Tuesday, May 8, 2012

First Century

I had done several organized metric centuries (62ish miles) and several weekend rides north of 60 miles.  This Sunday, however, was the first time I ever attempted a ride of 100 miles.  I rode with Team Schwab in its philanthropic effort to raise money for the American Diabetes Association in the Napa Valley Tour de Cure.  The team included two FOG Dwellers – Murray and Iron Mike.  Given my base of commute miles, my comfort riding with the FOGs and the 60+ miles that I had put in each of the  two weeks prior, felt pretty prepared and was excited for the ride.

We had a strong group of nine riders that set off for the 100 mile course.  There was this crazy goal of making the finish line by 1.30pm for team pictures (with the people that rode less than 100 miles), but no one was too concerned about making any specific time.  The general sense before departure was that everyone was out of racing shape and just looking to go along for the ride.  This was music to my ears as there had been some discussion about trying to finish south of 5 ½ hours. 

This leisurely attitude disappeared almost immediately out of the starting gate.  After a few miles of spinning through Yountville residential neighborhoods, we got into a lone on Highway 29 and just started passing people.  Before I knew it, we crossed the train tracks and were flying through St. Helena in a line well north of 20 mph.  I was safely sucking wheels as each guy did his pull on the front and maintained the peppy pace.  I hit the front at 15.1 miles (on my Garmin) and hammered for 2.7 miles.  I tried to do a full 3 miles, but I truly had nothing left after almost 9 minutes of pushing.  I actually pulled too hard and almost dropped off of the back of the line when I was finished.

The group was pretty disciplined, maintaining the line until the first climb at about 25 miles – a Camino Alto-like 400 foot hill at a reasonable pitch. The line dissipated as we all climbed at our own pace.  I am proud to say that I was not the slowest up the climbs but was usually 6th or 7th out of the nine guys.  At the top, we regrouped into our line for another 10 miles to the first rest stop.  I was shocked to see that we had ridden the first 36 miles in barely an hour and a half. 

My view for most of the ride
The second leg turned out to be the most painful of the ride.  Of the 9 guys, we were bound to have some sort of mechanical issue during the day.  One of our group flatted about mile 40.  We stopped for a pretty quick tube change and were back on the road.  But rather than use a CO2 cartridge, the guy insisted on using his hand pump to inflate his tube.  Unfortunately, about 2 miles in, he realized that he did not achieve enough pressure in his tire.  So we stopped again to CO2 up.  But this time, he over-inflated the tube and popped/exploded his tube.  So he has to pull the tire off again and re-do everything one more time.  We lost about 20 minutes in that whole exchange but were still in good spirits.  But with all the start and stop, the rest stop at 54 miles seemed kinda useless.  I was hoping for a quick stop for water but each guys seemed to have their own agenda and the rests were a bit too long for my taste.  I did my best to eat as little as possible but load up on fluids and salty calories.  I ate maybe three finger food sandwiches and a handful of trail mix all day.  But I drank 13 bottles of fluid (water, Gatorade, Cytomax, etc).

I have to say that the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.  Scotty and Iron Mike spent more than their share of time pulling the pace line.  I did only one more turn at the front for about 2 more miles.  Daniel “The South African Kid” was also a beast at the head of the line.  I was a bit disappointed in the route that was selected.  Given the amazing beauty of the Napa Valley, they could have picked a bunch more routes than just Highway 29 and Silverado trail.  I am not complaining about the sub-3,000 feet of climbing but they could have beat us up a little bit more.  By mile 90, we turned off of Silverado Trail and headed towards 29 on some side streets.  I knew the race was almost over and, I must admit, by mile 90, I was ready to get off the bike.  The headwind (about which I was warned) was just insult to injury as we rode back towards Yountville.  I realized at mile 90 that, if we kept up a 20 mph pace, we would make it to the finish line right at 1.30pm – in time for pictures.  That kept me a little motivated to finish fast.

Scott and Iron Mike pre-race
In the end, the statistics are pretty impressive.  We did the whole ride in 6 hours 7 minutes of total time, 5 hours 14 minutes of riding time at an average pace of almost 19 miles per hour.  I actually felt strong at the finish line but, again, was ready to get off that bike.  The worst part of the day was realizing that my Garmin showed 99.2 total miles when I reset it.  If I was paying attention, I would have ridden around the parking lot and logged another mile to turn the odometer over the official 100 mile mark.  Another great ride ruined by the data (joking).  And to make matters worse, when I uploaded the data to Strava, I saw that StravaMo had done a moster 60+ mile ride that day, and I had only picked up 30-some miles on him towards our lifetime totals.  Damn, gotta get back on the bike soon. 

Valley floor and Napa Valley hills
Next century is the Marin Century on August 5th which is more than double the elevation gain.  Talk later.  I have some hill repeats to do.

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