Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The MS "Race" report

I mentioned a 100-related milestone in my previous post. Here's another one: Finally, I rode a century.
I always knew I'd get around to riding one, but it just never was a huge goal. Or at least it hasn't been for the last few years. I hadn't even really thought about it, because it's been well within a reasonable realm of possibility for the last few years.
A couple years ago, whole passel of detours turned the Pedal to the Point's nominal 75-mile return route from Sandusky to Berea into a 91-mile slog. And this spring, before I'd even begun doing much serious training, a bunch of us rode something like 78 miles through the Emerald Necklace and then home through downtown. So something like five months and hundreds of hours of riding later, I was confident I'd be able to knock out my first century, even though I hadn't done a whit of century-specific training.
So about a week before this year's Pedal to the Point (the MS-150 ride), I decided I'd do the event again, except this year, instead of doing 75 out on Saturday and 75 back on Sunday, I'd just do 100 on Saturday and then catch the shuttle home.
The only question was, how fast?
I figured 17.5-18 mph (somewhere around 5 hrs 30 min. to 5:45), with most of it in a paceline, would do the job without killing me.
So when I sprinted the last 150 meters into Sandusky and saw my average speed was 19.4 mph and we came within 9 minutes of doing it in 5 hours, I was pretty surprised.
I have to give credit to my paceline partners -- teammates Gary B. and Ian, along with a few others who came and went. Gary and some Ironman dude pushed the pace hard at times -- too hard, I feared, when we were still 80, 70, 60 miles away from the end and my legs were already feeling it and they kept jamming it up every roller like there was a polka-dot jersey on the line.
I reminded myself from time to time that this isn't supposed to be easy. That made it easier.
Still, the northwesterly headwind still was wearing me down. It wasn't stiff -- it was actually fairly light -- but it was relentless, and in our faces the entire day.
When we were about 15 miles out, I just decided to wheelsuck the entire rest of the way, and a couple others in our posse seemed content to pull me and another slacker in to the end. But then, in the middle of nowhere, someone among our group made a sudden mistake. Names and details aren't all that important. Bottom line: My front wheel got taken out, in the middle of nowhere. Then my head got rolled over by the next bike in line.
I cussed, bled a little and then got back on the bike feeling ... well, energized. The adrenaline rush was exactly what I needed. I wound up pulling us most of the rest of the way, and feeling strong.
So here's my article proposal for Bicycling:

(On the cover:)
How YOU Can Train for a Century!
(Then, on the inside)
Train for racing. That's it. The end.

- JN

P.S.: Re. this post's title: Every year, most of the (non-cyclist) folks who sponsor me for the MS-150 tell me, "Good luck with your race!" It's not a race, I'd try to explain ... and then I quit trying. Good thing I did, because it became a lie. When you ride with Gary, everything is a race -- especially if some bearded Goldilocks on a 69-cm bike suddenly passes you (and Gary) as if he's issuing a throwdown ... Thanks to stuff like that, I spent more than an hour of the 5:09 ride at or above my lactate threshold.

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