Monday, June 8, 2009

The Ride of a(n Almost) Century

Eight gels, three bananas, an orange, 6:25 in the saddle, and almost two water bottles later, I finished my first (almost) century ride this past Sunday.

The weather had been weird up until ride day. I had checked the forecast, though, and a good day of 70 degress was predicted for the whole route so I was going to need normal gear--no layers.

First up, after the 7am start, was two loops through Griffith Park. It turns out that this included one pretty good hill, which also meant there was one pretty good descent. Since it was right after the start, though, I didn't appreciate the hills as a warm-up. On the bright side, the second loop was easier than the first.

Then it was off to the L.A. River...on a bike path...with hundreds of other riders. Worse, the century riders met up with the 70-mile riders at about the same time: just before entering the L.A. River bike path. That part could have been better organized.

Rode along the river for a few miles, then it was time to hit the city streets. Not as smooth as the bike path but not as rough as some of the places I ride on weekends. Couple that with the stoplights and I was right at home (though I'm sure a lot of people were not). We passed by Union Station, the Twin Towers, and a bunch of industrial property before re-joining the L.A. River for the rest of the trip down to Long Beach. This was nice because as we got closer to the ocean, the breeze got cooler. It also got stronger so there was a slight headwind but it felt good. I do not recall dripping sweat at all (though I was definitely sweating).

Something that amuses me is "skills" that I pick up on my weekly rides that are not really something I think about as cycling skills but turn out to come in really handy. For my first triathlon it was riding in cold weather. For this century ride it was the bunny hop. Now, granted, I don't get much air but I do get enough to go over wicked potholes and other obstacles on the road. I hopped several times during the ride.

Got to the (almost) halfway point for a rest stop. It was the halfway point for the 70-milers but the century riders would actually go past this stop and loop back to the rest stop before heading back. I did not stop at that rest stop again and just kept going.

Back on the bike path and the very slight incline on the way back was overcome by the tailwind, which surprised me. Things were going well until about mile 62 (I do not think it is a coincidence that my longest ride until that point was 60 miles). My feet had been getting numb but now that was becoming painful. Plus my left foot was getting a somewhat sharp pain in it. I knew a rest stop was coming up shortly and I kept looking for it but, finally, I could not wait any longer and pulled over onto one of the many benches (with bike racks!) dotting the bike path. I sat down, took off my shoes, and rested my tootsies. Sure, I was now being passed by people I had passed earlier but I needed to finish the ride. After some amount of time spent sitting, walking, and rubbing I got back on the bike and my feet were fine for the rest of the ride.

After a bit more riding I was starting to get pretty sore in the saddle so I was very much looking forward to a particular rest stop in a small park. Park means grass. I parked my bike, took off my shoes and helmet, and relaxed under a tree. Ah, that's the stuff. I was feeling like I could take a good nap, which I definitely did not want to do so after a nice rest, it was back on the path.

Got off the path and back in the industrial area. Then a funny thing happened around mile 81: I got my second wind. My legs felt fine and I was pedaling pretty well. I did find, though, that if I thought about being tired I suddenly felt tired so I had to not think about it and just pedal.

While my legs were fine I was getting really sore in the saddle. I stopped at the last rest stop, only five miles, or so, from the finish just so I could give my butt a rest. Then back on for the home stretch. It was at this point that I noticed that my Garmin was saying one thing about mileage and the route map was saying another. It looked like I forgot to turn it back on after one of the rest stops. Sigh.

Getting through those last miles was quite an exercise in determination because I just wanted off that bike. Finally, I got off the path, went over the last, small overpass (which I could do out of the saddle with ease--yay out of the saddle-training) and then I was done. The booths we could wander through were kind of a joke, the "special" jersey turned out to be one for the organization that put on the ride and not for the ride itself. Whatever. I grabbed something to eat (I was not as hungry or thirsty as I thought I would be) and then made my way home.

Nutrition went well. I happened to wake up at 3am on ride morning so I took that opportunity to have a bowl of cereal. On the ride I had gels every 45 minutes, just like in training. At one point I tried taking a gel every 30 minutes but that did not work out so well. It was too much and my stomach had just a slight bit of irritation. I took water with the gels and once or twice extra but I was so well-hydrated and the day so mild that, much to my surprise, I did not even go through my two water bottles. I took two bananas with me and I ate one more at the rest stops, along with an orange or two.

I was disappointed that I goofed up with the Garmin but then a read a post today where somebody else said that they recorded the century as being short, too. In fact, the same amount of short that I recorded (92.5 miles). During the ride I toyed with the idea of riding extra just so the Garmin would show 100 miles but I so wanted off my bike towards the end that that idea was thrown right out the window. That and I thought the problem was with me and that I really was doing 100 miles. On the bright side, I know what resources I need to do a century, in terms of time and nutrition, and that I can do it. Triathlons will be starting up again in two months so I will have to wait until November to do another one. I wonder if it gets easier.

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