Saturday, June 30, 2012

Team Livestrong Challenge Davis Ride Report

The ride started pretty much right on schedule at 7:30 which was much appreciated. Since Team Fatty was leading in the fund raising, we were first off the line, with the exception of the Texas 4000 group (see texas4000.org to donate). After the national anthem, the call was made to start and off we went. Of course everyone was excited and we got up to speed pretty quick. We swept around the first two left hand turns and sped up just in time to hit a red light. The weird thing was that there was no traffic coming, and there was a policeman standing there directing traffic.

Anyway, after that little hiccup, we really got started. The faster Fatties, including Fatty himself (Elden Nelson) and The Hammer (Lisa, Elden's wife) whipped up the pace for the rest of us and pretty soon we were screaming along at 23 to 24 mph. I did my best to keep up and did so for about the first 5 miles, but before long it became clear that this was not a pace that was going to work for me over the long haul. I was definitely over my LT and knew that that I'd be bonking toward the finish if I kept it up.

With that, I waved a bunch of riders by and fell off the back, resigned to riding by myself for the rest of the day. A couple that we had passed in the pace line passed me back and offered to give me a pull back up to the group but I told them thanks but no thanks; there was no point catching up to that group only to be dropped again! Shortly after that, we made a right turn to head north and came to the first rest stop. It was about 12-14 miles in if I recall, and I arrived there at about 40 minutes into the ride.

This would be a good time to mention that for some reason my iPhone which was running MapMyRide decided to die during the ride. This was weird because I've had it run for close to 8:00 hours before without dying, and this ride was barely over 6 hours. Because of this, all the times and distances are guesses as I'm too lazy to get out a map.

Anyway, I did a quick bit of math in my head and figured I must have been going at about a 20 mph pace for the first section of the ride which was shockingly good for me. Even after I left the pace line and was riding on my own, I was going about 17-18 mph on average. This was at least 2 to 3 mph faster than I normally ride. I attribute this to two things: the excitement of the event itself and the Specialized Roubaix Comp Compact that rented from Blazing Saddles in San Francisco. Let me tell you, this was my first time on a light carbon bike and it was freaking awesome. In addition, the geometry of the Roubaix was perfect. I was a bit worried going from a touring bike to something more aggressive, but the Roubaix was super comfortable, even after 6 hours. While I was glad to be done at the finish line, I could definitely have gone longer if I had to on this bike. But I digress....

I passed the first rest stop without stopping because I was making good time and because my water bottles (actually Gatorade bottles) were still relatively full. I had some Clif Shots and a few gulps of fluid and kept rolling. I rode solo through super flat farmland for about another hour and a half or so, stopping at rest stop number two to grab a PB&J, refill my bottles and use the Honey Bucket. I was still making really good time even by myself, and was loving the ride.

One good thing about the course was that there were enough turns on it to break up the monotony. Granted, a lot of the roads were alike, but at least making the turn gave you something to do!  In addition, it was REALLY flat.  This allowed all of us to really go for it, knowing we didn't need to save a whole lot of energy for a bunch of hills.

About 3 or 4 miles from the 3rd rest stop, a group of 4 Fatties passed me on the road. They said hello as they went by, and as they weren't going way faster than me, I decided to hop on their back wheel. I asked if they minded if I joined them and they indicated they were happy to have me. This was my introduction to what eventually became the Big Orange Train (BOT).

We stopped at the 3rd rest stop which was located in a park in some small town somewhere near Davis (again, a map would be useful here!) where we refueled. We picked up at least one more Fatty at the rest stop when we rolled out. We were about 35 miles into the ride and had a good crew of 6 Team Fatty members taking turns pulling. We really started to make good time, rolling at about 18 to 20 mph or even higher on the flats.

We hit the turn off for the 100 mile route at 39.5 miles and got into the "hilly" portion of the ride. I put hilly in quotes because while there were some hills, it was pretty easy stuff, but I will admit there were a few places where I wished I had my granny gear. Still the Roubaix was great on the hills and with the BOT in effect we were all making good time. In addition, where there are hills going up there are hills going back down, and I the Roubaix doing well over 30 mph on some of the descents. I really would love to see what it could do on a steep downhill!

The Train skipped the 4th rest stop (which was basically a big tank of water on a pickup truck) but stopped at the 5th and 6th rest stops which were both in different towns near Davis (Vacaville was one, I think). This would be a good time to say how nicely spaced the rest stops were on the ride. They seemed to show up right when you could use one. Whoever laid things out should be commended!

