Aboard the bike, I was initially floored by how many people were along the fence, and how loud it was, They must have been three people deep along the fence for the first 500 meters and one deep for the rest of the first kilometer. I gave the crowd a wave, turned the first corner and then started to reign in the focus. I’ve got to start paying close attention to my effort level and establish an appropriate effort right off the start. My heart rate was high but it was coming down steadily and actually quite quickly. I just rode along easy to the top of the hill in town and then rolled along really really easy down the gradual hill towards Skaha Lake, my heart rate fell right back into the zone around 140 beats per minute where I wanted it and then I started sucking back the Gatorade. Nine minutes into the ride I’m already at the south beach, I’ve averaged 39 kph so far and have a half bottle of Gatorade in me. Things are going well, I’m not using any effort yet and I’m moving along quickly.
(Note that all I had on my computer was time, distance and current heart rate – the other stats are observations from afterward – I didn’t want to over-stimulate my brain by feeding it statistics while riding as this has proved to get me in a poor mental state rather than a good one on most occasions I’ve ridden with too much information)
I hit the turnoff to McLean Creek road having averaged 40.5 kph on the cruise along Skaha and finished my first bottle of rocket-fuel. I had negotiated my way through a couple packs of riders forming but otherwise had just been sitting on the bike and letting my legs spin gently. I hadn’t expended an ounce of effort yet. I hit the turn to the climb and told myself to put some wood on the fire, make sure you don’t waste time getting up here. Then whoosh, across the top of the hill before I knew it, I ate my first clif bar and whoosh again as I descended into OK Falls. I had been concerned about congestion on the twisty descent and having to pass people who would be riding their brakes down the hill, fortunately for me I’d swum like an absolute fish today and had 300 less people ahead of me than anticipated. No traffic jam on the descent, but enough people that I couldn’t pedal down, just coast with the flow. Around the corner in town and off towards the south. I wanted to keep going quick but not use any energy here and I was pretty successful. Some guys around me had started to pace off one another and were sticking to their guns riding at the legal distance and swapping turns setting the pace. I thought to myself that this was going to cause a peloton to form if they kept it up and any more people joined their crew but we started a gentle descent and I left them behind. Before Oliver I already had to pee and watered the ditch grass at about 38kph. Just as I was re-adjusting my shorts I heard a “chi-chi-chi-chi-chi” and thought I had a flat, and was hearing the air escape as the wheel spun around. I kept rolling along and mentally ran through the action plan for a fast tyre change. Then when I looked down to see if it was a front or a rear I suddenly didn’t have a flat, maybe it stopped? maybe something happened? maybe it was a miracle? I had no idea what was going on and just got back to racing. Only later would I realize that it was a sprinkler in the orchard with the flipper-head kind of top spraying water in an arc across the apple trees, “chi-chi-chi-chi-chi”!
Leaving Oliver I was eating my second clif bar… yes I’m not kidding, the ride has been going on for an hour and 5 minutes and I’m eating my second clif bar, I’ve drank an entire bottle of gatorade and chowed down four banana halves. My average speed thus far is still over 39kph, although I’m probably going a bit slower at the time as I’m putting the wrapper of the bar into the leg of my shorts. Then I get passed by the dudes who I’d seen starting to co-operate 20 minutes ago. There are now about a dozen of them and they’re riding three wide down the road. Whoa, I don’t want a penalty and let the whole mass of them go past me and drop back from their pack. Then I’m sitting off the back doing about 120 beats per minute heart rate… far too easy, what to do? I figure I can ride faster than the group when I’m not horsing around and eating, we’ve got quite a ways to go until the first pass which should split this up a bit. I wait for a slight downhill which stretches the peloton out long and thin (just like road-racing) and I make a pass up yellow line and put in an “attack” and go off the front of the group with enough speed that they’re not just going to start drafting me (just like road racing). Inevitably though the breakaway is brought back (just like road racing) and I start to let people by and back up the requisite 4 bike lengths from each one. I eventually realize I’m going to have to back myself up to a complete stop