Monday, June 03, 2013

100 Miles of Elephant Rock

alternate titles: holy headwind, the elevation profile on the website was way wrong, and yay - its my last long ride before CDA

Yesterday was the final big day of my final big 18-days-without-a-day-off training block.  This training included two 20 hr weeks, back to back, with no rest.  Fatigue is my friend.  Or at least my companion for the past few weeks.

A friend (who is also doing CDA, Ryan) and I were going to try and ride together, or at least start together and then hang out afterwards.  The plan was to show up at 5:45 (this meant waking up at 4:45, ugh) and starting at 6 AM.  Well, traffic was bad and we didn't get rolling until 6:30.  It was also freezing (or 45 degrees).  We were wearing our tri kits (which have small pockets) and didn't want to dink around with sleeves.  I opted to wear my Cool Wings, thinking that fabric of some sort would be better than bare skin.  I'm not sure I was warmer or colder with them on - I just know that I was cold.

This was my last day to dink around with nutrition.  After last weekend, my coach has issued a strict No Salt Pills policy, because they messed with my digestive system.  She also wanted me to dilute my drink mix some more.  And since I wasn't relying on the aid stations for nutrition, that meant I had to bring everything with me.  I was planning my nutrition out the night prior, freaking out about how the hell I was going to carry 1700 calories with me.  Then I remembered I had 2 flasks for Liquid Shot, which is approx 400 cals per flask.  The rest would be made up by drink mix (100 cal per hour) and Honey Stinger chews.  I was extra crafty and crammed 4 packets of chews in an empty water bottle and put that in my rear bottle cage and I had a second bottle with some concentrated EFS drink mix.  Pockets - who needs pockets?

The main issue for the day was the wind.  When I left my house I immediately noticed that the trees were moving.  Crapola.  We had pretty much non-stop headwind for 2 hours.  And those 2 hours were all uphill.  There was a nasty hill at mile 4 (FOUR!!!) of the ride, which sucked because my legs were not warmed up yet, and with the wind, I was a bit defeated already.  We got to the top of a plateau with rolling upward hills and it was just windy.  I was getting blown around and I was right on the line of whereI didn't feel it was safe to ride.  Other people were really wobbly and there were roadies just blasting past me, too close for comfort.  I was debating my safety - at mile 15 of 100.  I stopped at the first aid station (I saw friends) and I even made some silly comment about "will they call the ride for safety - its so windy?"  Dummy.  I got a reassuring pat on the back from my friends and kept riding.  And in the back of my head I was just thinking that if it was this windy on race day, I was screwed (or in for a loooong day).

I made it to the T in the course at 1.5 hrs into the ride.  Turn right for 62 miles, turn left for 100 miles.  I had overheard someone say that the wind should be better for the 100 because the course goes through the Black Forest (trees!) and the trees would provide a bit of a wind break.  I don't know who that guy was, but I'm so thankful to him for saying that.  

This portion provided a bit of variation, as you headed east or south or west, which meant that you got crosswinds or headwinds.  It was gusty but doable.  The roads were crap and I'm glad the crowd thinned out because you had to be careful about where you were riding.  I had gotten so used to leaning left (while going east) that at some point we did a short jog west and it felt really strange to have to lean right.  I took my planned rest stop at Aid Station #2, where I ran into my two friends again (and got another pat on the back), re-filled my water (with some concentrated EFS) and used the bathroom.  Then it was back on the road.

I remember looking at my Garmin at the 4 hour mark and noting that I'd only gone 48 miles - a whopping 12 mph.  Damn.  I also knew that eventually we'd turn north and get a tailwind.  After the aid station stop, my spirits improved.  It wasn't solid headwinds, I was warming up, and I was just focusing on nutrition and keeping the effort on the hills light.  I was not focusing on miles or time. I was just focusing on getting things done.

Nutrition was a bit sketchy at first, but I got my act together.  With the high winds, I really didn't want to take my hands of my bars to eat.  And I didn't have very many calories in my drink mix.  Doing this for the first ~2 hours of a bike ride is ok.  Doing this in the first hour of an IM is most definitely not ok.  I finally started paying attention to the clock and my food and became regimented after ~3 hrs.  At the :00 amd :30 I'd eat 2-3 Honey Stinger chews (alternating btwn caffeine and non-caffeine) and at :15 and :45 I'd have a good swig of Liquid Shot.  And I was drinking at least every 15 min, although, if I had a thought of drinking enter my head, I would make myself drink. 

At mile 48 we had a pretty good climb that didn't seem to end.  At first I was a bit discouraged but then I realized the hill (and the timing) was pretty much St George.  Once I got that in my head, life was good.
We had BEAUTIFUL views of green grass and Pikes Peak the entire time. 
Unfortunately it was so windy, I didn't take many photos.
Pretty soon, I came upon Aid Station #4, so I stopped to refill my water and use the bathroom.  I ran into Ryan and another club-mate, so yay!  Friends!  Ryan and I left together (where he dropped me pretty quickly) and we got to conquer Roller Coaster Road.  I had friends warn me about this road (which was around mile 60?). Its basically an undulating upward climb with some pretty steep sections.  I had taken all of the hills pretty conservative (as well as the windy sections) because I knew that we had this climb and another one at mile 85, so I had plenty of legs left.  I passed so many people on RC Road.  I felt bad for them, because they were hurting and me (this little girl on a sparkly bike) was spinning past them.  I tried to make a funny joke as I went by, to make them laugh and distract them a bit.

