Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Bloomin' Metric Centry: We Did It!

They say that every body who clips into their pedals eventually falls because they don't unclip in time.  I knew this and even believed this before I ever clipped in. And for two months, I've managed to ride without falling.  Until the century.  But more on that later...

Up until I moved to Connecticut last June, I hadn't ridden a bicycle for more than 12 miles in well over 20 years.  When I moved here, I started riding my folding bike chasing my friend, Tom, when he went on his runs. I started riding other bikes I own as well.  In February, I decided to buy a recumbent bicycle, the Cruzbike Sofrider.

After about 300 miles on the new bike and a long bike ride of 17 miles, I decided to try and ride the Bloomin' Metric Century (100 km - 62 miles). For the past eight weeks, my friend Andrew and I have been training for the Bloomin' Metric Century with my friend Andrew.   We came up with a training schedule and followed it pretty well.  During the 8 weeks, I was supposed to ride a total of 430 miles; I did just under 480.  As far as the long rides, we always did at least as much as we were supposed to do.

The table of what the plan was and what I actually did.  I was sick for part of week 7 so I missed the mileage for that week.

That being said, last week's training ride did not go terribly well.  Both Andrew and I felt quite tired at the end, and we knew that the century would be another 15+ miles more than that ride.  Up until that training ride, each new ride had been getting easier and easier.  Last week's ride was a little longer, a bit more clmbing (2200 ft total), but none of those statistics were majorly different.  My bike computer told me I burned 5800 calories, where as the previous high was 5100.  So that was definitely more.  During this ride, there were more sustained climbs.

The week before the ride it was raining most of the week.  I did get a few miles in on Thursday and Friday, but quite a bit less than usual.  On Friday, Andrew sent me a few links on carb loading.  They all said that for my weight I was supposed to eat basically a kilogram of pasta (over 2 pounds).  I ate a pound of potato gnocchi and some pizza for dinner, so I got close.  I don't know how much it helped, but I did avoid crashing from low sugar during the ride.

A couple days before the ride, the organizers of the century, the Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club, sent out the route for the century (which I uploaded to Ride with GPS).  This ride has over 4000 feet of climbing, but when I looked, I swear that it told me there was a maximum grade of less than 2.5% (when I look now, it says 7.5%; update: I just got an email from Ride with GPS that said that they recently fixed the maximum grade: "Even the max grade is a fairly reliable number now!" so maybe I wasn't seeing things after all).  So there was a lot of climbing, but I thought, nothing too steep.  O.k.  So maybe we would be o.k. after all.

The day of the ride, the weather was perfect. When it was time to start riding, it was just warm enough to ride without a jacket.  And while it warmed up, it never got too hot. We arrived at Sherwood Island (the start) by 6:45 and man! were there a lot of road bicycles (bicycles with the drop handle bars).  Miles and miles of bicycles. I've never seen so many close up.  And we're not talking about cheap bikes either.  My guess is the average bike cost 2 grand.  The event had 2500 people registered, so that's (back of the enveloppe) 5 million dollars of bicycles (give or take).  And I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that's low.  We saw more recumbent and tandem bicycles than "regular" hybrid/comfort/moutain bicycles.   And almost everybody was wearing their Sunday spandex best.  This event was full of people who ride their bicycles a lot.

There were several interesting bicycles.  A recumbent trike and long wheel based recumbent bicycles were there (so I wasn't the only recumbent).  There were at least half a dozen tandems including a family riding a triple tandem bicycle pulling a trailer (and they completed the 75k route!)

The triple tandem bike pulling a trailer. The family riding this bike was wearing jerseys that said "Team Zombie"

The line for registration was long, but it started to move fairly quickly just after 7 and we were on the road by 7:30.
 A picture of me waiting in line in my unshaven glory.

The line.

The route was well marked and well laid out.  There was very little traffic and the route was very attractive and scenic pretty much the whole way.  The arrows they used to mark the path didn't have any words on them which usually wasn't a problem, but there was at least one case where a realtor set up an open house and had an arrow that looked just like the bike path arrow and some people did follow it.  (My recommendation for next year would be to just put SCBC (Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club) letters on the arrow.)  The food stops were well stocked and run.

Most everybody there was quite friendly and encouraging.  It really was a great atmosphere.  There were a few riders who insisted on both passing a bit too closely to the other riders or wouldn't let the cars pass when they really ought to have.

Just before the first rest stop at 20 miles, I was riding up a fairly steep hill, probably moving at around 5 mph.  I can't really tell you what happened, but one moment I was riding and the next I was lying, still clipped in to my bicycle, on this very comfortable grass.  Andrew, who was behind me, says I hit the curb.  I can't say any differently.  I've been clipping into the pedals for about 2 months now and I find that it helps a lot with the control of my bike.  I've almost fallen several times and I haven't enjoyed that part of it at all.  But it turns out that falling (at least as I did it) is actually kind of fun. (O.k.  That might be a slight exaggeration).

The first rest-stop.

Still the first rest stop.

We got plenty of food, drink, and rest at the rest stop and continued on our way.  At about 34 miles, we decided to stop and catch our breath.  We stopped at the bottom of a fairly impressive hill.  After a bit, we started up this monster.

This hill was not as steep as "the biggest hill I ever saw,"  but it was a lot longer.  After a couple hundred meters, we saw a sign that said "8% grade, summit in 1 km." About half way up the hill, my heart rate was 170 and I stopped to catch my breath.  After letting my pulse drop a bit, I was ready to go.  The only problem, on very steep slopes, my front wheel slips (issues with having  front wheel drive).  Andrew literally got off of his bike and gave me a push for a couple of feet (basically throwing me up the mountain).  Worked extremely well and we both made it to the top without further incident.

At about 37 miles, we had a long beautiful open, straight, downhill ride. Part of a decent of over 250 feet, I found myself cruising along at 35 mph.  At that point, I stopped pedaling and still managed to hit 42 mph. There were several nice downhill stretches where I really cruising.

On the downhills where there was room to move, I was never passed by anybody going faster than I was. The up hills was a completely different story.  My bike was probably one of the heaviest (non-tandem) bikes there (probably almost tipping the scale at 50 pounds including the Camelbak water bladder, lock, rack, etc).  I did manage to ride up all of the hills (which is better than many of the participants.  But I'm consistently one of the slowest climbers.  I'm (mostly) trying to live up to Eddy Merckx's "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." quote, but I'm starting to be curious as to how much a lighter bike would help.

The final rest stop was at just over 50 miles.  With the end in reach, we were feeling pretty good. We finished our ride at just about 1:30 p.m., just a bit over 6 hours after we started.  We had an average moving speed of 12.2 mph (which is better than last week) including not only almost 50% more miles, but more than 50% more climbing than our longest training run.   We did it!


  1. Congratulations! You did it! Now to keep going, and work up to a full English century... (that's my next goal, or maybe the 200k brevet.)

  2. Well done! I definitely need to do this one day...