(Graham has a hot spot on his foot, so we're trying to prevent him from licking it while it heals).
My friend Gretchen - the same friend that talked me into doing the full 100 miles at Reston less than two years ago - has been talking about doing this century ride all spring. I wanted to wait until the week of to decide, because I didn't know where my training would be until then. But when Monday rolled around, I emailed my coach, she gave it the green light, and I was in. Riding 100 miles just doesn't seem like a big deal to me anymore, and I know that sounds ridiculous, but I've done it more than a few times in my life and it doesn't scare me, it just takes a long time. On the flip-side, running more than 15 miles sounds terrifying. Just looking for a little perspective here.
I was able to stay with a friend on Friday night to avoid a 90-minute drive before 6am Saturday morning. I haven't seen her in a while, and it was wonderful to catch up with her and her incredibly cute baby (sorry about the crappy iPhone shot).
It took me a bit longer than I anticipated to get to the ride start, but we were on the road by 6:45am. I had been given a large but fairly low window (far below IM pace) of heart rate to ride in for the day, so when the girls I rolled out with started hammering up every tiny descent, I let them go. I figured either they were much stronger than me and going with them was going to lead to an ugly mile-70 blow-up, or they were not much stronger and I would end up catching up later in the day when they had their own blow-ups. Either way, I felt no grumpiness at watching them pull away. I had been warned that it was a hilly course with a lot of climbing, I was coming off of a solid week of training, and I wanted to start about as easy as I could.
The ride was split into two 50-mile loops, and the course was very well-marked - I think I only glanced at a cue sheet once the entire day, when we missed a tight turn and bumped into a group of cyclists retracing their steps who had done the same thing. I kept my HR in warm-up range for the better part of the first hour. A rest stop showed up pretty quickly, but I was trying to minimize non-riding time and practice self-supported IM nutrition all day, so I just peed, filled up my water bottle, and rolled back out. There were two rest stops in the first loop, and both were pretty empty (and looked stocked full of delicious snacks!) because of how early we had started. I don't really remember much about this loop. I was riding alone and I feel like my mind was quiet. I brought music with me but never turned it on. I rode steady in the middle of my heart rate zone, trying to stay even on the climbs and descents. The riding was peaceful but generally unremarkable, and I was actually startled when a left turn brought me back into the parking lot at the halfway point. I needed to pee and was ready to ditch my long-sleeved shirt and refill my bottles, but I didn't feel tired at all. I took a longer break here to go into the school and use the restroom, change, restock nutrition, etc.
As I was rolling out my friend came rolling in, so I pulled over to wait for her. Since I was over the halfway point and feeling so good, I decided that I'd try to ride closer to the top of my heart rate window for the second half. A few times in the back loop I picked up a couple of friends on my wheel, like the guy who yelled at me for "racing" the course when I passed him (small dick syndrome is noisy), but for the most part I just hung out alone in my own head, in the quiet. I didn't even mind when it got pretty hot in the last 20 miles, I just kept working my nutrition and watching my heart rate.
Breaking six hours in a century was a goal of mine last year, but I never quite got there, mostly because half-IM training kicked Reston off of my schedule and I never got around to finding another 100 miles to ride. I didn't roll out on Saturday with any time goals for the day, but when we stopped at the 73-mile point, I realized that as long as I continued to ride fairly evenly, I would slide in under six. There was a descent amount of climbing in the last 25 miles, and my HR popped up out of my zone more than a few times, but I didn't want to hammer home. I wanted to ride honestly in the right place and just see what happened.
Going into the ride, I felt a little unsure of my fitness. I even wrote and deleted a text to my coach several times on Friday asking if she was sure I was ready to ride 100 miles coming off of my half-IM recovery weddingapalooza week. In general, I've been feeling uncertain of my cycling fitness this spring - I think largely because it's difficult to see progress there. I do TT efforts in the pool and MAF tests on the track, but with cycling, I just ride what I'm told and work the workouts. I've been doing so much hilly riding in preparation for CdA, and I think that with hilly riding, you don't see progress through the numbers because the numbers aren't consistent and clear. But here, now, this - this looks like progress.
I'm not throwing a party because I rode 100 miles faster than I have before on the hilliest 100M course I've been on. I'm throwing a tiny party because at no time on Saturday did any of this feel hard (my ride Sunday - totally different story), and that more than anything is what makes me feel like maybe I am going to be okay on June 24th. Or maybe I might be more than okay - maybe I might have a blast.
How was your weekend? Did you ride a billion miles kind of fast?