Monday, August 25, 2008

300 Warriors Complete(ish) Report

It didn't really register until the day before just how early I'd have to get up on Saturday to do the 300 Warriors ride. I got up at 3:30, but still was almost 30 minutes late to the start in Park City, UT. Well, I wasn't late for the start so much as I wasn't early like I was supposed to be. When I arrived in Park City, I found it was still early in the morning. It was dark, and at that altitude, it was cold. about 40 degrees cold. Though I was surrounded by cyclists getting ready to ride, and I was parked next to the team buses of the Pros, I just wanted to go back to bed. I also wished I had brought leg warmers--but I never missed them on the ride.

There was no organization to the start, so I just took off when I saw another group head out. I was definitely one of the first to go--I think most people wanted to wait until there was some light before they headed out. As soon as I got pedaling, I felt fantastic. There's a certain rush that comes at the beginning of every big event like this, and I found--as is typical--the pace high, but my heart-rate low. I don't often ride in a group, and I think it's so novel the way I can slip along, effortlessly in a big group--sheltered from the wind.

After not too many miles, I realized just how much I should have eaten before I started. At the time, I couldn't stomach any more (it was just too early to eat), but after about an hour of riding I was famished. This worried me quite a bit, as I had planned out my nutrition for the day based on getting plenty to eat in the morning. Ultimately, this would scare me just enough to ensure I actually did get enough to eat. This helped me quite a bit at the end of the day.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?

The first half of the ride is rolling terrain with a few short, steep hills thrown in. I thought the hills would present a challenge and I thought I'd struggle to keep my heart rate (and thus, effort) down. However, I didn't have any such problem. I glided along without much effort and, before I realized, I was past those hills.

I started to feel more confident.

Some of the first people to start were from some local teams. It was fun to ride with them because they knew how to really get a pace-line going. Because I mostly go on solo rides, I forget how much more efficient it can be to be in a large group. Sure, I took my turn, too, but it was brief because we were constantly rotating. The pace was high.

Unfortunately, when we turn from back roads to the main highway, we had to go single-file. Soon, we started to overtake another group. However, between trying to pass them, and watching out for cars, I lost the group I was with. The next thing I knew I was alone. I couldn't catch up without killing myself, and no one caught me, so I stayed that way until the bottom of the Alpine Loop (the climb up past Sundance Ski Resort). Luckily, it was all downhill with a nice tail-wind.

I love riding the Alpine Loop. I know that climb well. I know when it gets hard--and how long it will stay that way--and I have a good feel for the effort involved. I met my support at the base of the climb and shed my jacket and winter gloves. I grabbed a bunch of Power Gel (my current energy gel of choice) and took off.

I'd like to say that I passed everyone and flew up the climb. I got passed a good amount, though. That's okay, I know my ability, and I was already doing well for time. I took it easy and just kept up my pace. The first part of this climb is terrible. It's steep and it just keeps going. It was here that I passed my first vomit patch of the day. Eww. My heart goes out to anyone pushing so hard at the half-way point (and only the beginning of the climb) that they throw up.

Many teams had their support meet them at or just above Sundance. It felt good to keep going when many people pulled off. Not to mention, Sundance marks the spot where the pitch of the road lessens a bit so I could relax and get into more of a groove.

About here is where I noticed that my shifting was not up to par, and that it was making a lot of noise back there. This is where I started what would occupy much of my thought for the rest of the ride. I started fiddling with the barrel adjusters in some sort of vain attempt to make things better.

Did I mention the beautiful weather? Gorgeous. Of course, the Alpine Loop is always awesome, but it was such a fabulous morning.

Shortly after passing Sundance, I got passed by someone on a really nice Cervelo--but he was breathing so hard. I just kept up my normal pace--refusing to alter it for anyone--and eventually I caught him again. I say eventually, but it was only about a 1/2 mile further up the road.

The rest of the climb was fairly uneventful. I got passed a few times. I passed a few people.

The descent down the other side (American Fork Canyon) was ... slow. Right near the top, a car pulled out in front of us, and proceeded to go slow. (I say "us" because there were a few other cyclists right near me at this point.) We couldn't get around the car because the road is so narrow with too many blind corners. I was cold and in a hurry. On a long ride like this when I'm racing against the clock, it is so frustrating to have free speed taken away. I mean, it wouldn't have cost me any energy to go faster. I rode my brakes the whole way down.

Once out of the canyon, I must have had a nice tail wind, too, because I flew along the road to the next re-fueling stop. Here, I shed my armwarmers, my skull cap, and grabbed more to eat and drink.

Speaking of eating, as I came down American Fork Canyon, I started to worry that I hadn't been eating enough, and that soon I'd not be able to eat--which happens to me sometimes on long rides. I ate tons. Everything I had. Then, I got more (as I just mentioned) and proceeded to eat that, too.

The climb up Suncrest (the 2nd of the three major climbs) isn't too terribly long, but it is steep. And there's no shade. None. However, despite this, I was really looking forward to this climb because it was here that we designated as the spot where my family would come out to cheer me on.

Actually, I was a little worried. It was just before 10am when I started the climb, and 10 was when I told my wife to be there. I remember saying something like, "There's no way I'll be there by 10, but you might as well be early." Huh, if she took that at face value, she might not even bother showing up right at 10. I really thought, because I was so ahead of schedule, that I'd miss them.

Before I had a chance to think much of the climb, though, someone wearing a red cape of some sort jumped out from behind a power box and started screaming "Go 300 Warriors!" That would be my support guy. I don't have any pictures of what he looked like running next to me as I climbed (by the way, he's an awesome runner--he ran quite a ways with me shouting and stuff) but here's what he looked like when he was getting ready to jump out and scare me.

At this point in the ride, there were much fewer cyclists. I'd like to think this is because I passed most of them, but I'm sure there's another explanation. I did catch up to a cyclist and lament that I might miss my family.

And then I saw my family. All my children were dressed in their cycling apparel and holding up signs to cheer me on. I gave them all "fives" as I rode past. It was such an adrenaline rush to have them there for me, that I don't think I felt the 2nd half of the climb.

I saw my family at the top again and they drove past on the way down (I took this descent easy on purpose). At the bottom of the hill, I made a right turn to follow the course and I noticed my wife take a left. Although I wanted them there at the finish, I knew it'd be hard for them--especially with the 4-month-old--and they really had no idea how much longer it would be.

Well, two climbs were done, and I was finally starting to feel tired. The ride through the valley to the base of the last climb isn't a bad ride. There was more traffic than I wanted (I even got honked at by any angry person in a car). I really wished they could have closed the course at this point.

One of the worst parts ...

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