Attempted Century (DNF, but not totally bummed)
Saturday morning I made my first century attempt in 16 or 17 years. 25 to 35 miles a day is fairly routine for me, and I did a metric back in September (3h 45m) so I figured that the imperial was the next logical step.
I chose my course with a few things in mind:
- I would be riding alone, so I needed a lap course where I could re-load at my car each time around.
- It would be variable weather, so again, going past my car allowed me to change for my next lap (if needed)
- I didn't want to get stranded in the middle of 40+ miles away if I had some mechanical breakdown
- I wanted rolling hills and a course I was familiar with, since the first 30 miles would be in the dark.
I decided that the Flying Wheel Summer Century 25 mile route would be perfect. Starts/ends at Marymoor Park, so I can leave my car there for $1.00 and refuel/change/bathroom-break each time around. The route is on roads with wide shoulders, low traffic, and part of it is on an MUP. The overall loop is 24.2, so I thought I'd finish out the last 6 miles I'd need on the Sammamish River Trail.
I woke up at 5:00am and took the puppy out. It was cold and foggy. Really cold... And really foggy. That kind of cold fog that I haven't seen outside of the PacNW: You can see the individual droplets in the beam of your headlight, the fog is so heavy; and it's cold enough that it should be snow, but somehow it's still just fog.
It didn't get any warmer by 6:00am when I was loading my gear. The fog didn't break, and the sun wasn't anywhere near coming up yet. Even with bibs, fleece long johns, tights, a polypro turtleneck, my microfleece lined long sleeve jersey, wool socks, long gloves, and a microfleece hat I still could feel the chill in the air. At least I knew I wasn't over-dressed. After all, it was only 33 degrees, and not getting much warmer all too soon.
I got to the park and set up my bike: Headlight; check. Tail lights; check. 750mL bottle of water; check. 750mL bottle of Accellerade; check. Seat bag with tube, levers, phone and ID; check. Tire pressure; check. I set up the back of my Jeep with a quick-grab pile for each lap: A banana, 2 Accel Gels, and a refill for each water bottle. I could zip into the parking lot, snag my keys from jersey pocket and have the car open, be refueled/refilled, hit the can if needed, and be on my way in 5 minutes. I did some stretching, chatted with a guy who was setting out on an "easy 18 miler" run, put on my helmet, fired up my lights and hit the road at 6:45am. Sunrise wouldn't be for another hour, and it wouldn't really get light for another 2.
Zipping along in the cold dark fog felt pretty good. My headlight was cutting through just fine, and the extra LED light I put on my helmet was giving me some added illumination to view my computer. 17mph. Hrm, well it's a little quick to start out, but I felt good so I just backed off a little bit to 16mph. By the 11.5 mile mark, my first rest stop, I was warmed up. I hopped off the bike for a quick break, slurped a gel, had some banana, and got back on the bike. The hills around the back side of the loop felt smaller than I remember them. Maybe my mind was playing tricks since I couldn't see the whole hill. I made it back to my car and took a quick stop.
There were some more riders gearing up, and they were very encouraging when I told them I was on a century attempt and 24 miles in already, just past sunrise. I kept the chatter to a minimum, and got back on the road after a quick refuel/refill. The second lap started out feeling great. I was zipping along at 17 - 17.5mph, the rest stop went quick, and I headed toward the hills on the back side of the course. They felt a little more noticeable this time around, but not bad. Certainly not as tough as I remember them the first time I rode this 24 mile loop. I was positive that I had another 2 laps in me as I rolled into the parking lot after lap number 2.
Quick stop, refuel/refill, hit the can, get rolling. About 5 miles into lap 3, another rider joined me for 6 miles up to the rest stop. We were chatting and ripping along at 18.5mph; it's amazing how the speed increases when it's not just me, the bike and the road. I made the halfway point rest stop, and got rolling off to the hilly part of the course, and noticed that my legs were feeling a bit heavy. The first hill seemed pretty tough, and I knew that there was another 800' of climbing to go before I was finished with the hill section of the loop. This couldn't be a good sign. The rest of the hill section was a struggle on each uphill stint. My quads started feeling weak, and my left calf was getting a bit twitchy. I knew at this point that I didn't have a 4th lap in me, and I was going to call it a day after number 3. I made it back to the car, grabbed my post-ride food and a fresh bottle, and went to the picnic tables to stretch out and figure out where things went wrong.
I didn't burn myself out with the speed, so that wasn't it. 16mph was a good pace which I should have been able to keep up for 100 miles. I felt good on the flats that last lap, but the hills were killing me, so I was a bit undertrained for the amount of climbing I was attempting to put in. 24 miles per loop, and 1500' elevation gain, so it would have been 6000' over 100mi. The last metric I did was 2200' of climbing, and my last hill training session was 3600' in 3 extraordinarily steep laps on Squawk Mountain, but the distance was short. So for starters, I was undertrained for the hill endurance.
I was eating a banana, 2 Accel gels, and a 1/2 strength bottle of Accellerade orange w/ caffeine per lap. Works out to about 300 -350 calories per lap. Wait a minute... per lap? That's where I went wrong! I miscalculated my per hour requirements as my per lap requirement, except that a lap was taking me about 1h 40m! I was shortchanging myself 150 calories per lap, at least! Combine that with the cold (extra calories to keep warm) and the hills (more climbing than I'm used to) and that's why I didn't make it to the full 100 miles.
So, I'm not totally disappointed with the ride. I did manage 10 miles more than my last long ride, and a heck of a lot more climbing! Plus, it's all about the fine tuning at this point: If I can do 72.5 miles, I know I can do 100, which will lead to a double metric, and to my goal of a double century. It's the fine tuning aspect that I'm working on right now, and as this ride proves, it's a learning process.
1991 Paramount PDG Series-5
105sc all around. 39-53f / 13-26r
Wolber rims, UltraGatorskins 23f/25r
Congratulations on a fine effort
Let me state at the beginning that you have reason to be proud of a fast bicycle trip that took you to your limits.
With some hesitation, let me also raise an additional possibility (just a possibility) as to why the century was not completed. At the outset here, I want to emphasize that you and you alone know your (physical) situation best, and that I also acknowledge no significant knowledge about the route you took. Consequently, you may determine that the possibility that I raise is without merit.
Nonetheless, I shall go forward, attempting to provide you with something that you can consider. Is it possible that you were taking the hills in too high a gear? I raise this possibility because you wrote that while on hills one of your legs became twitchy, and also because if you're going rather fast to begin with, you may be going fast onto the hill, and perhaps experience some reluctance to sharply downshift completely to the optimal uphill speed. I know that when I completed my first and only century, not knowing how many hills I would encounter, I would downshift even before getting to the hill.
Well, just a possibility. Again, congratulations.