Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ride Report: Quad County Metric

The Ride

Well, I came. I saw. And I rode.

And now it's on the books.

The Quad County Metric, put on by the Suburban Cyclists group, based outside of Philly, is one of my favorite rides ever. EVER. I have a little history with this ride. About seven years ago, I was mightily conned into doing a charity ride for AIDS services. How could I say no to that?? Well, my co-worker and good friend Alison told me aaaaalll about how fun the ride was and how inspirational it was to participate and got me all worked up like we were going to camp or something. And in a way, I guess, we were. There were tents involved.

Together we trained for -- and finished -- the Palotta TeamWorks Northeast AIDS Ride from New York to Boston. (Technically, it started at Bear Mountain, outside of NYC proper, but the end was in Harvard Square.) 350 miles in about 3 1/2 days.

At the time, I didn't own a bike. Enter Banana, stage left.

Alison was an amazing training partner and immensely patient with my infant cycling "skills." But she always -- wisely -- insisted that we do some organized rides outside of Philly to test our hill strength. Something about Rhode Island being hilly. (Who knew?) So, I clearly remember doing two rides out of Green Lane Park with her, one of which was the Quad. Happy memories.

So, this weekend, I had an idea of what I was in for. Vague memories of that first tough incline, and then I must have blacked out the remaining first 6 miles from memory completely. But it all came back to me on Saturday!

First things first. Got up very well rested and really looking forward to the challenge. Had my gear put together from the night before and loaded up the new car and headed straight for Dunkin Donuts. (As Adam both knows and shamelessly supports, I have a caffeine issue. In other words, if I don't have my caffeine in the morning, I'm am a much less -- um -- chipper person!) Large coconut with cream and splenda. Nummy in a cup.

The drive there was easy and for once I didn't get lost! Got there in good time and started eagle-eyeing for Jeremy's car/bike. (We were hoping to meet, but a late night busted hot water heater had a completely different idea of how his weekend was going to pan out!) Registration was painless and got my bottles ready and decided to just head out.

Let me tell you -- miles 7 through 67 of this ride are beautiful. Just gorgeous rural Pennsylvania at its finest. Cows and horses and open farm land. Quaint churches and long picket fences. Glorious.

But, I have no idea what the first 6 miles look like. None.

Could have been traveling through Northern Iraq for all I knew. I just was focusing on the road...excuse me, the HILL in front of me. A hill (or series thereof) that snapped back to my memory stashed away for seven years. It wasn't fun then. It wasn't fun now. But at least now it was a lot less painful.

Suburban Cyclists give you fair warning that the metric century route is challenging. Probably smart to give that heads up, so we were all looking out for the hills. Which was good, because they were waiting for us. Waiting to mock our big gears and force us out of the saddle. Waiting to show us what 16% grades felt like after a long slow climb for over a mile. That kind of waiting. Criminal like waiting.

Laying in wait.

But, here's the surprise. Or at least I was surprised. I totally made it through fine. Just fine. No stopping (aside from two excellent rest stops). No whining. And certainly no walking (gasp).

What I did manage to do is miss the turn-off for the ICU (Intensive Climbing Unit) that would have bumped the ride up another 10 miles and 2,000 feet of climb. Maybe it was subconscious. Maybe it was fate. I was told the turn was halfway up an incline, so maybe I was worrying about finishing that one before seeking out more. I had the chance to go back and find the turn off, but I decided against it. The regular metric was challenging enough!

By the end I was really happy with my performance and felt like I had placed a nice big deposit into my Bank of Me. I'd like to do as many of these as possible before both the HIM and the IM this year. They're fun and supported and usually pretty affordable. This weekend will be the Bonkers Metric, suggested by Omar, a fellow triathlete who trains at my Y and wrenches part-time at a shop (Cycle Fit) I've come to like over in Swarthmore. Longest option for this one is the 65, but this time I'm going to plan to run off the bike for about 1/2 hour. There's a brick on the schedule, so brick I will do!

(Oh, by the way, a great update on the running/calf injury front soon!)

