August 2nd, 2014.
“This is a ride, not a race”. This gets endlessly repeated in the parking lot and gymnasium at the Minnetonka High School as thousands of cyclists of all ages and ability gathered for this annual mid-summer event. With routes ranging from 16 to 100 miles, it really is a great family event, as well as a great test for serious riders.
This was my third straight year doing the century. The first year, it was my second century ride (and first ever group ride). I remember feeling that the hills on this course were just brutal and I barely got to the finish. The second year, I blew out a tire just before the second rest stop (only time I ever had to fix a flat). Before the forth aid station, I blew out my knee (and sat at the rest stop with an ice pack on my knee for 40 minutes) and again limped my way to the finish.
I was hoping to finally have a good day at this event!
The weather was perfect. No wind, perfect temperature (although it was supposed to get warm later in the day). As usual, I was the first one there. I found my way to the gym to register, I got my bike and helmet stickers, map, and pre-race carbs. I then meet up with a few members of a Facebook Ironman Wisconsin group. Laura, Amy and Kim were also all training for their first full Ironman race, so it was great to finally meet and swap training stories. They bumped into another of their friends who was riding the 53 mile route. The awkward intro went something like this:
“This is Raymond from Facebook. This is my friend, the cop.”
“Ummm…hello Raymond ‘from Facebook’…”.
Yeah, just a little awkward…
We then get our bikes and gear, and lined up in the 100 mile coral. While waiting for the start, we noticed a fellow rider wear flip-flops…for a 100 mile ride. We figured that he must be a) clueless, or b) a total badass. As we were waiting for the ride to start, John rode into the coral. He live at about the 88 mile mark on the course, so he figured that he would get an early start, ride from his house to the start coral then ride the course back to his house.
After the preliminary announcements, we were off. A large group start for a cycling event is certainly intimidating (especially when your feet are attached to your bike pedals). I quickly got separated from the rest of the group with all the chaos (yes, I got dropped BEFORE I crossed the starting line).
Just as we got going, we had to stop at a major highway intersection. Then, essentially, another mass start. It took about 5 miles for the herd to thin out. The weather was great, roads were in good shape, and the hills were not nearly as bad as I remembered them to be.
I quickly reached the first rest stop. I was hoping to be fairly self-sufficient on this ride and planning to only stop at the 56 mile rest stop to reload. It was easy to blow by this one at the 16 mile point.
The roads were certainly nicer then last year. Much of this stretch seemed to be freshly re-paved. At the 23 mile mark, I passed the guy in flip-flops. He was clicking away at over 20 miles and hour. So, yeah, he was a bad-ass…
I was pleased with how I was doing in this event. I was usually in the 17-18 mph range, frequently going over 20mph. The course was certainly flatter then I remembered. I passed by the spot where I got my flat last year (and actually saw several flat tires on the first portion of the course). I reached the second rest stop and felt great, so I kept going.
The stretch between the second and third rest stop is the longest stretch on the course between stops (24 miles). The heat during this stretch of the ride was starting to climb, and I was really starting to feel the heat. My fluids were dropping fast. I stopped at the 45 mile mark to drink a little more, have a few pieces of Cliff Bars and a couple of electrolyte tablets. I had enough to hold me until the rest stop, but would have to stop and reload.
When I reached the rest stop, it was not that busy. Amy was leaving just as I arrived. I was able to quickly refill my Gatorade bottles and brought them back to my bike. Riders were rolling in fast, and I had to wait about 15 minutes before I could get another cup of Gatorade to drink right away. At this point, Laura and Kim rolled in. We had a little bit to eat, I poured water over my head, and we were ready to go.
The next stretch was very rural, rolling farmland. The riders were really spaced out and it made for a great ride. We would chat for a bit, Get separated for awhile then catch up again. We basically were all going similar speeds. I was alone by the time I hit the next rest stop. The heat was tapping me out and I was going thru the fluids quite quickly. So, I figured I had better stop. Laura and Kim had the same idea and I met up with them again. By this point, we elected just to enjoy the rest of the ride and take our time. It was getting way to hot to kill ourselves on the course. As we were getting ready to leave, John rolls in. He promptly drops his bike, mumbles “This is stupid…” and decides to take a nap…
The next stretch was hillier and hotter. It was much more suburban and there was a lot more traffic. Also, some road construction, loose gravel, and narrow roads. I passed the location where I sustained the knee injury last year…no problems this time. We rolled into the final rest area-11 miles before the finish. This was our fastest rest stop. We just wanted to finish by this point.
Most of this stretch was suburban, and heavy traffic. I knew what was coming, and dreading it. Soon enough I saw it… The dreaded “4.5 miles to go” sign. We turn into a neighborhood and the endless hills started. Every climb was steep, every downhill was filled with blind curves. Every year I remember this this is one on the toughest and most technical roads that I have biked on.
Finally, I reached the service road back to the high school (I had fallen way behind at this point…I am not very fast or confident on highly technical courses…which is why I signed up for Madison). There was one last flat section left and then I reached the finish line.
Finish time: 6:51 (14.6 mph). Moving time-5:47 (17.4 mph).
I met up with Laura and Kim (Amy is the bad ass of the group, had finished way before us and decided to get in a one hour run in 90 degree heat while the rest of us sat around and had pizza). With the heat, I lost all motivation for a post ride run And I figured I would fit it in after I got home and the temperature had dropped a little. I grabbed one more slice and headed back home. Storms came thru during the drive, and ended up getting a 10k run that evening. Overall, I am pleased with the ride, and it has given me a little boost of confidence heading into the last few training weeks. Also great to have met a few others who will be racing with me in Madison on September 7th…