Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Surviving North Carolina Training Camp

I returned to Toronto in the wee hours Sunday morning after a 14 hour drive from Asheville, NC. The purpose of this trip was to get on our bikes and ride in wonderful weather, ie 20-25 degree C and nothing but sunshine. It was not to be: the weather Gods just laughed in our faces ALL week long. It would have been warmer to stay in Toronto on most of the days!

There were 9 of us who spent the week in a beautiful rental home on Black Mountain (about 7 miles outside of Asheville), and we were all either triathletes/cyclists/mtn bikers. Interestingly, 5 out of the 9 athletes were also medical residents. So, there was plenty of braun and brains to go around.
The view on Black Mountain

On my very first day of riding, the plan was to tackle Jeter Mountain. There were some steep climbs at the beginning of the ride that seemed to go on forever, and there were times when I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the top. Somehow I managed to stay upright though and made it to the top without any anxiety attacks (something I've battled with in the past whenever climbing steep hills)! I'd say that is progress:) Unfortunately, around 40km into this ride, things turned sour. My riding buddy, suffered a serious crash. We were on a descent, and his front tube flatted/exploded, which caused him to develop a speed wobble. I happened to pass him as he was developing this speed wobble, and then all I heard was this huge popping sound. I thought that his front fork broke- it was that loud and disturbing. I immediately slammed on my brakes and looked behind me, only to see his bike flying into the middle of road and his body flying in the other direction. I got off my bike and just started running toward him and screaming his name to see if he was ok. I was absolutely terrified to even guess what kind of state he was in. Luckily, he is one tough cookie. He broke 3 of his teeth (one of which was bent in half with pulp and nerve exposed), suffered some serious road rash, and has a potential pneumo, but did NOT break any bones. I was so traumatized after watching this horrbile accident unfold that there was no way that I could have gotten back on my bike to continue riding that day. I gladly volunteered to accompany my new friend to the ER instead. We were lucky enough to hitchhike a ride back to our car so that we could find the nearest hospital. What a way to kick-start the first day of training camp!

Despite that horrible first day, I got in a swim on Monday morning, followed by a 66km climb up Elk Mountain, and then I finished off the day with a 20 minute hilly run. On Tuesday I did a 78km ride + 30 minute run off the bike. Wednesday I did a swim+10km run combination, and my bum was happy to have a break from the saddle. And then on Thursday, we made a very poor decision to proceed with our inital plan of climbing Mt. Mitchell. This climb was supposed to be 45km long where you ascend 2300m or so, and then get to descend 45km down. When we started the ride, it was cold and a bit drizzly, but we didn't think too much of it. The first segment of the ride was about 18km long to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It took more than an hour to climb the first 18km, and it was raining and super foggy. I couldn't see 3 feet in front of me. I wasn't feeling particularly good that day, and we should have turned back in those dangerous riding conditions. But of course, braun had to come before brains, and the boys wanted to continue trekking up the mountain. The next stretch on the Blue Ridge Pkwy only got worse. It started snowing, and eventually hailing as we got closer to the summit. Not only that, the temperature was dropping dramatically as we ascended further too. I was ill-prepared for the weather, and had only some thin running gloves on my hands. I already couldn't feel my hands or my feet on the way up. It was going to be a thousand times worse trying to descend the mountain! It was only after 40km of climbing that a group of 4 of us decided that it just wasn't worth it to climb the extra 5km to the summit in those weather conditions. We decided that we better start the descent before the weather got even worse. I only lasted about 2km on the descent before losing all ability to control my breaks. It was right then and there that I kicked myself for being so stupid. I began to realize that we were putting ourselves at serious risk of injury, not only because of hypothermia, but because any of the cars on the mountain likely couldn't see us through the thick fog and the sharp, steep turns on the mountain. I got off my bike, and along with one of the other girls, stood in the middle of the road and waved down cars for help. The third car actually stopped for us, and was willing and able to take both of our bikes and ourselves all the way down the mountain and back to our car. That couple probably saved our lives that day! Once we got back to the car, we discovered that one of the other girls (who later won "smartest rider of the day" award) had turned back after the first 18km and had planned to wait 2-4 hrs for us to finish our ride. She had no idea how much worse the weather got after 18km, but was the only smart one to recognize that 18km was probably the best place to turn around! Anyway, we drove back up the mountain to pick up the other riders along the way. Poor Ming was the only one who even attempted to make it down the mountain and he practically made it all the way back to the car by the time we picked him up. He was so hypothermic that it was scary. He could barely move once I took his bike from him, and he was shaking uncontrollably for 15 minutes in the car with the heat on MAX. Next we picked up two other riders who hid in one of the tunnels on the mountain, while they waited for us to come to the rescue. They were dubbed the "Tunnel Trolls" for the remainder of the trip! Definitely not funny at the time, but funny in hindsight now that we are safe and sound. The three hot dogs who made it all the way to the top of Mt. Mitchell ended up huddling in a bathroom to try and stay warm. They ended up calling the Park Ranger to come to their rescue. The Park Ranger at least drove them to the bottom of the mountain, but they still had to ride the rest of the way to the car. When the Park Ranger asked what they all did for a living, and they responded that they were all doctors, I think he lost all respect for them, LOL!

After our "epic" experience on Thursday, most of us still decided to climb Morgan Hill on Friday. Morgan Hill still entailed 700m of climbing in just under 39km. I love shorter rides, so that was probably one of my favourite rides of the week. The boys even let me be "Queen of the Moutain" on this ride! Better yet, I finally regained most of my confidence back on the steep descents that I had lost after witnessing that crash on the first day.

Despite a few bad experiences on this trip, I was very happy to get outside on my bike for the first time this year. My bike fitness seems to be quite reasonable at this time of year, so hopefully I can build upon it over the next month before my first race at St. Anthony's.

1 comment:

  1. Woah, this is the kind of thing that makes me want to go tubeless. And tell Ming he's a trooper!