Sunday, March 15, 2009

My first (OUTDOOR) century of the season

Finally! The cycling gods looked down favorably on this humble randonneur. The weather cooperated while family plans and work obligations aligned to open up a nice stretch of time for an outdoor century this weekend. Motivation has been lagging a bit recently and with my first brevet of 2009 in two weeks, it was great to get out on the roads again for a long training ride. I had initially hoped to squeeze a 200K permanent into the weekend, but there was simply too much to take care of to clear the way for that.

The weather on Saturday was outstanding. I left home late (at around noon) with temps already in the 40s. It rose to the low 50s by mid-afternoon. As I ran out the door, I ditched the long sleeve jacket in favor of a short sleeve wool jersey with arm warmers. No neoprene booties today; toe covers worked just fine and my fingers were not at all icy with my light full-fingered gloves. What a relief to ride feeling unconstrained by multiple layers. I was comfortable for the entire ride.

Much as I enjoy long trainer rides, since I am not training indoors with rollers, riding outdoors again always requires dusting off the usual handling skills. Handling is also more of a challenge on roads still covered with a coating of sand left behind by a long winter’s worth of snow storms. The sand is especially thick on the hills of the back country roads I favor for training, so descents are more tricky than usual. One has to remember to ease into the turns and look closely at the road surface at all times. With so much residual salt and sandy crap on the roads, I chose to ride my old Bianchi rather than the new Indy Fab.

Saturday’s ride followed one of my standard century loops; it’s mostly flat with some rollers and one big hill (1500 feet of gain in three miles) that begins at mile 50. Farmland, still fallow, lines many of the roads. Cows, sheep, horses and even a few turkeys greeted me as I passed and homeowners along the way were beginning to attack their yard chores with vigor as the sound of mowers and leaf blowers filled the air.

One of the biggest differences between indoor and outdoor riding are the animals, live and dead we see along the way. Deer, hawks, and small furry things too small to identify darted through the leaves as I pedaled down quiet back roads. In a sure sign of spring, an Eastern Bluebird even alighted several feet away from me at one point. I also saw my share of roadkill out there. The count: one deer, one red fox, one raccoon, two house cats, and six or eight squirrels. It’s hard to tell if these poor critters are among the recently dead or if they’ve been lying on the side of the road buried under snow banks for several months, just making themselves known after the recent thaw.

One of my many goals this season is to do a better job of nutritional management on long rides. In the past, I’ve fueled myself in fairly haphazard ways. This time, I made an effort to consume all of my calories in the form of a thick solution of Hammer Perpetuem. The directions indicated that I should sip this thick brew while hydrating with my other bottle. The trouble was twofold: one – I had to stop once an hour for water and two – I was just too hungry to make it through a full century without some solid food. Need to work on this next time. Maybe I’ll try a more concentrated solution, paced more effectively and some supplemental Hammer Gel. I might also try a Camelback. Perpetuem in this solution would work great if I had a crew handing me fresh water bottles every hour, but having to find a bottle per hour on the road was a big hassle which slowed me down considerably.

So, in all it was a very good ride. Good to be out on the roads again. Hopefully, we’ll get some rain in the next few weeks to clear the roads of the residual salt and sand so I’ll feel more comfortable bringing my good bike out of hibernation.

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