Cherohala, Ride the Sky: 105 miles of ‘not again next year.’
The weather was lovely – cool, with low humidity and the forecast called for 10% rain. The riders lined up … then we started. On time.
However, I went left rather than right. In hindsight that was a signal from the universe intending me to ride the 62 mile route rather than the 105 mile route. As I saw the larger group ride down a hill more than a mile away, I knew it was going to be a long day in the saddle.
Rather than warm up in a sensible manner, I went directly into time trial mode. Immediately. As I stomped on the pedals, my heart rate soared to 93% of max … oh boy. I was pushing 26-27mph attempting to catch the group and slowly made ground. I felt slow. My body felt slow. However, as I passed more and more riders getting shelled out of the peloton I knew I was making ground. There was a point where I seriously considered turning back and calling it a day. Really. There is nothing more aggravating than trying to catch the peloton during a ride (not a race). It took me 8 miles to bridge to the group of 20-ish riders. The pace wasn’t fast mind you, but as any rider knows – the ‘group’ (peloton) moves faster than a single rider.
For the next 40 miles we held a moderate pace that kept our average around 22.6mph. Not fast – but fast enough considering we were covering roller after roller.
Prior to the Cherohala climb, I encouraged a ‘group break’ to fuel up. Most everyone did except for a few folks who needed a head start. Within 4 miles, 6 guys were away. As I saw them ride away from me, I felt as if I was rolling backwards. I wasn’t, but it felt that way. Somewhere around mile 56-ish, I stopped at one of the ‘rest stops’ to fuel again as I knew the top of the mountain wouldn’t be reached for more than 2 hours. As it turned out, that proved to be a smart decision. Having the extra fuel helped me make ground on the other riders who got a head start.
Mile after mile churned below me as I slowed to 7mph in many sections. I passed lots of riders. Finally I came upon one of the 6 guys that got away from me earlier. We rode together and found another one of the original 6 standing along the road side … why I don’t know. The three of us rode to the top and re-fueled … then departed together. On the return trip down the mountain it is mostly downhill, but there are several sections with short/steep climbs. Let’s just say there was enough climbing that we passed yet another guy from that original 6. At that point only 3 of the 6 guys (who got away from me) were in front of us … and that’s the way it remained. Funny, we passed a bunch of 62 mile riders on the way down the mountain. Imagine, our route was some 43 miles further and we were ahead of them!
When we neared the finish line, we agreed to cross the line together. Doing so was a polite way of saying – it’s a ride, not a race.
Summary: 105 miles, 5:52, average heart rate 143 or 81% of max, 4,953 calories burned. I then drank a Coke, a Coke One, ate a cheeseburger from McDonald’s with fries and another Coke. When I arrived home I crashed and woke up 2 hours later to eat again. And for dinner I consumed another big plate along with ice cream, cookies and strawberries for dessert. What a day.
At bedtime I stopped to think … what was the 62 mile ride about?