Friday, November 18, 2011

The Sri Lanka Pilgrimage with Baba Velo - Day 5

For once, I got a good amount of sleep the previous night.   However, I was still very sore when I woke up, thanks to an extended muscular effort (not aerobic) climb the previous day.     What I really wanted to do was lie in bed for a bit, then go out and lie on the couch outside, and then come back and lie down some more.  I was even justifying it to myself - after the hard ride, I need recovery, because it is during recovery that I would get better, and I shouldn't spike my weekly training load too much, etc. etc.  

It didn't help that everyone was speaking Roadie that morning:

"Oh, I am really not feeling good"

"We'll just ride nice and easy, at a recovery pace"

"I dont feel like riding, either"

"My legs are hurting"

So obviously, the gauntlets were being thrown down and it was going to be a hard and painful day.

The initial route was 20km of downhill, followed by 25km of rolling terrain, before the first climb of 6-7k.  After this would be approx 10km of rolling/downhills, followed by the queen climb:  Nuwara Eliya, 13km or so of approx 8%.

However, we decided to skip the downhill as well as the bulk of the rolling terrain and start directly with the climb. After breakfast, we packed up the car and drove about an hour to the starting point.

A short warm-up later, we were off.  And when I say we, I mean the others, of course.  I was pacing myself on this climb, saving my legs for the ballbuster at the end (not that it would have made a difference in staying with this group, I should clarify).  

We start, I get dropped

 The first climb was easy enough - rode at a steady aerobic pace, keeping legs out of the anaerobic zone despite being over-geared - my average HR was only 140bpm on this climb.    Despite the easy pace, it was quite hard going due to the sun and the heat.    After about 30 min of climbing, I made it to the top and we re-grouped with the others (translation - the others were waiting for me), and we started again.

Regrouping at the top of the first climb
Now we hit some rolling terrain - mostly downhill, winding through the hills:  my favorite type of riding conditions.  The weather was also starting to cool, so I turned up the gas a little and enjoyed the feeling of throwing my bike through the corners.   Being on freshly-glued tubulars, I wasn't going as hard as I could, but it was still fun.   Raj was riding with Ros and Rakesh, so it was Mohan and me up front.

Mohan - smiling, of course

And then we encountered the one clueless driver who almost spoiled everything.   We were on a wide road but on the left edge - where I was cycling - there was a deep and narrow (1.5') cement ditch just past the white line marking the shoulder.  A car passed me and as he did so, cut into me very aggressively, almost forcing me into the ditch.    

I yelled a few obscenities at him, but for some reason, the rage wasn't there and so I continued on at my own pace.   Mohan, however, charged after the guy and pulled him over shortly after and was explaining - very nicely, I might add - why he had just been a Giant Douche.   The driver did seem very contrite and it was obvious this was just cluelessness, not deliberate, so we let it go and took off again.

All too soon, the flats were over, and it was time for the climb.   Knowing that I would be trackstanding my way up the hill, I took my helmet off, deciding to enjoy the fresh air and mist on my face.  

And off we went.    And again, when I say "we", I mean the others.   At my speed, "went" would be a bit of an exaggeration.    :)

El Professore puts on a masterclass on climbing - and how to give The Look

This climb was truly a ballbreaker.   Due to a cassette spacing issue (turned out later that my freehub was loose, which is why the cassette wasnt sitting properly), I didnt have access to my 27t cog in the rear, and so was climbing along in a 39/24.    For my weight and that gradient, that meant a very slow, sustained muscular tension effort.   As the slope turned up, this effort was coming from my not-too-well-used glutes and hamstrings, and shortly after, they started to hurt something fierce.   I gritted my teeth and kept going, wishing to dear heavens I had not put my iPod in the car:  Rage Against the Machine and Metallica would have helped me climb immensely.

Climbing hard - see how much my legs are working!
At 5km mark, I passed the car and Rishi - Raj's son - gave me a cheery wave and said "You've still got a long way to go", crushing my soul some more in the process.  

Finally, at the 8km mark, I had to stop for a minute to stretch my lower back, which was in excruciating agony from the climb.   Then back on the bike and off again.   The stretch helped and I was able to keep going with a little less discomfort.   After an hour and change - and almost 3km+ beyond my expected 10km distance - I came across Raj, Mohan and Rakesh, looking soul-crushingly relaxed and rested.

"1 km more to go - do you want to stop or keep going?"

Yeah right.  I may be slow but no way am I going to quit on a climb.    So I kept going.   Rakesh also joined me - he had gone up a bit further and turned back, not realizing where the end of the climb was.   Apparently, there was a police checkpoint a little further up, and this was the summit finish, and he was just as eager to make it there as I was.

Rakesh:  very strong ride - he climbed as though he had 2 servings of Spanish beef.

So off we went, suffering together.    The 1km turned out to be 1.4km - and at that stage, every additional meter was Hurt Personified.  Still, we managed to summon up the energy to sprint for the finish together.

However, we were missing one person:  Rosanna.    Raj had told her that the summit was the police station - not the checkpoint - and so she had gone on ahead, continuing to climb for another 5km (!!!).   We waited for a bit and decided to get in the van and continue onwards to meet her at the top.    We had barely gone a couple of kilometers when we turned a corner and spotted her whizzing by - heading downhill.   Before we could react, she was gone!

Rosanna - the only one to actually climb to Nuwara Eliya!
Now we had to turn the minivan around and chase her - yeah right.   Like a big lumbering minivan is going to catch an Italian cyclist on a downhill.    Finally, after 5km or so, she pulled over and waited for us.     And of course, we were on the receiving end of some well-earned trashtalk, along the lines of her being the only person to actually complete the climb.   :)

We rented a room at a hotel along the way in order to grab fresh showers, give the boys some TLC and change into regular clothes.   After a mediocre lunch in a restaurant with fabulous views, it was then time for a long drive back, returning back to Colombo past 11pm - only to encounter a drunk passed out in front of Raj & Ros's doorway!    Woke him up, shooed him away - only to have him crawl into the back of the van (really!) and try to sleep there.   Woke him up, shooed him away some more.

The bikes and clothes were all tossed in a corner - we'd pack in the morning before leaving for our flights.

And thus, another edition of the Great Roadie Sufferfest came to an end.  And as before, the next one is already being planned:  Phuket in late January.

Yeah, yeah - he can climb.  But does that really excuse the mis-matched jersey and bibs?  :)


  1. Blame the person who did my laundry!

  2. Ahem.. Have to agree with Ros! She was the only one to have completed the climb. :)

    Loved the whole trip report, Guadzilla sir. Thanks for taking time to put it up. Looking forward to seeing you at TFN.