I know what you’re thinking, didn’t she say in her blog last year that she would never do this race again. You’re right I did, but you know how it is, time passes and the pain fades. I hate to say this and it might almost kill me to do so, but Chuck was right, last year when he said every time she says she isn’t going to do a race again, she does it again. So here I am writing about the Vino Fondo once again.
In 2010, Chuck, Jeff, Krystal and I did the Mondo (longest distance) which was 132 miles. This year in order to talk me into going, Chuck had to agree to do the Midi (middle distance) which was 87 miles. We both have not been on the road bike much this year due to intense off-road training for Adventure racing. We have been logging all of our bike miles in the woods on our mountain bikes. So heck why wouldn’t we just jump into an 87 mile race which was made up of what I call Missouri mountains because the hills are so steep and long, that they have to rival some of the mountains in the US.
After driving through rain, wind, thunder and lightening, we arrived at the Mount Pleasant winery. I had this feeling of dread, thinking I’m in no shape to be attempting this and here I am in the worst weather conditions for road biking. Too late to turn back I was already here and would have to ride. We ran across the street from where we parked and picked up our race numbers and the free breakfast. Chuck ate some of his, I just drank the orange juice out of mine and took the apple with me for later. We hit the bathrooms then headed back to the van to get geared up and ready to go. The weather started to clear, it was still pretty windy, but the rain had stopped. We were both decked out in our Icebreaker gear, we even got a couple comments about it in the parking lot.
Next we pulled our bikes out and made sure the air pressure was right and everything was functioning properly.
We rolled up to the starting line and were standing right next to the St Louis University team.
We actually know one of the team members, he works at Boeing with us. We stood around for a few minutes debating on the best strategy to get off the starting line. There were so many people starting at the same time that we didn’t want to end up in one of those starting line crashes. You know when one guy either can’t get clipped in or just falls over and the domino affect happens, then half the field is laying on the ground and we haven’t even rolled out onto the road yet. We decided to just roll out real easy and not get too close to anyone in the mad rush to start the race. Plus we knew from last years race that the first 4 miles or so was on a road that was covered in pot holes and gravel, so we didn’t want to hammer through there.
The race started and the roll out went great, to our surprise the bad road had been completely resurfaced, it was smooth as a babies behind and fast as lighting. We were rolling at a good pace right off the bat and were just behind the St Louis Cycling Club guys. We know these guys because we are also STLCC members and I have been riding with some of these guys for a few years now. Just in front of the STLCC group was the SLU team, so if felt like a good place to stay. We stayed on the wheels of both these teams until we crossed Hwy 94 and hit the first really steep climb. It was about a quarter mile long and I can’t even tell you want the grade was, if I guessed I might say 11%. It was tough, Chuck beat me to the top, but I didn’t really lose any ground, I passed a few people and a few passed me, I was in my smallest ring standing up and still barely moving. I was so glad when I hit the top of the hill. This year the race followed a new route that added some hills, gave us a few more flats, but I think overall the course was a little tougher than last year.
We hit the first water stop and decided since we were only 20 miles into the race and still have plenty of fluids and were packed down with Honey Stinger that we didn’t need to stop. We went on still behind the STLCC guys, the SLU guys had started to pull away. We were keeping a good pace and hit a few more hills when all of the sudden we didn’t see the STLCC guys anymore. The road was still crowded and we figured somewhere in the hills they must have just pulled away and dropped us. We fell in with a couple other riders and made it to the next water stop. We quickly got water and were heading out when we saw the STLCC guys again. We thought since we had a short loop to ride and would come back by the stop that they had probably already finished the short loop, we just couldn’t figure out how they got that far in front of us.
We took off, made it around the hilly loop and back past the water stop heading for the largest of the hills that were looming in the later distances of the race. At about 45 miles we were in a group of 4 and hear a group gaining on us, they come flying by and I hear my friend Louie say, “come on Robin, lead us in” it was the STLCC group, apparently they hadn’t dropped us, we dropped them and they were just catching back up. Now I’m not going to lie to you, I was getting tired, we had been fighting the wind and the hills for 45 miles now and my legs really didn’t want to go anymore. So what did I do, yes I did, I’m not embarrassed I’m going to say it. I grabbed the wheels of that group and used them for the next 20 miles. They pulled both me and Chuck through at a great pace and it gave me time to recover. By the time we hit the water stop at 63 miles, I was feeling really good. We stopped for water and I ate a Honey Stinger Rocket Chocolate, I was like a new person after that. While at the water stop a girl walked up and said “Hey is that on Icebreaker jersey” I said yes and Chuck said they are Icebreaker shorts too, then we both said in unison “we love Icebreaker gear”. She was very impressed, apparently she loved Icebreaker gear too. We were heading to our bikes when we came across John, I like to call him the Jelly Belly guy. He saw Chuck eating a Honey Stinger Waffle and asked him what it was, as Chuck was talking to him, I snapped a picture. Funny thing is, as I looked at the pictures later that night I see this guy behind them, I’m not sure what he was thinking, but I don’t think it was good.
Chuck and I took off to finish the race, we thought that we could take it easy until the STLCC guys caught up and then jump on the train. The problem was they never caught up. On the really big hill on HWY T, which I think is the worst hill of the entire course, they didn’t catch up. We were headed to the most talked about hill of the entire race, Schleusberg hill, riders are timed on this hill for the king of the hill competition. It’s really a series of small steep hills followed by a mountainous hill at the end. We started hill with 4 other guys, all but one beat me to the top of the hill, but they were not far in front of me, so I was in a good place. Then one of the guys says that we have one more really bad hill before the end. I was thinking, “you’re out of your mind they advertise that this is the last and largest hill, we might have some rollers, but that’s it”. WELL, it wasn’t, I was the fool, there was a horrible steep long hill that I though might be the death of me, but I endured it, although I was barely moving, and I made it to the top. After that everything was gravy because I knew that all I had to do was make it another couple miles and the race would be over.
We crossed the finish line, feeling pretty darn good, I mean this year, I was able to get off my bike and actually walk. Last year I just crashed to the ground then climbed into a van that took me back to the parking lot. Our ride time was 5:48 and our total time with stops was 6:09. We loaded our bikes, changed clothes and had the big shark guy take our picture at the finish line.
We went over to the winery for the post race feast and had pasta, salad and killer brownies. I think if I would have been able to grab a plateful of those brownies without anyone seeing me, I would have just eaten the brownies.
We ate and then stopped to talk to the STLCC guys. I snapped a picture and mused about what we should call it. Of course they knew exactly what it should be called. “The Vino Fondlers” I think this picture will go into my race archives.
OK, go ahead ask me….. Yes I will do it again, but I really think I like doing the Midi distance much more than the Mondo. At least then I still feel human at the end. And one more point, this was the first time I had worn my Icebreaker gear for a really long race and I’m very happy to say that it was fantastic! No chafing, never too hot or too cold, and dry feeling all day. I was comfortable the entire race. Chuck agreed as well.