My bike club has many fond traditions: coffee, wine, cheese, paella, beer, pasta, race reports, and … shoot, what was that other thing? Oh yeah, riding bikes! And sometimes racing! And, uh, race reports! I almost never race these days, but today was an Adventure Ride so I’m filing a report anyway. Now, if you’re not a biker yourself, don’t be put off … there’s stuff in this report that should catch the attention of just about anybody. And it should hold your attention too, like a train wreck you can’t take your eyes off of.
It was long, rolling, scenic, fun, hot, and at times quite fast. I suffered for all the usual reasons, plus a couple new reasons, one of which is weird and gross and macabre and in fact totally absurd. Food and drink followed. Camaraderie was rampant.
- Ride stats: 62.7 miles, 3:38:57 ride time, 5% of the ride in heart rate Zone 4 (i.e., redlined), 4000 feet of climbing.
- Breakfast: 1 bungee cord hook, 1 cup salted water, 1 cup 50/50 blend of water and hydrogen peroxide, 1 bean & cheese burrito
- During ride: 2 detached flaps of flayed flesh from the floor of my mouth, between the teeth and the lingual frenulum; 2 caffeinated gels; 1 blueberry crisp Clif bar; 1 bottle fruit punch Gatorade; good-sized bite of pain au chocolat from Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station
- After ride: loaded potato skins, lettuce bits, ranch dressing at BJ’s in San Rafael
- Dinner: nothing yet … I can’t quite face the idea of eating
I maimed myself pre-ride, taking a snapped bungee cord to the inside of the mouth, and thus suffered terribly even before the ride began. I suffered some more, due to poor fitness and the injured mouth, on some climb out of San Rafael on the way toward Mount Tam (though we didn’t ride Tam); we rode at a very hard pace over a beautiful rolling section along the coast between Muir Beach and Stinson Beach where I suffered terribly; we hammered along some more rolling stuff between Stinson Beach and Point Reyes station where—guess what?—I suffered some more; we had baked goods and fresh cold water in Point Reyes Station except somebody who had iced decaf; it got really hot and we rode stiff-legged over some hill and then some other hills, passing this big rock they call “The Big Rock,” and we wound down through some other areas and there was this dickhead motorcyclist who held his horn down forever while passing us and made a gesture and has now come down with scabies, or maybe shingles, or maybe this is just wishful thinking. Then we hung out on the patio at BJ’s in some mall and enjoyed sprightly, impassioned conversation about watching track races, etc. Overall, a grand day out.
I’ve been sleep-deprived lately and was all set to go to bed at 10:30 last night, when my older daughter asked for some help preparing for her first debate—that is, her first Debate Club debate (she and I debate things all the time). So I got to bed at almost midnight, was awakened 6ish because my daughter was having computer trouble while tinkering some more with her debate stuff, and then she was getting ready to bike over to the high school where she’d meet up to carpool to the venue. She was really stressed out and running late, and the laptop bag—stuffed with the laptop, lots of thick books and papers, and God knows what else—was bending her spine like a willow in a strong wind. So I decided to lash the bag to her bike’s rack. As I did this, I tried to say soothing things that would calm her down because she kept fretting about the debate. “Let’s tuck in the shoulder strap so it doesn’t go into your wheel and cause a fiery wreck,” I said soothingly. To which she replied, “Yeah, that would be two fiery wrecks in one day because I’m gonna go down hard in this debate.” How does a dad respond to such negativity? I tried to give advice (e.g., “If your opponent makes a good point, to which you have no obvious rejoinder, just say, ‘That sounds suspiciously like something Donald Trump might say,’” and/or, “If you get stuck and need to introduce levity into the debate, to distract the judges, just tell your opponent, ‘Look, I’m not going to argue with you.’”)
Now, I can’t explain exactly how this next thing happened. I was bending over the bike, stretching a bungee cord over that big laptop bag, and trying to hook it over the edge of the rack, and I lost my grip on it. I’m sure this has happened to you before, perhaps when securing your bike to one of those cheap rear-mount Hollywood car racks, and as the bungee cord recoils at like 600 mph its big metal hook snaps painfully into your hand or something. But this time, the hook recoiled at like 600 mph and somehow WENT INTO MY FRICKING MOUTH, and the sharp end of the hook plunged deep into my mouth’s floor, between the backsides of my teeth and my lingual frenulum.
Now, if that’s not the most messed up freak accident you’ve ever heard of, check this out: it hurt so bad, and I was so freaked out, for a couple of seconds I just froze and couldn’t figure out what to do, other than to roar a terrible garbled roar, and the strap was still under full tension! Alexa, who was holding the bike, completely freaked out and started screaming, which brought my wife running over. I figured out that I had to pull on the cord to create slack at the hook end, and got the damn hook out of my mouth, which freed me up to start cussing like a sailor, and although it would be an exaggeration to say that a fine mist of blood was spewing forth as I did so, the look of horror on Alexa’s face was as serious as though I were spewing a fine mist of blood, so that I thought maybe I actually was, but as I applied a paper towel that my wife produced (kind of amazingly quickly) I realized I wasn’t bleeding that much. At this moment I felt relieved that my daughter listens to rap music, so she wasn’t learning a lot of new profanities from me.
Now, as dire as this emergency seemed, Alexa still had to get to the school pronto so as not to miss her ride to the debate, so she was torn as to whether to abandon me before getting any answer to “ARE YOU OKAY?” which she kept asking and which I couldn’t articulately answer due to the continuous stream of profanities that I couldn’t stop painfully spewing forth. Her mom told her, “Go! Get to your debate!” Alexa biked off, crying, and I tried to put her at ease by calling after her, interlacing encouragement like “Good luck!” and “Give ‘em hell!” with my curses.
