I don't generally like to do virtual races. Don't get me wrong, it's fun and sometimes I need the extra oomph to get out the door, but I love the excitement of race day and would much rather wake up at 4:30am to drag myself to a start line.
However, a few months ago, I read about a virtual race put on by "Fatty." It's called 100 Miles of Nowhere, and you can go read about the history of it if you want, but essentially, the idea is to ride 100 miles over a short course. Why? Because cancer is stupid, and that's where your "entry fee" goes - the profits go to LiveStrong, to help them help people fight cancer.
Maybe this makes me a cranky wench, but I don't generally like to raise money to race. I like my racing and my charitable contributions to be separate. And how I feel about this might change someday, but for now I'd rather just donate $500 to a charity than pester my friends to help me raise $500 so I can run a race. This race appealed to me because the point of it was clear, and I was able to simply donate and then go ride my miles. I do understand and appreciate the fundraising efforts by many of my charity-racing friends and I am certainly not downing you guys for what you do. This is just about what I do. Feel free to flame my ass off in the comments anyway.
So I signed up for the virtual race. My original plan was to do it on Saturday, June 4 (when many riders are doing it), and to do 100 miles of laps of Haines Point (non-DC folk, a 3ish mile loop popular with cyclists because it's a wide road but is generally free of cars). I thought that seemed like an appropriate way to prove that I have no sense at all.
But when we got back from vacation last Sunday, I realized that I could do it on Monday, since I was taking most of the day off. I had only been in the saddle once since my 70.3, the high on Monday was forecasted at 99º with a healthy dose of humidity on top, and I definitely didn't spend my week in Jamaica preparing to ride 100 miles. I also spent most of Saturday and Sunday traveling and was exhausted. I emailed some friends to see if I could get some company for all or part of it, and I planned on heading out at 5am to beat as much of the heat as I could. Instead of doing laps of Haines Point, it turned out that to meet up with Beth and then Lauren, I'd end up riding back and forth (and back and forth) over a small stretch of the W&OD trail. Sounded good to me.
First race day failure: alarm didn't go off. I woke up around 5:45 and bustled around getting ready to go, but I had already lost an hour. I packed a PB&J, granola bars, shot bloks, pretzels, and bananas in my jersey. When I stepped out the front door around 6am, the heat and humidity took my breath away. It was already well over 80º and the "feels like" temp was almost 90º. Whew.
I met up with Beth about 7 miles down the trail. We spent most of the first hour commenting over and over about how hot it was already, how sweaty we were, etc.
We did an out-and-back that landed me almost home, where we only had to wait for a few minutes to meet up with Lauren. From there we headed back the way we came, chatting and mostly taking it easy on the pace. By now it was after 8am and the sun was deadly. The W&OD has almost no shade and is blacktop, so I could feel the heat reflecting back up at me as we rode.
We picked a point where we would turn around again, and when we stopped in a tiny patch of shade to eat and drink, I realized how zonked I was. I drank both of my water bottles, ate my PB&J and a granola bar.
We had seen a 7-11 about 2 miles back, and the thought of a slurpee had been making me drool since we went past. It turned out to be a brilliant idea. We got slurpees, used the bathroom, filled up our water bottles with ice, and I bought some gatorade, which I never drink, but I wanted the carbs + electrolytes to go along with my water bottles.
The worst part of the ride came about 5 miles later. At that point, we had ridden past a little fair in Vienna that went over the trail several times, but when we rode up to it this time we realized everyone was getting off their bikes and walking through because of how crowded it was. By then it was almost 11am and my bike computer had the temp at over 100º. We walked our bikes probably about a quarter-mile and it was awful. I didn't realize how much of a breeze we were getting on the bike until we stopped.
I spent the last 10 miles or so in complete zombie-survival mode. Every time my watch beeped a mile, I would drink water, and every time I got to .5, I would drink Gatorade. The sun had completely roasted my brain. Beth dropped off the trail and headed home, and then Lauren and I split up about a mile from my house. At that point, I had only ridden about 75, and until about mile 60 had illusions of doing a few more out-and-backs to get to 100. My legs felt fine because we were keeping a pretty easy pace, but I was toasted. I decided I'd finish up the miles later in the week because I could not ride another inch.
Wednesday morning rolled around, just as hot and disgusting as Monday. I headed out for Haines Point pretty early, and did tempo-paced laps until I headed to work. When I left work, the "feels like" temperature was 104º and riding the 6.5 miles home took more mental effort to simply stay on the bike than I've needed in a long time. 30 miles on the day brought me to 105 miles of nowhere.
I do kind of feel like doing this race split over 2 days is cheating, and I might try and do 100 next weekend to make up for it, but there was no way I had another 25 miles in me on Monday. I also feel like the 75 miles of suffering I did in the heat on Monday is akin to the same amount of suffering I would normally feel over 100 miles in more reasonable temps. I am glad that doing it this way allowed me to include a bunch of Haines Point laps in these miles, since that was my original plan. And I think a lot of things about the way I did this prove that I have no sense at all, which was the purpose of the ride. Cancer is stupid, and while my life hasn't been affected in the same way that Fatty's has by this awful disease, I'm glad I was able to contribute to this effort and ride with more of a purpose (this time) than eating a giant burrito when I was done.