It was 5:30 in the morning and the rain was coming down pretty hard. I was working on 4 hours of sleep and not really in the mood to ride my bike 100 miles. So back to bed I went, for another quality hour of sleep. When I finally did drag myself out of bed, the rain was still coming down but at least I was a bit more rested. The century ride I was registered for started at 7:00 -- which I wasn't going to make -- but I figured I would just show up and ride the route on my own as a solo time trial. Could I average 18mph over the entire course without drafting? Let's find out.
The Tour De Cure is a series of bike rides, ranging from 20 miles to the full 100-mile century ride, and takes place around the country as a nationwide day of riding to raise money for The American Diabetes Association. There's an obligatory fundraising minimum that you have to meet, which I decided to just cover myself rather than pester people for donations. After all, I admit that I am a bit torn on the issue of riding a bike to raise money for diabetes reasearch. While I acknowledge that diabetes can be a very debilitating disease that affects many unfortunate people for unknown reasons (this is the reason I donated); it's also a disease that, for an ever-increasing number of people, could be prevented by simply maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Diabetes is becoming more and more prevalent in the US thanks in large part (pun intended) to the rapid rise of obesity in America. Yet, at the Tour De Cure, everywhere you look you see people of average weight and at least average fitness. It might not be PC to say it, but shouldn't there be more of an effort to get the fatties out there on a bike, raising money to help fund the cure for the disease that they're likely to get? You'd raise more money and possibly prevent some illness at the same time. There, I said it. Somebody had to.
Back to the ride.
I finally shoved off from the starting line at 8:07 under dry skies and over an hour after the official start of the ride with the intent to go the full century without drafting for a second. I was equally determined to average 18mph for the entire ride without aero-bars. That would give me a 5:30 finishing time, which is nothing to brag about, but since I hadn't ridden more than 61 miles since 2002, I figured it was a good goal. And it made the math easy.
I realized during my ride on Saturday that, to pass the time, I dabble in handlebar mathematics. Averaging 18mph means that every 30 minutes I need to cover 9 miles. So, hour after hour, I would make a series of calculations in my head to see how ahead of the curve I am. After three hours I realized that I was 1.5 miles ahead of my 18mph average and that made me happy. I was feeling good and catching and passing lots of the back-of-the-packers who started well before me.
There were five aid stations out on the course, three of which I visited, and I must say that the volunteers and support on the ride were top-notch. Plenty of good fruit, energy bars, bagels, and water and Nuun. I've been using the Nuun electrolyte tablets (dissolved in water for a subtle-tasting sugar-free drink) and love them. And it's good to support a local company. I was thrilled to see them out on the course, and even more excited at the rest stop at mile 80 to see that Nuun has recently introduced a new caffeinated cola flavor. Believe it or not, but "flat coke" is one the long-time secrets of endurance athletes. You don't want the carbonation so you have to leave it sitting out for a while, but the sugar and caffeine make for a great pick-me-up in the late stages of a race. And now Nuun has the flavor available too -- and it tasted great! Very cool.
Anyway, by the time I had reached the aid station at mile 80, the course had already reentered the valley and, judging by my altimeter, I was pretty sure we were done climbing for the day. I was still ahead of my 18mph goal and had already logged over 4,000 feet of elevation gain on the route. The course was advertised as having roughly that much climbing, so I figured we were done with the hills.
Nope. It turned out the biggest hill on the whole ride came at about mile 86 and while I felt great going up it and kind of thought this "surprise twist" was rather funny (it wasn't to the dozens of riders I saw gasping for air on the side of the road) it did kill my average speed, especially since it was a long climb with a very short steep descent that was over in a blink of an eye. A total waste of elevation, as we like to say. I was pretty fried by the end of the ride and the last few miles of the ride were indeed painful, but I finished in 5:38 for an average of 17.6mph over the 99.4 mile course. Also ended up with 4,812 feet of elevation gain too, which is a fair amount for a century ride.
After finishing, the good folks at Chipotle Grill were there handing out some very tasty chicken burritos and Talking Rain had truckloads of their new flavored waters. Personally, I would have preferred just straight water than the artificially-flavored crap they were promoting, but at that point in the day, liquid is liquid. Once I got some semi-water and food in me and wiped the crust of salt off my face and arms, my mind instantly turned to Sunday's ride. I was registered for a 126-mile ride the next morning. I promptly walked over to the massage area and put my name on the list.
This would be a very painful weekend.