Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Oh, just a Century

About two weeks ago, I decided to do a Century.  I hadn't really been planning to do it, but it came up in conversation on the 5th, and then some friends and teammates were talking about it, and I figured, "What the hell."

So of course I hadn't been training for it.  I've been trying to hit about three hours on my long ride, as a distance that's pretty manageable in terms of planning ahead and keeps me in striking distance for something bigger.  Like, you know, build weeks leading to a 50-mile MTB race.  But last time I did a Century, it took me eleven and a half hours end-to-end, with a ton of time left on course, and about seven and a half hours of riding time.  I figured I could do better with one hand tied behind my back.  Or something like that.

Anyway, this was my first supported Century, and only my second supported road ride.  Normally, I just get on my bike, or get on my bike and meet some friends.  This was Cascade Bike Club's Flying Wheels Summer Century.

So I drove (to ride my bike!) to the park where the start/finish was, picked up my number, and got started.  I could tell pretty quickly that this was a different kind of ride from what I'm used to.  Tons of cyclists on the road, and most of them taking it pretty easy.  Or at least, my "taking it easy."  People walking on climbs.  I passed a lot of people having mechanical problems, although they all either appeared to or said they had what they needed.  I took a descent slowly due to some flaggers keeping an accident scene clear.  Wow.

I was opportunistically getting in pace groups some, although a lot of the time, I was just sucking wind on my own.  At some point, I passed a good friend of mine.  He chased on and we rode together for a while, which was fun.  I bumped into a couple teammates at the first aid station.  My friend and I weren't super-compatible on climbs though, and he sent me ahead.  I soft-pedaled for a while to see if he'd chase back on, but I later found out that he encountered yet another accident and stuck around to help.  Definitely more important.  Once the hills started again, I started riding a little harder again and also finding better groups to sit in with.

Here's something I hadn't seen before.  Maybe because TT bikes are illegal in massed start racing...  One of the groups I was riding with had a guy on a TT bike at the head, while the rest were on drop bar bikes.  They caught up to me, so clearly they were maintaining a higher average, but they tanked on every climb.  I managed to be organized enough to make pace for them up one climb, but that was shortly before the 50-mile aid station, where I'd promised myself a break.  I was starting to feel pretty worn at that point, and I was wondering how the next 50 would feel.

Aid accomplished, I got rolling again.  I passed a lot of individual riders going quite slowly, and wondered when they must have started to be that far out on the course.  Maybe they went fast for 50 miles and blew up.

My next weird group were a bunch of guys wearing matching green outfits.  I thought maybe they were on a team, except that they were mostly wearing mountain bike shoes and a lot of them didn't have the matching shorts.  Weird, for a team.  Again, they had to be averaging better than me because they caught me.  And again, they fell apart on climbs, and their paceline was very ragged.  Finally I asked if they were a club or a team.  One said they were a clan.  Regardless, not registered with USAC.  I dropped off the back to meet a teammate we passed.  He was accidentally doing the full route - he'd planned to do 45 or 65 that day.

We separated and a little later, I managed to get in with a fast-moving group of guys who were doing the 65.  Although they'd ridden to the ride, so probably close to 90 for the day.  I had a little trouble hanging on.  While not quite a first for the day, they were very consistent too - easily my most competent pace group.  I couldn't maintain their pace when it was my turn to pull.  I blame increasing head wind!

That brought me to mile 80 and the bottom of the toughest climb on the ride.  The two of them took a little while, but dropped me.  I fought my way up the climb and didn't bonk, which was good.  This is what I was most worried about, since I haven't done long rides in training and I figured if I had a problem, it would be a weird pain thing or it would be bonking about an hour after my usual training distance.  I was pretty fried after that climb, although still doing pretty well relative to a lot of the people on the route.  The way the timing and the routes worked out, I was with people who'd started later and were doing the 65 or 45 at this point, so a lot of different fitness levels or what Cascade diplomatically calls "Pace conflicts."

I did try to hop on with one more group at the very end, but they were booking it and I couldn't.  Oh well.

Then I finished.  I got up to sprint the finish line, but it was on a sidewalk, behind some bollards.  While I know I can't "win" a Century, I do like to finish things like I mean it, I think it's good practice for races where I sprint every finish just in case someone's about to snag 17th place from me.

From start to finish, it was 96.1 miles, so not a "real" century and it took me about 5:50, including about a half hour left on course at the two rest stops.

I hadn't been seeing this as a part of my larger season, particularly.  Just something to try because I haven't really done it before.  But this Saturday I'm going to do a 6-hour MTB race, the 6 Hours of Capitol Punishment, so it's nice to have this behind me and know that if I can't scare up a friend or a teammate, I'm in shape to do it solo.

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