Then, the Tour de Poway on Sunday was killer. We did the 62-mile ride with 3,000 feet of climbing. They weren't kidding! This ride was windy, hot and hilly.
When we started, we were all shivering, resisting layers because we knew we had a lot of climbing to do, and we knew the temperatures were going to shoot up. When we started, it was in the low 50s. We ended in the upper 80s. The heat was carried in on the dry, desert Santa Ana winds, which pick up this time of year.
We got the first 1,800 feet over with in the first 7 miles, which was nice because it was still cool. I wasn't warmed up when we hit the grade up Poway and struggled to find a rhythm. It was nice to ride in a pack of other riders. I listened to one guy brag about how he was friends with Floyd Landis and had almost gotten him to come on the ride. I was so impressed that I was agape in awe as I dropped him up the grade. I could tell they were all in a lot of pain too, which kind of justified my own private hell. Once I found a rhythm, I was fine. I slowly climbed to the top, staying within my base zone.
Over the next 5 miles as we made our way through Ramona, I took it easy as the Santa Ana winds from the desert picked up, blowing us with hot, dry head winds. I laughed when a large tumbleweed blew across the road. I felt as if we had dropped in the middle of an old-fashioned western film. We rode through lots of farmland on smooth roads with little traffic. I really loved seeing all the horses, cows and even bison at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center .
We stopped and regrouped at the first aid station. The friends I was riding with asked if I was alright. I shrugged them off but I knew I was feeling kind of off. I felt sluggish, tired and run-down. I think part of it had to do with the fact that this was the final workout before my taper, and I was just run-down, period. Also, my stomach hadn't been feeling great, and I'd had a hard time with nutrition and hydration. I knew my glycogen stores were somewhat depleted. However, I also knew I felt well enough to get through the ride as long as I didn't push too hard.
In line for the Port-a-Potty, I listened to a big guy on his cell phone to his wife almost break down in tears. He was upset that everyone was passing him, and it had taken a long time to get up the Poway grade. The hills were taking more out of it then he had expected, and he wasn't sure if he was going to make it. All of us in line turned to him and offered him words of encouragment. "Dude, you're fine. Hang in there. You can do it!" We patted him on the back and handed him some cliff bars and gus. He called his wife back a few minutes later and said he was feeling pretty good now and thought he could finish the ride. I may have been feeling sluggish but I knew I felt better than that!
We started off again, and one of the guys in our group promptly ran over some glass and flatted. No one else but me saw this so the rest of our group rode off. I stayed with him as he changed his tire. I know how much it sucks to be stuck alone on the side of the road. After 10 minutes, we were off. We sprinted off as hard as we could hold it for the next 15 miles, hoping we could catch the rest of the group. We zipped down Highland Valley Road, careening through some very dangerous, twisty, narrow descents. Not smart. At one point, I hit 40 mph. We hooted and hollered. It was fun.
Later, I received a voice mail that one guy in the very front of our group had ridden his brand spankin' new Cervelo P3C off a cliff at this point, flipping over his handlebars, cracking his helmet, and tearing his AC. Of course, he still finished the ride--with one pedal. I found all this out later and gave him a good diatribe. He still hadn't gone to the ER at this point so after much shouting and yelling, I shamed him to the hospital, where he was promptly attended to. Luckily, his torn AC is his only injuy (and broken pedal is his bike's only injury). It could have been so much worse.
We stopped at the next aid station, looking for our group but they weren't there. We rode on. My friend was a much stronger cyclist so sluggish or no, I was pushing. He pulled me through much of it. The hills kept hitting us. One after another. He would zip to the top and wait for me as I slowly crawled up each one. He was very encouraging, which I needed. It's hard when you feel off and are going so slowly. I could feel each hill drain me a little more.
The turns weren't marked at all, and since I hate being lost, had fortunately
memorized the map the night before. This came in handy since many relied on me for directions. (Quick Tip: If you want company on rides, just memorize the route. You'll become the new ride favorite very quickly. Also, it doesn't matter how slow you are; the fast riders have to wait for you to figure out where to go next!)
We struggled along the 78, a highway with narrow shoulders and lots of traffic. The only nice thing about this route was we got to ride by the Wild Animal Park, one of my favorite places in the whole world. Finally, we reached I-15, which I had been dreading; I hate riding on the interstate. It sounds awful but in San Diego, there are a few sections on our interstates where cyclists are allowed. We rode along as quickly as we could. Finally, we arrived at the final aid station, where we found the rest of our group.
The final 15 miles were tough but since we were all together, I could ride a little more slowly; I wasn't "racing" to catch up anymore. There were more hills; they never seemed to stop. Thankfully, everyone else seemed to be suffering at least as much as I. At mile 60, I joked that I was bonking. I actually felt pretty good because I knew I was going to make it.
We finally reached the end, and I was disappointed that all the drinks and food cost extra. Exhausted, sore, hungry, hot and tired, I was cranky. Why had I plopped down $50? For some chalk marks on the roads I couldn't read and a couple of warm orange slices? C'mon! I refused to pay extra and promptly drove to the nearest Einstein's for some coffee, bagel and lox.
All in all, it was a great ride. Perfect for my last long, training ride before SOMA. I know the ride on race day will be easier. I got this one in the bag. Time for taper!
P.S. Really sucks about the Chicago Marathon this weekend! I hope next year's has better weather because I'm signing up. Anyone else?