Michael Jordan once said he used to go into a "zone" when he was on top of his game. The opposite side of the "zone" is the "pain locker", not exactly a happy place. But over this past weekend, while at the Raw Talent Ranch, I discovered the "dark place", where ghosts take over your mind and your body is just going through the motions.
The team had the annual training camp and about 18 of us made the trip over to West Virginia. Upon arrival on Friday, Jay Moglia had us out on the road, doing a 40miler, leg opener, but towards the last climb, it became a leg breaker, with a good portion of the boys choosing to dismount and push their rigs (myself included).
Saturday's "death march" will stay with me for a long time. I have gone into the pain locker more times that I can remember, and usually come out of it not too damaged, but Saturday I dove straight into the "dark place" and at one point I thought things were just getting out of control. After two climbs, I was feeling OK and thought tackling the last 7 mile ascend back to the Ranch was a possibility, but a mix of a banana and coke put end to any thoughts of finishing and opened the door to the place I will hope, never to visit again.
Combine with the heat, the hills, a stomach that wasn't functioning at all, things quickly went pearshape and I lost contact with my group. I think it was 3 miles into the climb when my mind switched. No longer was the techno music playing on my Ipod doing its usual trick, my legs were not going to turn anymore, so I unclipped, walked a bit and remounted. Another 100 yards farther up the mountain, I put my foot down again, this time sitting on the side of the road. My group had decided that the first one back at the ranch would drive back down to look for "victims", so the thought of just waiting kept me sitting for a little longer. The view was great from my position, but something kept telling me to push, not my legs, they were by now cursing me in both english and spanish. I swung the leg over the top tube once again, felt a cramp, but headed up anyway, and next thing I know I was laughing, for no apparent reason, my situation was no joke, however I was laughing. The following switchback brought me to a complete stop and I got off the bike once and for all. A nice shadowy spot was my last resting place on that infamous climb. After a wait of about 20 minutes, the car showed up, I loaded the bike and was taken back to the barn.
A meal later, I was feeling half human again, and I believe going to the pain locker will be no big deal from now on, even eating a slice or two of humble pie I can handle, but the "dark place", there, I don't want to go again. Rest today and tomorrow will see how things feel. It will be either Hains Point or the Eisenhower ride.