Once you got done with RC Road, it was pretty much smooth sailing west to Palmer Lake.  I was flying along and for whatever reason, something felt off.  I reached back and realized I had lost my bottle with my concentrated EFS.  Really strange because the road wasn't that rough (compared to previous sections).  I'm just glad I was regularly checking my bottles and I knew pretty quickly that I'd dropped it.  I only had to re-trace my path a little ways and there was some nice (and random) guy who dismounted to get my bottle for me.  I had no idea who he was or what his plan was.  Maybe he liked my water bottle.  Either way, I got my bottle back and hit the road. 

I went through Palmer Lake and I knew I was in for a treat.  We had now made the turn north.  This meant tailwind AND I knew we got to go downhill.  It was a bit congested but I just FLEW down the hill - max speed was 46.3 mph.  I really enjoyed the way down from Palmer Lake because it is sort-of my home turf.  I know the road so well and what to expect. 

I ended up stopping at Aid Station #6 at mile 85 to top off on fluids and use the bathroom.  There were some ladies with stuffed elephants affixed to their helmets.  They were also on road bikes with platform pedals.  WHY on earth would you do a 100 mile hilly ride on platform pedals?  (I also saw people on cruisers and mtn bikes.... and they were not the super-fit humble-brag type of people either).  More power to these people, but damn.  These ladies didn't know the area, so I warned them about Tomah Road, which has a bit of a nasty rolling hill.  At mile 85 of 100.  Not very nice.  I had ridden this hill twice (at the end of some 50 mile rides) and I wasn't very fond of it.  I had the aid station workers pour water on my Cool Wings and I hit the road.

*random aside*  people were TERRIBLE with their bike handling.  We had the wobbly slow people (understandable with the wind) and roadies.  When passing, I'd give the wobblies a wide berth - and more than once I had people pass me on the left (while I was passing) and I'd have someone zip past me on the right, between me and the wobbly I was passing.  I also had several instances where we had the ENTIRE lane and someone would zoom past me, 6 inches from my bars.  Really?  And I also saw a poor guy wobbling up a hill with a car behind him.  The car was actually being really nice but the guy swerved in front of the car.  When I passed him, I told him to be careful and that he nearly got hit. And finally, at the last aid station, I gradually slowed to a stop at the side of the road (on the white line) and some chick contacted my back wheel (WTF?).  She continued to ride into the aid station (uphill on dirt) and then wrecked.  This was some of the worst riding ettiquite I have ever seen.

I knew what to expect from Tomah and was curious to see how I'd do, 85 miles into 100 and on very tired legs.  I was very, pleasantly suprised.  I passed a ton of people (several of which were mashing and NOT in their easiest gear - WTF?) and again, tried to make jokes as I passed them.  This climb felt easy, which was so cool.  Normally I'd be huffing and puffing and wanting to die.  This time I had surplus air for conversation.  In looking at my stats, my heart rate max for this hill was 12 bpm LOWER (at 2x the distance under my legs).  So, as much as I hate Deer Creek and High Grade, I also kinda love it, because I can climb hills.

I crested Tomah and gave myself a congratulatory fist pump because I knew the hills were done and my legs still felt good.  The ride planners were really mean, though, and made us turn south for a few more miles along a frontage road, and back into the headwind.  I just made myself stay aero and focused on easy legs since I had to run 40 min after the ride.  We got to the I-25 overpass and made the turnaround to go north back to Castle Rock.  I was so distracted by poor riders that I turned a bit too early and actually went on the I-25 entrance ramp instead of the frontage road.  Ooops!  The cops made a comment about how they'd like to see me go 80 mph on my bike on the highway.  Back on the correct frontage road, I had flat terrain and wind at my back.  That meant a nice easy cruise at 23 mph.  Then it was up and over a few hills through a neighborhood to the finish.  I dropped my chain on the 2nd to last turn (WTF?) and then got a bit disorientated as I had parked by a grocery store close to the running trail and not the County Fairgrounds.  I got my bearings, fought traffic, and got back to my truck in 100.7 miles and a whopping 7:14.  My coach had originally planned 7 hrs for the ride and I thought she was dissing me as I'd done 100 miles two weeks prior in 6:09.  Apparently my coach is wiser than me.  Also, the event website is mega-wrong on the elevation gain.  They had 3900 ft gain.... my Garmin clocked me at 6300 ft.  More than CDA.  And my legs felt awesome.  Go me!

Ryan sent me a text saying he was already running (of course) and he'd meet me at the fairgrounds.  I swapped my bike gear for my run gear and headed off for a 40 min run.  I'm always amazed that I can run after a bike ride, but especially amazed after a 100 mile hill ride.  I ended up doing a 0.9 mi run and a 0.1 mi walk (to replicate aid stations) and that worked out fine.  My coach told me last week that she'd like me to run through the aid stations (and to run for as long as possible before walking) but I think mentally, I need a walk break.  It brings my heart rate down and gives me a chance to re-set.    The run wasn't super exciting, but I got it done.  3.5 miles in 40 min.  And then my friend and I celebrated our last long workout with beer and wings.  Yay!

3 more weeks to IMCDA!
Random pretty iris photo from my yard.

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