Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Calvin's Challenge

Short Version
~9 hours, 158.5 miles, 0 mechanical failures, 1 biomechanical/willpower failure
Personal bests: 50 miles at average speed 20 mph, century in 5:30

Gary's Video
Pics on RecumbentJournal
John Foote's Pics
The glamorous life of a race owner

Thanks to Larry, Christine, Jeff, Julie, and all the volunteers and crew for a great event, catering to everyone from lowracers to high-wheelers.

Long Version

The first of May dawned bright and clear...no it didn't. I went to bed the night before to clear skies, but awoke to heavy clouds and thunder rumbling to the west. Got the car loaded, and headed over to the nearby Marathon station so that Annie (my long-suffering crew) and myself could indulge in a caffeine fix before I started the ride. As we emerged, the rain began...

Found our way to the starting point at Shawnee High School; chatted with Travis, Denny, and Tom for a few minutes, whilst I committed the ultimate faux pas and mounted a rear fender on my nominal race bike. Not that the fender helped much, but I like to think that at least the poor suckers trying to draft me may have benefited.

Tom and I rolled to the start just a few minutes before the whistle blew. Larry provided some words of wisdom and other profundities, at least in theory; Tom and I were far enough back that we could have been being addressed by Charlie Brown's teacher, Cajun Man, or Buckwheat for all I could tell. The whistle blew, and we were off!

The first few miles were interesting, as the riders sorted themselves out by initial pace. Wet roads, rain-covered glasses, and lots of red blinkies make for a rather hallucinatory effect; I was quite grateful to break away from the press and assume my rightful place in solo mid-pack splendour. The rain was fairly constant; rarely a deluge, but also rarely less than steady precipitation. Route finding on this first loop was particularly challenging, as many of the directional signs were located under puddles of water. Fortunately, the event workers had mostly stuck to the standard of arrow before the intersection, arrow at the intersection, and arrow after the intersection...I only overshot one turn, and that was more due to excessive speed and wet rims and brakes than anything else. Despite the rain, I finished up the first lap quite comfortably at my target pace of 20 miles per hour.

A quick change of Perpetuem bottle and hydration bladder, 30 seconds of leg stretches, and a banana later, and I was back on the road for the second circuit of the 50-mile loop. Hey, the rain stopped! Wait, what's that Invisible Force Bastard pushing against me? The wind was, uh, unfriendly, and I must confess to a good eight-to-ten miles of serious angst at that point. Fortunately, after passing the halfway checkpoint at South Solon, the wind was less of an issue. However, I had definitely burnt a bit more energy than I should have fighting it; if I'd allowed my pace to drop just a little bit further, perhaps I would A) have had more energy and B) not started my knee's downhill progression.

The third lap was quite pleasant, except for the occasional flare from the knee. I had regained my equilibrium, determined that I was going to shoot for no more than 200 miles, and dropped into my familiar brevet-style sustainable survival mode. My pace was down, but still in the 17 mph range, which was on-target to wrap up somewhere just over 200 miles. By the time I'd rolled back into the school, however, the knee had stopped muttering and was sending up warning flares.

I rolled out on the seven-mile loop anyway; figured I'd give it a shot, and see how things went. After the first mile, it was pretty clear that pushing for 200 would result in more damage than I wished to contemplate, the weekend before defending my CTC title. So, I threw in the towel at hour 9, with 158.5 miles under my belt.

I'm not at all unhappy with the event; first and foremost, it was a chance to give ultras a try without spending a lot of money on training and equipment. I enjoyed myself a great deal, so now I know that I want to pursue it further. It did sting a bit, as I've never dropped out of a major ride before; however, I'm comfortable that I made the right decision.

Nutrition and hydration were almost entirely liquid. One three-hour bottle of Caffe Mocha Perpetuem per loop supplied most of my calories, with a 70-ounce bladder of water, doped with Camelbak Elixir for hydration and some electrolyte replenishment. I augmented the electrolyte fluid with two Endurolyte capsules every hour or so, and had a couple packs of Jelly Belly Energy Beans when my stomach requested something solid.

The P-38 was shod in old Stelvios, running 110 PSI. (I had ordered a Durano in 406, and the nifty-looking Ultremo in 700c, but, sadly, my order was sent too late to get them for the race.) Cargo and hydration bladder was carried in a ludicrously oversize RANS seat back bag, which happens to fit a Lightning seat with some gentle persuasion.

I went with a wool base layer, poly jersey, cycling cap, and arm warmers on my upper half; shorts, wool socks, and shoes on my lower. This proved to be just about right for most of the day, although I ended up pulling off the arm warmers on the last lap.

Lessons Learned
  • Aerodynamics matter (says the dude on the 'bent...). My P-38 was not the optimal steed for this event; certainly not poorly suited, but something with the seat a bit more laid back (say, by an extra 20 degrees or so) would have been a better choice. Methinks a Corsa or something similar is in my ultracycling future; use the P-38 for brevets and lumplander rides, and bust out the highracer for the fast flatties.
  • Camelbak Elixir tabs seemed to work okay for electrolyte replenishment. The flavor was strong (1 tab per 24 ounces, so 3 tabs in a 70-ounce bladder), as I'm used to HEED, but not objectionable.


John Don said...

Very nice synopsis, Dan. I was thinking about you on Saturday when I saw the radar for Ohio...Btw, Chuck rode last night on his new bent, on Fred's Tues Ride. I told him you were usually there for that ride. He has a nice new machine. All carbon fiber. -John

Reddan said...

I really want to see Chuck's Carbent...looks mighty tasty in photos.

Missed Fred's ride this week, due to need to rebuild bike for Crush The Commonwealth this weekend. I hope to be there next week, although I suspect I will not be in top form. :-)

John Don said...

It is a nice machine, Chuck's new bike. It's mighty fast, too.

We we're riding down in Washington county last month and we passed a group of racer boys, and one of them said to his buddy, "I just got passed by a dude in a wheelchair!"

Chuck looked back and said "A sixty year old, in a wheel chair." We laughed a long time about that one.

Hope your knee is better for ctc. Calling for rain and general lousiness... -John