Monday, June 9, 2008

Century Ride I

The 2008 Tour de Cure event is finally over, and I'm quite proud to say that I completed the century, realizing a goal set more than six months ago. It seems a little bit strange now, after focusing on this event as a primary goal for so long, I have no idea what to answer when people ask "so, what's next?" Or the ever-popular question, "would you do it again?" At this point in time, I'm not certain. Perhaps right now, some of the more difficult (i.e. painful) parts of the ride are a bit too fresh in my mind. Regardless, I am glad to have had the opportunity to participate in the event, very glad to have finished the 100 miles successfully, and thrilled for all the support from friends and family, without which I couldn't have been successful.

There's no doubt in my mind, the first 50 miles of the ride were all about cashing in on my six months of training. The next 28 miles were all about not letting my friends and supporters down. The following 14 miles were all about riding on heart and love of my family. And the last 8 miles I attribute to a couple sprinklers shooting out over the road, a bit more shade as we re-entered Mendon Ponds Park, and most importantly, a gentle push from God.


Mrs. Beagle made up a very nice carb-loading dinner the night before the event, with some potato gnocchi, a garden salad, and some chicken parm (she even made mine without cheese -- true love!). All day I pushed fluids, attempting to pre-hydrate before the big event, expected to be a scorcher. I got up at 5:30 the day of the ride, hopped in the shower, got dressed, and ate a banana for breakfast as well as downing a glass of water. Drank a bottle of 50% Gatorade/50% water on the way to the ride.

I arrived at the start of the ride just before 6:45, registered at the tent (very straightforward and easy), and returned to my vehicle to unload my bike, attach my ride number, pump up my tires, and make sure I had on plenty of sunscreen before we left. We were informed that we could get started as soon as we wanted, as the high heat and humidity for the day would likely slow us down, and it would be wise to get as many miles in as we could as early as we could. I was also advised that the tour directors were pushing folks toward the metric century (62 miles) instead of the 100 mile route due to the weather, but after all my training, there was no way I was going to admit defeat and do the metric before I even got on the bike.

I verified I had all my equipment -- sunscreen, cell phone, ID, insurance card, camera, GORP, GU Energy Gels, Clif Shot Blocks, Sport Beans, Camelbak (full), helmet, gloves -- yup, as good as it gets! Initially I'd figured I was hugely on the overkill side with my packing (4 Gel Paks, plus a bag of shot blocks and sport beans?) By the end of the ride, though, I determined I had brought JUST enough to get by, and probably should have taken a bit more. A terrific partner in crime tossed me one last carb-loaded Gel Pak on the last 10 miles that made quite a difference -- I was out of gas!

My riding and training partner, Target, hadn't arrived yet, so I took the opportunity to take a picture or two of the riders milling around, stretch out, continue to pre-hydrate, and generally stand around nervously saying hi to people I'd never met. Target arrived shortly after 7, registered, got set up, and we were on our way by around 7:15, 15 minutes before the official start time.

Stage 1: Mendon Ponds Park
The first 14 miles of the century ride is a loop around the rolling hills of Mendon Ponds Park. Perhaps we should have taken it as an omen, but the opening route out of the parking area (through a gate covered with celebratory balloons) was a fairly steep hill to begin with, but not very long. As we got to the top, a tour volunteer was holding up traffic and pointing us in the correct direction, and I thought to myself: "Wow Self, with support like this, today should be a truly amazing ride. I've never seen anything like this." From there we went through a number of rolling hills. I certainly wasn't pushing, but there were enough other riders in our vicinity that I was spending the extra ounce of energy or two to close gaps and suck their tire, allowing their draft to pull me along and ultimately save me energy in the long run.

I think Target started having some mechanical troubles here. Although I don't have much experience riding with others, his experience is even more limited, and it didn't look like he was comfortable getting close enough to the riders in front to gain any benefit from the draft, so he was pushing a bit harder than was probably wise. He dropped his chain right around mile marker 7, at which point I realized why he was having trouble and we agreed to slow down and go at a slower pace. Note -- by this time it was already over 80 degrees outside, with a ~15 mph wind out of the southwest. Pic on right is Target coming up the road after a chain drop.

Going through the park, I inadvertently altered my nutritional intake plan by eating more than a couple bugs. Crunchy -- check; high in protein -- check; tasty -- not so much. Plus, I didn't eat them so much as inhale them. Thankfully, the density of bugs dropped around mile 10, and never really picked up too badly again.

Target dropped his chain twice more before we reached rest stop #1 at about 14 miles. We took a very quick break to refill our drinks bottles (I carried a Camelbak with 100 oz. of water and 2 bottles of 50% Gatorade), I ate another banana and an apple slice, then off we went.

Stage 2: The River Road
Not 200 feet from rest stop #1, Target dropped his chain again, which repeated a couple more times before we got to the second rest stop at 26.4 miles. Each time, of course, it appeared to happen as he shifted into his smallest front chainring, usually coming up the hills, so he lost all his moment on the rolling hills and really had to toil up the hills the hard way. I'm guessing he was having trouble with cross-chaining, combined with an "opportunity for improvement" in his derailler alignment, but we pushed through (with lots of folks making sure we were okay as the side-of-road chain re-alignments were completed). Terrain was basically gentle rolling hills for this stretch, as we headed west into the wind for about 5 miles, before turning southwest directly into the wind, which seemed to be picking up a touch. Target actually started to get his bike legs on this stretch, and we pulled into rest stop #2 at 26.4 miles in fairly high spirits.