After a few more hills we got back to the turn off and joined up with the 65 mile route. Throughout the extra 35 mile loop for the century course, we picked up a few folks on the train, but when we got back to the flat part of the course, things really started to pick up. The BOT was humming along, and as we passed riders, many of them took the opportunity to jump on the back of the train. The key thing for the BOT was that we were going quick, but not so quick that it was hard to keep up once you had gotten onto the back of the pace line.

Soon the BOT had swelled from 6 or 7 Fatties to about 20 or so various riders with about 9 Fatties. Team Fatty riders controlled the tempo, and I was even pulling some of the time. As before, we were rolling on the flats at around 18 to 19 mph and things were going great, with Fatties taking turns pulling up front then falling off to rest at the back.

Unfortunately, at one point, after 5 or 6 Fatties had each done their work at the front and handed the lead over to the next person in line, we found ourselves with a non-Team Fatty rider on the front of the line. Apparently, this person didn't feel the pace was high enough, so he (or she) decided to whip up the pace a bit. This was great for the stronger riders, but some of us just couldn't keep up and the BOT started to fall apart. At least 2 of us came unhitched and fell off the back. I was not too bummed since I'd manage to ride with the team for a good 45 miles or so which was a lot more miles more than I'd ever done in a pace line before.

However, the stronger Fatties of the BOT decided that it was more important to keep the Team Fatty riders together than it was to make good time, and they pulled out of the train to wait for the rest of us. Granted, I think they may have been waiting for the guy who drove them to the event, but still, it was a nice gesture! One by one, new Fatties pulled up to where we were standing on the side of the road until we had assembled a group of about 8 or 9 members of the team. One of these was a strong rider who had missed a turn and accidentally tacked about 12 miles onto his century!

With the team back together, we took off, and once again we started to pick up stray riders, including some non-Livestrong Challenge riders. After a while, the pace started to creep up as the riders in front started to get excited about finishing (and finishing strong). I figured that it was getting close to the end (maybe 15 miles from the finish line) so I worked hard to keep up, definitely riding well over my LT. There was less than an hour of riding to go so I didn't think I could bonk too hard in that amount of time, especially since I was feeling pretty good and was stuffing calories into myself as fast as I could.

Unfortunately, we turned south with about 12 miles to go, straight into the teeth of a pretty stiff breeze. Riding into the wind took my heart rate from the 160s into the 170s, and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to keep that up for long. After a mile or two, I pulled over and slowed down to let the rest of the pace line pass me, then continued my ride solo. While it would have been great to have finished with the group, I was still super happy to have gotten to ride with them for over 50 miles. I was hopeful that I would be able to catch them at the last rest stop, but when I got there it turned out that they didn't stop to refuel so close to the finish. Thus ended my time as a member of the Big Orange Train.

At the last rest stop, I had my first packet of Honey Stinger energy shot. I was surprised (although I guess I shouldn't have been) that it was basically honey with some flavoring! I was a little worried that it was going to upset my stomach, but fortunately it didn't. Still, I don't think I will be trying that stuff again; honey just isn't my thing.

While I was getting down my honey energy shot, Rob from Team Fatty rolled into the rest stop. He was another member of the BOT who had succumbed to the pace and the wind. He suggested that I give him a moment to rest and then we'd finish together, and I readily agreed. We left the rest stop shortly after that and almost immediately turned east again, so we were no longer fighting a headwind.

Rob and I finished the last 8 or so miles at a relatively relax pace, although with the wind at our backs we were often rolling around 18 mph. We went past UC Davis, then through the streets of Davis, finally making the left turn toward the finish line. Of course I had to kick for the finish line and came in second or two before Rob, doing my best Tour de France victory pose. (Side note: I'm pretty sure that Rob did not know I was racing him; if he had, I imagine the result would have been different!)

All said and done, I'd ridden 96.9 miles according to the computer, and had done it in 6:17. This works out to a 15.4 mph average speed, including rest stops. If I take out the 6 rest stops I did, assuming each stop was 8 minutes or so, I maintained an average speed of 17.7 mph. Not too shabby for an old(er) guy!

The Livestrong Challenge Davis was an absolutely awesome ride and I really hope I can do it again. I will make a few changes, such as making sure I'm able to spend a bit more time hanging out after the race and getting there early so I can see the Cycling Hall of Fame on Friday. Still, I couldn't ask for a better course, team or cause, and I look forward to riding again next year.

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