Yes, grammar nerds, I know–“The Masochistic Metric and Me” isn’t correct. The proper way to write it is “Me and the Masochistic Metric.” But “The Masochistic Metric and Me” sounds better, and, as even George Orwell once advised, you should “Break any of these (grammar and style) rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”
On June 24 I took on the Garrett County Gran Fondo, 62.3 miles of beautiful and brutal hills in Garrett County, MD. In a mistaken fit of late-night, bourbon-fueled bravado, four months ago I registered for the so-called Savage Century (100 miles). But at literally the last possible second (meaning at the actual fork in the road on the course) I changed my mind and did the Masochistic Metric (aka the Wuss Century) instead. I’m still not sure I made the right decision, although my legs are pretty sure I did.
Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to give a sweaty helmet tip to the awesome people at Garrett Trails for organizing this Gran Fondo/rolling torture session. The herding and feeding of over 1000 cyclists, staffing 4 big aid/feed stations, patrolling the roads, and providing mechanical assistance and sag wagons is a frightful shitload of work, and on this weekend the Garrett Trails volunteers were everywhere. Thanks also to the good people of Garrett County, many of whom lined the roads to cheer us on with cowbells and signs, and didn’t try to run us over even though we clogged up every road in the county. Well done, Garrett County.
The ride organizers call the GCGF America’s toughest century ride, and I think most of the riders would agree. When I looked through some Strava feeds the day after, I saw a lot of comments like “hard as fuck,” and “I really mean it when I say I’ll never do that again,” and “I’d rather make love to Newt Gingrich than do that ride next year.” Actually, I made up the Newt Gingrich comment, but you get the point: this ride was hard.
How hard? On the first timed climb, I wasn’t even halfway to the top when a guy in front of me pulled over and puked. Nearly every timed climb (I did six, the longer rides did seven) had sections of 15% or more, meaning you had to put out 250+ watts just to stay upright on the bike. According to the cue sheet, the metric/wuss century was 63.2 miles with 8481 feet of climbing. Compare that to my most recent ride on Skyline Drive, and there’s no comparison. 63.2 miles on Skyline Drive = 6500 feet of climbing, and 63.2 miles in the GCGF = almost 8500 feet.
But it was also a grand time. Well, except for when a guy just in front of me on a climb let loose a booming fart–luckily, I wasn’t directly behind him in the line of fire, but off to the left. He didn’t know I was there, and when he saw me he apologized, embarrassed. I said “hey dude, don’t worry about it” and then shoved my pump into his spokes.
But what I’ll remember years from now is that this was the hardest ride I’ve ever done, one of those rides where you don’t grind so much as claw your way up the hills, long, steep ones where you forget about watts, and time, and distance, and disappear into yourself and just keep pedaling. Maybe next year I’ll get to that fork again and turn left instead.