Swim: 0 m/96,745 m
Bike: 101.1/1,034.8 miles
Run: 0/309.3 miles
My wife and daughter were out of town this weekend, and usually that means lots of exercise for me. With running out of the picture this week, that left lots of time for biking. It’s been a back-of-the-mind goal for me to notch some longer distances on the bike – 50 miles (a half-century), 62 miles (100km, or a metric century) and, eventually, a full century. Since my longest ride previously was about 33 miles, I thought hitting 50 would be an accomplishment I could be proud of as a newbie cyclist.
It’s worth noting that these distances have nothing to do with my triathlon training. They’re just milestones along the road to becoming a better and more experienced cyclist outside of the sport of triathlon. There’s really no need for me to ride 50 miles since my goal-race distance is only going to be 26.
But I’ve been thinking of ways to spice up my training – to reach bigger accomplishments than just what’s on the training plan. The #30daysofbiking challenge in April is a good example of that, as is my river swim or my 14-mile trail run. These are challenges that take my training off the pages of a schedule and into the perspective of real life. Things that stand out in vivid relief as I look back over my season. Am I going to remember that 5-mile tempo run from some Wednesday in August? Probably not, but I sure will remember the swirling snow on that silent January morning in the forest, or the feeling of unbridled elation when I touched the bottom on the other side of the river, or the needle-like pains scattered like raindrops across my thighs and calves as I pushed through Mile 51 at 20 mph.
Besides, what’s life without a challenge? To me, the whole point of triathlon training is not to complete races at a certain pace, but to push myself out of my comfort zone.
Since I had three days to myself this weekend, I decided I would ride a half-century on Saturday and then fill in miles on Friday and Sunday to hit a total of 100 for the weekend, another big milestone for me.
Friday (25 miles) – This was a very strong start to the challenge. Despite very windy conditions, I rode the course at an overall average of 20.2 mph – my fastest ride ever. This was the same course that I rode at 20 mph a couple weeks ago, except this was about 5 miles longer. The wind was coming strongly in one direction so it worked to my advantage on the outbound section of the loop, which has a few more (very minor) climbs. Because of the wind I wasn’t sure if I’d be close to 20, but when I saw my time with about 4 miles left to ride I knew I would be pretty close. Later in the day I was rethinking this aggressive ride as my legs reminded me of the morning’s hard effort and I thought about the big ride ahead of me on Saturday.
Saturday (52 miles) – This was a great ride, and I was quite surprised to be able to finish as strong as I did. I rode the first 15 miles by myself, and kept the pace moderate since I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel later in the ride. This whole ride was an experiment – I wanted to know what kind of physical issues I could expect during three hours of riding. I wanted to see how well my fueling would work, and see what kind of fatigue my legs experienced.
I fueled with Clif Shot Bloks, and I really liked them but only had one pack of six Bloks with me. I probably could have used two packs for a ride of this length. I also had Accelerade (one packet mixed with about 22 ounces of cold water) in a bottle and plain water in my CamelBak. The lemon-lime Accelerade was very tasty and I definitely should have had a second bottle that I could have switched out at my car at some point along the ride. Otherwise, I thought the day’s fueling was sufficient, although I could have used a little more.
But back to the ride. After my first 15, my buddy John came out and rode the next 6 miles with me, and then we met another friend who would accompany us for the following 25 miles. The pace during those 25 was somewhat relaxed so no one would get dropped, although I pushed ahead on some parts of the course at a slightly harder pace because I was feeling pretty strong. (The third friend is pretty new to triathlon training and not quite ready to keep up with John and I for a longer, aggressive ride. But we were happy to have him along, and the slower pace probably helped me maintain my energy for later in the ride.)
John then rode the last 6 miles with me and we pushed pretty hard, at least for just having ridden as far as we did. Our pace during most of this last segment was around the low 20s with the exception of a few hill climbs. I still felt very strong at this point until I got to the hills. As I was climbing them I started to feel drained and I felt the beginnings of some muscle cramps in my quads and calves. Nothing too serious, but something that more Accelerade probably could have helped to counter.
In the end, my average pace for the entire ride (which was more than 19 miles longer than my previous best) was 18 mph. Nothing too aggressive, but this ride was more about the experience than the performance. And it was a great experience, in large part because of the friends that joined me for the ride. I think doing something like this alone would become more of a mental struggle. And I really appreciate John pushing me hard at the end, when it would have been much easier to slack off on the pace. Probably the most rewarding part of this ride (other than crossing “half-century” off my cycling to-do list) was finishing it as strongly as I did.
(Note: This ride put me over 1,000 biking miles for the year!)
Sunday (24.1 miles) – After the last two rides – my fastest ever and my longest ever -this one was purely intended for recovery. I made myself take it easy (it wasn’t that hard, actually) and hit this loop at an average pace of 17.3 mph. Surprisingly, my legs still felt great even after the two previous days of hard riding, but other parts of me were ready to not be sitting on a bike seat any longer. Most of this ride was not in aero and was ridden a gear or two lower than I normally would. I even took a side loop to include a monster hill, just so I could practice with gearing as I pedaled upward.
So now it’s done. I’ve ridden my half-century and a combined 100 miles in a weekend. I learned some things about fueling, about strategy and about myself. Now it’s time to come up with the next challenge!