This ride is NOT for the faint hearted!, screams Bike Washington.
Some of my tri-peeps set up this group ride for Labor Day. I waffled. Am I fainthearted? I don't think so. I think I am realistic. I like to push myself, but within reason. I'd asked a few folks who have done this ride and who know my abilities to give me their candid opinions, and got some candid answers.
So, I came up with an Alternative Ride, open to anyone who wasn't sure they were up to the full Mt. Weather experience.
The Alternative Ride would start at the same place as the Big Kids (Marshall, Va.), and go 23 miles through beautiful rolling country to Bluemont, the start of the first big climb. We'd decide when we got there whether we wanted to go ahead or not.
Only one person took me up on my offer, my tri-peep, Supersnail. S. and I took off together, about 1/2 hour after all the Big Kids left. We were out to have fun.
Even the flat part of this ride is hilly. But I managed every single hill. Thank God for the granny gear, which I renamed the testosterone gear, because I PERSONALLY KNOW SOME GRANNIES WHO CAN KICK YOUR ASS.
Just had to get that out there.
S., on the other hand, who is about the size of a minute, had no granny gear. She only had two chain ring thingies in front. So that automatically confers hardcore-ness on S.
We had a simple rule on our no-drop ride: Whoever was in front would wait at the next turn for the person behind. That way no one had to slow down or speed up for the other person, but no one would ever be left alone. Perfect-o!
[INSERT BREATHTAKING PHOTO HERE THAT IS ON S.'s CAMERA.*]
We made it past mansions, and roadkill, and vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, farms, horses, cows, all the way to the General Store in Bluemont, where we stopped for water . And where, much to our surprise, as we were contemplating our next move, our favorite tri-peep J. came riding up to us, back from the group tackling Mt. Weather
[INSERT HILARIOUS VIDEO HERE*]
"Ut-oh," I said as J. approached. "Tell us! How bad is it??" Like he was coming back from the front lines. Which he kind of was.
So he told us it was hard. And if big strapping J. thought it was hard, err, what did that portend for us??
Nevermind, we decided to press on, to at least go up the first big hill out of town, and what's more, as a cruel joke, we were taking J. with us. He'd have to climb it again!
The first hill started about 2 miles past the General Store, just past the Ice Cream Store.
Holy. Mother. of. God.
We started up. I had been trying the shift up/stand up (hey that sounds like a Bob Marley song!) shift down/sit down routine advocated in this article. I had been trying to keep a good cadence throughout the ride. My only goal now was to not fall over and to keep going forward.
J. and S. started up, then stopped. I went past them in slow motion, asking J. if I should stop for a while. He said, laconically, "Probably." (He's a man of few, but carefully chosen, words.) But I knew if I stopped I'd never get going again, so I pushed on.
Holy. Mother. of. God.
I kept going. I kept going. I dug deep. I kept going.
I have no idea how I made it up that hill, but I did. At the top there's a hairpin turn so you have no idea that you are actually at the top until you take the turn. Once I turned I started laughing and let out a yell, "I made it!!!" I was so happy!
I sailed up to the start of the next big leg, Rt. 7, a major highway, waited, and watched. A few other cyclists sailed by me, heading up to Mt. Weather, the biggest hill. J. and S. soon joined me and we took this fantastic photo of all three of us
[INSERT AWESOME PHOTO AT THE TOP OF BLUEMONT HILL*]
We hung out for a while, wistfully talking about proceeding up the main attraction, how hard would it be, could we do it? But we talked ourselves out of it. Another day. We'd done a lot. And J. did it TWICE!
We turned and flew down the monster hill to the other Main Attraction: the Ice Cream Store.
To make a long long story short, we hung out for a while at a store right out of the Waltons (Me: "This is right out of the Walton's!" S: "Huh?" J:"What's the Walton's?" Sigh, nevermind.) then hopped on our bikes for the long hilly ride home. It was long, and beautiful, and funny. We sang songs, and joked about how hell is an endless uphill in Virginia. We laughed so hard we cried. We flew down hills through little towns and we worked on our hill-climbing skills.
We learned what we were made of.
We celebrated Labor Day in style.
My BFF Supersnail far right.
P.S. Photos to come!