I Heart Riding

I have the elevation charts for this, but I'm a moron and can't figure out how to convert them to something I can attach here. But it did raise a little concern for me. As to heart rate. The ride had about 3700 feet of climbing and was about 68 miles. During that time, I spent (are you ready for this?) 3 hours and 13 minutes in Zone 4.

Let me say that again.

Over three hours of Zone 4.

Now, I'm using a Garmin and have it set to automatically adjust my zones based on prior performance, but I have not manually changed them since getting the glorified watch. Likely, the zones are off. But they can't be THAT far off.

So, the next bike priority (aside from just plain riding a lot, which seems to be this week's training m.o.) is to really look at my heart rate and possibly do some adjusting of my Garmin zones. There's a great route near me (in Centerville/Greenville, DE) that has a bunch of rollers but not too many tough climbs. Perhaps that's a good place to start.

Feed Me, Seymour

And lastly -- nutrition. The fourth discipline.

Breakfast was a nice bowl of cereal and yogurt drink -- good for me and on the tummy.

As for the ride, my plan was this: 1 bottle HEED (200 cal), 2 bottles Perpetuem (600 cal), 1 Go Lean bar (300 cal), 2 bananas (300 cals). I was hoping to approximate about 300 calories of intake each hour on the bike. (This is in addition to plain water.)

Here's the reality: 1 bottle HEED (love this stuff), 1 bottle Perpetuem, 2 bananas. Total: 800 calories in 5 hours.

Not great.

I've found that the distraction of rollers and/or steep inclines is tragic for my nutrition. I always promise I'll pull on the bottle after the next hill, which is a never ending cycle. (Ha -- see that pun!) I'm learning from others that eating on the bike is more about planning and discipline than anything else. I need to work on the discipline part.

As for the planning part, Go Lean does not do well in the sun or warm weather. In fact, it turns into a mushy, bendy, chocolaty mess. Next time I won't bother. Time to switch bars. Suggestions anyone?

Another important learning point -- salty dog. That's what I am, except for the dog part. By the end of the five hours I had a 1/2 inch thick layer of salt all over my face, arms and legs. Okay, not really that thick, but a clear sign that I'm a salty sweat'er. Time for some salt tabs. Even though I didn't experience any cramping or bonking this time, there's go reason to think that it would be in my future without addressing the issue.

Oh, and lastly. Recovery drink. I downed a good 48 oz of water with my Muscle Gain + Glutamine mixture (350 cals) about 20 minutes after finishing and really think this had a good deal to do with my only minimal soreness after a tough day. Felt like a total fool trying to get a cups worth of vanilla flavored powder into my Evian bottle in the Wawa parking lot, but well worth the weird looks.


Jeremy said...

Awesome job on the Metric! I feel so lame for not being able to make it. But when the basement's a flooded...well, things happen.

In terms of your bar question - Balance Bars all the way! They taste great, they're compact (which my bento box appreciates), and I find them much easier to chew and choke down relative to other bars. I have tons stockpiled at my house if you're jonesing to try without having to buy.

Oh...and count me in for the Bonkers 65. Pending no home disasters again...of course.

Mallie said...

Way to go...

As per salt sweating...I'm a fan of solid food on long rides, and Cheez-its parceled out into baggies is one way I get sodium back into me, along with some calories.

Swap out fig newtons for the bars...if you can hack them. Check out links to other endurance cyclists and most of them will tell you nutter butters, newtons and OCPs get the job done better than bars.

Also...check out the sport beans.

Can't wait to hear about the next one!

John said...

Nice report, I really enjoyed reading it. Good to see you are one with your bike again. Good luck on your next metric.

ShirleyPerly said...

Great job! Wonderful to hear you conquered those hills.

Not being very skilled at eating on my bike, I cut up Clif Bars (lemon poppyseed and carrot cake are my favorites) and form little bite size squares and put them into my Bento Box. They don't melt in the heat and don't stick together much at all. Just takes a second to pop one in my mouth and both hands are back on the handle/aero bars.