Last year at this time, I attempted a very hilly/mountainy 62 mile ride in Pittsburgh and bonked big time and needed to quit after about 25 miles. My MS ride should prove to be just as challenging, if not more so, and so I've tried to use what I learned from that unfortunate experience to better prepare for this one.
I've ridden longer and longer rides consistently over the course of the last few months - many 60-65 milers, some 70-75 milers, and one 83 mile ride recently. I feel very prepared for 100 miles, if mileage was the only challenge! Last year, the day before I rode in Pittsburgh, I had done a 35 mile slightly hilly ride at home. I think that was one of my mistakes, so this week I did my 83 mile ride on Tuesday and have held off on other rides for the rest of the week, resting up and just doing workouts off the bike at home.
Hills are always a challenge for me and will definitely be a challenge on Saturday! When possible in my local rides over the past few months, I've tried to include some hilly rides. When tackling hills I've tried to push myself by using as high a gear as I could, going as fast as I could, and working on tolerating the lactate in my legs to a higher degree. "Just shut up legs!" has been my mantra! While off the bike I have been doing near daily workouts at home focusing on leg strength and core strength. And I've lost a bit of weight. I do feel stronger and more capable of riding hills than I ever have been before. However, when we drove in our car over the course last Sunday to preview it, I have to admit that I did feel a little sick to my stomach seeing the number and size of the hills I will face! I think the terrain remains the part of this challenge that worries me the most!
Well, obviously I have no control over the weather. Wish I did! In Pittsburgh last year it was very hot and humid and that was not good. The weather prediction for Saturday is much better! It is supposed to be a high of 81, no rain, low humidity, and very light winds. So I'm not really too worried about the weather this time.
I know in Pittsburgh I let myself get very dehydrated and that was a key factor in my bonking! In general I am drinking LOTS more water than I ever have before and I have been doing this for many months - at least half my body weight in ounces of water daily! So I'm going into this ride far more hydrated in general. During the ride I'll be carrying two 20 oz. water bottles with me. There are 7 rest stops and I plan to stop at every one and consume one full water bottle and refill before going on. That way I'll also have water to drink between stops and I should stay hydrated.
This was another huge factor in my ride failure in Pittsburgh last year. Pre-ride nutrition - Last year I had been clean eating/dieting and although I was eating healthy, I was working with a calorie deficit. Bad plan! This year I have also been focused on clean eating/dieting so this week, I've departed from the calorie deficit and have been eating larger portions, more carbs (although the jury is still out on the value of "carb loading"), more protein and more fruit. I'm probably going to gain a pound or two, but I'm okay with that. I'm going to eat a good breakfast on Saturday morning too. During the ride nutrition - Again, this was a huge factor last year. I didn't bring food along with me expecting there to be sufficient food at the rest stops. There was not. And 2 years ago when I rode the 45 mile MS ride in Rochester, the only food they had at the rest stops was granola bars. I know I need more. I'll need things like peanut butter sandwiches, protein bars, bananas and other fruit. These are the things I've learned I need to fuel my ride. So, I will be bringing all these things with me just in case they are not being provided, even though it does add extra weight to my bike.
GOOD OR BAD
I've never been an athlete, I didn't play any sports in high school, I've never worked with a trainer, so I've made my best guesses here and tried to reflect on and learn from past mistakes. Hopefully I've done the right kind of training and planning for this challenge. I am not a fast cyclist, in general, and am even slower on hills. I am going to try to start out on the course a little early, but I'm pretty certain that I won't arrive back at the finish until they've closed the routes, probably packed up all the food and medals and such, but I'm okay with that. My goal is to finish, even if I'm finishing alone. Jim and Heather will follow my progress on their phones and I know I can call them if I do get into trouble alone and need a pick up.
So, be thinking positive thoughts for me on Saturday as I climb hills for those who climb their own hills every day!