2010 Livestrong Challenge

PLEASE NOTE: This story is much better if you’re drinking a cup of ProBikeWrench coffee.

Recipe for a great century:
1) Four hours of sleep, check.
2) The proper ratio of dehydration and cotton mouth, check.
3) Allergic reaction to something I ate causing indigestion Saturday night, check.
4) Feeling a little bloated Sunday morning fighting with my stomach zapping my energy levels, check.
5) Sitting in wind and mist freezing my bearings off waiting for the event to start, check.
6) Letting the lump sum total of the above mentioned events take the PSI out of my sails, check.

This adventure through site and sound started Saturday night with four hours of sleep, the proper amount of dehydration and a deviation from my normal eating habits because of a crazy week. While sticking to my pre-event checklist helped reintroduce some order into a chaotic week, it almost didn’t help.

I “woke up” at 4:44am pst which for me is a time of day I am politically, religiously and ethically opposed to. I did however get up at 5am when I realized I could have breakfast with Phil and Paul if I played it right. Wonderful chaps, they made breakfast a lot more enjoyable. I even went as far as to put the iTV Tour podcast on the iPod for the ride down, although. Ned Bolting isn’t on them anymore and that saddens me deeply. Must be his “Real Peloton” duties.

At any rate, we had 20 people in INTEGRATE100 jerseys, and when we rolled up, the PA guy says “and here comes Team INTEGRATE flying loud and proud.” About 1000 people heard this, so it definitely helped to lighten my mood. Until my frame pump went coocoo for Cocoa Puffs within minutes of the start.

Literally, not 10 mins into the ride, my frame pump decides to play kissy face with my rear wheel causing me to have to stop and lose contact with the group I was riding with after I pulled over to fix it. Once I got going again, I was in about 5ooth place out of 1600 riders doing what I could to gain ground. Until my cadence sensor tried to take its life by jumping off my chainstay.

Once again, I had to pull over. I ripped it off, pocketed it, and was off again. Until Mother Nature put in a high priority call that was not to be ignored. HAT TRICK! After all of this happened, I was riding alone, and realistically faced with riding 100 miles on my own. Good times.

Over the course of the morning, the mood went further south as my left calf acted as if it was sitting on a jackhammer fluttering away preparing to cramp. Within mile 15 btw. At this point I was thinking, “hmmm, this could potentially be one those days mama bear warned me about.”

Well to fast forward a few hours, I meet up with five of our riders at a rest stop, and have some people to ride with. Until my stem comes loose on some rough road, and fades to the left. Once again, time to pull over, and once again time to burn matches to catch back on.

Well, even if you’re a human with diminished empathy capacities, you can see how this would be problematic to a long day in the saddle. I sure’s heck did.

But, for some reason, Lady Luck stopped punching me in the chamois and started to get real friendly like. My legs came online at about mile 40, and I had 100% PSI in my sales once again. Until rest stop 5.

The day almost blew apart after spending way too much time here. Plus, Mother Nature struck again and was blowing about a 15 mph kiss in our faces. Luckily I had 3 people to work with, but unfortunately you always end up at the front of a paceline…

At mile 70 Lance approved (literally) of a 1.8 mile climb up Metcalf Rd with an avg grade of 14%. They should call the event the “Cursestrong Challenge,” it would be more accurate. My legs were angry my friends, and they would later have their say.

As a started heading up, life was decent, and I soon began to pass the line of sherpas and would be climbers on the way up. But for some reason, someone inserted a wall in front of me, and dared me to ride right through it. Being one not to back down from a challenge, I gave it a shot.

The needle was heading toward “E” at an astronomical rate, and I began to see my life as well as that of those around me flash before my eyes. We’re talking can’t think my name, let alone fathom saying it.

Until Lady Luck did me a huge solid. Right as I was about to l cramp up in the left calf and hammie, there, right around a corner, screaming her head off running next to me was my wife Jill.


Since I didn’t think she would be there, I found this incredible surge of energy, the cramps went away and I got out of the saddle for a charge that had to have been at least 2900 watts. Ok, maybe not that many but had to be close.

Awesome, more energy, cramps gone, my best friend in a car that could save me if I blew up, perfect. Right? Nope. As I rode as hard as I could for the minute or so she was with me, I pretty much used all of the bullets I had left in the chamber for the climb. Luckily Jill ran out of juice right about the time I did, and I was able to sit down and pedal. Note to self, it is perfectly fine to ride at 3mph as someone walks next to you on Metcalf Rd.


This is what I hear as I ride off, its kind of our thing to say to each other at events. It translates to “I love you” in some language I’m sure. Ain’t love grand!

