Monday, July 18, 2011

The Solo Century Strategy

OK, show of hands here. Who out there wants to do a 200K in triple-digit temperatures?

Anybody? Hello?

Lately, in middle Tennessee, that's what we've been getting. Not all day, mind you, but about noon the "feels like" temperature is going to cross over to 100 F (-42 Kelvin, for my Canadian readers).

For normal humans, this is inconvenient. For randonneurs, it is death.

Well, maybe that's overstating it. What it really means is that we either 1) do brevets at weird hours, like starting at 6 pm and riding a double century overnight down the Natchez Trace so we finish the next morning before it starts to get hot, or 2) ride the rollers or trainer inside for eight hours, or 3) not ride and slowly let the endurance that you built up riding in sub-freezing temperatures during the winter leech out until you are incapable of doing more than a measly metric.

Hmmm ... maybe "death" isn't too strong a word.

A lot of my friends -- particularly the guys that are going to Paris in August -- have been choosing option 1. I keep having conflicts of one type or another, usually involving me being out of town for the weekend. Since I didn't ride the rollers or trainer much during the winter, I refuse to resort to that now, so that I have been choosing option 3 the past weeks.

Fortunately, I knew that I was going to spend two weeks at the beach this month, and knew that I would be able to get out and ride long a couple of times then. The first week, I was going to hang out with my brother, John, and my mom, and the second week RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter would join us. Fun in the sun!

But, as you have probably already deduced from my above use of the future imperfect (or is that the past pluperfect?), my plans went to spit. My brother and mom had something else come up, and I needed to do some things around the house, so the two weeks at the beach turned into one week of vacation in town, followed by one week at the beach. Of course, when life gives you lemons, you've got to trade them for limes and take them to the beach to drink with an icy alcoholic beverage. When life gives you a week at home with errands to run, and your endurance cycling fitness has fallen precipitously, you've got to go do a couple of solo centuries.

Now, everybody knows that the shortest brevet is 200K, or roughly 125 miles. But if you can ride 100 miles by yourself -- or, really, anything above 85 miles -- you can go out and do a 200K. I call this the Solo Century Strategy.

I couldn't get to a lot of the house things Monday, and had been forced to blow most of the weekend doing other house things, so when I awoke at 5 am I decided that this was a good day to knock out 100 miles before lunch. Twenty minutes later, I was on the road.

It was a balmy 78 degrees as I headed down through light early morning traffic in to Franklin and on to Long Lane, past the Williamson County agriculture center, and past the now-thick cars looking to get onto I-65 at Peytonsville Road. I wanted to see if Henpeck Market -- the penultimate control on my Dog Meat Permanent -- was open again. As I rolled in just before 7 am, a little over 20 miles into my ride, the place was hopping.

It was completely remodeled, right down to the menu. They no longer have the Tomato-Basil soup, which Peter Lee used to love. They also don't have all of the fresh-baked goods, nor the excellent pasta salad. I was kind of bummed by these changes.

Instead, they have an ice cream bar, and pizzas and hamburgers. I ordered a short stack of pancakes with bacon.

Things change, and you've got to be able to let go of the old stuff and try the new. I'll always miss the old stuff, but I would be willing to ride back to Henpeck Market for more of those excellent pancakes.

From there, I continued west towards Leiper's Fork, taking Bear Creek up towards Theta before turning back south on Sycamore to Johnson's Hollow Road. It was getting hot, and I had 40 miles in, so I picked up the Harpeth River Ride route in Burwood and on to Thompson Station. I topped off my bottles with ice, then headed through Bethesda, over Pulltight Hill, and up to College Grove. I filled bottles again, then went east and north via Rocky Glade, Hill, and Patterson, before turning on to Rehobath Road.

There are some roads that are worth the trouble it takes to get there. Rehobath is one of these. The Patterson end of it was great, but at the other end it comes out on Murfreesboro Road where there is no shoulder and two lanes full of fast cars. Knowing that there was just under a mile of that up ahead, I still had a great time rolling down the smooth pavement of Rehobath and through the gentle shady descent on this lovely quiet lane.

At the Almaville Market, I again topped off my bottles with ice before rolling on to Independent Hill. The heat and my lack of conditioning was getting to me as I climbed this road towards McCanless, promising myself that the break that I would get with the gradual downhill trend on Sanford Road would be worth the steep pitches. It was.

I had met my minimum mileage before I got to Nolensville Road, so I stayed on that up to Brittain, Waller, and then Concord Pass. The bike computer hit 91 when I stumbled off the bike into my garage back home, just past noon. After a shower (and a brief collapse on the bed, forced to a painful end by a nasty leg cramp), I checked the weather online. It was 104 degrees.

Maybe next time I'll just do the overnight double century.

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