The staffers at rest stop #2 were just tremendous. Despite being very crowded, I had help refilling my Gatorade bottles, my Camelbak (which was more than half empty already in the heat!), ate another half a banana and an apple slice, and even talked one of the staffers into taking a picture of Target and I (right, I'm in yellow, Target in blue). After a quick trip to the bathroom, we were on our way again. Although I look a bit rough in the picture, at this point I'm still feeling pretty strong, although it is getting pretty darn toasty outside!

Stage 3: York
Leaving rest stop two, we turned west for about 5 miles across rolling hills, directly into the headwind. Uphills didn't seem too bad into the wind, but the downhills sure sapped speed. I kept up a reasonable spin downhill which carried me up quite a bit of the uphills, saving me energy, but many of the riders coasting down the hills had to work pretty hard to get up the next one, and I could really tell the heat was getting to Target. He started cramping up on one hill, gave it another go, but within a mile or so, he was off the bike with both a calf and a quad cramp at the same time. He tried to stretch it out and keep hydrating, but it wasn't to be. We stopped across from a dairy farm, and within a few minutes we had two SAG wagons helping us load up Target's bike, and the driver even agreed to return Target up the route about 6 more miles to his parent's place (our own personal rest stop)! I continued on, agreeing to see him in a few minutes at his parents'.

A mile or two down the road, we turned south onto some gentle rolling hills in some fairly open plains. At this point, the wind was strong enough to cause some veering, the sun was gone, and it was just gray and dreary. Having lost my riding buddy was certainly weighing on me as well, but physically I still felt good. Going through the town of York I saw quite a few fans along the sides of the route cheering me on, which does wonders for picking up your spirits. I stopped for just a minute at the rest stop to use the facilities and grab a banana.

Stage 4: Geneseo

Within a mile or two of the stage 3 rest stop, I came upon Target and his family, all out at the side of the road to greet me. I was able to trade my banana peel for a reload of ice in my Camelbak (WONDERFUL cold ice), cheered to see Target was looking in much better shape, if ambling along with a bit of a limp. I was later to learn he was basically sidelined all day, as the knots in his leg had him fairly sore. I was wished luck on the hill I'd see just prior to the next rest stop in Geneseo, and off again, now as a solo rider.

Our exploits with the bike chain and the SAG wagon had taken their toll, and by my reckoning I really had to keep pushing if I was going to complete the 100 miles by the strictly-enforced 4 p.m. deadline. Originally I'd hoped to take a 20-30 minute lunch break to stretch, relax, and generally recharge. Given where I was, all rest stops were going to have to be just a couple minutes unless I made up some serious time (something the wind was certainly NOT helping me with)!

Went another 4 miles south before turning southeast into the flats of Geneseo. The downhill was nice, but once again, the wind made the flats much more difficult than I would have hoped. Cruised into Geneseo and I could see the hill we were climbing -- by far the largest, steepest hill of the day. Quite a few cyclists were off their bikes and walking at various stages of the hill, with another large contingent taking a breather at the top. I put 'er into the granny gear and made it up, but it was quite a struggle, and I was fighting off leg cramps by the top. In hindsight, I might have been wise to join the other cyclists and walk up the steepest part, as I burned too much muscle energy here that I wished I'd saved for later.

Coming out of Geneseo a mile or two from the hill they had our fourth rest stop (45.1 miles in), which was fairly crowded and didn't have a restroom, but they did have water, Gatorade, and bananas. I reloaded my Gatorade bottles, and ate a half a banana before pulling out. Didn't think to refill my Camelbak as it had just been filled with ice, but this turned out to be a mistake, as I ran out of water on the next stage. Thankfully, still had plenty of Gatorade to drink.

I also noted in this stage that I started to feel a bit off -- My body wasn't absorbing the liquids I drank as fast as I was sweating them out, I could feel my leg muscles tightening, and the energy stores were starting to deplete. I'd have to keep a close watch on my nutrition from here on out. Also, breathing started to get a bit labored, and deep breaths caused just the slightest sensation of nausea (which would stick with me the rest of the ride). Regardless, it was time to hop back on the bike and head northeast!


Beagle said...

Part II forthcoming, including live action video of the finish!

Dave said...

Congratulations on your Century. Having done several, I know it's quite an achievement. I enjoyed your write-up - I felt like I went through some of the training with you.

TDC'er said...


Thanks for the great blog from last year. I rode the metric century this year, as opposed to last year's 40. I'd do the 100, but I only have a mountain bike. On that, it feels like 100 anyway.

Anyway, your blog provided me some great details on the added mileage that included York and Geneseo.

Congrats on your ride and the nice post.

Wendy - Shorts said...

Useful post. You keep churning out some good info!

mutuelle swiss life said...

very interesting