Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tour de Cure Century - 2009

At 4:30 AM, I stumbled out of bed, downed some oatmeal and wholewheat bread with honey, hopped into my awesome Hyundai Accent GL and set off on my way to Brigham City. Note that unlike the week before I was very careful and remembered to bring my cycling shoes.

The start time for the 100 route was at 7:30 AM. I was wearing my new Omniture kit and looked around through the sea of other riders to find anyone else from Omniture. The Select Health riders (294 riders strong) were wearing a similar green jersey to Omniture's, making it difficult to tell the difference. I found a couple of Omniture Software Engineers and rode with them.

The route basically headed west out of Brigham City through flat country roads. I started out at a casual pace, with the intent of staying with the main pack of riders. After a few miles another larger pack developed ahead of where I was and they were cruising along at around 23mph. The people I was riding with were going slower than I wanted and the pack was fragmenting already, so I decided I should ride with the bigger, faster pack ahead. I went into the drops and started hammering the pedals in order to close the 200 meter gap. I used more energy than I wanted bridging to the other riders, but was able to kick back and rest once I got there. Riding in a large pack was fun and really was the first time I'd experienced it. There must have been 60+ riders, so I just hung out at the back and let them pull me along.

A few minutes later, the guys leading the pack missed a turn (don't know how as the signs were bright orange and big) and then people started putting on the brakes. Not a good idea when the guy behind you is 2 ft. from your wheel and going 20+ mph. A few guys went down. One in particular was on a nice Specialized carbon framed bike and you could see the black skid marks on the road where he locked up. Lot's of road rash..... Luckily I avoided the crashes and continued on.

The main pack started to thin out as people realized they couldn't maintain the pace. This was nice as it weeded out the people that were struggling with the concept of a pace line. We organized into a double pace line (2 parallel pace lines) and took turns pulling. This was a good plan because the wind was a factor and there was some light rain. I made the mistake of inserting all of my gels into a Ziploc bag in my jersey pocket, underneath my wind jacket, making them difficult to get to while we were going hard in the pace line. I'm not yet comfortable enough with my skills to be digging around in my jersey pocket with one hand on the bars in the middle of a pack going 20+ mph. So, this minor mistake (better now than in a real race) resulted in delaying when I would normally refuel. As a result, I started to fade and decided I'd better slow down and refuel with some gel. The only problem with my decision to back off was that the support station was only about 1/2 mile from where I got dropped by the main pack. I guess I should look at the map closer next time.

So, I pulled in to the support station about 30 seconds behind the lead pack to fill my water bottles after about 1 1/2 hours of riding and 35 miles (23.3 mph pace). I was feeling pretty tired at this point, so I was glad for the short rest. I took too long at the stop though and the main group left before I could finish in the porta pottie. I would have liked to continue riding with the lead group to see if I could hang with them, but that's okay. There will be other chances.... I really started feeling like a rookie when I noticed while at the feed zone that my Castelli wind breaker was no longer in my jersey pocket and had fallen out when I was digging for my gel. Arrghh! At least it wasn't raining.

I was about to pull out of the rest stop on my own when two of my Omniture coworkers pulled in. I agreed to wait for them while they fueled up and then we were on our way. We rode at a comfortable pace of around 19 mph. We then started up the one climb of the entire ride. It actually was a decent climb at an approx. 6% grade over 2 miles. I led out, never looked back and made it to the summit 4 minutes ahead of the other guys. On the way up the climb mosquitoes were swarming around the other riders. I probably passed 10-15 riders on the way up, all of them with dozens of mosquitoes on the back of their legs. I didn't see any on me though. I think it was due to the fact I was wearing my cycling tights. One guy I noticed had blood on his leg from road rash. The little buggers were having a feast on him...

At the summit, we regrouped and rode on to the next feed station at 43 miles. I wasn't tired and actually would have preferred to keep going, but since we were next to the Golden Spike National Historic Site (and I packed along my camera), I figured what the heck?

For the next 17 miles to mile 60 (to the next rest stop), the 3 of us rode together and took turns pulling. One of the guys who latched on to our train was this little Mexican guy, probably 5 ft. 6" with huge, bulging calves. He and I took turns at the front and we kicked up the speed to 23-24 mph. As I was following him, I commented on his huge calves. He said his neighbor told him he needs to use his quads more when cycling. Ha ha!

After the rest stop at mile 60, it started to rain a little bit. I settled into the drops with my head down, trying to avoid the rain on my glasses and keep in a somewhat aero position. I must have been going too fast though, cause I dropped my Omniture guys (sorry!).

I'm still learning the art of pulling. One of the things when you're pulling is you try to keep a steady pace. You want to go at a fast enough speed that the guys behind aren't thinking "speed it up bro" while at the same time you don't want to go too fast that you drop the guys behind. I've found that sometimes I'm not paying enough attention and next thing I know, I look back and there's no one behind me. Another newbie mistake......

I rode with a couple of other riders who wanted to go at a fast pace and we took turns leading. One of the guys was really good at all of the hand signals. Whenever we were coming up on a slow rider he'd do the little wave action behind his back to fall behind and pass. At every pothole, rock or wrinkle in the road, he'd quickly point to so that we'd know to avoid the obstacle. I tried doing the same when I led, but I certainly wasn't as smooth with my hand gestures. Maybe after a few more group rides and I'll have it down like him.

The route continued to Tremonton and then made this sort of detour mini loop through the tiny settlement of Garland (maybe one of the ride organizer's Grandma lived there? not sure..) and then headed south back to Brigham City. At mile 78 the two with whom I was riding stopped at one of the rest stops, and so I continued solo for another 10 miles or so. At this point I was starting to feel a little bit tired, so I pulled out my PowerBar Gel, tangerine flavored with the 2X caffeine. It was a good boost when I needed it, although probably won't go with the tangerine flavor again.

Also, about this time a train of riders caught up to me. I had passed these guys 1/2 hour before, but since I was solo, they worked together and caught me. I was pedaling along on this quiet country road when I heard behind my left shoulder an invitation to "hop on and take a break." I agreed and was about to peel right and fall in-line, when this yahoo in their group was right on my wheel and to my right. I almost took him out. This same guy for the next 5 miles was non-stop overlapping wheels with the guy in front of him. This is dangerous for him because if the guy in front of him moves his back wheel into his front wheel, he'll go down. I was glad when we made it to the final rest stop without incident.

I finished the last 12 miles feeling strong. I sprinted at one point for fun to try and catch a rider that was leading out and playfully "attacking". He was clearly faster than me, but I left the other riders behind that also tried to pursue him.

I finished in just under 5 hours of ride time (4:59). I'm happy to report that at the end of the ride, I was able to recover my Castelli jacket. Some nice old gentlemen who were working the radios put out an APB on it and I was sure glad someone was honest and turned it in.

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