Sunday, July 31, 2011
I will be in Colorado for the D2R2 this year. Why I keep going back for that sufferfest is beyond me. I barely escape alive each time. Yet I was sad I had to miss it this year.
A new ride popped up on the calender last year. It was called the Grand Fundo, a play on words from Gran Fondos that have spread from Europe to the US. I've never done a gran fondo. They are a semi-competitive event with riders of all abilities participating. Finishers receive a time. You can chose to race it or socialize and enjoy the scenery. Some of the bigger gran fondos have many thousands of participants.
Jeremy Powers Grand Fundo is a fund raiser for the J.A.M. fund. The emphasis of the ride is on FUN. Finisher do not receive a finishing time. The course is in the same area and hits very similar terrain to the D2R2 randonnee with many dirt roads. Last year there was a single route option, 65 miles long. This year, there was an extended route option adding 20 miles with extensive additional climbing. Of course, I wanted the full, special treatment. This was going to be my "D2R2 ride" this year. The HUNdo is so named because it rides like it is a HUNdred miles. In my opinion, it was way harder than any paved century ride I've done.
Riding buddies DaveP and BrettR signed up for the HUNdo with me. Teammates Carl Ring and Dana Ernst also signed up for the long option. It was soupy hot. I had no doubt I would suffer hydration woes on this ride. It was supposed to be a fun ride, right? Take it easy, socialize, enjoy the back country? It didn't exactly go down like that...
About 300 of us lined up at 10am with police escort and SRAM support. The ride group was as diverse as it gets, from top pros organizing the event to recreational weekend warriors. I was quite far back when we rolled out. I heard someone say "I haven't ridden in a big group like this before!" Not good. There was sketchiness all around me and it wasn't easy to move up. We climbed a modest hill at a civil pace, then a curvy descent followed. The speed was quite high, and riders were pretty much curb to curb across the road.
Without warning, a guy cuts across my line a few feet ahead of me, clearly on a trajectory of doom. With rear tire skidding, he went off the road into a boulder strewn ditch and rag-dolled. His bike flew up and nearly hit me in the head. It sounded and looked horrific, but others behind me said he got right back up. That freaked me out. I made an earnest effort to move closer to the front.
About five miles in we hit a sustained climb that thinned the ranks a bit. The pace was less civil. That was fine by me. Around the 15 mile mark, we got to the Kings Highway climb. I believe this was mostly dirt. The pace was now far from civil. The pack disintegrated. I did my best to stay with the leaders. This meant tapping into the VOmax realm, a very dangerous thing for me to do on such a hot day. The gravel leveled off at pavement with a hard right turn. It almost hurt my neck to look up at riders climbing an even steeper grade. There were overgeared riders weaving all over to keep momentum. Eventually the 600ft climb came to an end. Maybe 50 of us remained.
Everybody stopped at the first water stopped around the 20 mile mark. I had already emptied two extra large bottles. My legs felt a bit tweaked from the explosive hard efforts, and we had four hours to go. Yee-haw!
The next 10 miles were rolling and civilized. It was a select riding group, having dispatched the chaff on Kings Highway. We were 1000ft higher than where we started and it felt a little cooler. When the icecream truck came into view, there was a sprint for icecream. We all stopped again. I couldn't resist. Chocolate chip cookie icecream sandwich. I didn't read the label, but I bet 500 calories. Dave asked if I wanted the last half of a Gatorade bottle, and of course, I said sure. While I was looking for a place to dispose the empty bottle, everybody took off. Sweet! I chased for the next 15 minutes to catch the lead group.
The next section saw many moderately steep climbs. The lead group kept getting smaller, meaning I too eventually lost contact. Dave and Brett also got popped out. I was never more than a minute back. We hoovered between 1400 and 1600ft before a major plummet. Near the bottom of this plummet was the fork in the route. Right was shortcut back for the 60 miler, left for the 80 miler. I did not see the sign. I was ahead of Brett and Dave and just following other dropped riders ahead of me. I continued bombing down the shortcut route. Brett caught up to me and said "so you decided to do the Fundo?" I was like what? He explained, then I was like WTF! I serious considered heading back with him, only 10-15 miles from the finish at that point. But no. I'm an idiot. I turned around because I wanted the full treatment. It didn't matter that numerous VOmax efforts left me in a blown state. Both Brett and Dave bailed on the longer option.
