Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Care Classic

100 total miles,
5100 feet total elevation gain,
7 hours 35 minutes total time
(6 hours 40 minutes on the bicycle)

Even though I thought my last century was done without much preparation, the one I just did was done with even less. In the three weeks since I did the Mt. Hamilton Challenge, I have been on a bicycle just once — riding my trainer for one hour.

The reason I thought this was feasible was that this is century is easier than others I have done. No century is actually easy since it still requires several hours of cycling. But a course like this one which has much fewer hills is considerably less difficult than any of the ones I did last year. This course has a total elevation gain of 5100 feet, which is comparable to many of my training rides which cover a shorter distance.

The other motivating factor was that all the roads on this course would be new to me. I had read about some of them and had intended to try them some time.

The ride was on Saturday, and I rode the trainer on the Tuesday before. At that point it had been two and a half weeks since being on a bicycle. I could tell during that session that my strength had increased (my muscles had fully rebuilt during the rest) but my endurance level had dropped. I have noticed that my endurance remains high for about one and a half weeks of rest, but then drops after that. This is why I usually rest for a full week before any major cycling event (to let my strength rebuild without losing endurance).

I woke up at 3:45am to prepare and make the 45 minute drive to the start in Morgan Hill. I wanted to begin the ride at the earliest start time of 6:00am. There were two reasons for this — the earlier start meant an earlier finish and more time to do other things that day, and also it was predicted to be a very hot day, so it would be nicer to start in the chill of the morning air.

By the time I arrived, set up my bicycle, registered and started, it was 6:10am. It was cold enough to make me wear my jacket. The first rest stop was only 15 miles into the route, and by then the jacket was no longer needed. My plan was to only stop at the odd numbered rest stops. There were more stops than I thought I needed on this course, and skipping a few would allow me to finish faster.

The only significant climb of the course began after the first rest top. Still, the peak was only 1200 feet; lower than most of my training rides. I had no need to break at the 2nd rest stop which was at the summit. The 3rd stop was at the bottom of the hill, and I refuelled there.

The next part of the course was the completely flat stretch from Gilroy to Hollister and back. Being next to farm fields and irrigation ditches meant an abundance of flying insects. Although I tried to keep my mouth closed, I would inadvertently open it periodically and capture a bug that I would immediately spit out. Once, the angle was just right that a large bug went directly to the top of my throat. As hard as I tried, there was no way for me to spit it out. My only choice was to grab my water bottle and flush it down. It would be another case of involuntary non-vegetarianism.

As I planned, I skipped the 4th rest stop but took a break at the 5th. By now the sun was becoming oppressive. The heat was much more apparent when I was stopped. I had been averaging 18 miles per hour on the flat roads, and this amount of breeze was keeping me cool.
This rest stop did not have much food, it was mostly just a water break. It looked like I would have to stop at the next one and switch my strategy to stopping at the even numbered ones.

The next rest stop was just before the next set of hills. I called home and reported that I was 70 miles into the course and feeling great. I fuelled up and headed uphill. The road was not particularly steep. But the combination of the grade, the heat, and my lack of recent training took its toll and I started tiring.

Although I was not having any serious problems, the ride was becoming harder than it should have been. I had to focus on pushing through, even though I was becoming dizzy from the exertion. My strategy of skipping rest stops would have to be abandoned. I needed to rest at the next one which was at the top of the climb. It was oppressively hot by now and I relaxed in the shade while eating and drinking.

That was the last rest stop, and the rest of the route was a short climb, followed by a fast downhill, and a few final miles back to the start. These went by uneventfully, and I rolled in at 1:45pm. I was tired but no longer dizzy. I checked in at the finish and grabbed some food and relaxed inside the cool building.

The ride was a good measure of my core conditioning. I found that I could be at less than my peak conditioning and still do a century. It was nice being on new roads, and I think I may another new century or two this summer.

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