Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tour de Palm Springs

Yesterday was the Palm Springs Century Ride.

(I'm the one who looks like cyclist.)

I've done plenty of foot races with a mass start of people running. I've done triathlons where you start swimming. But this was my first bike-only event, and I admit it was kind of awkward figuring out how and when to clip into your pedals when you have 10,000 cyclists starting all at once.

The ride started out with a 1500 foot climb, but it was spread out over 16 miles so it was fairly mild. We rode through the desert wind farms, which is a sea of literally hundreds of windmills. Or at least we thought they were windmills. With some of the headwinds we hit, we kind of suspected that they were actually giant fans trying to blow us down the mountain. Still, they were pretty cool to see.

We certainly saw some beautiful scenery along the way: wide open desert valleys, snow-covered mountains. But nothing compared to the view at the first rest stop:

Behold, the Giant Table of M&Ms. It was glorious. Right next to it was another table of Chex mix. That presented a bit of a problem for me: You see, I love pretzels. But Chex Mix is only about 10% pretzel. So I had to take several cups, dig out the pretzels and then toss the rest of the mix on the ground. Wasteful? Perhaps. Yummy? You bet.

The SAG stops (I have no idea what that means) were big, elaborate places with sandwiches, drinks, port-a-potties, mechanics... the works. We probably spent FAR too much time in them, but the event was a "ride" not a "race" so we were pretty leisurely. One thing I do need to mention: you always hear how great the volunteers are at events. But the people in Palm Springs were PHENOMENAL. Seriously. Way beyond the call of duty. And most of the volunteers were younger people. I was walking around with my water bottle at one point and a girl came up to me and asked "can I fill up your bottle for you?" She didn't wait to be asked, she actively came to me. Another time I was refilling my own water bottle and a volunteer asked if he could hold my bike for me while I filled it up. Other people had similar stories. The volunteers weren't just responsive, they ANTICIPATED our needs and were very enthusiastic. I cannot emphasize it enough, they were fantastic.

As we got farther and farther out of town, the roads became straighter and more empty. It was a great time for me to practice my aero position. Most of my rides lately have been in traffic and I haven't been very comfortable going aero, especially at high speeds. Well I spent a lot of time dropped down yesterday and I can really notice the instant speed boost I get. It's sort of a paradox: going aero makes you go faster, but the faster I go, the more nervous I get. I'd say 30 mph was about my cut-off; above that and I would go back up to my normal position with my trembling hands on the brakes. But I used to be afraid of aero at 25mph, so it's a big improvement.

I was feeling pretty good up through the rest stop at mile 52. But then something happened, and I just seemed to lose it for the next 20 miles. I was tired, and not just the muscles in my legs but my eyes were getting heavy. I just wanted to sleep. I haven't been doing much distance in my training over the past few months (aside from the 66-mile Malibu Bonk ride last weekend) and I just assumed that my current conditioning had a 50-mile limit. I'd have a lot of work to do before Ironman in June. But at the rest stop, I switched from M&M's to Cliff Shot Bloks (with caffeine). I felt like Popeye with a can of spinach. I was wide-awake again and felt great hitting the road.

There were two big problems with the course overall. First, the signage was terrible. People got spread out along the road so there wasn't always someone nearby to follow, and many of the turns were not marked. (Lost Greg made a wrong turn and went 3 miles out of his way and 3 miles back.) The other problem is that since this was a ride, not a race, the roads were open to traffic. This wasn't much of an issue out in the middle of the desert, but it was frustrating coming back into town. After riding 90 miles, the last thing you want to do is stop for red lights every quarter mile. And these were long lights, complete with a left-arrow cycle. Quite annoying.

I felt pretty good at the finish. My overall pace was was only about 1.5-2mph less than what I'd like to for Ironman, and I didn't feel like we were pushing ourselves too hard. But I couldn't even conceive of running a marathon at that point. Still have more bricks to do.

All-in-all, a good ride.


Blogger Brent Buckner said...

Acres of M&Ms!

"SAG" (most commonly written in all uppercase) may derive from a rider "sagging" off the back of the group, or it may be an acronym (or a backronym) for "Support And Gear" or "Support Aid Group."
From: wikipedia

7:19 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

mmmmmmmmmmmm M&M's for everyone..awesome!!

10:31 AM  
Blogger monica said...

i took nearly the same photo of the m&ms. ha ha!!

tell me about the stop n go of the last 15 miles!!! my total time was 7:58 but actual ride time was 6:24. i didn't stop for very long at any of the SAG stops, skipped one entirely because i just didn't feel like stopping, so all that extra time was taken at stop lights. UGGGGH!!!

great volunteers, great day. i agree, i don't think i coulda run a marathon right after, but still weeks and weeks and bricks and bricks to go!!!

11:42 AM  

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