“You will need to know the difference between Friday and a fried egg. It’s quite a simple difference, but an important one. Friday comes at the end of the week, whereas a fried egg comes out of a chicken. Like most things, of course, it isn’t quite that simple. The fried egg isn’t properly a fried egg until it’s been put in a frying pan and fried. This is something you wouldn’t do to a Friday, of course, though you might do it on a Friday. You can also fry eggs on a Thursday, if you like, or on a cooker. It’s all rather complicated, but it makes a kind of sense if you think about it for a while.”
– Douglas Adams
The purpose of this week was simple: get a near accurate representation of the Big Ride in terms of days. I had the opportunity to string together four 100-mile days with the holiday weekend and I took advantage of it.
Friday: Initial Pace
One of my big concerns about the Big Ride is day 3. What will my legs be like, what will my body feel like, and how will all of those factors coalesce to affect my pace? I want to make sure not to come out of the gates too fast on Day 1. So, for my first 100-mile ride of the weekend, I put major emphasis on keeping the pace down.
I want a total average speed of 12.5 mph on the Big Ride, including all stops, meaning I’ll have to pedal closer to a 15 mph pace in order to reach that goal. Friday’s ride clocked in at just four hundredths off the pace I wanted.
I felt pretty good on the ride, which was dreary and overcast for most of the day. I had to deal with some work stuff mid-ride that caused the first ⅔ of the ride to go a bit slower than planned, resulting in me needing to speed up the backend to get to the desired total average.
Once home, I made lunch, cleaned the house, and went off to bed to get up and do it all over again.
Saturday: Push It a Bit
For Saturday’s ride, I took the same route and took it very slow in the beginning, coming in at a dismal 12 mph average with only one stop for the first 25 miles. This was on purpose because I feel like my initial pace Days 3 through 5 of the Big Ride will suffer dramatically as I try to get back into rhythm and get my legs loosened up. I don’t want the mental strain of falling behind the pace to bother me too much.
I sped up after the first 30 or so miles and wound up at a faster overall pace than desired. These 100-mile rides do not incorporate the same number of rest stops that will take place on the Big Ride when I will need more on-the-fly food and liquid purchases, especially in the later days.
The one thing of note on this trip was a crazy lady truck driver pushing me to the very edge of the road so she could try to rocket out in front of someone at the intersection where she wanted to turn right and did not care that the other lane had the green light.
Sunday: Oh Man
For Sunday, I flipped the same route, starting at the end and working my way back to the beginning. This changes the amount of climb and other obstacles you face, even though it’s the same path. For example, the 8% descent on Rosedale road is now an 8% climb I have to do.
Overall, this day suffered from the same pacing issue as Day 2 where I started out so very slow and spent the rest of the trip trying to get the pace up to the goal.
I also felt some interesting leg pain in the top of my left knee that caused me to ease up several times on the ride until the pain subsided.
Monday: Leg Pains
The original plan for Day 4 was to push the pace as much as possible to try and simulate a much rougher trip. However, upon getting up, my legs were so sore and tight that I instead fell into the same rhythm as the previous two days of super slow start time, not really getting any sort of groove or real speed built up until mile 30 or so.
I worry about this because it makes it seem like my lofty pace goal will be unobtainable, which will strain me mentally as I continually look down at the watch, trying to make up the 30 or 40 minutes that I am off. I don’t think there’s much I can do about that except try and figure out a better way to get started in the morning. I need to either get over my fear of pushing too hard at the beginning or figure out a decent warm up routine so that I don’t need to spend 2+ hours pedaling before I feel good enough to speed up and increase the RPMs.
With the multiple stops (I predict four or five per day for the Big Ride), I will be losing five to ten minutes each time to refill on fuel. That means I need to maintain a quicker pace throughout the entire ride, not just the last 100 miles.
This four-day weekend did teach me something about the structure of my days; what I need to do and when to get ready for the following day. One issue with the Big Ride in comparison to this four-day stint is that each day of the Big Ride will have at least 32 more miles in it, and almost all the days will have 50+ more miles. That means 4 or more hours in the saddle on Big Ride days.
My hope is to get at least 5 to 6 hours of sleep each day, but if I’m well off my pace, that may not be feasible.
The final day, Day 5, is still the biggest looming challenge I’ll face. Coming off 610 miles in four days, I’ll need to pedal 170 more with the most climb of any day of the trip. I already have it in my head that this day may take me 20 hours instead of 14. As long as I get in before Sunday morning, I’ll consider it a success.
I have RTYD III to remind me that an all-day ride is not impossible. That trip took me 26 hours with all the nonsense and stops I had to take and dealing with a strained calf the entire time. By day 5, I will be in survival mode, I predict. I guess the point I am trying to make is if you are a betting person, take the over for time until completion for Day 5.
One big issue coming off the bike on Monday after the 4th ride was my legs. I thought they were sore on Sunday but I was mistaken. My quads were swearing at me with every step and my left achilles was so tight and sore that I struggled to walk and stretch it out. I wonder if I exacerbated the strain in my legs by walking nearly eight miles Sunday night trekking my way to the store and to work.
The bright side was waking up the next day, the legs weren’t nearly as bad and I don’t doubt I could have put up another 100 miles on Tuesday. I did not do that, however. Instead, I took my first rest day in 35 days. Of course for me a rest day includes a minimum of six miles of walking to get to work because my wife drives our only car, so not a normal person rest day perhaps, but my first time not on a bike in 35 days, at least.
The highlight from Monday was when I was in Marion. On a suburban road, heading towards a T intersection, I hugged the curb as I approached the stop sign, looking left to see what traffic was coming as I prepared to turn right. Turning my head back, I see a silver car streaking towards me, the driver honking as she cuts her left turn onto my current road so tight that she is in my lane and nearly hits me. Always have to love the driver who is so incompetent that they feel they have the right to honk at you as if you are to blame for their inability to maintain the notion of lanes. These are the same people who walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk.
We have now entered the final month. On the day of writing this, I am a mere two weeks away from the Big Ride. That thought alone is incredibly anxiety-evoking. The plan will be really only one more intense weekend of training. I will probably do another round of back-to-back centuries this upcoming weekend and then it’s to the shop with the bike on Tuesday the 11th for an overhaul tune up and light spins the rest of the week and weekend. Then, Monday the 17th off and an (hopefully) early bedtime to get up and go the following morning.
If nothing else, these four days convinced me that I will be able to complete the Big Ride. The downside is that I don’t think I’ll be able to stay on schedule past Day 2. I think if I get off to a great start on Day 1, putting in the miles in the allotted amount of time or even faster without pushing myself too much, I have a better shot of getting through Day 3 before falling behind schedule. But, if the schedule is ignored and I just pedal through the twilight hours of Saturday during Day 5, I have high confidence that I will be able to finish the trip by Sunday morning.
The Great Cycle Challenge
The first ride of this four-day training session was also the last ride of the Great Cycle Challenge. I put up 102 miles on Friday, clocking me in for the challenge at 1,630 miles for the month of June. In a previous post, I wrote that my goal was 1,000 miles and my lofty goal was 1,500 miles. To surpass both of those was quite surprising to me. I was also only 136 miles off of doubling my highest monthly mile total set the previous month (May).
I didn’t beat out my competition for most miles in Iowa but I certainly loved trying. The month of July will break 1,000 miles easily, assuming the Big Ride goes according to plan, but I think it will be quite some time before I surpass 1,630 miles in one month again.