The first Santa Clarita Half Century (they had a full century but with my first triathlon next weekend, doing that would be a bad idea) was a nice and challenging ride. I had looked at the course profile months ago but not recently and had forgotten it. Let me describe it for you: "A". The first 60% is up, the last 40% is down. What the profile doesn't tell you is that there are headwinds during the up. By the time I got to the SAG stop at 25 miles, I was so sick of headwinds and uphills.
Let's back up a bit. The century riders left at 7am but the half century started at 8am. I've never been to a cycling event so everything was going to be new for me. Guess I wasn't keeping track of time because as I was riding over to the restrooms the ride was starting. However, there were a bunch of people in the parking lot who seemed completely unconcerned with leaving at the start time so I was, too. I did my business, downed an energy gel, and headed out on the ride.
I have ridden in Santa Clarita before and I was glad to see that the first several miles would be on that great bike path that parallels Soledad Canyon Rd. Once we reached the end of the path (and by "we" I mean "we riders" because I was solo pretty much the whole ride) we turned onto Soledad Canyon Rd. itself and from here on out it would be all new to me. Here is where the "up" began in earnest. It turns out that this road is what the Amgen Tour of California riders were riding during Stage 7 so I got to see some of Lance's leftover chalk messages on the road. As I describe my riding, I am slower than some and faster than others so I passed and got passed. I did spend some time climbing out of the saddle, which wasn't nearly as tough as it used to be (and is a good rehearsal for UCLA next week). Heading into the first water stop at the 15 mile mark I was riding behind a group of three (that drafting stuff is really cool).
Fuel up, drink up, and I was off again. Some down but mostly up and the headwinds were picking up. I was pretty sick of riding by the time I got to the aforementioned SAG stop. However, they had lots of pretzels, bananas, and oranges, which hit the spot. I didn't think my tummy would like soda and chocolate cookies so I passed on those. I also realized that I should have been fueling up on my schedule rather than waiting for the scheduled stops. Lesson learned. Funny thing at this stop was that I took my shoes and helmet off but I was, literally, the only person who took off either. Maybe it's a point of cyclist pride or something but I thought getting my piggies and noggin cooler were more important. It was also at this time that I looked around and, sure enough, I had the oldest bike around. Funny.
Rest up, fuel up, drink up and it was time to finish this thing. There were a few, teasing downhills and short uphills before the big uphill. It had to have been 2, 2.5 miles of up. At this point I decided I would go into survival mode: granny gear, slow and steady. At the top I fueled up again and headed off. Flat for a bit, the rest of the ride would mainly be downhill. I actually hit 40mph at one point and kept above 30mph for the majority of the rest of the ride. I also got passed while going downhill, which was kinda fun. Sorry, but my bike's stability only goes so far. Plus it was still windy and every so often a big gust would hit and surprise the heck out of me, not to mention knock me around a bit. There was even a more technical portion which, since the course was not closed, I was kind of wimpy on since I didn't want to meet a car coming the other way while I was cutting a corner. All this downhill fun made the misery of the first half worth it.
I finally arrived at the finish, 3:51:21 on the bike and 53.16 miles after I left. I racked my bike, changed shoes, and grabbed some lunch at the deli setup they had and, oh, did it hit the spot. Cold cuts, potato salad, Italian salad, and a cannoli. Yum. After that I wandered the booths that were there then headed home.
All in all, a fun time. Not bad for someone who's only been riding for six months. I have a ways to go until I'm ready for a century but I can definitely see myself doing one.
Fuel up on my schedule, not the ride's.
If you even think it's going to be warm, go with a short-sleeved jersey and arm warmers instead of a long-sleeved jersey.
On a long ride, save your knees and go to a lower gear. Save grinding up hills for shorter training rides. Your knees will thank you for it during the last half of the ride. At least until you know your knees can handle it on longer rides.
Just because you are wearing a long-sleeved jersey does not mean you should skip the sunscreeen...on your face.