Well, then I started going to a new PT, who didn't give me any actual restrictions but told me to keep it easy. I've been really focusing on healing the past few weeks, and as such, haven't done many long rides. I knew that spending that much time in the saddle would the the opposite of "keeping it easy," so I started shopping around my bib. I thought I had found someone to buy it, and had even picked out a short triathlon to jump in on Saturday instead. But then in the middle of last week, I found out that wasn't going to work out. I couldn't find anyone else to take it at such short notice, and money is tight enough that I just couldn't wrap my head around throwing away my entry fee, so I decided to ride. They were offering a 200K option instead of 200 miles, and I figured I could manage that without too much trouble. I did a quick 2-day taper (1 normal day, 1 complete rest day) and spent the rest of the time wondering exactly how much I was going to suffer.
Fortunately, Emily was
The night before, the poet and I went out early for our standard pre-race juju meal, which meant I was packed and in bed by 9. My alarm was set for the ridiculous hour of 4:20am.
I was awake when it went off, and I got up and had a protein bar and made a PB&J to eat on the way. It was a short drive to Anacostia Park, and I got my number, body marked, and started to unload my bike just as the sun came up. I love the pre-ride atmosphere. Everyone is eating and chatting and pumping their tires, and it's just fun. I used the bathroom once (note: most disgusting public bathroom I have ever been in, and I've been in a men's bathroom at a football stadium) before we lined up. They had pace markers on the ground, and after a short talk from one of the ride organizers that no one could hear, we were off.
I know, my sunglasses are upside down and in the wrong holes.
The ride started with a short loop around the capitol, which was actually one of the more unpleasant parts of the ride. There were lots of turns and we were rolling pretty slowly. We finally looped back around to Pennsylvania Ave and headed east out of town. At the base of the last big downhill, there were several cracked steel plates across the road, and there were several deep potholes spreading the width of the road. I braked hard and tried to go easy over it, but it was rough. I caught up with Emily and said, "Wow, that's a ton of pinch-flats just waiting to happen!" And less than a mile later, it happened. I can only assume that I popped the flat going over the rough road and it started a slow leak in my tube. Cussing my head off, I pulled off and stopped. Emily turned around to wait with me while I changed my tire.
I had the new tube in and was working the tire back on when the SAG vehicle pulled up. The guy driving had a floor pump, and offered to finish putting my tire back on. I let him - I can do it, but I'm not fast - and he had the tire pumped and back on pretty quickly. We fitted the tire back on the bike, and I dropped the bike onto the tire and - KABOOM! The tire exploded and took at least 10 years off of our lives, especially Patrick, who was about 2 inches away from it when it blew.
By this point, we were pretty far behind the pack. Patrick mentioned that he could take us to the first checkpoint after we changed the tire the second time, which I was fine with (what's up, undertrained!), but Emily really wanted to hit 200 miles so I told her to take off and I'd catch up with her. We got the second tire changed and jumped in the car to catch up. We made a few other stops to check on riders with flats, so by the time we caught up with Emily, we were only a mile or so from the first checkpoint. I made a quick bathroom stop there, grabbed a few Oreos, and we headed out. I estimate that I lost about 8-10 miles off the day from this.
We were still a bit behind the pack, so we hauled serious ass on the second leg. We picked up another guy partway through and traded off in a pace line for most of the miles. I would guess we averaged somewhere in the 19-21mph range in here. Despite feeling unprepared and under-tapered, I was feeling strong and really enjoying the ride. We got into the 7-11 which was the second checkpoint and I grabbed a soda, a granola bar, and a few other snacks and was ready to head out when some of Emily's friends rolled in. She had introduced us at the start, as they were also doing the 200K, and I decided to hang back and ride with them. They took their break and we rolled out in a pretty large peleton.
The first 15 or so miles were fantastic. We were in a decent-sized group, and there were some strong guys pulling at the front. The girls that Emily had introduced me to were really nice and we chatted for a while in a big group. We split off from the 200 milers and headed out on some really nice country road. We went over a gorgeous bridge, and I tried to take some pictures without stopping.
I didn't notice when the guys pulled off the front (and I wish I had), and then someone else got a flat tire, and suddenly we were dropping speed in a much smaller group. The last 10 miles went pretty slowly and I was relieved to pull into the lunch stop. I was hot and hungry but felt like I still had miles to give.
There were 44 miles left after lunch, and I was hoping to get through them pretty quickly and finish strong. We met back up with some of the guys at the rest stop and pulled out together. This time I pulled ahead with them when they broke off the front, and had a really strong 18 miles to the next rest stop. We did stop quite a few times to let the back of the pack catch up, which really wasn't how I wanted to spend my day, but it was nice to roll with a large group instead of riding alone.
By the time we reached the final checkpoint, we had 25 miles to go and I was tired, mostly from all the stops and starts and slow stretches of riding. I didn't even want to stop, I didn't want to do anything except ride until I was done. Our stops were getting longer and longer and I was starting to get pretty cranky about all of it. We rolled out and almost immediately started to hit some decent hills - nothing steep or long, but any kind of climbing is tiring after 100 miles have gone by. I'm a decent climber, and I never stand to climb, but I did have to drop into my small ring for one stretch in the last 20 miles. One of the guys I was riding with started laughing every time we saw a hill coming, because he knew I'd be cussing the whole way up.
Hills after mile 100 are rude.The last 8 miles of the ride turned out to be as annoying as the first 8. Lots of short turns, stopping at stop lights, dealing with traffic, and weaving through some pretty un-scenic parts of SE DC. We finally turned into Anacostia Park and I heard my crotch cheer when I pulled up to my car and hopped off. 112 miles, 6:46. I picked up my medal and teeshirt and had some pizza before heading home.
When I walked in the front door, I had this waiting for me.
I opened one and laid on the floor until the poet got home, smelly and dirty and sore and tired.
I can't believe I pulled this ride out of my ass and felt so good (except a bit cranky near the end) the whole time. I had some great stretches of riding in a pace line, and I felt really powerful on the bike through it all. It's a huge contrast to how I felt during and after the Reston Century last year, where all I could do was try and survive. On this ride, I never got into that hurt locker where it takes every ounce of mental stamina to finish. I spent most of Thursday and Friday preparing to really suffer, and I didn't.
The ride itself was pretty great. Lots of great riders to chat with (although I did not talk to a single person all day who wasn't in IM training - mostly LP and Wisconsin, but some later in the year as well), the tour itself was scenic, the volunteers were fantastic, the checkpoints had piles of delicious carbohydrates, and except for the first and last 8-10 miles, it was fast riding. I'm not sure I'd agree with the ride organizer that called this "flat," as I ended up with about 4000 feet of climbing on the day, but it was mostly rollers, not wipeout 4mph climbing. On a ride this long, my nutrition plan is basically, "eat everything you can find, every chance you get," and that got me through all right. I did get to spend a lot of time in my drops and the tighter angle was putting a lot of pressure on my, erm, front crotch from the nose of my saddle, so I'm going to see if I can make an adjustment that helps that. And on Sunday, I felt mostly fine - my body is exhausted, but I wasn't really even that sore anywhere. My quads felt tired, and my right wrist hurt a bit, but nothing like the nuclear fallout after the Reston Century last year. One of my goals for this summer was a sub-6 hour century, and I missed it by less than a mile. I know that if I was riding with a strong pace line for the whole ride, I would hit that easily, and I think I'm going to revise that time seriously downwards for my next 100 miler. And I've got a score to settle with Reston. I've got a lot of work to do between now and then, but this makes me really motivated to go after it, to grab it with my teeth and shake it until it's dead.