The Tour des Lac century couldn’t have gone any better, for me…a few of the other guys I was riding with? Yeah, not so much but I’ll get to that later.
The weather, for the first time in a couple of weeks, was perfect. No wind, a touch cool at 60, but good enough. I had a tough time sleeping last night but managed 5 hours, waking up at 4am. I stuck to my pre-ride plan perfectly (minus my usual Gatorade Prime). I was there an hour early to check in and get set up and I was sweating not having my pre-ride Prime. I pushed that worry out and figured I’d just do my best. The parking lot was about six blocks from the start so I got to stretch my legs a bit heading to check-in then back to the car to drop off my tee shirt.
Waiting at the start I bumped into Mike and Phil from the Tuesday night club ride so we resolved to ride together. We started just after 8 at a really easy pace trying to get through town. We were on it after the first mile though and we picked up two more guys along the way. We kept almost a perfect 20-22 mph pace for better than the first hour before stopping at a hydration station to refill and leave a deposit and grab a banana. The stop lasted less than ten minutes and we were the first 100 milers in. Rather than stick with only water, I added a scoop of Hammer electrolyte mix to each bottle (first brilliant move of the day – and thank God they provided it this year). The next 30 miles were uneventful but decently speedy. We stopped again at the halfway point to refill the H2O bottles (again with the electrolyte mix) and picked up two more guys – both racers. The pace picked up to 22-24 mph at that point and the two guys took turns pulling us around the course but Phil dropped after 15 miles so they dialed it back to let him catch up and then kept it between 21 & 22 mph. Phil is recovering from a nasty accident that had him off his bike for four weeks and if the guys up front hadn’t taken it down a notch, I offered to hang back with Phil. Fortunately they did – and then parted company with us just a few miles later so they could cut the rest of the ride. We continued on for a bit when I noticed that one of the other guys who’d been riding with us from the beginning was starting to get tired… How did I know? Well he was a Clydesdale and started to stand up on his pedals from time to time – not a wise move in a pace-line… Especially when one chooses to pull back on their bike rather than push forward when standing… Pulling back causes one to decrease speed – rapidly. So what happens when someone rapidly decreases speed and falls back a foot without warning, yet has another rider following eleven inches behind? The sides of our tires rubbed and I almost went down – I did go off the road. I’m calling this one the hand of God keeping me upright because I saw me going down and eating gravel. I was leaning at an impossible angle, trying to hit the grass, not the rocks, and then I pulled up and rode right out of it. Miracle? Maybe not, but keeping the rubber side down was impossible.
Five miles later we pulled into the second to the last hydration station – and the most important stop… It’s somewhere near mile 70 and the real hills start a mile later. I reloaded with the Hammer electrolyte mix again and while I had my head down at the water cooler, Phil got plowed into by the same guy who almost took me down. In his defense, the asphalt was insanely slippy with road shoes and cleats. I almost slipped twice myself. On the other hand, you could see in his face that he was absolutely smoked. Poor Phil though, his day was done. The Clydesdale hit his rear wheel and bent it more than two inches. Even with the brakes all the way out the wheel got hung up. They called the SAG wagon for him.
After offering our condolences the four of us left got to rolling. Then we hit the hills and the pain commenced. To that point I’d managed to stay in the big ring for the entire time and I maintained that through the first four or five hills. The fourth was the first that required that I climb out of the saddle and that was the first sign of trouble for me. My quads knotted up but good about half way up the hill. Rather than panic though, as soon as I crested the hill I popped the top on one of my water bottles and downed the whole thing inside a mile. I knew that pain and what caused it. I hadn’t been drinking enough. My first (second and probably third) thought was to drop off the back and spin back easy, but there was a wrinkle: we were the first century group out at the word GO – and at the 80 mile mark, we hadn’t been passed, by anyone. Our group was in the lead but I had no idea by how much. If I took it easy, not only would the other four finish ahead of me, I might be caught by the group behind (which was huge, easily twelve to fifteen guys). Considering that, I dug deep and ignored the pain, one foot over the crank at a time. Pulling with my back leg and pushing with the front. Then the Clydesdale dropped and we were three. Then we got to the tough part of the course, Lake Shannon. Mike kept going straight, opting to cut that four or five miles or so out. We were two. I hung with the other fella as long as I could but eventually he beat me down. He was about a half mile up on me when we passed the last H2O stand. He pushed on, I stopped. We only had nine miles to go but I was dead out of water. I filled up, ate a banana and was gone.
Only two hills left. A long 2-3% grade over two miles. My legs were bitching but I wasn’t having it. I was alone in second and I wasn’t giving it up. A nice mile-long gentle downhill and I was pushing, 26 mph dead into what had grown into a hefty headwind. A right onto White Lake road, then a left onto Runyan Lake and the monster. At the 20 mile mark it would be a nice little climb. At the 96 mile mark it’s a serious pain in the legs. No way the big ring was possible. Then the downhill and I was back on the gas.
Two miles to go, nobody behind me but 62 mile riders that I’d passed. One mile, three minutes… Two, one, the home stretch – and the line. I finished second out of a field of 100-150 century riders and my second sub-five hour century, 4h:55m. A personal best by 14 minutes for that ride.
Now, to put this into a little bit if context, this was not a race. There were no timing chips. It was clearly a fairly weak field. That said, second place is second place and I rocked some ass today. I couldn’t be happier.
Finally, I would normally pack up and head out but they had two massage tables and one was open when I rolled up. For the first time in two years I was genuinely grateful that I shave my legs. That rubdown was heavenly. No cramps and no pain. I feel fantastic.