Monday, June 7, 2010

Sequoia Century 2010

112 miles traveled, 9200 feet total elevation gain, 10:20 hours total (9:10 on the bicycle)

I was finally able to do my first century of the year. I expected to have done at least one other century by now (in my last report, I mentioned the Mt Hamilton Challenge). But a combination of schedule conflicts, seasonal illness, and not enough preparation eliminated several centuries that I was interested in.

The Sequoia Century is not really an ideal "first" century after a layoff. The course changes regularly, but always contains several climbs, some of them fairly steep. The total elevation is usually around 9000 feet, which is more than most hilly centuries. But it fit into my schedule, so I decided I should just do it instead of waiting for another and risking not being free or in shape.

The route started near "Stanford" and was ridden clockwise.

Another draw for this one is that I would be able to ride with my friend Gabrielle. She is the rider who crashed at the railroad tracks the first time I rode the Sequoia Century three years ago. We coincidentally met again a few months ago during the King Ridge Gran Fondo. After that we got in touch with each other. We tried to do a training ride together, but could never find common times in our schedules (mostly my unavailability). This was a great opportunity to meet again.

Not surprisingly, this one almost got skipped like the others. Four days before the ride, I came down with a cold and a slight fever. I rested as much as possible to allow myself to get back to full health. My illness lingered on with a nasty cough, nasal congestion, and a slight fever. I would have to assess my health on the morning of the ride and make the decision to do it or not.

5:05am, 0 miles, 0 feet

I woke up at 4:00am, and started getting ready. I had no fever, but still had the cough. I decided to try to do as much of the route as possible. The organizers have several support vehicles patrolling the route, so if I had any trouble, I could easily flag one down and abandon the ride.

Gabrielle and I had decided to start the ride at 6:00am. I left home at 5:05am so that I could slowly ride the 9 miles from home to the official start and have enough time to rendezvous. I could have asked Vaishali to drop me and have left home a little later, but I did not want her to get out of bed early to do that.

The sun came out during this short stretch, and I was coughing and coughing most of the time. I spit out so much phlegm which meant I was either too sick to ride, or that I was getting my respiratory system cleared enough to enable the rest of the ride. I was hoping for the latter.

6:15am, 9 miles, 100 feet

After meeting with Gabrielle and her friend Denise, we got underway. This section of the route to the first rest stop starts flat and ends with the first big climb of they day. It also contained the steepest road of the day — the short but difficult Redwood Gulch Road. This was actually fortuitous for me, since it gave me a gauge of my fitness level right at the beginning.

I knew right away that I was not at 100%. I usually feel highly energized at the start of the big ride, due to adrenaline and high food intake, but this day I was feeling slightly sluggish. We all kept a moderate pace approaching the climb. On the climb, I kept a very slow pace (just above 4 mph). It was hard but I finished the steep section without serious problems. On the shallower climb to the summit, I felt drained and was being passed by rider after rider. I finished the steep part just behind Gabrielle, but she had been waiting at the rest stop for a few minutes.

8:10am, 27 miles, 2730 feet

After resting and eating, I recovered much of my energy, and it looked like my fever was not returning. At this decision point, I decided that I should continue. I had gone from feeling that I had a 50% chance of finishing to now a 75% chance. I felt surprisingly strong on the next section of downhills and uphills. A long downhill section gave me more opportunity to rest, in addition to the rest stop at the bottom.

10:00am, 50 miles, 3750 feet

Since my energy level seemed normal, I did not linger too long at the rest stop after eating and a short rest. The next section was a long, but not too steep climb. Here again, I was feeling sluggish. Upon reaching the summit, the course had a sequence of rolling uphills and downhills. Here, again, I felt stronger than expected. Now I was realizing that I had strength to handle short uphill bursts, but not the energy to sustain a long climb well.

Fortunately, with two long climbs already done, we had covered 2/3 of total elevation gain. There was one more significant climb left, but there was a long descent before it, plus the third rest stop (the lunch stop). Surprisingly, after the long descent down towards lunch, I lost some energy. I struggled a little the final few flat miles to the stop. I guessed I needed food and rest.

12:50pm, 77 miles, 6430 feet

Here there was another decision to be made. I was feeling strong enough to do the 100 mile route, but Gabrielle and Denise were originally planning to do the 200 km route. The two routes were the same until this point, but diverge (with the 200k adding an extra loop) after the rest stop, hence the decision. Although I felt it was possible to do the extra 24 miles (and 1000 feet elevation), I though it unnecessary, considering my state. I thought it would be wiser to just stick to 100 miles. Denise had some leg problems which made her also cut back to 100 miles, and Gabrielle chose to just join us on that route.

After eating, I rested a little extra time (25 minutes total at this stop). Gabrielle and Denise left just before I did. I would not see them again until the finish. Even with the extra rest, I felt sluggish after leaving. I basically plodded along at slow pace. There was one rest stop at the base of the next climb, so I just wanted to make it there and get some more rest.

2:15pm, 88 miles, 7010 feet

I barely ate at this stop, but I rested. Again, I stopped for 25 minutes, 10 minutes of which was a short nap at a picnic table. I decided not to stay longer and risk cooling off and stiffening, so I pushed on. Still the energy had not returned as I approached the climb — Tunitas Creek Road — which is several miles and moderately steep. Although my energy level was low, it was not zero. I was able to just keep going.

Somehow in the middle of the climb, I started recharging. As the energy came back, I was able to increase my pace. I started passing several of the riders who passed me at the bottom. They were losing energy as they climbed (which is typical for a steep hill), but somehow I was gaining. There was a small drinks stop at the summit, which I just rode past. It was all downhill or flat from here, and I was feeling good.

4:15pm, 112 miles, 9200 feet

I stopped 10 miles from the finish to call Vaishali. I told her I would be done in 30 minutes and she could meet me then. I kept a strong pace and finished well. Gabrielle and Denise were still resting at the finish so I chatted with them before they left. There was a lot of food there which I indulged in while waiting for Vaishali to arrive. She brought Aasha with her, and Aasha enjoyed a cracker, a cookie, and some nibbles of pasta with me.

I felt good returning home, but had very little energy the rest of the evening. This ride was a test of my fitness level, and I passed it. I was originally concerned about my fitness level, but doing this while still ill meant that I was much stronger than I expected. Now I feel comfortable trying a couple more centuries this year.

1 comment:

ravi said...

Middle of Tunitas is the steepest and your boosters kicked in ha ? I think your legs/lungs would have thought that "hmm.. this is where i belong ;)"

Good that you ate and rested much well ahead !