Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tour de Quabbin 2011

Well, I did it. I completed the 2011 Tour de Quabbin. It was beautiful, and very, very ugly. 68 of the most beautiful miles of road in Massachusetts; 4700 of the most ugly vertical feet of climbing east of the Berkshires. This included three good-sized hills of up to 10%, and five lengthy stretches, some of them miles long, rising to 6 or 7%. Cruelly, the two most brutal sections came within the last 15 miles.

I had done this loop a couple years ago, and sailed through it, but that was at the tail end of the season. Yesterday, I was sadly undertrained, and I suffered like a dog on the last 15 or so miles. This included the classic "nearly fell off the bike" scenario, involving leg cramps so painful, I swore I might never stand upright again. I even walked the nasty 10% hill into Wendell -- only because the pain made it impossible to pedal.

But I finished the final seven miles on the bike (very, very slowly), as knackered as I've ever been on a bicycle. I cursed. I wheezed. I reached that point where simply thinking a thought was so painful, I had to empty my mind completely in order to complete the next turn of the pedals. I opened credit accounts with gods I made up on the spot, and instantly maxed them out. I flashed on Tim Krabbe's immortal quote, "I had to go on. I couldn't do it anymore, but I had to go on. Body and spirit shook hands and moved to their corners."

In the end, I rolled into the start zone alone, and nearly the last to finish. But you know what? I finished that sucker. Lots were faster than me -- but no one suffered as I did, and finished nonetheless. (I will, however, note as a point of pride that I was among the first to roll into the lunch zone, nearly halfway through the ride.)

A word of thanks to the warm people who did a stellar job organizing this terrific challenge; the vibe was family-friendly, very cool and helpful, the map was great, and there were super-nice folks in support vans (mostly parents ready to pick up their kids when they wore out) all along the way, though I will again vainly point out that I was helping others with tools and advice, but never used support myself.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are eleven thousand choice ones:

Waiting for the rain to let up at the start zone.

The eponymous Quabbin Reservoir, largest inland body of water in MA, around which we rode.

View in the other direction -- the Quabbin Reservation.

Lunch at a winery in Hardwick. Few partook of the grape...

Reaching Rte. 122 in Petersham, mile 47, called for a celebratory photo.

Finally at Wendell General Store. Wendell is home to quirkiness, like this floppy-hatted dude on his "bike."

More delightful Wendell quirkiness. There was an outdoor poetry reading going on across the road from the store.

This was gone in about five minutes.

Spent and grimy legs at the finish.

Vaya, looking like a Vaya should.

The tale of the tape.

When I was finished, the mere thought of being on a bicycle made me want to vomit. This morning, I'm pondering my next event. I think they call that, "punishment for gluttons."


Anonymous said...

Awesome. That route looks a lot tougher than my metric!


Juancho said...

Way to make it happen. Who cares how the rest of those poor bastards finished. We're all alone in the saddle. Well done.

Velosopher said...

Humble thanks to you both. You guys help me feel normal. That's a big gift!

Glenn_in_MA said...

I agree...well done! That finish looks soooo cruel. It looks like riding the loop clockwise would not be as bad!

My very first century ride (a MS charity ride in the late 80s) included the Quabbin Hill road on the southern end. It was 95 degree day and I thought I was going to die on that road. I seem to remember that it was about 3 miles of climbing. I suffered badly that day...but the hook was in!

Velosopher said...

Thanks, Glenn. Yes, the only other time I did a Quabbin loop, I went clockwise, and it was more manageable. Also, I didn't ride through Wendell -- though somehow, the climbing was nearly identical in footage...

The Quabbin lookout road at the end of a century? Oof. It's such a constant grade!