I've dabbled in the longer-than-100-miles world for some years now and have tried racing these events over the past three or so. I think my count of race finishes includes 3x12 hours and 2x24 hours, but of course, "finishing" a time-limited race simply means surviving that long. Racing a set distance actually requires one to ride that far. And the plan for two weeks from now is to ride 444 miles over, I hope, not much longer than a single day.
By all appearances, the Natchez Trace in October will be a phenomenal venue, if 444 miles of tarmac can be called a singular "venue." Here is a picture from the race website:
|OMG. Taken from the race website at overthetop.bike.|
|Another mouth-watering picture, borrowed from Wikipedia.|
|Map from Wikipedia. If the crew will drive me across the Mississippi into Louisiana after the race, I will get my 49th and 50th state on this trip.|
|Turn this around to get a sense of the route as we are riding it. Net loss of ~900 feet or so with a consistent downhill trend from mile 100 to the end. Yowza.|
last year's Silver State and Sam is gathering one more chit for whatever attempt he might later announce.
Training and PreparationPreparing for such an endeavor is more art than science. I've been attempting long distance events for about 15 years now since my first marathon in 2000 and have cycled through
- the "just run (or ride) so much the distance seems easy" theory,
- the "run (or ride) so fast that going at race pace is trivial" theory,
- the "hire a coach so I don't have to think about what I'm doing" theory
This year's training has been a smattering of things that seemed, two weeks ago, largely to have paid off:
- I started the year just riding the bike every day, or every day that I possibly could, with a fair bit of high intensity city riding.
- There were some good early long miles and hills with a March 200K in Asheville NC and an April 400K Fleche through the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah mountains and into DC.
- I then got some good miles in Oregon and Washington, riding with Sam, despite our running into a wall (of oppressive heat) and failing to finish the Portland to Glacier 1000K.
- P_ and I did a cycling vacation in Ontario and Quebec in late August, where over the course of a week I got in 455 miles.
|Long Sault Park, Ontario.|
|Riding in Cornwall, Ontario.|
- Starting in mid-July I went on a series of long weekend rides, not missing a weekend up through the 600K with Damon over Labor Day Weekend.
- Over the past several weeks I count three seven day periods with miles over 300.
As I say, I felt good about it two weeks ago. One concern: the Big Savage SR600, which seemed like a great final long weekend to prove my fitness to myself, may have been just a tad more than I bargained for. Last week I was mostly stuck on my arse and this week I took quite ill with a cold. I seem to be out of the woods on the health front, but today I'm something of a puddle. Best guess is that the "caffeine taper" Damon has prescribed is having more of an impact than I imagined. (Who would have guessed there is a website devoted to this concept?)
Am I ready? I have no idea. And what is "ready," anyway? Greg LeMond famously said, "it doesn't get easier, you just get faster." I'm pretty sure I'm ready to finish the event. I doubt I'm ready to win the event. So I suppose the question is whether I will be proud of myself at the end.
Gear.Bike: I will ride the Focus Cayo Evo (and here) (and here) that has been my primary bike since August 2014 when I found it for a steal at JensonUSA.com.
|Focus in motion.|
|Cobble Gobbler on somebody else's bike. (Cr. www.Biketo.com.)|
Illumination: Lighting is a surprisingly important investment for a round-the-clock ride. Cheapo lights do the trick for 90% of cycling, but a bright beam in front sure helps to keep one alert when the sun goes down, and -- if there are any fast descents -- 300 lumens is the minimum required if you want to let it go. I've been riding with the simple and elegant DiNotte XML-1 headlight for years now. It's perfect for the 90% use and, using AA batteries, offers the extra benefit of easy gas-station battery replacement. But DiNotte has never seemed to give me the true high-beams effect when I really need it and for reasons I've never quite understood, I never seem to get the life out of the batteries in real use that I get in workshop tests. Finally, how to mount the battery packs is one of those surprisingly annoying conundrums that I don't like to think about when the head gets thick and fingers fumble from cold or lack of glycogen.
Damon has sold me on the Exposure lighting systems. These are self-contained, offering the huge benefit of no cords or external batteries. These are bright, with 500+ lumens up front on high and something like 100 lumens in the rear. These are long-lasting, including 3 hours on high, 10 hours on medium and longer than anybody needs on low. These can be recharged by USB cord from a portable battery, or car, if the ride goes into the second night (as the Natchez will). The Strada headlamp has a remote switch that can be attached to the bars and operated without moving your hands and fumbling for the switch in the dark.
|Exposure Strada Mark V.|
|New electronic gear: Exposure Strada Mark V (charging), front and rear cheap blinkie lights, computer mount extender, remote cord for Strada lamp, and backup battery.|
One last: the race requires a high-visibility jersey. Thankfully, my clothier of choice, Rapha, offers its aero jersey in lime green.
|This appears to be the new fall colors. Mine is actually a tad brighter.|