My First Century: Cycle of Hope 2019

In Cycling, Race

Definitely some type 2 fun today.

Amusingly, I’m just now looking at what a training plan for a century looks like for the very first time. Apparently, I just did the equivalent of a random dude just jumping into their first marathon without any long runs (or threshold work, or intensity work, or race pace work, lol). Fortunately, I sustained pretty much no damage during or after the race (other than some unfortunate chafing)… so 🤷‍♂️?

It’s too bad that cycling events like this don’t actually time participants. I’m so curious where I landed (I wouldn’t be surprised if I were in the bottom 25% haha).

Some notes:

  • Compared to running, I think my effort today maybe approximates something like a 40mi/8000ft+ run? It turns out that my climbing weakness on the trail also translates to cycling. Except when I’m on my feet, I can hike. When I’m literally clipped into two wheels, though… even mashing the pedals for 3mph feels so hard! So, overall, I had the hardest time maintaining power-endurance while not really taxing either aerobic or anaerobic endurance… which makes sense because even when I run, I don’t train for power (e.g. hill repeats) nearly enough.
  • The biggest questions in my mind all day was how to be more efficient. Because, if it’s not clear by now, I basically winged this ride, LOL. Meaning:
    • (1) I still don’t know how to work my gears to get the most from each pedal stroke;
    • (2) I hadn’t thought of what “proper cycling form” was until yesterday night (thanks for educating me, Amanda), and;
    • (3) how I should fuel for cycling.Compared to running, I think my effort today maybe approximates something like a 40mi/8000ft+ run? It turns out that my climbing weakness on the trail also translates to cycling. Except when I’m on my feet, I can hike. When I’m literally clipped into two wheels, though… even mashing the pedals for 3mph feels so hard! So, overall, I had the hardest time maintaining power-endurance while not really taxing either aerobic or anaerobic endurance… which makes sense because even when I run, I don’t train for power (e.g. hill repeats) nearly enough.
  • Regarding gearing, for the most part, I try to maintain even effort as much as possible, switch gears a few seconds before actually needing it, and to avoid cross-chaining when possible (mostly because I just don’t like the grinding sound at all). But I often seem to feel like I want to be in-between gears. Plus, I often feel like my lowest gear isn’t low enough (but maybe I just need stronger legs).
  • As for “cycling form”, I’m not sure how much better I can do, other than drilling on handling skills. Overall, I think my downhill technique could definitely use some work; I’m still pretty uncomfortable going fast downhill (though I was pleasantly surprised by how wide, gentle, and smooth the downhills were on this course).
  • And for fueling — I have a pretty good idea of what I can handle as a runner. But today, I was actually pretty confounded as to what and how much I should eat! For running, the conventional wisdom is that your body can only handle about 200-400 calories per hour, depending on body size, even as it’s burning some 100 calories/mile. But I’ve only had one long ride before, at Tahoe, and I knew that there I had consumed a lot more than 400 calories/hour with no repercussion.

    So in the end, I decided that today, I was going to stuff myself at every rest stop, and eat whenever I was hungry in-between rest stops, until my body gave me any indication that it’d reject food (i.e. what happens to me at the later stages of very long run).

    And, for the most part, I’m pleasantly surprised that this actually kinda worked! The only time I felt on the edge of bonking was really with some 8 miles left, with me trying to maintain 18-20mph on the flats as long as possible.
  • Finally, I got clipless pedals and a jersey with pockets for this ride. Now that I’ve ridden a couple times with clipless pedals, they feel pretty natural now. So much for all my anxiety about falling in them (which will now probably happen as soon as I get complacent). They definitely helped for sure, with my only problem being my wide feet — specifically my pinky toes. It’s too bad that Altra doesn’t make foot-shaped cycling shoes. (I finally adjusted/loosened them at the Mile 61 rest stop, which seemed to help).

    As for the jersey, OK, I admit: having pockets on your lower back is pretty convenient. I’m actually quite impressed by how much those pockets can hold without feeling heavy. I wasn’t quite sold on them before this ride, though, so I still carried a hydration vest (which I ended up never refilling). Next time: no vest.
  • Overall, I’m pretty stoked I could finish a century some 3 months after starting to ride… and only after 1 other big ride (Tahoe, 72mi/4400ft+). I really wonder how long cycling 100 miles would take me if some 10000ft of gain wasn’t also included. I know I passed a number of 62-mile riders, and I also wasn’t dead last among the 100-mile riders, but I dunno. I know I’m probably a much better at running than at cycling, but, especially after an event like this, I wonder: how much more can I get out of myself?

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