Monday, September 23, 2013

North Shore Century 2013 Recap

Yesterday I took part in the North Shore Century. I chose the 50 mile route as with biking to and from I would hit 62 miles. For two weeks out from Ironman Wisconsin, I thought that was a respectable distance. I hadn't been on the bike since Madison, apart from a quick spin to meet the group for Saturday's run. Confession: I still haven't washed Baby Beluga from Ironman Wisconsin. There is a solid layer of sports drink and other gunk, along with my bike sticker. As in, yes people, you are passing me. Look here, I did an Ironman two weeks ago. Sometimes it's ok to brag.

The weather was perfect. It was an ideal fall day, started around 60 degrees. My goal was to enjoy the ride, no focus on power, speed, etc. Just pedal forward. I left home just before 8am to head up to Evanston to join the ride. There was a large group there, but registration went smoothly.  I usually shy away from paying for rides that I do on my own, but despite my summer spent on the North Shore, this ride went a different route going north so it seemed like it would be a nice change. The volunteers were telling everyone, along with signs, to follow traffic laws in Highland Park and around Ft Sheridan, as apparently cops have been ticketing cyclists there.

The ride was just what I was looking for. Once again, I found myself smiling most of the time.  It felt so good to be back out there, no matter how slow I was. There is just something about endurance events that I have come to crave. Keeping the pace easy, my legs felt perfectly fine. But the numbers don't lie. My speed was <15 mph, and my power was lower than my Z1. Pretty sure that is the recipe for an enjoyable post-Ironman fall ride.

The ride started out heading west and then north.  It was a nice change of scenery from my normal jaunt up Sheridan Rd. However, in terms of using this route for training next year, I think it might be too stop light/sign heavy for a good training ride. Once up in Lake Forest, we headed east through the town (really nice, I somehow have never ridden right through it) and up into Lake Bluff, also lovely. I stopped to take a picture of the lake through the trees. It doesn't do it justice of course, due to 1) being an iPhone, 2) I'm a triathlete, not a photographer.

After that it was back south, but not before I followed folks who I later realized were not part of the ride and took a wrong turn. I don't think it cost me more than a mile or two, and luckily I was able to find my way (i.e. type it into my phone) good ol' familiar Sheridan Road.

The route took us on a detour through Fort Sheridan that I had never done before and plan to add onto some of my future rides. I love that about being on a bike- can just take a new turn and find out where you'll end up. Much less fatiguing than new/wrong turns on runs (flashback to Bakersfield where my 4 miler turned into 7). By the time I got back to Evanston I was feeling ready to be done, but nothing really hurt or felt fatigued, just mental. I stopped for a few minutes in E-town before heading the 6 miles back home.

The Garmin file for my ride is here. Yes, abysmal stats:
Distance: 63.6 miles
Time: 4:22:08
Speed: 14.6 mph
Average Power: 90 W
Normalized Power: 98 W 
Nothing at all to brag about, but who needs that when I can still brag about the Ironman?

Course support was great. There were two rest stops with lots of fruit, sandwiches, baked goods, water/gatorade, and other goodies. Volunteers were plentiful and friendly. The course was very well marked, so my slight detour was really just my fault. I would definitely do this ride again, except next year it will be the week before Chattanooga. Maybe the 25 mile route?

As this was day 2 of my "Healthy Eating" kick, I was mindful of my nutrition, careful not to give myself permission to just eat whatever.  Before the ride, I had oatmeal with chia seeds, banana, and brown sugar. I carried and refilled two bottles of water, and had a powerbar and two powergels. At aid stations I snacked on fruit.  Garmin says I burned 1400 calories, so I think I did good. For a race or even in season, this would not work as enough fuel, but for any easy ride when I am targeting weight loss, it was just fine. On a more general nutrition note, today marked day 3 of healthy eating. My rules have already relaxed, but I think it is ok. I have had popcorn as well as a TJ's 100 calorie dark chocolate bar, and I'm feeling good. Actually, that is a lie. Right now I feel the opposite of good- headache and nauseous, but hoping to feel better with some sleep.

I was a bit worried about Baby Beluga after the incident the day before IMMoo, but that probably seems to have resolved. I am still having the squeaking when I downshift (maybe upshift too?) in the middle of my middle chain ring.  I am hoping to be able to get it in to be checked out this week. Of course, to prove to me that he too is worn out, as I was putting BB back in the bike room, the bottle cage snapped in half. Bright side- most definitely the cheapest component to replace, and far less traumatizing than when my seat post broke this summer.

This ride reminded me of how odd the endurance mindset is.  Normal people do not go out and ride 63+ miles and think little of it.  To most, that would be a huge accomplishment. And yet, it was just a nice, leisurely ride.  At EN, we talk about "doing cool things with your fitness." In other words, I have worked hard (not as hard as I should have) to get myself to this place. Now I can have fun with it, and fun, sadly, is more endurance events.  Even within myself, my mindset has changed. I remember bragging about biking the whole Lakeshore Path- 36 miles.  Now that is a short ride. I think a huge part of Ironman training is getting comfortable mentally.  Being on my bike for 4+ hours is not boring anymore, and that is the huge difference.  I think many would be able to do the ride I did with no training at my 14.6 mile pace. But it is the mental fatigue/boredom that would get them, and that is a very strong muscle on me right now.

This weekend was great to be back out there running and biking. My big take home message though, was that I am not back.  I am still recovering.  I feel fine, but my body isn't putting out the speed/power I am use to.  I wonder if this is almost a protective reaction of my body- "no, you can't go full throttle (or even half throttle) right now or you will do serious harm."  I am trying to listen, but balance it with getting back out there.  I think focusing on good nutrition will also help my body heal. For that reason, I am not attempting to restrict anything beyond good sense. If my body wants an apple, even though I've had 3 pieces of fruit already, it can have the apple. If it uses the same reasoning with chocolate, which I'm sure it'll try, I will have to use a different tactic. I know when I have done marathons before, you feel about 85% better within the first week, probably even the first few days. It is that last 15% that takes about a month. Ahh, patience, now that is still in training.

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