I climbed back up and found where I missed the turn. It was clearly marked. Wouldn't you know it, the extension did nothing but climb double-digit grades and bomb right back down again. There was no recovery. One climb was particularly heinous. It was about 16% grade and rutted out full-on jeep track. I saw many tracks where riders from the lead group washed out and presumably dabbed. I cleaned it, but at what cost? I was riding completely by myself, often wondering if I was still on the route. No riders in front, none in back. I figured Brett was going to be pissed, as I was going to be out there at least two hours longer than he was. We carpooled and he wanted to be back home by a certain time.
The HUNdo food stop was a heavenly sight. The lead group was still there, so even though I added in a few extra miles and climbing, I wasn't that far behind them. My water was long gone. I filled up my two large bottles (which hold almost three Gatorade bottles) and wolfed down a large jelly donut. Yeah baby, rocket fuel! The lead group left shortly after I got there. Didn't matter. There was no way I would be able to hang with them at this point anyway. Jay Gump stayed back too, and we rolled out together and chatted for 30 minutes until he reached his house. His ride was done. I still had more dirt road climbing to go. Cramping twinges were coming on.
I turned on Nash Hill Rd. It just kept going up. I reached the point were I could only pedal without cramping if there was zero force on the pedals. So how do you climb a steep gravel road in that condition? I forgot to take electrolytes with me and there were no salty items on the course. Maybe it didn't matter, and it was going too hard earlier that put me in this predicament. I got off the bike multiple times and rested/stretched. There were no cars and no riders. I wonder if SRAM sag support would even come through here. The bottom portion of the road was gated. This was my second worse cramping episode ever, second only to Everest Challenge in 2007. In that episode, I fell over, clipped in, unable to move anything and was unable to get up for 20-30 minutes. I did not want that to happen out here in the middle of nowhere.
I eventually managed to crest the top. On the descent, a group of three riders from the lead group that had flatted earlier came by. I was coasting. The last food stop was at a general store. I went in and bought a bag of Fritos corn chips and a package of beef jerky. Both are very high in sodium. Protein in endurance efforts can be beneficial too. I filled my two giant water bottles again, ate most of the Fritos and a bunch of Jerky. I stayed there at least 15 minutes recovering.
I was in much better shape when I got back on the bike, able to pedal again without immediate spasms. There were lots of riders to draft too, as the two routes came together at that point. Many of the 60 milers were just coming through. I had done an additional 20 miles and 3000ft of climbing.
I ran into Carl back at the finish. I must have looked pitiful, as he laughed pretty hard at me. He also chose to stick with the shorter option. I wonder how many registered (and paid more) for the longer option, and then when faced with the choice, bailed on the longer option? Anyway, I logged 85 miles with 7300ft of climbing in 4.9hrs moving time per my Garmin.
Quite a party was going on. I don't drink, but the beer was flowing. The roast pig and grilled chicken were superb. All of the food was excellent.
This ride hurt me badly. More than D2R2, which is much longer with almost twice as much climbing. Go figure. I don't think the FUNdo competes with D2R2, it compliments it. The FUNdo is more spirited. More racer types show up for FUNdo, while more randonnee types show up for D2R2. The course terrain is very similar for both events. D2R2's climbs are much longer. The steep, punchy climbs in FUNdo wear you down more quickly. Many riders were on 23mm racing tires for the FUNdo. I was glad to be on 25mm Pro3 Race tires. There were many flats. I personally saw at least two dozen. Some riders flatted three times I heard. A cross bike with cross tires would be overkill for this course though. So would I do this again. You bet. The HUNdo was FUNdo in a sadistic kind of way.