I think Jeff does this one every year (the Prison Prevention Chattanooga Century). Maybe. I wanted badly to sign up for the century, but I opted for the metric century. The plan was NOT to ride at race pace and have a nice easier ride. I had that plan fixed in my brain leading up to the event, but the morning of the ride asked my sweet husband if he would ride with me. You know, do that thing some married couples do and ride together…
If you can keep up with me, sure we can ride together.
Well, if you know me at all, that was pretty much a dare and game on. I can keep up with him, I thought. How dare he… (he doesn’t remember saying that, though. But, I heard it in my head the first 30 miles and so I am sticking to it).
At the start, I watched him in the front with all of his blue, yellow, and black-clad hairless legs and arms friends dart off as the start was announced after a prayer from the announcer. While I don’t have a lot of experience with road biking and group riding, I knew that maybe, just maybe I could hang. All I had to do was suck wheel I heard, and to prove a point I could do it. At least, I told myself that. I was starting beside my friend Kelly, and I knew she didn’t want to go hard today because of the team ride tomorrow.
The course was about 68 miles and had an elevation of 3000 feet or so. Give or take depending on what you use. Here is my strava file. I remember in the beginning feeling super zoned to just stay with the lead group, which meant I had to work my way up to the front and also meant I was already leaving my plans with Kelly in the dust. I didn’t really want to do that because I knew the risk of getting dropped and riding alone for awhile, but I took the risk. I also knew I was messing up my River Gorge pre-ride with the Taco Mamacitas the next day. I would be fatigued and miserable. Dang it! Stay with the fast group ahead. Show him.
If you can keep up with me, sure we can…
I can keep up. I can keep up.
A lot of yoyoing going on for me. I am wasting energy and many have been dropped. I’m hanging on the back and watching people at various places get dropped. By the time we reached the north part of Keith Valley Rd SE, I was hanging off the back trying to stay in the pack, but using a lot of energy to stay with the pack. I remember turning left onto Zion Hill Rd SE and feeling the group surge and having to really work hard to catch up. I was definitely riding above my threshold and hanging on for dear life. Sometimes a guy would talk to me. But, we were not talking much.
Hunt Road to the left, and I was feeling it. Mentally, I was starting to cave. I was at mile 25 or so and saw a glimpse of my average speed hovering around 23.3 mph. That is fast. My brain is really geeking out over the speed. I don’t average this high ever. Wow. The power of the group. A split second of thinking about something else and losing focus on the wheel in front of me, and I have to work hard to catch back up to the pack. I’m sure in the front the guys were attacking, and I was going to be their next casualty. I needed to keep focused, but I was getting tired.
Strawhill Rd SE. I was mentally crashing. The focusing was not as sharp. We turned left onto Red Hill Valley Rd SE. I imagine myself hanging off of a ledge with just the edge of my fingers hanging on. A left on Poteet through Johnson Rd SE and I watched the lead group disappear ahead leaving me alone in the heat and realizing my heart rate was higher now than before. There was nothing more depressing than watching the group pull away and me just helplessly watch them leave me. It almost looked as though they were going twice as fast as me as they pulled away. I saw my fingers slip from the edge of the ledge and freefall toward whatever was below. Ok, not really. But, the real work was to begin.
There’s no way I can catch back up with them. I suddenly realized the power of the peloton and how my reluctance to stay in the middle of the pack left me hanging off the back too much, causing fatigue and the inability to keep catching up. There was a lady with me during the drop, but she made a right turn, and I didn’t realize she turned until I was already gone. I suppose I was in the pain cave too long and my senses were not super sharp. She was on a pink bike, I think. I never saw her again, but I think she did the century.
A lot of alone time. I was glad for one earbud with some noise. The course was well marked and a lot of the roads Jeff and I have ridden the few times we get to ride together. Or rather, the few times I get to try to chase him or dodge sweat bullets. One thing is for sure, I was really on pace to do well. Seems like competition is enough to motivate me even in the middle of a dropped situation at mile 30 with 38 miles to go. The temperature was in the 80s. I was feeling some twinges in my legs.
Somewhere around mile 42 or so, I saw James and Stephen helping someone with a mechanical of some sort. I guess I missed the split where Jeff would have gone on to the 100-mile route, so I probably would have been alone at this point anyway. I felt better. I hit the sag stop and filled up and wasted no time getting back on the bike to get going.
A guy passed me on Lead Mine Valley Road. I think it was two guys working together, but I couldn’t grab a wheel. I really need to work on that group stuff. What a difference it makes.
I will say along mile 40-50, I started feeling leg cramps. This was a first for me really. This season and leg cramps. I was getting a proper introduction and desperately wanted to get off the saddle and pedal because I still hadn’t found my perfect saddle. I had a saddle sore.
Along Beaverdale Cohutta Rd around mile 64 or so, a little group caught up with me. It was one female, and in my pain cave state of maintaining 19 mph on my own since mile 30, I thought it was the same lady that made the wrong turn back at the drop. I learned later it was not. This is how out of it I was. The group had another male, James, Stephen, and maybe one or two more. I don’t know. The cramping was getting worse in my legs. I wanted to stand. I downed some Base salts, but I really believe the cramping was due to fatigue, because I don’t ever maintain this kind of pace for this long on a road bike.
During the last mile or so, I don’t even know, I took off. I had this argument internally with myself that went like this, “You know, they’ve all been working together for awhile. It’s ok to give up because you have been alone now for 38 miles. You are tired. You have done well.” I responded to myself with, “Um, no. You are not going to give up this ride “race” at the end because you are tired. You have worked THIS hard until now, don’t stop now because you will regret it if you do.”
I picked up the pace and tried my best to sprint up the hill to the finish line. I learned a little bit later that I was the first female to cross for the metric century with an average pace of 20.8 mph. I’ll take that. It’s funny in a way how I expected maybe going faster wouldn’t feel so hard, like I would be in better shape but honestly learning that it’s not that it ever gets ANY easier. You just go faster.
Post-race I felt pretty bad. That’s a good thing, I think.
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