Me (texting Jeff at 8:13am): Are you in?
Jeff: I think no. Not enough sleep to be tough.
Me: Wuss. Nah, I understand. I'll go slay it for you. You just make sure you get plenty of beauty rest and think about how I'll write this up on my blog.
Jeff: Where are you riding?
Me: Why, are you going to go out later to try and be KOM?
Followed by: Drip Rock is out. Still trying to decide.
Then this as I headed out the door: Think I'm heading toward Irvine to see what kind of time I can make. Drip rock might be in.
Headline should read: Local Boy KOM on Cobhill, Rain No Deterrent
Instead it reads: Local Boy Falls Off Bike in the Rain Attempting Remote Climb
Jeff: What about: "abandoned by fellow rider-local boy left for dead on the mattercob."
Me: That has a nice ring to it.
You can only get so wet while riding your bike. Once you’re soaked to the skin, and your shoes are dripping the excess water back onto the road you might as well just enjoy the ride. Unless you’re hypothermic…or your eyes are filled with road grime.
Neither of those things happened to me on my ride yesterday. I just kept riding despite the rain. I’d say I was lonely riding by myself, but I’d be lying. It’s not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing Jeff suffer in the rain in the depths of a sleep-deprived stupor. That might have been the inspiration I needed to finally ride Cobhill. But I’m used to the solo scene, and it was quite therapeutic to go out and do a moderately long ride in the rain. I didn’t break any records (or snag any KOMs), but I had a good ride despite all the water.
At Furnace I stopped to fiddle with my derailers. I’d tried to adjust them the night before but had managed only to get them totally screwed up. I had my first “man up” moment there as the rain slacked off. I was 9 miles in and 45 minutes out. Drip Rock was out. I kept glancing down the road east toward Jeff’s house, thinking I might see him come bombing down the hill. Nada.
I pondered heading back home. I’d climbed Furnace and would get about 20 miles in if I headed back. Not too bad for a rainy morning. Or I could buzz the Mozhican, go a-ringing my bike bell as I cruised past, punishing him for ditching me on such a fine holiday morning so he could get some nappy time. But I didn’t have a bell on the road bike. And taking that diversion wouldn’t add a lot of miles but would involve more than one wet descent…as would returning home, or going on toward Ravenna. Rainvenna. And I didn’t really want to punish Jeff. He’d drawn this blatant copyright infringement which is going on my next album cover.
The urge to ride a road I’d never ridden won out, and I struck off for Estill County. I immediately crossed the county line. But instead of turning back I continued on toward KY 52. I kept thinking that the decision to ride further from home could come back to bite me in the not-so-distant future. I could crash on wet roads. I could get down in the Kentucky River valley and not have the energy or will to climb back over to the Red River drainage. All of these rollers I was putting behind me would be in front of me once again when I decided to return. Each one would have to be retaken on the retreat.
I decided somewhere within earshot of Furnace that if it wasn’t raining when I got to the bottom of the east side of Tipton Ridge and Cobhill that I would try Cobhill: the “Mattercob” as Jeff so eloquently put it. This was my second “man up” moment of the day.
On the march to Ravenna I warmed more to my little adventure. Down Tipton Ridge I held back to avoid wiping out in some wet hairpin curve. Then at the bottom I got into my drops for the first time that morning and cranked hard down Cow Creek toward the main river valley.
Until I saw an Ale-8 machine on the side of the road… I was doing 25+ mph. Argh! I geared down and grabbed two handfuls of brake. I quick uie and I was plugging my dollar into the bill slot. I killed it (For Bracing Pep) and put the bottle by the machine before taking off, quickly getting back up to ramming speed. Lock s-foils in attack position.
I turned up Millers Creek Road, putting my back to Drip Rock, and ate a bar. I needed fuel for whatever lay ahead. I was in one big watershed and would need to haul myself up and over into my home watershed. There was no easy way out.
As I sped along, slicing through the water on the road I thought maybe it would be less onerous to continue on 52 toward Beattyville, climb Bear Track, and then head down KY 11 to Slade and back home on the flats. That would have been closer to 60 miles, and I couldn’t decide; so I left that decision until I reached 52.
In the meantime I cranked along the river and the railroad tracks on a nice sleepy road. I took a shortcut on Driftwood over to 52. Driftwood was a narrow blacktop road along the base of the hill at the edge of the floodplain. It was an enjoyable detour from the longer route on Millers Creek Road out to 52.
By the time I reached the main road I’d decided I was going back over Furnace. Bear Track way was just too far. We’d invited a few friends over for 4th of July and I needed to get back home and help Mandy get ready. That was another reason I was hesitant to strike out for Drip Rock. 65 miles in the rain would end up being a full half a day on the bike.
I never really made the decision to ride Cobhill. I just turned right when the fork in the road came. The rain had started back with some energy, but I ignored my earlier decision. If I climbed Cobhill in the rain…oh, what joy that would be! “Man up” moment number tres.
Nose down I started up. I felt good. I felt strong. The rain was having no adverse effect on my upward progress. First left curve I was still pedaling strong. Then the first crux loomed: the hard right curve near halfway. As I approached the curve my lower back began to burn. I stood up on the pedals and gained instant relief. I took the curve on the left where the grade was significantly less, and then I cut back to the right edge of the road.
The fire in my lower back began to flare again. Sitting gave no relief, so I stood once again. It felt like someone had dropped a whitehot coal down the back of my bibs. My legs were strong. My breathing was moderate. My rear wheel was slipping on the wet pavement and I stayed on. But the muscles in my lower back reached critical. They threatened to go nova. No va.
The next steep section I surmounted only because I could see the “rest.” The crux sections have to be 20+%. The “rests” are probably still 12-15% and short. There’s hardly any recovery before the next brutal section. And you know you’re only halfway at that point, with the steepest climbing still ahead of you.
The pounding rain did nothing to cool the fire in my back muscles. There was no man up left in me. Finally I could fight the pain no more...but I was clipped in on a ridiculously steep section of road. I had nothing extra to dedicate to coordinating an emergency unclip, and when I made my desperate move to get free my shoe hung up. I went down. And I looked up to see a van creeping down the wet hill toward me. The driver rolled down her window as I hauled myself to my feet unscathed.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
“Yeah, I’m good,” I replied, and gave her a thumbs up. She smiled weakly and continued down Cobhill. People must think I’m crazy. Or hard core. Or crazy.
I stood precariously on the side of the Mattercob listening to the rain in the trees. It was somewhat soothing to my bruised ego. I was disappointed I hadn’t nailed such an obvious feather in such a hard core kinda way. Oh well. I began pushing my bike toward the top.
The short ending is this: I pedaled home from the top of Cobhill in 45 minutes and returned just shy of 3 hours after leaving. For a rainy 4th of July outing it was a great ride. I managed a 14.5 mph average on rolling wet roads for 43 miles.
After I returned home, cleaned up the Dogrunner and changed into dry clothes I did this:
Why yes, that is a grill strapped to the back of the Cannonball. You should have seen the looks I got when I stopped at Kroger to get a bag of charcoal.
Do you see that? Get a picture of that honey!
Do you see that? Get a picture of that honey!
Due to the rain we didn't ride to the drive-in the night before. And also due to the rain, and our well-rested guests staying late last night I did not ride to Lexington today. For that I am indebted to them.