Sunday, April 24, 2016

Big Dumb Ride Prep

Looking at the calendar, there are 5 training weekends remaining until my long (100mi) charity bike ride (hereafter dubbed the 'Big Dumb Ride').  Normally this ride is later in June, allowing a later start to training, but they've moved it forward to avoid other conflicts.  I signed up knowing this, of course, and hoped that the March and April weather would let me get out and get some miles in.

Some background:

  • I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never done an Imperial Century (i.e. 100mi - a 'Metric Century is 100km).  
    • This is a rite of passage for many bikers, and a lot of guys do multiple Imperials per year. Now in my 8th biking season, I've never done a single one.
    • I've been close a few times; my longest ride is 75mi and I've done several metric centuries, plus a Half-Iron distance Swim/Bike event where I swam 2000m and then biked just short of 100km with one short rest break.
    • I've had several attempts thwarted by weather, injury (I almost scrubbed my entire 2014 season due to lower back pain) or making a snap decision early in the day to ride with family instead of scooting off on my own.
    • The past 2-3 years, I've focused on triathlons. Biking is my favorite, but with swim+run events to consider, training time gets sacrificed.  More, the TYPE of training that I do tends to be different, since my Tri events are far shorter (14-26mi), the training I do is more to prepare myself for a sprint and then manage the transition to jogging after.
  • This season, we have no, zero Triathlons on the calendar.  This is intentional.  If I miss my goal in June, there are 2-3 other events I could jump on to knock the Imperial Century off my bucket list.
  • The BDR is not a timed event (i.e. not a race) but there is a time limit to how long the venue will be open, and the longer I'm on the course the more weather plays a variable (in particular, wind is typically worse as the day goes on). So I want to turn in a decent average speed (and besides, going slow sucks).
  • We've done portions of the BDR in 2009, 10, 11, and 12, but due to cost and other commitments we haven't been back since then.  
  • I want to finish in good form, not just limp across the finish line and need help to get to the car.  On a perfect day, I could probably do 100mi right now.  Having some reserve strength will help me get past whatever the weather happens to be that day; and after 2014, I don't want to risk any sort of injury by being stupid.
Early march weather was fine; above average even.  But late March and most of April have been pretty poopy.  I don't deal well with biking in the cold, and although I got some time on the spin bike at the gym, my mileage overall was far below what I'd planned

That being said, I started the season stronger than any other season to date.  Dropping swimming in late winter let me focus.  Time on the indoor bike on the gym reduced the amount of 'acclimation time' to my bike seat (aka sore ass).  In 2014 and into 2015 I made several minor changes and adjustments to my bike's equipment and setup, and although my bike isn't the quickest/lightest/sexiest carbon-fibre beast out there (it is, in fact, a steel framed Italian bike designed for fast touring on questionable roads), I have never felt more confident on it.  Things just 'clicked' when I grabbed it off the wall this spring.  So, despite not hitting all my goals, I am better and stronger and in better condition of any biking season to date.

Looking at the calendar, it's make or break time.  Either I'm going to get the training miles or I'm not.  If I'm not, then I should admit it now and enjoy sleeping in on the weekends while I can.

However, last weekend the weather finally cooperated and I set out to extend my mileage and make up for lost time.  It was a COLD morning (46 deg F), but the temp raised 20 degrees while I was out and I was hot by the time I came in.  I turned in a 41ish mile ride with a decent average moving speed. I wasn't out to set speed records but was happy with the pace.

This week I set out for a 50 mile ride as the next stepping stone.  I left my driveway this morning (Sunday) a little before 8am and followed a slightly modified course to get the additional miles.  Temperatures were about the same - a chilly 46 deg at the start - but I was better prepared and broke my thermal gear back out of the closet.  Wind was far different - last weekend there was almost none, just a whisper from the NE; this weekend was a steady 10mph SE at the start that shifted to a 15mph straight out of the south by the time I was coming back home.

The grind home today was a rude surprise. Weatherbug had predicted steady 6-8 mph SE winds shifting South throughout the day.  I set out knowing I'd be returning into the wind, but 6-8 is very manageable.  However, the wind was actually double that (confirmed when I got home). The crops of course aren't in the fields yet and the area I was in was flat and bare - the wind simply howled at me and all I could do was pedal on.  At a few points, the wind funneled between trees and I'd drop into granny gear just to keep moving. Although it wasn't the worst wind I've ever ridden in, the amount of time I had to keep at it really wore on me.

Today I finished 50.3 miles with an avg moving speed only slightly below last week. I'm happy with this, considering the ~15 miles of grinding I did in the wind.  Garmin says my avg HR was 150 (146 in my 'all day' target) and I burned 1637 calories.  This represents the longest unsupported (no chase car, non-event) ride that I've ever done.  It's the 4th longest ride I've done since I got my Garmin in 2013, displacing last weeks' ride for that spot.  Training wise, I finished strong and could have done another 10-15 if I'd had to, though I would not have tolerated more time into the wind very well.

Next weekend my folks are in town; with an appointment on Tuesday and weather turning to shit on Weds/Thurs, I may not get a ride in at all.  But if I get lucky, I hope to add another 5-10 to the course and maybe even push for a metric century (100km, 62mi).


  1. Awesome Dog!! I dislike physical discomfort myself so I have respect for the guys that put in this type of effort in the cold/dark etc. That and I detest exercise.

    My wife on the other hand is a sports scientist (Msc sports science) and loves this stuff. We have an agreement that I will do a little bit in order to maintain a minimal level of fitness - lest I die too many years before she does (I kid you not - quite literally the reason)

    Thus we went had to run/bike/run in a du-athlon yesterday. 3km run/9km bike/3 km run. I almost died. Today I struggle walk.

    With all this background, the TL;DR: respect - I mean it!

    1. Thanks! If you'd talked to me 10 years ago and said I'd be doing crap like this, I would have (literally) laughed in your face. I am not a jock and not competitive. I could probably make a whole post out of 'why I bike' (I'd have to look, I might have already).

      I've not done a duathlon; running is my weakest tri segment. Congrats on your finish. To be honest, I kind of miss the Tri/Multi-sport community and for the first time am a little sad we're not doing at least SOMETHING this year.

      I snipped part of the post that talks about May. I have a work trip that I owe and a family vacation that will consume 2 weekends driving to the east coast and back. Miles are going to be hard to nail down and the month is going to go fast.


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