if I keep letting people by. I resign myself to staying behind the peloton until Richter’s pass starts where the long hill will break up the pack (just like road racing) and sit in a quasi-legal position behind the peloton. I’m probably within 4 bike lengths of the dude in front of me some of the time, especially when the peloton goes up a slight hill and bunches up a bit (just like road raciing). I don’t know what the solution to the situation is, I can’t break up the pack on my own and so I figure that I should do the next best thing and try to not make it grow. Sitting far enough off the back that I’m in the tail where we’re again riding single-file as opposed to the front trouble-causing part that is three or four guys wide I’m not contributing to this thing, but there’s no way I’m going to drift off the back, nor is anyone else. Such is life, the portion of the ride with the peloton we’re doing somewhere near 37 kph, a far cry from the 40kph I was doing with the gentle tailwind up until this point, but I remind myself that I’m supposed to be reminding myself to stay patient on the bike…
I think a bit about the difference between patience and waiting… Patience is accepting things without getting irritated, waiting is just a state of being. I’m waiting for Richter to drop these wheel-suckers like the leaches that they are. At the same time, I’m playing the patience game entirely inside my head. It’s alright I tell myself, I’m going quick and I can treat this like it is effort in the bank. If I go to the front and try to get away they’ll chase, they’ll inevitably catch me, and I’ll get more worked up. Patience patience patience.
Finally we come around the corner to Richter’s, I down a tube of shot bloks (200 calories of sugar) for my body to process on the climb while I’m letting it work on solid food like clif bars on the easier parts of the ride. I find a rhythm on the climb and strike a good balance between standing and seated and riding aero on the parts that aren’t so steep. It goes well and I’m very quickly at the top. The climb takes me less than 28 minutes which is faster than the 30 I anticipate. Nicely done I tell myself, I can tell I’ve broken a sweat when I get to the top. Partly because the temperature is finally coming up and partly because I’ve done a good long climb. I crest the top and say to the dude who is next to me “this will be fun” and he says, “go ahead” and proceeds to draft me down the hill. What a dude, no shame at all. (He rode 5:27:13 in case you want to know) I mostly rest on the descent but make sure I’m turning over my 53×11 gently aiming to keep the momentum up. I drop the wheelsucker on the first big roller and don’t see him again. I pace the rollers very well, averaging 33 kph through this stretch into a mounting headwind. By the time I make it to the flats by Cawston I’m really realizing that I’m starting to run out of people to pass. The people ahead of me are no longer going slow, and there’s a long way from one person to the next. My brain tells me that I’m slowing down because I’ve been getting accustomed to whipping past people like they’re standing still. I take stock of the situation, narrow my focus again and focus on getting to the turn onto the out-and-back, I feel like I’m crawling along but still doing 32kph on average, not bad for such a stiff breeze. I have some people riding near me into the headwind and once I hit the out and back and the wind goes behind me I aim to maintain effort and fly off down the road, or so it feels now, I take the U-turn and head back in to the headwind. It feels good and I’m in far sparser territory now than I was previously.
The out and back goes by in a flash, I water the ditch-grass again before the long gradual ascent to Yellow Lake begins. I reel in more people. My Heart rate monitor starts going on the fritz. I don’t really care any more. I am prepared for this and I’m aiming to race according to effort level now, just to maintain what’s already been established rather than worry if it’s ideal every minute of the way. I feel like I’ve established an appropriate effort. Climb Climb Climb. Surprisingly I’m reeling in and passing people faster on the ascent than on the flats. They’re fading, the headwind is getting inside their head, their focus is wavering. I don’t even feel like I’ve been riding that long. My bum is just fine sitting on the seat unlike the guy I see shifting himself around obviously in serious pain, I’m well nourished, I am in the aerobars when it counts to be in the aerobars, there are others sitting up into the headwind, some are stretching their backs mine feels just fine. I’m staying cool enough. I feel great, I’m going to have a great run. Despite feeling great and working hard and passing comparatively a lot of people my average speed is just 28.5kph into this headwind on the gradual ascent, ouch.
