugh.
As we neared the top of that second climb, I told Carmen, "I think I'm going to call it a day." She would have none of it and told me it wasn't an option.
We crested the hill and I took off. It was a pretty sweet descent where I didn't have to brake too much - gentle turns and enough of a grade that I could pick up some speed. It felt soooo good.
As the road flattened out I looked up and saw Kelly riding back (again) to ride with me which I thought was really nice and awesome and helpful and if it weren't for Kelly and Carmen I would've been miserable.
Kelly and I finished the ride together. Then I waited around for a long time for the BMC reception to begin. I was really waiting for the FJ mobile to arrive get my stuff. Not really sure what I'll do with an autographed picture of Team BMC but it was still nice of them to do that.
So that was that. And now I have a cold and my legs are like WTF?
It was an okay day. A bit chaotic. But I did have some fun in the midst of it all. Please be careful on descents.