Whew! What does a bear cub, thunderstorm with downpour, and gusty winds have in common? The answer would be the Skyline Drive ride on June 20th. The IMUSA crew all converged in a rental house near Luray for the long Skyline ride on Friday, June 19th. After dinner and some beers Friday night, we all got some sleep and left early Saturday for the long ride. We had planned on 2 out and back rides of 25 miles (that would be 25 out and back, 2x). The weather at Thorton Gap parking was cloudy, and as we started out, it began to rain a bit. The ride was hard as shit. There was a big climb up to the highest point for that stretch of the drive, beginning at around mile 4.5 and ending at around mile 11 or so. Pretty much straight up. In the now pouring, and I mean pouring rain. At the top, in the rain, my riding buds and I all kind of dreaded the downhill, as our brakes really didn't work due to the wet conditions. But off we all went. My bike goes really fast downhill as I have said, and the rain didn't make me any slower. I was bombing down the mountain, fast as shit, brakes fully engaged, and not slowing down at all. I was not the happiest I've ever been, but at that point there was nothing I could do but go. I tried to stay in the middle of the road (cars be damned) since that was the only part of the road that wasn't running water, leaned back and down on the rear wheel hoping for traction. Raindrops were pelting me in the face and something hard hit me in the chest (not a clue what it was) but I kept screaming downhill. Finally got to the bottom, realizing that it was one long downhill that would need to be climbed back up. More up and downhills ensued, with my biking buds catching me on the climbs.
Towards the end of another downhill, I was alone and saw what I thought was a bigass dog coming out of the woods on my left. I quickly realized it was a bear cub and squeezing as hard as I could came to a stop about 25 feet from it. I was freaking out, b/c I was sure Mama bear was close, so I got off my bike slowly and backed up the hill a bit, until I was about 40 feet away. I was standing there, in the rain, looking at the cub, and it was looking at me and there we stood for a few minutes. Then Lynn came down the hill and I was frantically waving at her to stop. She did, and thankfully she saw the cub as well (I didn't want another goat incident). We stood there for another minute or so, then the cub rambled across the road and into the woods on the other side. No Mama bear showed up. So, again, off we went.
Now the weather got even worse, thunder and lightening, harder rain, maybe some hail...as we kept riding towards Dickies Ridge, because at least there would be shelter. We saw most of the rest of the gang coming back up from Dickie's Ridge in the thunder and rain, as we descended further into dense fog patches. Not a ride for the faint of heart. We finished the first 27 miles and gathered ourselves for the return trip, which was harder than the first part. So, 8 miles of uninterrupted climbing back to the top, more rain, and then the wind picked up. At this point I had decided not to go all the way back to Dickie's Ridge, and was having some serious conversations whether I'd go out again at all, if the weather didn't get better. More screaming downhills, but the rain finally stopped and Lynn and I decided to go to top of the big mountain one more time, back to the start and then out for another 10 miles to get 85 miles in. We did that, with the sun finally out but with the wind gusting pretty intensely. The ride back up sucked big time, but I made it. Since the roads were now drier, the ride down was a blast. After finishing the 85, Lynn and I ran for about 30 minutes and I actually felt pretty good. Other than MyKaren, who ended up riding 107 (she is a stud), people rode between 60 and 100. Much, much, much harder than LP. I figure 85 in that terrain is worth 100 on regular land....
We all drank and ate that evening and then the few that remained did a short lake swim at Arrowhead Lake. Swimming through underwater plants is kind of weird, but once free of those, it was a nice swim. MyKaren and I booked back home, reloaded the cars for a trip to the beach for my family reunion. That was uneventful, but I did get some sun.
We did our last long run on Saturday, was supposed to be 22, I did around 18, MyKaren did around 21. We just ran from our house. I hated it and if anyone had stopped me to offer me a penny if I quit, I would have taken it. Somehow, I got myself through the hot, humid, horrible run, and now I only have the marathon at LP to worry about. I hope to get through 18 miles in 4 hours on race day, so I would have 2 hours to do the last 8; that is my current hope. But if it doesn't work out...I'll just keep moving until the end!