The most common reaction I get from people when I share what I did on August 5th is an instant look of confusion and the words “Why?” Why in the world would you want to be on your bicycle for 7.5 hrs? Why would you want to be miserable all day long? Why do you want to ride 107 miles through the mountains? The answer is simple for me, and maybe for you too. I smile and laugh, because there are times when I ask myself that same question (usually repeatedly during these types of rides) but at the end of the day, I ride because I love it. I love the challenge, the pain, the mental anguish, the resiliency it takes to pedal your bike for hours on end. At the end of the day, no one is forcing you to ride, no one is going to judge you if you stop and quit, no one is going to carry you across the finish line. You have to want this. This is not a ride for the weak minded or the passive rider. It is a ride for the dedicated. The truly crazy people who enjoy the suffer. This is my experience at Tour De Big Bear.
Race morning for me has become a bit of a routine, like most cyclists, we all seem to have our morning rituals that we perform in hopes that our careful planning will translate over to the course and we will be rewarded with energy and strength because we were diligent. Sometimes this is the case and sometimes it’s a grinding mess no matter how well “prepared” you are. With my boyfriend riding the 125 HC and me doing the longest ride with the most elevation I have ever done, I wanted to make sure that I had as much of a leg up as possible. We were told that beet juice is this miracle, end all be all, beverage that we NEEDED to have the night before the race so I made sure to stop at Mothers Market and get us a bottle. It tastes like dirt, but we downed the bottle the night before in hopes we woke up with muscles that never fatigued (will need to continue to drink it for further review) We woke up and had our breakfast, which is always the same: Oatmeal, blueberries, honey & granola with a cup of coffee.
I was told that the aid stations were packed to the brim with food and water so I didn’t pack any of my gels I normally ride with and figured the less things I had to carry the better. We rode to the start of the race for a warm up since our cabin was only 2 miles away. It was a good way to spin the legs in preparation for the nightmare ahead. Brian’s 125 HC race started shortly before mine so I wished him luck and sent him on his way. Lucky for me I was able to meet up with some friends at the start so I knew I would have a group to ride with for the duration of the event.
Our countdown began and we were off. we took off at a pretty solid pace and maintained that as a peloton for the first 15-20 miles. We took turns pulling and rotated when we got tired. This kept the pace up and we had several people jump on as we passed by. We then hit the base of Onyx. I am the first to say I am not a climber. I am terrible at it (working on it) and people could jog faster than I could pedal up a long grade. Onyx is a 7.5 mile climb. It is deceptive, but luckily it was the first real solid climb of the day and the stoke and energy levels were high so we spun up that with little to no issue. At the top of Onyx you descend a long way down into Angelus Oaks. As I was descending at nearly 40mph I realized I was going to have to pedal back up this and was instantly stressed. You hit the bottom town and have to turn around and climb back out. As you start climbing out you are diverted off through Jenks Lake. By this point I had not eaten enough and I was starting to get exhausted and fell off the back of my group. This is when the “Why the heck did I sign up for this” thoughts start rolling in, but it is just the exhaustion talking. The next aid station was a pretty solid distance away and I was fading quickly. Luckily the cycling community is rad and someone rode up next to me and asked if I was hungry and I said yes and she gave me a bar to hold me over until the next aid station. Thanks to her I was able to pick up the pace and re join my group on the next mini decent. After the Jenks lake loop you end up at the base of Onyx again. They have mile markers up the entire thing ticking off the distance and I’m pedaling wondering to myself if I am ever going to see the next sign because I am going so slow.
I finally make it up Onyx and at the top is a wonderful aid station stocked to the brim with treats, food and fluids. I ate everything I could manage, downed another bottle, refilled and we were back on the road. We still had around 22 miles to go and it was at this station that I got the text from Brian saying he was already done with the HC. This motivated us to pick it up a bit and try and finish with a really solid pace. We had been told earlier they took out “The wall” section of the ride so we were quite shocked at mile 102 to hit a 15% grade. Thank goodness it is just a short punchy hill but after 102 miles this little hill felt like a mountain. We cruised the rest of the way through the neighborhoods leading back to the finish line and crossed as a group. Everyone who started with us finished with us and it was a really cool experience. I am looking forward to stepping up the suffer game and riding the HC next year.