I swished around a bunch of salt water, which hurt, and then a solution of 50% water and 50% hydrogen peroxide, which hurt like a motherfrockle, and then I had to push past the pain and eat something because for dinner the night before we’d had broccoli soup, kale, and quinoa, which tricked me into thinking I was full when I wasn’t, which caused me to dream about food all night. It was a given I’d bonk if I didn’t fuel up before the ride. So I made a burrito with a Mission tortilla, Rosarita Traditional refried beans, Tillamook medium cheddar cheese, and Casa Sanchez fresh salsa. I skipped the brown rice because that seemed too prickly for my poor mouth. Eating this didn’t hurt quite as much as I expected, perhaps because I still had massive amounts of adrenaline coursing through my system.
I headed over to Muzzy and MB’s place so we could carpool to the trefpunt, a mall parking lot in San Rafael. Here we met up with a bunch of EBVC folks and also a bunch of Marin Velo Club folks. My teammate Matt had set up the whole thing. It was kind of like the Socs and the Greasers meeting up in a vacant lot for a rumble, except that everybody was really nice and came equipped with racing bikes instead of switchblades.
We rolled out on some crazy twisty sidewalk thing with bridges and hairpin turns and fins and gills like some giant piranha fish and though the pace was ultra-mellow, I discovered that a piece of torn flesh had broken off from the floor of my mouth, like a glacier calving, and was now floating around in my mouth. Could/should I swallow it? That would be cannibalism! Of course I wouldn’t get caught, but I’d have to live with myself. I spat it out, which hurt. Everything I did, or didn’t do, really hurt my mouth, and it hurt more after the (albeit necrotic) protective skin flap was no longer covering that tender, maimed mouth-flesh. A few minutes later, another piece broke loose. It was pretty gross. I took a drink to kind of flush the area, and man, that hurt like crazy! OMG, how was I going to stay hydrated when it hurt so bad to take a drink?
We climbed up that road going from Mill Valley up to Highway 1—I think—and regrouped at this crazy three-way road junction with a tiny little median that looked a little bit like a lingual frenulum. Lots of traffic here, not the highlight of the ride. A bit later we headed up this long, fairly steep climb, and I was dying on Muzzy’s wheel. Remember earlier when I said I suffered for all the usual reasons, plus two new ones? The second new reason is that I’m really not very fit right now. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s completely normal to suffer on Muzzy’s wheel, but I was suffering more than usual. He noticed this because for once I wasn’t talking. I was actually above my Peak Conversational Threshold, which is extremely high—almost as high as my Anaerobic Threshold, I think, maybe even higher. Muzzy seemed to be enjoying this, as he said, “So, Dana … tell me about yourself.” A little later he sawed me off completely, and without any apparent effort. My heart rate was in the low 160s, which is hella high for me these days, and my misery was absolute. Fortunately Muzzy and the rest of the badass bike mofos waited up at the top of the climb.
While certain riders braved the widespread poison oak aside the road to go micturate, I pondered my situation and realized that although my legs hurt, my mouth wasn’t bothering me so much anymore. My theory is that digging really deep during exercise produces enough pain-masking endorphins to significantly reduce all pain you might be feeling (possibly including existential angst or minor heartbreak). Endorphins, in fact, might have been what enabled a runner to finish a marathon despite having been shot in the head at mile 10. (I’m not joking—click here for details.) So when we set off again, I decided to hammer like crazy and see if I could keep this mouth-pain under control.
It might not have been obvious to those around me, but I fricking buried myself on the bike today. Wow, I went hard. That said, I was able to pause for a moment (I may have even coasted briefly) to snap the photos you saw earlier. Also, I developed a technique for drinking that wasn’t so painful: I’d hold the bottle kind of sideways, squirt water into the uninjured side of my mouth, and then (by turning my head a little) kind of sluice the water down the side of my throat so it wouldn’t reach the floor of my mouth on the bad side.
It was good and hot when we reached Point Reyes Station. We got fresh cold water from a spigot and I was surprised how good that tasted under the circumstances. I had a Clif bar (fortunately not the chocolate brownie type that are almost inedible under any circumstances—no offense, Clif, I think your stuff is mostly great) and then Matt offered me a piece of his pain au chocolat (or “chocolate pain” as somebody called it). All of my good breeding told me to politely decline because he should get the whole thing, but it looked so good, the chocolate all melt-y and ooze-y, that I accepted. It had gotten slightly greasy in the hot sun, but in the best possible way, and I loved it. Thanks, Matt.
After a long break we headed out over this awful little hill, legs groaning and creaking, and the rest of the story I think I already covered, with the Big Rock and all that. Post-ride we sat around this place called BJ’s and ate loaded potato skins, which had bacon, cheese, certain other things I can’t remember, and scallions, which looked a bit prickly so I kind of shucked them off. The thing is, the first one I ate went down real nice, but the second one hurt kind of a lot. I guess it was the endorphins wearing off, or perhaps my mouth had coated the injured region with some sort of protective scum during the ride, which got washed off by two glasses of possibly astringent iced tea. All I know is, by the third tater skin my mouth was in agony.
All in all, it was a great ride, and I’d like to extend a shout-out to my EBVC pals, and the MVC riders, and Ken’s Spanish friend, and in particular Matt for planning this Adventure Ride. Now, if you’re just some unaffiliated reader and don’t know who any of these people are, just imagine your own friends, but better.
Midway through writing this I took a dinner break. I figured macaroni and cheese would be pretty easy to eat, so I made some. From scratch, of course, and actually it was campanelle, not elbows, and I deliberately overcooked it. Just as we were sitting down, Alexa got home from her debate, and despite all her silly misgivings and pessimistic predictions, she and her partner won all of their debates! And, the pasta went down relatively nicely! Things are looking up….
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