So about a minute after I see her, the left calf starts to flutter and twitch and starts to wave 1000’s of tiny little white flags as I ride. At this point, standing doesn’t help, cursing isn’t much better and the realization of having to stop sets in. I gave it about 30 seconds do the right thing, and then forced it to work while walking. Luckily this worked, and I was able to get back in the saddle and keep going with only only about 90 seconds of stoppage time added on to the ride.

I even tried to do math in my head on the mileage left uphill, but apparently 70.8 minus about 69.4 at the time is astrophysics wrapped in calculus and my otherwise sharp as a marble brain was not able to do the math on this one. With my attempt at new math thwarted by fatigue, I pedaled on resigning to having to toss my Rhodes Scholar app in the trash when I got home.

With about a half mile left, the hamstring started to cross examine my sanity, with my left calf testifying on its behalf. At this point, I’ve got about a minute left, and I decide the pain is temporary, it will go away and I will bury myself as deep as possible to finish the climb. Plus, Jill was in “Al Force 1” only a cell phone call away.

Luckily it worked. The legs were shocked back into existence, and they behaved from mile 70.8 to mile 90. I tried every trick I know of to loosen up in the saddle and I had to have looked like I was teaching a yoga class on my bike, standing to stretch, sitting to stretch, everything but putting my leg up on the handlebars as I moved.

There was no way in heck I was DNFing at mile 90, and with 10 miles left there was Jill at the last rest stop. Seeing her charged the batteries once again, and it was top off the bottles, get back in the saddle, and on to the finish.

As my wife passed me in the car after honking at me from behind yelling “GET OVER YOU DON’T OWN THE ROAD!! to mess with me), on a slight incline, in a horrid headwind, I thought, “Um, you loved me enough, you’d motor pace me for a few minutes.” I’m pretty sure there’s a headwind after 90 miles clause somewhere in the ‘in sickness and in health’ portion of our marriage license. If there isn’t, when we renew our vows, there will be.

As I got closer to the finish, I could see the skyline of downtown SJ, and I began to wake up. Especially after I remembered Jill gave me a Lou Plummer bar at the last stop to munch on! As each inch of pavement went by, my mood went up. Until I hit every damn red light the city of San Jose has ever installed. Let me tell you how awesome it was to try and start the engine multiple times on cramping calves, hams and now R quad.

I eventually made it through to the finishing shoot, got out of the saddle for a late charge a la ALBERTsandro PAINTacchi, and sprinted across the finish line. Ok, in my mind I was sprinting, but I’m sure it appeared somewhere between a track stand and a turtle face up on its shell. Ride done. Legs done. Awesome day done.

Well, if you made it this far, thanks for reading. Now go pour of a cup of ProBikeWrench brew if you’ve got some. If you don’t, get some, make a pot, pour yourself a cup, then read this again…

  • anthonymetten

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I’m actually a Sports Performance Coach and run into this type of stuff all the time. But before I tell you my thought, just know that my Masters is in Counseling Psychology and I am a Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation. With that said, hopefully I’ll share something with you that actually helps!

    Don’t you hate it when that happens?! You train so hard before the event and give it your all during but after, it’s like someone let all the air out of your tires. You feel lethargic, both mentally and physically and no matter what you try nothing seems to help. So you’re left with slapping the vein on your arm so you can somehow inject another dose of endorphins! The good news is that by the time you get this message you will have probably worked through that feeling and have started to regain a sense of normalcy – whatever that means.

    As this was your first century I’m sure you learned a lot, both about completing a century and about yourself. I would challenge you to take that information and see what you can do with it. Although the sun is setting earlier now and impacting your training, there is quite a bit you can do to improve your performance on the bike through cross training. Get creative and look for other ways to stretch yourself by trying something new. The worst case scenario is that you’ll continue to discover your potential and who knows, you may even find something you enjoy just as much as riding!

    If you’ve already worked through your funk – GREAT! If not, practice some self-care and allow yourself to recover as 100 miles in one day is no easy task. The fact that you did it put you in the 1%er club – you are now a certified member! The bottom line is I want to personally congratulate you on your accomplishment and I look forward to seeing you out there doing what you have proven to do so well.

    Rubber side down!

  • chicobrian

    Al, This doesn’t sound like the same “after-century euphoria” that I experienced when I finished The Mile High last month. Regardless, pain makes for better reading…and you delivered an absolutely wonderful story!
    I mentioned in an earlier forum that I grew on Oak Glenn Road, outside of Morgan Hill. I was going to warn you about a dog that used to torment me as I rode to Machado School on that very route. That vicious beast tore me off the Schwinn on a daily basis. I think it was a beagle, er…maybe the pitbull variety of beagle (I’m no expert on dog breeds). She should be about 65 in people years (evil entities never die). You didn’t happen to see her, did you??? If the coast is finally clear of vicious beagles, and this event takes place next year, I want to join you…Metcalf-Schmetcalf.
    Anyway, great ride and thanks for the enjoyable post…well done, Lad.