Sunday, 29 October, 2006

Birthday Bike Ride - Results

I rolled out at 6:04 AM yesterday, in an effort to see how much ground I could cover in 12 hours.  It was 45 degrees outside, so I was wearing my arm and leg warmers, a hat to keep my ears warm, and gloves.  The first two hours--especially the second hour--were very cold as I headed north to Lake Georgetown and then west to Liberty Hill.

I had packed my camera along in the hope of getting pictures of myself at points along the route.  The only pictures I managed were at the two spots along the route where Debra met me, and this one excellent shot of sunrise a little after 7:00.

The sunrise was incredibly beautiful, making the frozen fingers almost irrelevant.  I soon turned west, though, putting the sun behind me as I pedaled towards Liberty Hill.

I've done quite a bit of long-distance bicycling over the last few years and never encountered the problem I experienced during the first four or five hours of today's ride.  I couldn't pee enough.  I know that sounds odd, but there it is.  I'd stop to empty my bladder and five or ten minutes later I'd have to go again.  Riding with a full bladder is very uncomfortable, and it was frustrating having to stop every 20 or 30 minutes.  At my average moving speed of about 16 MPH, every minute off the bike is a quarter mile.  Sure, I need some rest, but the idea behind the ride was to see how much ground I could cover in 12 hours.

Outside my favorite convenience store in Liberty Hill, I met three riders who were just starting a 60-mile ride.  We rode together for 30 minutes or so before they turned off and I headed south on Bagdad road to meet Debra at the 40-mile mark.  The primary purpose of that meeting was for her to take my lights and some of the cold weather gear.  She brought Charlie along and got this picture of us just before I rolled out.

I was feeling very good except for the having to pee every 30 minutes part.  I'd been keeping my heart rate down, and was eating and drinking regularly in order to stay hydrated and keep my energy up.  The next part of the route--from the Walgreens in Cedar Park to the Veloway in south Austin--contained most of the day's hills.  I wove my way down to highway 620 and headed south past Mansfield Dam through Lakeway and then Bee Cave Road back into Austin.  I met a couple of other riders along the way, sharing the road and a few moments' conversation before they turned off on whatever route they were taking.

I got hungry--ravenous--at about 70 miles.  I stopped at a convenience store to refill the liquids, and scarfed down some munchies.  I also called Debra and asked her to bring some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to our next planned meeting place.  I don't know what it is, exactly, about PB&J that I like so much during a bike ride, but those sandwiches really hit the spot.  I was so hungry she had to tell me to slow down, I was shoveling it in so fast.  It was about 1:00 PM and I'd covered 93 miles.  Other than being hungry, I was feeling really good.  No muscle aches, and surprisingly my butt wasn't sore from sitting in the saddle all that time.  I unloaded the rest of my cold weather gear, Debra snapped a picture, and I was off again, heading north back through Austin and towards home.

Long distance cycling can be a very lonely sport.  It's not for those who are uncomfortable keeping themselves entertained.  It's true that I have to keep some attention on the road and be aware of what people in their cars are doing, but that becomes almost second nature after a while.  One must find a way to occupy the mind or it starts to occupy itself.  My brain seems to like putting particular annoying or catchy songs in a tight loop unless I'm careful to think about something else.  I can't solve very involved problems while I'm riding, but I can toss ideas around.  And doing so keeps my mind from contemplating the craziness of what I'm doing.

I met my friend Shelia (Jason's wife) at about 105 miles, and we stopped at their house for a break.  She offered me a protein bar which I didn't think I needed, but I accepted it anyway.  How wrong I was!  About 20 minutes after eating that I was feeling a whole lot better than I had been.  One of the dangers riding for so long is that you tend to discount the pain and often don't recognize when your body is about to crash.  That protein bar and a bottle of Gatorade (about 500 calories, all told) did wonders, and I was able to pick up the pace a bit.

Sheila rode with me for about 20 miles before she had to head back home.  I headed north towards Round Rock, stopping at a convenience store for a hot dog and a Coke.  It was 4:00 in the afternoon and I was looking forward to finishing the ride.

Since I was feeling so good, I picked up the pace a bit as I rode through the neighborhoods near the house.  It's amazing how much distance you can cover without really going anywhere.  Knowing the neighborhoods as well as I do, I was able to time things just right so that I pulled into my driveway right at 6:04 PM, exactly 12 hours after leaving.  I'd covered 160 miles, with a total of ten hours and 13 minutes pedaling.  The other hour and forty seven minutes were spent on rest stops and traffic lights.  My body was tired, but I wasn't completely exhausted.  No major pains or muscle aches, and I was fully coherent.

What surprises me most about the ride is that I hadn't done many long rides over the summer.  Most of my 'training' has been the seven mile commute to work and back each day, with a few rides of 50 to 70 miles on the weekends.  But I hadn't been focusing on the training as much as I had in the past.  I knew, however, that if I kept my heart rate down in the lower part of my areobic range, and kept fed and hydrated, that I could go essentially forever.  At least, that was my theory.  And it turned out to be correct.  I've established a baseline.  I know that I can do 160 miles in 12 hours.  The next time I'll do a little better.