Racing can be fun, but also an experience as well.
When I aimed to do the Sherman Pass Road Race, I never thought it as a competition against others, but with myself.
When you’re climbing 8,900 feet over 53 miles with a limited field, there’s only so much drafting will do for you.
Even though I had been doing some tough rides over elevation, I knew this would be an endurance test.
I made it out the day before with teammates Travis and Bryan who were racing in the top category along with friend and eventual race winner Stefan, along with Bicycle.net-ter Einhard for support.
Some openers with Bryan, Travis and Stefan
We drove to the entrance of their campsite taking is to the most daunting portion of the course, Nine Mile Canyon.
The starkness, length and pitch make it a doppelganger to Tour de France landmark Mont Ventoux, but we were skipping out of this section since temperatures were already at 115F.
We did some openers over the “flatter” portion of the climb riding 5 miles to the peak of this climb at.
The elevation didn’t seem to bother me and the presence of trees gave hope for some shade.
I woke up the next day feeling ready for the challenge even though this was my first race taking me over two hours.
My plan was just to keep my pace and let my endurance training from all those marathons take over at the end.
At the start, I kept it chill slowly dropping off the main pack after we made the turn up the first steep pitch.
9 Mile Canyon felt like infinity
Even though we started around 8am, temperatures were already in the 90s and I knew some people would start to fade by going out too quickly.
Like clockwork, I slowly started making it by riders, even passing some twice after I pulled over for a pee break.
At about mile six, there’s a short mile reprieve, but then you get punished by the steepest section until you hit the ten mile mark.
Also at that point was the first pit stop, which I was in desperate need of despite having two large water bottles.
Entering the section I had rode the day before, I caught onto a group that would stay together for the next 15 miles even though once again, I took another pee break.
It started with a rolling climb with a steep pitch the last mile before the peak followed by a fun descent through a scenic collage of meadows.
After crossing the Kern River, we started an exposed five mile climb that immediately split us up.
I somehow passed Bryan, who is still getting back after a crash last year, along with a couple others who were fading.
My first of two untimely encounters with Bryan
Because of the heat, I soon knew that my two bottles would run dry before the stop at the top of this hill.
Fortunately, there were a number of people along the ride handing out bottles of water and I gladly obliged as did most others.
After grabbing some water, we hit an annoying section of rollers that leaned towards more climbing than coasting.
After hitting a lengthy convexed portion, a pain hit my quads like Bradley Cooper was aiming at me.
I was referencing the movie American Sniper. Pretty clever way to say you pulled a muscle, right.
I wish I had picnicked on the meadows
Unable to spin, I tried walking it off to see if anything would loosen when Einhard pulled by.
Not only only did he give me water, but some electrolyte mix as well. It was lightly flavored with sweetness and saltiness, but once I got the legs moving, my situation greatly improved.
At mile 36, I started the penultimate major climb of the course when a new problem arose.
My energy was greatly beginning to dissipate as I was reluctant to eat the possibly expired Clif shots given to me by an unnamed pro that previously got me sick.
Coupled with the fact that I had only eaten two packages over 3 1/2 hours of riding with no breakfast, things were fading fast.
My hope was to fetch a snack off of a passing car when this happened:
Good thing I didn’t have the energy to even crap in my pants.
To balance out his evilness, Bryan handed me an extra Clif bar that signified the beginning of the end.
I took a bite out, but immediately it made my stomach nauseous causing me to hurl the said bar. Figuring I was almost out of bullets, I finally dug into the questionable pack of gels, but I could not digest them either.
Even though we were doing a slow roll together, my “power” was escaping to the point that I could only move at walking pace.
I made it to the pit stop around mile 37, but all they had was water and half a Coke(which I drank).
With Bryan being long gone, I barely made it up the climb after stopping to walk and turning down a ride a couple of times.
I was hoping that that the three mile decent would give me a chance to reenergize, but to no avail.
After 44 miles and 7,200 feet of climbing, I was fortunate to be picked up by a saint named Hodge and my day was done.
On the way to the finish line, we passed a number of people laboring to get to the end.
While I wasn’t riding this last nine mile stretch, I could definitely respect the pain everyone was going through. This wasn’t a race at this point, just people spinning for survival.
Another rider painfully getting close to the end.
In hindsight, I can’t believe how stupid I was not to eat ahead of time.
I do have a problem of undernourishing while cycling because I discount my needs since you typically burn less calories per hour than from running back in the day.
Still, this is an amazing course that no matter how well you did or far you went, you definitely feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Obviously, I have some unfinished business on hand, so I hope to make it out again next year. This time, you’ll probably see me with fuller pockets to start.