Yesterday was the
fifth Sixth (oops) annual Dawn Farm Ride for Recovery.
The skies were clear, or close enough to it. That bodes well for later in the ride because it’ll warm up quick. On the other side of that ledger, it means it’ll be cold at the start. In April. In Michigan. It was just a shade below freezing as the sun started its ascent, as I was loading the bikes on our rack.
By the time we got to the farm and started unpacking the bikes and gear the temp was already pushing 37 (or about 2 C, I think). I was overdressed. Over the last year, riding with the big dogs in some gnarly cold weather, I’ve learned that cycling in the cold is all about getting the clothing right – and getting the clothing right is all about properly gauging how hard I’m going to be working… The harder I have to work, the lighter the layers are going to have to be. I was planning on a 100k at around 16 mph. My wife has shown decent ability and we’re usually around 16-16.5 averages lately, on rides up to about 40 miles. It made sense then, that you subtract 1/2 to 1 mph from the average for a large bump in mileage and that should get us close, right?
Well, unfortunately (fortunately, really, I’m being facetious), my wife finally got her fitting done on the Alias I bought her for Christmas and Matt changed the setup a lot. We started out, right out of the gate, well north of 19 mph and my wife was just getting to breathing heavy after ten miles. We’d gotten through the first 18 miles in less than an hour and when you take into account that the roads weren’t closed and we were sticking to traffic laws (loosely), we were at or above 20 mph for much of that first 18 miles. In other words, because I am my wife’s knight in shining armor, I had to work to keep her protected and rolling. A great problem to have.
As the day warmed and the wind picked up, and we caught other cyclists in our range, we spent time in various cliques but we never really gelled as a group. Before long, it was just my wife, a guy named Gary, and me. The route we were on was basically an out and back with two loops on either end so the vast majority of our ride had a northerly crosswind and I had to back Gary off a few times as my wife started working way too hard to sustain for the full 62 miles.
We pulled into the half-way rest stop just below an 18 mph average. I was having an exceptionally fun ride, much faster than originally anticipated, the sun was out and it was warming up rather nicely. The wind was a little rough, but I’d have to kick my own ass for having such excellent conditions but finding something to complain about. We had some Gatorade and a protein bar and set out for the last 30 miles.
The next ten miles went along fairly easy and my wife was keeping pace a lot better than I could have expected and Gary was still with us… Until we turned north. This is what always sucks the life out of people who aren’t prepared for it on long rides. Mrs. Bgddy hung on like a champ for about four miles at 17 to 17.5 mph before calling “No mas”. I sped up to let Gary know he should go it his own pace for the rest of the ride, that we were going to dial it back some. After a few more miles we turned west again but it seemed like we were struggling a little bit picking the speed back up… At the 45 mile mark we had a left turn, which put us south with the wind at our back and a rest stop about six miles down the road… But we had a gas station corner to our left so I figured it was time to introduce my wife to cycling attitude fuel – Coca-Cola.
For those who believe they are too healthful to sink to the level of an ice-cold Coke half-way through a long ride, I will simply say this: There’s a reason you see, every year during the Tour de France, at least one shot of a cyclist being handed a can of Coke. First, when you’re already laying waste to your glycogen stores anyway, there is no chance of that coke being stored as fat. Your body will simply eat it up. Then, the caffeine has been shown in numerous studies to be helpful to athletes. If ever there was a good time to enjoy a Coke, during a long ride is it. Preferably to wash down one of your all natural grain bars. You’ll get a short term boost from the sugar and a long term jolt from an energy bar. My wife’s change in attitude didn’t surprise me at all, but it did her. We hit that tailwind section with a fervor not seen in 30 miles. She took the lead and kept us well above 20 mph for the full six miles. Then we hit the next east section which we held a fair 18-19 mph and my wife was doing excellently well – though I noticed a pattern developing. I kept it to myself, but when she took a turn up front, I noticed that she was 1-2 mph faster than when I was blocking for her. I kept an eye on it.
With about eight miles to go, we hit the tough section. All into the wind, and all uphill. None of the climbs were all that tough, but it was just the relentless uphill that wore my wife down in a hurry… Until I let her run up front. Sure enough, 1-2 mph faster than when I was blocking the wind for her. I knew something was up and it couldn’t be physical, so I decided to save that for after the ride and after we ate (fellas, if you bring up an unsolicited critique of your wife’s cycling before the ride is done and she’s had a chance to get some food into her, you’re not only wrong, you’re nuts). The last mile was quick, as we finally leveled out and turned west and we rolled into the finish with a 16.7 mph average. Interestingly enough though, with just four miles to go we were over 17.1 and with ten miles to go, we were just under 18.
Now, my wife went from a 16 mph cyclist over 20-40 miles to an 18 mph cyclist over 50. With a proper fitting. It’s as simple as that, nothing else changed.
Second, on the ride home I decided to break into the 1-2 mph gain when my wife is leading as opposed to drafting (she was literally falling off the back while I was pulling and then when I let her up front she was going faster – there were no wind or elevation changes that could explain this gain). Long story short, my wife was having a tough time understanding the whole concept of drafting and how it works. She was going by where she thought she had to be to get the best draft, rather than by feel. Ride long enough in pace lines and you’ll be able to tell where the best draft is (I’ll save that for another post). So not only was she trying to think her way into the draft, she was having a tough time with worrying about bowling into my back wheel at the same time. In other words, she was working in so much fear that it was affecting her ability to keep her pace.
I gave her a few tips in the car but we’ll be working on them in the near future…but one thing’s for sure: My life just got interesting and probably a whole lot more fun – my wife is getting fast!
Last week: 4 days off for rain, sleet, hail, snow, wind and cold (yes, it was that bad). Then Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 137 Miles… The beginning of the week stunk but I sure made up for it.