I meant to write this up a few days ago, since the ride was on Saturday, but I'm still sweating out from these past days of intense heat. Similar to the Air Force Classic, the Eat a Peach Ride was another ride that was sponsored by the cycling club at work :) Set in hilly Carrol County, MD, this ride is notorious for the relentless hills. A coworker of mine rode this last year and said it was hilly, but I've been training exclusively on the hills all season, so I couldn't imagine anything different that what I've seen. The ride has 4 options, ranging from the "Peach Fuzz", which is a 12 mile route, to the "Peach Pit", which is the full 100 mile route that contains more than 7000 ft of climbing. I opted for the "Peach Jam" - the 67 mile option, which is also part of the 100 mile route.
My goal for this ride was to hit it pretty hard with race pace intensity for the first 56 miles to try and get a good feel for time expectations for Patriots Half, which is coming up in exactly a month. While this course is far from anything I'll see on the flat course for Patriots, I wanted to see how I'd fare on a hilly course, which should give me an indication of where my minimum time should be come race day.
The ride was very informal and had no official start. You just kind of went. So after posing for some group pictures with my cycling club, I set off with a few of them, since they knew where we were going and I did not. After a few short minutes, I could tell I was going to have to try my luck at finding other riders. One rider from my club stayed with me, but when we got to the first rest stop (mile 15), he pulled over! Not needing a break, nor caring to, I pressed on to look for people to pick off.
And pick off people I did. From mile 15 to mile 56 I pretty much rode Zone 3, with spikes into Zone 4/5 on the climbs. For the remainder of the ride, I had nobody riding with me. I'd see a group in the distance and begin to reel them in. While doing so and upon closing the gap, I made sure to stay far left so as to not draft. I wanted to use this ride as an opportunity to race like I would in a triathlon, not in a cycling event where sniffing someone's behind for miles on end is considered commonplace. Plenty of people rode off mine for short periods, but either a smelled or I was pushing too hard, because in a matter of minutes they would be gone.
By the time I hit 56 miles, I was pleasantly surprised at my time. I was just under 3 hours, which is pretty close to 20 mph. But these were no flats that I was riding through...these were constant hills. And not the gradual kind that you can just cruise up with a high cadence and a low gear. I often found myself out of the saddle, because when I was sitting I could not move my pedals fast enough to keep from toppling. There were only a few longer (1 mile plus) climbs. Most of them were .25 - .75 miles, but very steep. There were a lot of people walking their bikes up some of them, but I was not one of them.
After I hit my 56 miles, I continued to push, but without the same fire. I achieved my goal, so it was now time to make my way on home. It was ONLY 11 more miles. But let me tell you...those 11 miles had some serious hills. Some of the steepest and more challenging ones were saved for last. In fact, I hit my slowest speed of the day on what I considered the longest and steepest climb, which occurred with about 2 miles to go - 5.5 mph. I barely kept from toppling over, but I creaked up the climb with my heart rate skyrocketing into Zone 5, as you can see by the two spikes in green (HR) and red (elevation) on the far right in the graph below (click to see larger).
As I was rolling into the last mile of the ride, I saw someone running along the side of the road, who also happened to have their number still on (from the bike ride). I thought to myself that someone was trying to show me up by going for a brick run off the bike. As I got closer, things looked a little more familiar. There was a DCTri jersey. As I got closer, of course I knew who it was. It was Jeanne! I shouted hi to her as I rode by and we eventually met up later under the food tent to discuss the challenging day. Always nice to see a familiar face!
So final stats on the day:
Distance: 67 miles
Elevation Gain: 4741
Speed: 18 mph
Average HR: 144 bpm
Quick funny note - before the ride started, I saw this guy roll up on his motorcycle, with his bike attached to the back. The bike almost looked bigger than the motorcycle. I had to snap this picture, because I thought it was hilarious.
After the ride, I went to take advantage of the ride's namesake. PEACHES!
I made appropriate use of my bike jersey pockets in the back and made several trips to stock up on some peaches. Mmmm...tasty! And of course, I also spotted some kettle korn, so you know I had to get some of that action too!
Sunday included some more fun heat training, since it will likely be hot during Patriots by the time I am running. The forecast for Sunday was mid 90s, so I set out for my 1:40 run at 9 am, so I wasn't completely in the heat of the day. But trust me, it was hot! While I was running the temperature was 90, with a heat index at about 95...plus the sun was glaring down...and I ran with no shade cover....on purpose. I finished my run and jumped straight into the shower. And for the first time EVER, I made it a cold shower. Not because of the recovery effect, but because my core temperature was probably very hot. In fact, when I got out of the shower, I continued to sweat as if I was running over the course of the next hour. I re-hydrated and eventually stopped sweating.
One month to go till the big day with only a few more weeks of hard training. Woo!