So, today was an amazing day riding with the Polka Dot team on the Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride to Austin. Lots of thoughts of the loved ones affected or taken by cancer. I wrote about that in my previous post, but this one is purely for me and the cyclist within.
Today's route was on the Natchez Trace. This is a pretty flat road and the road surface is quite smooth. With this kind of terrain, it is not uncommon for teams to cover a full century during their six hour shift.
Because the C3 team is ahead of schedule, the Dots decided to go back to the future for this ride. We started about 35 miles from our scheduled transition point, and had we ridden in the direction we are headed, we would have probably taken the team from 1/2 shift ahead to one full shift ahead.
So, we decided to get creative. We wanted to ride, but at the same time, we didn't want to really take the team any more ahead of schedule. So, we decided to backtrack for about 25 miles. Well, we didn't really take into account the headwind we were riding into! After some delays, we finally got started about 1/2 hour into our shift. We covered about 17 miles before we decided to stop and take a short break.
We had left the bus at the place from where we started and headed back towards it. When we arrived back at the bus, we were two hours and 45 minutes into our shift and had covered just over 36 miles. Not a really strong pace, but we didn't really care. We were having fun and were working on helping the C3 team stay on track.
During that break, we found out that Toni really wanted to knock out a century. 3 hours and 10 minutes to travel 64 miles, well, it was really 3 hours and 5 minutes by the time we made the decision and started rolling again.
The team started out rocking a great paceline with everyone making short pulls (~2-3min each). We were flying along at a great pace but things were looking like it was going to come down to the wire for actually hitting the century mark within our six hour shift. We took a short break with about 1.5 hours to go, and we still had to knock out just over 30 miles. It was definitely going to come down to the wire.
As we rolled along, we all found the pain cave. Everyone reacts differently when they enter the pain cave, but I was really proud of my friends on this ride. Although at times they were suffering the way a cyclist does when the combined effects of the distance and speed come to bear, every one of them pushed themselves with their eyes on the cycling goal we had set.
I know that part of what pulled them through was thoughts of their loved ones, but it is a testament to their intestinal fortitude that they pushed themselves to the limit.
As we all began to tire, Brandon told us about his experience with the Leadville mountain bike race. An old guy stood up to address the competitors before the race began and he said something along the lines of "You're stronger than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can". Really true if you think about it. Your body and your conditioning can only take you so far. When you find yourself in your personal pain cave, it is only your mind that can carry you through.
With about a half hour to go, it become clear that to maintain the best pace, Brandon and I were going to have to share the work on the front of the peloton. At this point, we had something like 11.5 miles to go and lots of shallow rollers.
These shallow rollers are actually nothing to sneeze at. They are sustained 2ish percent grade for hundreds of yards. Sometimes, perhaps as much as 3/4 to one full mile of just gradual grade. Yes, we get the advantage of going down the other side, and we take full advantage of that. At one point, I looked down and saw that we were only going 10 mph up one of these grades. Not the pace necessary to knock out 11.5 miles in 30 minutes.
With my new Garmin 500 (purchased just for this trip, and about 1 week before departure), I can now see my heart rate. You have to recognize that in all of the physical activities I have done in my life, this is the first time EVER that I have been able to know how my heart is doing. All I can say is 'THIS IS REALLY COOL!!!!".
I found that if I keep my heart rate between 140 and 145, everyone was right on my wheel. If I allowed my heart rate to climb much higher, I would start to pull away. Very neat to be able to see that. In the past, I relied on my instincts and my perceived effort. Now I can put a number to it.
Another cool thing about the Garmin: It is pre-programmed to give your lap time for a 5 mile distance. Although we had one 5 mile time over 16 minutes, most of them were sub 15, and several were sub 14. I think the best 5 mile time was 13:10 - that's rocking a pretty good average pace!
At about that half hour remaining mark, Brandon and I began to exchange 5ish minute pulls. This was about the right interval, and I think we both realized this. When we swapped leads, it worked like this: If Brandon was riding in the pack, he would come to the front and let me know he was there. I would accelerate slightly to open a small gap, and he would pull in to take the lead. Then it was my turn to drift back and take position near the back of the peloton.
This was an amazing ride today. As a cyclist, especially a cyclist that really loves the team aspect of riding, it purely rocked. When everyone was strong, we all did our share of the work to meet the goal of hitting the century for the 6 hour shift. As riders began to tire, we communicated well and others stepped in to carry the load.
So, did we hit the century? I figure it only really counts if we do it in the 6 hours we have allotted for our shift. We covered 36ish miles in 2:45ish, and took a 10ish minute break. With 3:05 to go, we had to cover 64 miles. We took one short break and got quickly back on the road. We passed our target mile marker (incidentally, it was Natchez Trace mile marker 200) at 5:59:30. We covered our target distance with 30 seconds to spare.
That's coming down to the wire!
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