Sunday, August 03, 2008

Erding Radmarathon (not quite a century)

I woke up at 5, ate a piece of bread, and hurried out to the S-Bahn to catch the 5:24 train to Erding. This would be my first almost-century in Germany, so I didn't know what to expect from a German century. The first thing was that it's cheap: 8 Euros for the 154km ride. The second thing was that there's no SAG support --- unlike American centuries, the concept of having cars drive the route to help you in case you're in trouble would drive the cost up and be too environmentally unfriendly for a bike ride. Third, Californian centuries put chalk marks on the road to indicate the route, but here in Germany with narrow roads and frequent rains, the chalk would be washed away too quickly. Instead, the markers are arrows placed at intersection at about eye level. Overall, the placement was good --- there was only one marker I saw that was partially behind a bush.

The weather was warm, so much so that at 7:00am, before the start, I put on sunscreen and had taken off my leg warmers and arm warmers and put them in my saddlebag. When I first saw the route it seemed a bit flat, and indeed, I never had to put the bike into the granny the entire ride. However, it was very windy, so much so that when a paceline passed me, I hopped on it to get a bit of shelter. The paceline was going at 45kph, however, so after about 10 km I was forced to drop back. Fortunately, we were but 10km from the first checkpoint. We were all given little cards at the start of the ride, and at the first checkpoint and I found out why at the first checkpoint --- you're supposed to get them stamped. At the first checkpoint, I found the usual cycling food --- bananas, power drink, cakes, bread, but no porta-porties. Instead, cyclists would cross the road to use the bushes. (I didn't see too many women cyclists, so I don't know what they did)

The first checkpoint was at 45km, and it wasn't even 8:15 when I arrived. When I left, 5 minutes later a pack of riders passed me at what I thought was an acceptable speed, so I asked permission to join them and got an "of course." The group soon broke up and I found myself riding with a husband and wife team. The man worked for a pharmaceutical company, and was so strong that whenever we went up hills he wouldn't slow down at all, until his wife dropped back and he had to wait for her. At about 80km, however, I realized that I had made a mistake --- I was suddenly very tired, having burned all my matches for the day. I let them go ahead, and fortunately, the next checkpoint was at 90km. I suffered a painful cramp on the way there, but a sip of power drink and eating all my endurolytes made the problem go away, and it didn't recur.

I took a little longer this time, stretching myself, and drinking lots of power drink. But the feeling of tiredness didn't go away, and so I kept going. I felt really slow now, going around 20kph. I tried to hop on to a few pacelines here and there, but couldn't stay on them for very long at all. The bucolic scenery that had looked so pretty earlier today started to bore me, and the skies had become cloudy. And the wind was a constant annoyance.

Fortunately, the last checkpoint was at 124km. This was the most German of the checkpoints, since it served beer! I rested here for about 15 minutes and then went on, hoping the last 30km wouldn't be too painful. I went up the hills slowly and coasted down them as quickly as I could, but unfortunately, most descents ended with a sharp turn or a road intersection, which gave me no run-out. During the last 10km, the wind had gotten so strong that to add insult to injury, I had to pedal down the hills as well.

I arrived at the start/finish at 2:15, making it the fastest century I had still completed to date, but with about half the climbing I usually do for centuries, and feeling much worse than I usually do at the end of one. Nevertheless, at 96 miles and 1610m, it gave me a baseline for how out of shape I am this year --- too much flat riding has definitely taken its toll on me.
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