Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Through the Bonking Glass: Looking Back at 3 State 3 Mountain 2010

I’m not going to lie: I’ve never actually read Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece Alice in Wonderland or its sequel Through the Looking Glass (but I’ve seen the movie for Alice, so that counts for something, right? Right?! Bueller??!!). That being said, I’ve always admired the sheer imaginative muscle that it must have taken to create the world behind both books. I also love the notion that journeys do not always occur merely in the physical space, but also in your mind.

By this juncture, the three of you left that are still reading this are saying, “um, ok, so what, pray tell, is your point?”

My point is this: your head can really take you places, but it can also hold you back if you’re not paying attention, and I learned a little something about that this weekend. At one point, Alice looks in the mirror and wonders what the world is like on the other side of that looking glass. 

When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt good. I had a good breakfast, and suited up in my Fat Cyclist kit (complete with some new LiveStrong gloves courtesy of Legz Hernando) in plenty of time to make it to the start line for what would, by all accounts, be an awesome ride.  

 It was all uphill from here.

What I didn’t account for was the humidity and my propensity to sweat like a pig. At no point did I set out to bonk, but I did, and I learned something about myself in the journey on the other side of that bonk.

If you came here for a typical ride report, you’re in the wrong place. I had a wonderful, beautiful ride this past Saturday with my wife and some of my closest friends, but I won’t be talking about that type of journey very much right here. 

I came to this same event last year and did not complete it because of inclement (seriously, it was Biblical, where’s-the-Ark rain and lightning) weather and was severely disappointed and borderline depressed that I did not finish. At the time, I was dealing with an illness that had already forced me to abandon training for an attempt to complete my first marathon a month earlier, so to lose a second goal in a row so quickly hit me very, very hard. I came back this year to slay that dragon as my first big goal of the year, and I found an even larger lesson. This ride humbled me. Laid me low. Very low. I bonked hard. I suffered. I hit the wall at about the 50-mile portion of the ride, barely managed to survive the second half, and sustained a big blow to my ego.

But, I finished.

Last year, had I gotten to the point that I did this past Saturday, I have no doubt at all that I would have quit.

This year, I did not quit.

Earlier this year I was taken to task by my coach and friend (Jeni Schumacher) because I was complaining that, although I was hitting some intermediate goals I had set, I hadn’t hit them with the strength or panache that I, in my own addled psyche, figured I should. That may sound stupid, but I’ve always been a self-deprecating person, very much to a fault. With me, it’s always “yes, but…”  I typically joke and just say that I’m a realist, but in fact, it’s just a defense mechanism to try and keep myself from being disappointed. Jeni has had me focusing on positive thinking, visualization, and self-belief. I’m not all the way there yet, but I think I’m improving. 

I have no doubt that I would have been just as much of a brat as I had been earlier in the year at the finish line in Chattanooga had Jeni not already corrected my outlook.

This past Saturday, I wasn’t a brat.

Well, I don’t think I was. At least no more than usual... Let’s just move on…

The lesson: goals aren’t matters of degrees. You either hit them or you don’t. There are no style points, no “yes, but’s”, no “kindof’s”.

I hit my goal. It felt good. More than overcoming a distance, I overcame myself, and, in so doing , realized that the true goal was inside me.

Now, I can’t wait to go back next year and beat the crap out of my goal.
 At the end, looking better than I felt. Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know who this ride was with and for...

Awards accolades and inside jokes
What follows will only make sense to my ride mates who went the whole 100 miles with me, but whatever. I submit to you, dear reader, the first annual Yummy NOMs 3 State 3 Mountain “We Very Much Let the Dogs Out” Awards:

Winner of the Mighty Mouse “Here I Come to Save the DAAAAAAAAY” Award
Taylor Lyles, for always swooping back to pull everybody who needed it back to the group, and then oh-so-smugly, blowing past the group on the climbs like we were standing still even after having to chase back on. This kid’s got so much natural talent on the bike that it makes me sick. The fact that he is also such a good man and willing to help alone keeps me from self-combusting in jealousy at his abilities.