The climb gets steep now and it’s getting colder, I get a great sendoff up the steep climb from a tunnel of fans at the Green Mountain Road junction. Then I’m alone. I can’t see anyone ahead and there are basically no cars. Just me and the mountain, I dump my water and keep my gatorade. I climb well. There start to be people around. No-one has been through in a couple minutes and no-one lies behind within sight. I’m alone on this part of the climb but the people are all cheering. Just for me, it’s pretty crazy. I’m nothing special and by now I know I’m fading off pace to get in under 5:10 for my bike split, this is hardly worth cheering for. I catch myself getting negative and flip a switch, time to start thinking that I’ve prepared well to run a good marathon as I climb. Then one guy yells “You’re doing it, I’m not doing it, you’re doing it”. I smile a bit, it’s true. There’s something to be said for just doing it too, but when I consider the fact that I’ve ridden a sub-5-hour century without trying I am indeed convinced that the marathon is going to be good. I want to start running right now! The rain is coming down pretty hard now, it’s no longer just raining. Anyone would say that it’s now raining hard, pissing it down. I chow down my last food at the summit and grab a bunch of gatorade to make myself as heavy as I can be for the descent. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to drink any as I’m peeing like crazy on this ride. Off I go across the top. I catch two guys on the flat stretch before the descent. Then we go down the hill. It’s not just raining hard anymore it’s pouring and I’m getting drenched. Raining cats and dogs. The water is flowing noticeably on the surface of the pavement. That’s a recipe for hydroplaning. I go as fast as I feel is comfortable. That’s a heck of a lot faster than one of the guys near me but slightly slower than another. It’s not congested on the road at all and I have a full lane to myself so I’m not scared but I am smart enough not to be stupid and I do use my brakes. I hate using my brakes. I still do 60kph for a long ways, but I know I should be doing 75-80kph. I start to shiver a bit and I’ve got chicken skin all over my arms and legs. Then I start to shiver a lot, not enough that I’m worried about controlling my bike but enough that I’m worried I might need to start worrying about controlling my bike.
I hit the corner onto the main highway and Dad said he’d be there. I see Mom first, decked out in her yellow rain jacket waving her arms like she’s trying to get the attention of a rescue helicopter flying overhead to pluck her off a rooftop in the flood. She gets my attention. I am shivering too much to make much of an acknowledgment. Then I see Dad and my brother. They’re trying to a photo. It’s going to be a great photo I think to myself, this is outrageous. I put on a tough guy face instead of the blue lips and shell shocked eyes. Hopefully he got it I think as I scream off down the hill. I’m pedaling again but not really trying to ride hard. I’m going fast so I don’t think it matters much. Get your shit together I tell myself and as the temperature rises I recollect myself. I re-consider the fact that the bike conditions were tough, pretty stiff headwind on the way back, I’m not going to make inside my goal time on the bike, I’m using up a bit of that contingency time I had allocated. That’s OK, I know I can’t get a flat tyre anymore. I don’t need so much contingency time because I’m ready to run a good marathon I tell myself, I’m not just telling myself at this point, I know it. I’m at peace with things as I roll into town. I see the lead female heading out of town on the run and she gets a huge cheer from me as I whip by on my bike. I ride the last 2kms with my feet out of my shoes. It feels good.
Into T2 I hop off my bike but I can’t pull the Garmin off the handlebar because my fingers are partway between stiff and numb. I didn’t really realize they were so cold. It takes a bit but the volunteer pulls my Garmin off the bike. Off I go. Get my bag handed to me. I head into the change tent and dump it on the ground and start picking things up. Hat, then socks, socks are tough with sausage fingers. The volunteer unwraps my bottle of coke with extra salt that I have wrapped in tin-foil to help keep frozen. I get the arm-coolers on, slap on the shoes, and I’m on my way, holding a slush-bottle of coke in already pretty cold hands. I hit the run course after a slightly slower than anticipated T2. 10 hours is still on the table. I’ve got to run a 3 hour 35 minute and 25 second marathon.
The Garmin file is here: http://connect.garmin.com/player/47045795 but as you can see the heart rate monitor was going berserk on occasion after 3 hours.