Instead of sitting on the couch and watching the Tour finale on live TV, I went out for a long ride instead. I had been jonesing for some distance on the bike for some time. For a long, slow ride in good weather, where I could take my time and go for as long as I wanted. Finally, it all came together this morning.
My longest ride of the year so far has been a little over 90km, albeit with a race involved. Last year was about the same. I can tell you that racing competively with low miles doesn’t work for me. So I wasn’t sure how today would go, especially with a target of 4 hrs and 130km. I was tired from a two and half hour rollerski the day before. So my plan was to go slow and keep my heart rate low. I rolled out slowly beneath cloudless blue skies. Low humidity, temps in the 80’s. I was hoping I’d feel better at the end of the ride than the beginning.
After the first hour, I started to find some energy. I was eating and drinking frequently, nursing a Cliff bar and a couple bottles of Cytomax. I was riding roads that were unfamiliar to me, lots of them with “Hill” in their name. They were the classic New England country roads that I love. Rising and falling, gently curving through orchards, conservation lands, neighborhoods, and antique town centers. All with very little traffic on a summer Sunday morning.
After an hour-thirty, I reached the route where we do our rollerskiing. As I joined the course, I suddenly felt tired. Maybe it was the long climb up Oak Hill Road. Maybe it was the pyschology of starting a long slog all over again. Back in the day, I had a 100km loop I used to ride. For really long days, I’d do it twice and this was starting to feel like the second lap.
At two hours, a wave of calm and relaxation passed over me. I was on the familiar rollerski route (it’s much easier on a bike, by the way). I was reaching that zone when my body could go on its own. But I was barely half-way. If I bonked or cracked, it would be a long time getting back home. My bottles were empty. I was out of food. There were no stores in sight. I was on a winding country road, navigating by intuition, fortunately descending with a slight tailwind.
When I finally reached West Concord and familiar terrain, three hours had gone and I was hurting for a cold drink. I stopped at a supermarket. They were closed. I started to panic and hit the next thing I saw: an old gas station. Their drink selection, inconsistent and incomplete, did not inspire confidence. Old cans of V8 and Tetley tea. Coolers nearly empty. I found some Gatorade but there was nothing in the way of food except for Butterfingers strategically scattered throughout the store’s collection of milk glass and commemorative china. While I chugged a Mountain Dew, I noticed a pristine 7-Eleven across the street. Somehow I had missed it.
I felt solid from that point on. Despite a belly almost uncomfortably full of liquid and the oily mouth-feel of the Gatorade, I was feeling better and better. My legs were only a little tired. There were no cramps or muscle pain. No bonk or hazy vision or hallucinations. No soul-crushing all-body fatigue. My arms, shoulders and neck — benefitting from all the core strength work — felt strong and fresh. I used to fall apart in the upper body on long rides. Not anymore.
After four hours, I was close enough to my distance target that I kept going another 30 minutes until I had racked up 130km, very pleased to see it and to be feeling so good.
Distance: 130.49 km
HR Avg: 134 bpm
Avg Speed: 29 km/h
Afterwards, I stretched out on the couch and took my time watching the final stage to Paris. They covered many of the same roads I used to train on over there, from Rambouillet, through the Chevruese valley, and into one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I watched with sweaty palms as Cavendish sprinted to a spectacular, record victory, and as Wiggo became the first British rider to win le Grande Boucle. Congrats, boys!