Sunday, August 24, 2008

HOT 100 - Metric Century

Participating in the HOT 100 - Metric Century (66 mile) Bicycle Ride yesterday was another first for me. I was looking for a bicycle ride experience to put under my belt, and that I did! It was quiet the experience, to say the least... but a great one at that.

I was tested. I was tested to every last bit of my being. I was tested like I had never been tested before. Early in the summer when I started looking for such a ride, my goal was to find one that was amongst other things, a bit challenging but not overpowering. Not having traveled in the bicycle circle as of yet, I was not sure of what to look for so I set off asking questions of anyone who may have had an answer and searching the web for anything that could enlighten me.

I arrived at the site some thirty minutes prior to start time. Plenty of time to get registered, use the facilities, get some energy food in me and ensure my bike was in proper working order. Once all that was completed, it was off to the races... well, it was not supposed to be a race, but tell that to the rest of the pack.

I calculated, to the best of my ability some 500-600 riders. All were sent at the same time, which again to my inexperienced opinion was a big mistake. Immediately off the starting block, big packs formed and I would say that the grand majority of participants (me included) do not know how to ride in a pack. This was sadly evident as in the first, very first turn of the course, a major crash claimed it's first (and I hope its only) casualty. It appeared to me that on this turn, bikes crashed and people tumbled over each other. As I passed the scene, seconds after the incident, help was being administered to a gentleman who appeared not to be very mobile on the ground. I thought about him for a while, I was surely hoping he was alright.

The first 18 miles of the ride where wonderful, easy going, fast passed. Not any major climbs to speak of. I imagine my average speed was somewhere around the 20 mph window for I made it to this spot in less than a hour, and yet I felt that I was not over extending myself. This was how I had planned it. As I chose the 66 mile option, I was to have my first rest stop slightly past the 18 mile marker. It was very evident shortly thereafter why this rest was so strategically positioned at this spot.

Mile 27 brought the first real test of the day. For half a mile more or less, a climb that registerd an 18% climb. This was murderous, it was by any and all accounts the biggest challenge I had experienced all year long. Half a mile of gearing down and cranking up! This was followed by anothor shorter climb at a 13% grade. I had made it through this, I was over the hump or so I thought.

The next fourteen miles or so, where smooth with very small rolling hills. I approached the second rest stop around the 42 mile mark. Here, I took the opportunity to fuel up and recharge my evereadys. I estimate my pit stop lasted some 10 minutes.

And now I was off for the last third of the ride, which proved to be the toughest part of the morning, not just because it was the tail end of a very long morning but because it was evident why they're called "rolling hills". For anyone who may not know, anyone who may be wondering, there's no such thing as an easy, rolling hill course out in the country. When you span three counties, 66 miles of "rolling hills" along a country setting, there's nothing easy about it. Hill after hill, with very little flat land to recharge to end the ride makes for a situation where the very best may question their abilities.

Information is a wonderful thing, at times. At times it could be your worst enemy. Let me explain. I have a gps computer installed on my bike, which gives me any and all information on the fly about my performance. I knew exactly how fast I was going, what my heart rate was, how fast I was pedaling (cadance), how steep the climbs were and for that matter how steep the descents were as well, but unfortunately for us on the bike, the descents are never as long as the climbs. All this at the time seemed to be a wonderful source of help. That is until the tail end of the ride. 20 miles to go, 15 miles to go, 12 miles to go... just two more and I will be in single digits miles to go, I remember thinking. Each stroke seemed to get harder and harder. My toes were killing me, really killing me. I need to work on my pedaling to make sure I don't put undue pressure on the toes. They were bad, I remember thinking that if I had more distance than that I could possibly not make it.

Single digit miles to go. 9, 8, 7, 5 and oh my goodness my toes were hurting, they were hurting bad. 4 miles, it all seemed within my reach, 3 miles, 2 miles, one mile! Yes, I was there, I would finish. Then the computer read 66 miles. I should be at the finish line, but I was not. It was no where in sight. What happened? Are they playing a joke on me? This ain't right! Where are the officials? I want to file a grievance. I should be finished by now. 67 miles and still no finish line... Oh, there it is. I see the school, I see the turn. I AM home. I have finished. I am done. 67.3 miles and I was done! None to soon.

As I look back at the experience I wouldn't change a thing, except I will not keep track of my distance past the three quarter portion of the ride. This was the worst. Counting down, in this case was a detriment. It did not help. I learned from this experience that this distance is just about as far as I would want to go. The hundred mile ride, well... I think that for me, it would take the fun out of it.

I have one more event this summer. In two weeks I will compete in the Old Hickory Lake Triathlon here in Hendersonville. I can't wait.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Looking Back so I can See Ahead

This has been a summer of firsts. First of all, I'm still amazed that I have been able to do what I have done so far. I have competed on my first triathlon, I have been on my bike for a combined total of almost 500 miles, I have been in the water for what seems a million laps - well, not quiet a million, but it sure feels like a million. I have run from 10 to 15 miles per week, not a lot by many's standards, but a bunch by mine.

I still have one more triathlon to compete on. The Old Hickory Lake Triathlon to be held in my hometown of Hendersonville, TN. on September 6th. Not a long one by any stretch of the imagination, but challenging in that the run portion of the event will be split in two. The first leg will be 1.5 miles out of the water and the second leg will be another 1.5 miles out of the bike. I have been on the bike course for a few rides and I think I will be alright. It's the swim that I'm concerned about being my first competition in open water. 400 yards doesn't seem like to far or to big a challenge to swim, I have been able to do without problem in the pool.

I have taken a great interest in improving my bicycle portion of the event. I have been riding most every Saturday for the past couple of months. I have been on rides anywhere from 40 miles to as high as 52 miles. This I have enjoyed the most.

On Saturday, day after tomorrow, I will participate in the H.O.T. 100 bike ride in Murfreesboro, TN. I will be riding the 66 mile course. I am excited, for I do not quiet know what to expect, I'm nervous, for I do not know quiet to expect. An aero bar has been added to my bike in an effort to make the ride a bit more comfortable. Hope it works.

With very few exceptions, I have tried to keep to a six day workout routine; two - three times in the pool, two times on the weights, two - three times run and one - two times on the bike. This, as far as I can tell, seems to be working for me. Will have to wait and see.

To finish out this year, my plans are to do the Memphis - St. Jude's Half Marathon on December 6th. After that I will decide if I will run the Half-Marathon or the Full Marathon in Nashville in April, but before that I have a date with my brother to do the Gasparilla Half Marathon in Tampa, Fl on Sunday March 1, 2009.