Today I did the Roan Moan 2011 Metric Century ride put on by the Bakersville Firestation. The ride is 62 miles of hills, including a Cat1 climb up to the top of Roan Mountain. It was the hardest thing I have done since my Ironman. The easiest part of the ride was much hillier and harder than any of my training routes. And then they stuck in two monster climbs to make it one hillacious day for me.
- Avg speed before the big Cat1 climb: 16.6
- Avg speed up the 7.3 mile Cat1 climb: 5.9
- Avg speed down the mountain and to the finish: 25.9
- Overall Avg Speed for entire ride: 14.6
- Max Speed: 49.9 (this is a record, dang, would have liked it to top 50mph!)
- Race weight 152.2 - hope to do better getting that down for next year
Here I am driving toward the race start. My ears popped. A foreshadowing of diffucult climbs ahead.
I got a little lost on the way, so arrived at the site with just 25 minutes to prep. I headed over to the registration tent to get my bib number. I got that, and then went outside for a potty break. They were laoding the porta-potties onto trailers. I asked “Is it too late to pee?”. The guy said “Yes, but there’s a bathroom inside”. Phew, I took care of that business, then went back to get my bike and nutrition all set up.
I met two BT buddies: Jon and Ken. That was nice seeing a couple of friendly faces. I didn’t chat too long because I was pressed for time. I got everything together and rode back over to the start line, positioning myself in the middle of the pack. The announcer was calling out instructions.
Then I rememembered that I didn’t have my heart rate strap on. I really really wanted to have that for the big climbs to gauge my effort level. So, I got out of the lineup, rode back to my car, and grabbed the strap. As I rode back to the start, I heard the gun go off. Dang. I rode up and got in the back of the pack, so it put me behind some slow riders. +
The Race, leading up to big Cat1 climb
It took several miles to pass folks, and I had to do some hammering to catch up to some groups. I finally settled in with a good solid group of male riders.
There were alot of hills. We were averaging 16-17 mph. I would sometimes get dropped on the hills, but could catch back up on the descents and flats. I tried hard to stay with them. One one small descent, I could have flown fast and free, but a stupid car got in my way, and was going slow! Dammit, I can’t pass a car on the road.
I lost contact with that group on the first big climb. It was a Cat3 climb of about 3 miles, with some fairly steep grades. It was hard! On the descent down from that climb, I was in front alone. I like descending fast, but am not used to a long descent with twists and turns. I approached the first turn a little too fast, and realized it in time, braking. But I came too close to wiping out, so that made me more cautious, so I slowed down. Then a faster male rider passed me, and I followed his lead. He was a great descender, so I tracked after him, matching his speed on each turn. It was perfect. I could go fast, and trusted him to know how fast to take each turn. Soon after that descent, there was a SAG stop. I talked to the good descender. Turns out, he lives near the race, and rides those hills all the time, so he knows each turn. My pace group was at the SAG stop, so I was able to get back in with them, and so did the good descender.
The next part of the ride was a narrow road along the Tweetsie railroad, which followed alongside a river. It was beautiful. There were parts of the road where we’d ride through narrow passages carved out of the rock. Most of the ride, I was working pretty hard trying to keep up with the group, so that took away my enjoyment of the scenery. But the pace slowed during this trek along the river, so I did enjoy that part of the ride very much. I was glad to be with a group here, because there were lots of turn offs that would have been hard to follow if I was alone.
Next we started a long gradual incline up to the base of Roan Mountain. This was 15 miles of steady uphill grade. So unfair to throw that at us before a killer Cat1 climb. I lost touch with my group somewhere along here. But it was okay, because I knew the monster climb was coming, and I knew I was going to lose them there anyway, as I planned to do the climb at my own steady pace.
The big Cat1 Climb
There was another SAG stop at the base of the climb. I stopped and tweeted this picture, saying ”41 miles of hard climbing. worst is yet to come. phew…im toasty”. I filled up just one water bottle at this stop, not wanting to carry any excess weight up the mountain.
My brother Mark gave me this advice for the 7 mile trek up the mountain:
Advice that has worked for me is to mentally divide to climb into thirds. So 7.5/3 = 2.5 miles. The first third, take it easy. The second third, push harder, but not all out. The final third, push hard, if you have the legs. Following this advice, it is not uncommon to catch and pass many of the people who dropped you at the begining of the climb. Since it is mostly down-hill after the last climb, it’s ok to be a bit fried at the top.
I set my watch to show lap distance and hit my lap button. I started the climb at a steady pace. The grade was not awful, so the first mile I felt pretty good. There really didn’t seem to be any steep sections, but the relentless climbing took it toll on my legs with each mile. I discovered that I had never before tried drinking water while climbing. All the climbs in my homelands are 5 minutes long, so I can drink before or after, and I usually drink during downhill grades where I can stop spinning my legs. So, it was a bit of a challenge.
