Finishing what I started
I had a blast riding in Italia! It was crazy hard, but awesome. I am a much better rider for having gone. And I met some really fun people while I was there. The place we stayed, Hotel Gran San Bernardo, was great. The food and wine was amazing (and plentiful and included). Our bike guides were relentless!
The views of the countryside were truly breathtaking (and not only because we were climbing and literally out of breath). Had carrying my camera been an option or stopping to take photos would have been feasible (I would have never been able to start up again), I would have taken some truly out of this world pictures. My iPhone camera did a subpar job capturing the awesomeness of what I saw. Oh well…I did the best I could.
During the 10 days we were in Riccione, there were two days of rain which, coincidentally, coincided with my long run workout days… I was very appreciative of the accommodation! I also managed to get my tush to a pool for 4100m of fun… I have to admit, though, that as a direct result of the eating, drinking, and merry making with the Ozzies and the Brits who were there, I was a little more buoyant than I care to be.
During the week we rode every day we could. Because of rain on Sunday, we started off on Monday with about 50k. Agostino went easy on us! Tuesday we made the trek to San Marino. Crazy climbing… wow. But what a beautiful area (apparently it is its own country… I should have brought my passport). Wednesday was another rain day so I went for my long run. Travelers’ tip: don’t get lost in a country if you can’t speak the language! Lucky for me I carried the hotel’s business card with me and could at least ask for directions in Italian. Even luckier for me I found a police officer who spoke English and had a city map to give me after he pointed me in the right direction! Crisis averted. Whew! Thursday we went to an olive grove and had a spectacular lunch (complete with a zillion courses and local wine) which made the long and hilly ride home a little less enjoyable. 🙂 Friday was a ride to Urbino and back… Saturday was a rest day for me as I prepped for the Nove Colli. I headed out in my wetsuit and jumped in the Adriatic Sea for 20 minutes or so. Beautiful. Sunday was THE day…
I went to Italy planning to ride the Nove Colli long course, which is 200k of craziness (the nove colli is 9 mountains, hence the name “nove”). I was actually riding pretty well during the week. Even my friends were surprised (maybe a bit more surprised than I would have preferred) with how I was climbing during the week. All week the weather forecasts called for rain on race day. Ugh! The night before, though, the forecast changed and it was projected the rain would hold off until the afternoon. Fingers crossed!
When daylight arrived (as we waited in our starting corral), it was sunny. Good sign! The sun didn’t last long, though. The clouds rolled in fairly soon… and then it started to sprinkle. All I could do was hope that sprinkles were it until I was finished…
The first 3 climbs were hard. Each was progressively harder than the one before (either because it had a higher grade and/or because it was longer)… the third seemed to go on forever… my legs felt okay but my lower back was starting to really bother me. I’ve had this issue off and on all spring – usually when riding hills on my road bike – I think from the new position and lack of serious hill training.
About 90k in I started wondering if I could finish the long course… Well, that’s not totally a totally fair characterization of what I was thinking. If you know me you know I’m stubborn, so, yes, I could have finished and would have finished come hell or high water… but I had a time limit as far as getting on a bus to get back to my hotel – and I had serious concerns about making that cut. The bus was scheduled to leave at 5:30pm. If we weren’t on it we had to find our own way back (train or cab). This nugget of information weighed on me like a ton of bricks. It seriously kept me up Saturday night… I was crazy with anxiety!
As I learned at the top of the fourth climb (talking to a few riders on the Trek team whom I met in a tent behind the mechanics booth while I was getting my chain/derailleur looked at – it was squeaking in the big ring, which I was in a lot as I did a lot of climbing), that mountain pass is affectionately known as “soul crusher” – it has an 18% grade… what fun! I didn’t make it all the way up, but I wouldn’t say that getting off the bike to walk to the top crushed my soul as I passed a lot of carnage before I had to give it up (heck, I saw a lot of carnage on the first 3 climbs). I was so close, too… had I known where the crest was I may have been able to gut it out… maybe (hmm… maybe not).
I have to admit, though, having to walk made me think hard about the rest of the day. If I didn’t make it up number 4, did I have 5 more mountain passes in my legs and low back?
About the time the course turns and you have to decide whether to go short or long it was raining again… and I’d just screamed down a mountain making hair pin turns on wet roads with bikes passing me on both sides and cars coming up the mountain in the opposite direction (so, literally, there was screaming involved)… not exactly a fun and relaxing experience. So, I made the call.
I was disappointed as hell in myself… but at the next rest stop a contingent of the Aussies rolled in and we talked. I don’t think they knew my plan was to go long (or didn’t remember or care). They were happy to see me and invited me to join them for the rest of the ride. They had planned to finish together so we waited the rest of their crew to roll in before getting back on our bikes. I joined them and that was a lot of fun. They are an awesome group of one-for-all riders (I’d learned during the week as they folded me into the mix and when I, or anyone else, would fall off the back of the line someone would always drop back to get me/them)… I’m very strong descending and on flats as are a few of the Yabbies, but we stuck together (no more climbing after soul crusher) and had a lot of laughs the last 20-30k… It rained off and on the whole way back and I was becoming more and more at one with my decision.
As we were about 1k from the finish, we pulled over to gather together, take off our rain gear, and roll in in a line for a great finisher’s photo. It was awesome. I was a part of the Yabbie Diver team. This is a great group of folks from Bellarat!
The few folks who did go long (1 American, 3 of the Aussies, 2 Brits) got in in the 4:30-5pm range… our bus left at 5:30. They all looked shelled. The course and the weather certainly took its toll on them. The guys who went long were all very strong… and there’s no way I would have only been only 30-60 minutes behind them given the day’s conditions. Not to mention I would have been cold, wet, and miserable. I made the right call for the day. No regrets.
I talked to the one American, my friend, who went long and asked him about the course and the day. He’s a very strong climber and a solid rider (his only glitch is nutrition, he’s not a long course person and struggles with nutrition – so the cool temps were perfect for him). He had a tough day and said it would take a lot of convincing for him to do the long course again. He also told me how miserable I would have been (which I knew) and said something to the effect of my not being able to do it/how hard it would be for me to do.
Oh, really? I don’t think he meant to be condescending or insulting but I prickled. I appreciate that I’m not the world’s best climber but I am a decent rider (who, I might add, has only been riding a bike for 4 years). I am also very capable of pacing myself and can go all day long (shit, I’ve done 5 marathons and 2 IMs). I do not like being told that I can’t do something. I took that as a personal challenge.
I was disappointed I threw in the towel, but was very at peace with my decision based on the conditions and the day. But to say I would be incapable of finishing ever, well, that’s just BS and I won’t, I don’t, accept that. No offense, he’s my friend and all, but fuck him. I don’t need that kind of negativity and lack of support. He’s right, on that day given my training, I would have been out there all day and may not have finished. But, I AM going to go back and finish what I started. That’s the kind of person I am.
I have unfinished business in Riccione, Italia.