Winner of the Billy Goat “I have no business climbing like this but I’m going to anyway” Award
My cousin-in-law, Jason Brandt. Schmuck. He’s from Florida, has NEVER ridden up anything more than a highway overpass in his life, and he comes up to the mountains and makes US look like flatlanders. Stupid 150 lb Floridians make it look sooooo easy. I’ll say it again, with utmost admiration, SCHMUCK!!!

Winner of the Disappearing Man “wait, where did the rest of you go?” Award
John Siddens, for training so hard in the run-up to Mount Mitchell, that he must have dropped at least  a quarter, if not a third, of his body weight. John’s one of my favorite riding buddies, and these long epics are always made better when he’s around, especially when you can grab his wheel on the big descents and really get up some speed.

Winner of the Energizer Bunny “I’m a bike shop owner, this is my first vacation since I got married, I’m here with my two young kids, and I haven’t slept, but I keep going, and going, and going” Award
Rich Dybdahl, for not only having more energy that I could ever hope to have in a similar situation, but for somehow, getting STRONGER as the ride wore on. Seriously. He was better on Lookout than he was on Suck Creek. Oh, and he also can quote Space Balls, so we have to give him some kind of an award. If you're ever in the Mt. Dora, FL area, pay Rich a visit at Mount Dora Cycles.

Winner of the White Rabbit “Thanks for getting me up that last climb and we have to keep the Alice in Wonderland theme somehow” Award
Beth Rusch, for rocking the climbs, while rocking her white Cyclists Against Cancer kit, and keeping this completely trashed rider from giving up on the wall at the end of Lookout Mountain. You kept me pedaling, and I was really happy and proud to finish that last climb with you.

Winner of the Little Engine that Could “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” Award
Paula Whitley, for struggling mightily, working hard, and making it all the way through the ride with a huge smile on your face, all the while rocking the pink compression socks. Paula’s the easiest person to find in the group (see above regarding the big smile and pink socks), and always one of the most fun to talk to.

Winner of the Enrique Iglesias “I Can Be Your Hero, Baby” Award
The wifey, for blowing my mind for the umpteenth time with the strength and determination you displayed out there. Nikki owned this ride. I can honestly say that I never cease to be amazed by my bride and that I am a lucky fool to have somehow tricked her into spending her life with me.

A Yummy NOMs First
We here at Yummy NOMs headquarters are not prone to hyperbole or to doling out awards lightly, so we are proud to bestow our first double award on the organizers, staff, volunteers and sponsors of the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge. It’s rare that an event matches challenge, beauty, fun, and incredible support and organization in equal parts and all in one, tasty package, but these people have done it.  They’ve got great terrain, but they match it with many well-placed SAG stops, police presence at pretty much every intersection (yes over all 100 miles), a well-marked route, and the most helpful, friendliest, and kindest support staff on this Earth. There’s even free recovery NOMs in the form of Krystal burgers and chix at the end! (side note: we here at Yummy NOMs don’t eat fast food that often, but we submit to you that there are fewer sites in this world more welcome than that of a person handing you a free Krystal bag with two mini-hamburgers, a mini chicken sandwich, and fries after you’ve burned almost 9,000 calories.) There’s no way that this ride could be done better.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you are a cyclist in the southeastern US, you owe it to yourself to come to this event at least once. Mitchell may be more glamorous, but I guarantee you that you will not have more fun anywhere than 3 State 3 Mountain. Chattanooga is a wonderful town, and this ride is about as close to perfect as I can imagine. 

It is for these reasons that we double up our awards for 3 Mountain 3 State Challenge with both the Yummy NOMs Seal of Approval, and the Yummy NOMs Tedd Garner Seal of Epic-ness:

Congratulations, and I will see you next year.

Until next time, stay hungry, friends…