Mile 2 ticked by. I was feeling it but hanging steady. I passed a few riders. I think one guy passed me. I figured that meant all the stronger riders were already ahead of me. I dunno.
There were several folks stopped along the mountainside. I’d ask them if they were okay. I got answers like calf is cramped, or their back was hurting, or they were tired. I decided that no matter what I would not stop until I got to the top of the mountain.
The had funny pacman mile markers on that big climb stating how many more miles to the top. I snapped a picture of the one at 4 miles to go. (I did not stop to take this picture, either!)
When I saw 3 miles to go, I was very tired and my legs were toasty, but knew I was going to make it. But I did not feel like I could go harder at this point. I felt it best to maintain my current steady effort. I got a migraine around here. I think it was from doing an Andy Schleck grimace. I decided to focus on relaxing my facial muscles. That worked.
I started getting low on water. It was a big mistake to skimp on that, particularly with a hot day. I had to ration it the rest of the climb.
2 miles to go and I was hurting. My legs were toast. I said “Shut up, legs”. Somewhere around here there was a section that was slightly less of an incline, which provided a brief respite from the relentless climbing.
1 mile to go and I was really hurting. I drank my last bit of water here. I longed to see that SAG tent at the top of the mountain. I needed water. And I needed the climbing to stop. I said “your legs are on fire, this climbs going higher”. Jason says that in spin class sometimes. I used something else from spin class during this climb, too. Sometimes he does these standing recoveries, where you stand up and spin real slow. I did this just to give my body a rest. I’d shift up two gears, stand up , and just very slow spin. This was great to stretch out my back and legs.
As I rounded a corner and saw the SAG tent, I was ecstatic. Rest was so close. I wouldn’t allow myself to believe it, tho, for fear that it was a mirage. I just kept up my steady climbing. As I passed some folks standing along the mountain below the tent, I said “please tell me that is not a mirage”. They laughed and said “No, you are at the top”. Oh thank goodness.
All downhill from here
I unclipped and was so stiff, that I had trouble getting my leg over my bike. I got a cramp in my right hamstring doing that. I rubbed it out and it seemed okay. A volunteer came right over, took my bike to park it, and gave me some water. That was just lovely. I saw my pace group at the top. I was pleased that I had caught up to them.
I filled my water bottles, ate some fruit, and took a picture. I tweeted “omg glad thats over.” I saw my pace group leave. Dang, I lost them again. I took another picture and tweeted …”all downhill from here w00t”
I started down the climb following four guys. The first two were descending too cautiously. I wanted to go faster. You can’t really pass on the twisty turns of a descent tho, so I had to wait for a straightaway section to pass. I got past them finally. The next two guys were not going as fast as I would have liked, but they were going fast enough. So I did not pass. I did not want to do the lead out, as I would not have known how fast to take each turn, and to be honest, I was cooked so was not feeling super confident. Not a good state for fast descending.
Some turns were marked with arrows saying “Slow Turn” along with a skull and crossbones picture. That was amusing and scarey, and we took those turns pretty slowly. I would have liked to get a picture of that.
Even after the descent down Roan Mountain, the rest of the ride was mostly a downhill grade. There was a nasty little climb near the end that probably wasn’t really that bad, but again, I was cooked so if felt really hard. I was very very very glad to get back to the Bakersville Firestation.
There, I chatted with BT buddy, Jon while I ate the absolute best post race meal ever: BBQ, baked beans, coleslaw and raspberry crisp ala mode. All home made, probably by the fireman’s families. I also saw Stacey Richardson, who always takes first female finisher at the century ride. She is amazing. Ken eventually showed up too. Apparently he had gotten off course near the Tweetsie railroad section. That sucks.
I was so sore and tired that the 35 minute drive back to my hotel was difficult. When I got there, I took a quick shower,then headed for the pool for some R&R. The pool was cold. It felt great. Then I went into the hot tub and stretched my sore muscles. That was great too. I jumped back in the pool for more cold, then more hot. I don’t know if that’s a good idea for recovery, but it sure felt good. I wonder what the TdF guys do to recover for another day of relentless climbing.
Things I learned
- practice drinking while climbing
- don’t skimp on water. dumb!
- mountain centuries are like visiting an amusement park. The climbs are like waiting in line for a long time. The descents are like a short thrill ride that you waited for!
- The food at bike events is way better than at triathlons. way, way, way better.
- Find a good descender to follow on the downhills. Not sure how to do that, but it makes a huge difference.
- My brother looked at my Garmin data and noticed that my HR was higher before the climb than during. He said I should have not worked so hard up to the base, and worked harder during the climb. Interesting. I do tend to take climbs at the same effort level as the rest of my ride. hmmmm…