I set out from Castle Junction at 7:53 am and headed south west over Vermillion Pass. It was socked in and had rained heavily the night before. We were in no great rush to get going because we knew that the weather would be improving throughout the day. By the time I reached the top of the pass it had stopped drizzling and started raining and then decided to go back to drizzle. I wasn’t getting soaked, but I was getting wet. By the time I reached the bottom of the pass on the BC side of the continental divide it had warmed up significantly, partially due to the loss of elevation again.
The ride towards Radium from here follows the Kootenay river and is generally a very gradual downhill except for a few rises where the road splits from the river temporarily. I made alright time but was dealing with a slight headwind and my body was chilly and wet roads are never very fast. I was also doing my utmost not to push the pace early in such a big day. Long sections were done between 32 and 34 kph on the flats, I wasn’t making the kind of progress I had expected when I had planned on having a group of riders. I resigned myself to the fact that this day could not be rushed, especially in the first half and so I drew my attention to other things.
I really enjoyed the climb up towards Sinclair Pass. I found a rhythm early and made good progress upwards and easily managed to keep myself completely aerobically controlled (sub Half ironman effort) on an 8 percent grade seated with only a 25 ring in the back. That encouraged me that with a 15% improvement in gearing for France I am going to be just fine. Of course I’m going to have to bail out to standing on the steepest pitches, but that’s kind-of the point, no?
I let it rip on the descent to Radium. It’s quite the road and I’d like to ride up it at some point as it would be an interesting climb (or a few times). The pitches change quite often because it’s just built into the canyon, not graded like a superhighway. Very interesting to ride. We got coffees and pie as a first break and I got off the bike to sit down for a bit of a break. After I got going again the headwind that had been fighting me started to co-operate and I rode north out of Radium very quickly indeed. The road quality deteriorates here and I was very glad that I was running 25mm tyres. We held off for lunch for another hour and then took another break. It wasn’t great planning because it was in too close proximity to the coffee stop in Radium to be useful. None the less I stopped and ate and took off my leg warmers and applied sunscreen as the clouds had largely disappeared. By the time I was riding again it had heated up and I was starting to sweat a bit. That’s good because I was very rapidly approaching the hundred mile mark. It would be embarrassing to do a century ride without sweating!
The final 15 kms or so into Golden had fresh pavement but I was getting a bit weary. I hadn’t been drinking as much as I should have and I was pretty sure that I was short on salt. Some beef jerky, electrolyte tablets and some chocolate milk helped with that situation. I also changed into new shorts, fresh socks, and a fresh cap. I think I ate my eighth banana and third peach at that point as well, I had almost exclusively stayed on ‘real food’ up until the 210 km point and was quite proud of that fact although I did decide to start drinking some calories in the form of ice-tea or gatorade as well.
The climb out of Golden is a bit dubious but the road wasn’t that busy, I wouldn’t want to do it on a Summer Sunday afternoon/evening when Calgary is making it’s weekly migration back from the shushwap and Okanagan. I stuck to the white line, the shoulder was full of debris and the traffic wasn’t so bad that the cars couldn’t get around me. By the time I crossed the bridge I had largely forgot the fact that this piece of road was notoriously unsafe which must have meant it wasn’t so bad. The rest of the climb to 10 mile bridge and beyond was just fine, there’s a huge shoulder available.
Cresting the top of that climb I was in good spirits and pressed onward towards Field. Some false flat sections in here really screwed with my head and I found myself going too slow or too fast more than once. Upon arrival in field I was starting to have to focus pretty hard to keep riding with appropriate effort. The Kicking-Horse climb went by quite nicely after I had given my body a bit of a dose of food in Field until I got a flat on my front wheel. I wasn’t pleased and was a bit clumsy while changing it and could have done it much much faster. Eventually it was fixed and I was on my way. I opted to ride the old highway between O’hara and Lake Louise which was fun but slow-going. The pavement is getting pretty broken up and with a tired body it seemed like I was taking an unfair beating. Eventually though I popped out near the Chateau and got to enjoy a whipping fast descent to the townsite.
One last stop to re-fill bottles at the start of the parkway and I was off with 25 kms left to cover. At this point Dad said ‘You’re going to do it’ but I still wasn’t so sure. 25 kms is quite a long ways, especially when you’ve already done 295! I pumped a lot of food into my body on those closing kilometers but I was also working pretty hard. I noticed that I had to average a speed of 33.5 kph if I wanted to finish with an average moving speed above 30 kph and so I pushed myself a bit. I did make good progress here although I started to notice a lot of wildlife in the woods around me. I saw deer, coyotes, owls, moose, families of ducks, bears, elk, basically everything that it’s possible to see I saw. The problem was that upon closer inspection everything turned out to just be tree trunks or stumps or rocks. It wasn’t totally crazy hallucinations or anything but it was a bit unsettling. I had my wits about me enough to realize what was going on and my balance was fine so I just kept cruising. Rolling in to the parking lot at Castle I thought I came up 14 seconds short of attaining a 30 kph average speed. That was until I downloaded the data and saw that I had done 320.3 kms, not just 320. That means I did go fast enough in the closing stages!
We discussed whether or not I ever needed to do a longer ride than that. I don’t think I do. The nice thing about doing 300 kms last time was that it was only a small increase to get to the 200 mile mark. Now the next logical milestone is 400 kms but that’s an awful long ways from 320, probably 3 hours more. In any case, I don’t think I need to do anything longer. Maybe someday I’ll want to but for now this seemed to be far enough. It was far enough that you get your body into a steady-state of aerobic lipolysis and consumed fuel use. There is zero sense that you have any glycogen to ’spare’ at this point. Sure you’ve got it, and you can draw on it if you want to, but if you do you’re basically going to be done in short order if you start to rely on glycolysis from any ’stores’. I feel like I spent at least 5 hours in that state last Saturday. At all points from about 6 hours onwards I would estimate that I was within a 20 minute effort of a complete bonk if I lifted my effort to threshold. I don’t really see how doing more than 5 hours of riding at that ‘edge’ proves anything to me physiologically, I am sufficiently trained in this regard that I can go for however long I want and because I wanted to do 320 kms that’s how far I went. Future milestones would largely be regulated by my motivation to ride further, I’m almost certain my body could do 350 or 400 and very likely 500, my body is prepared to do it if I tell it to. At 210kms with 110kms left I was very aware that this was a pretty crazy endeavor. While I know that I am quite capable of functioning alright in a sleep deprived state I do know that I recover from doing that to myself very slowly and strongly prefer not to do it. Riding further than 320 kms in one shot by any appreciable amount would require that I start to encounter the sleep deprivation barrier and I don’t really care to do that at all. I quite like the idea of a challenge where you get to sleep but you stack big days back to back to back… maybe I’ll try one in September!