FAIL. Lesson Learned (again).

John Tenney at Blue Ridge BreakawayOn Saturday August 16th I rode in the Blue Ridge Breakaway (hereafter referred to as “BRB”), a 105.7 mile ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains with over 10,000 feet of vertical elevation change.

I did not have a great event. In fact you could say it was an EPIC FAIL. And it was my own fault for making mistakes I knew better not to make.

It all started when I found out on Thursday, that the event was Saturday (and not Sunday like I believed.) I noticed my friends posting on Facebook that they were on their way to Waynesville, NC. “Why are they leaving today?” I thought. “I’m leaving tomorrow so I can relax Saturday and have a good ride Sunday.” When I checked the BRB website and discovered my error.

Quickly I began packing up the van. I called the hotel and they were very nice and said yes, you can come in a day early and we won’t charge you for an extra day if you leave Sunday. That was nice. Still, I didn’t get out of the house and on the road till 3:30 in the afternoon.

So that leads to:
Lesson One: Get the Proper Event Information and Scheduling.

Holiday Inn Express Orangeburg, SCAround 11:30 pm I was only 400 miles in to a 610 mile drive. I decided to stop at the Holiday Inn Express in Orangeburg, SC for the night (a very nice place by the way and not too expensive) and get some sleep. This was actually a good move.

The next morning I went to the breakfast lobby and had some coffee and some “prefab pancakes.” Not the most nutritious meal but I wanted to get on the road. I got going and had to stop almost immediately at a rest stop to “vent some coffee.”

Oak-Park-InnI didn’t get to the Oak Park Inn (another very nice place) in Waynesville until noon. All I had eaten in the last 24 hours was a Subway BMT sub, some pancakes and a food bar. I was frazzled and stressed so I did not go right out to eat but laid down for a short nap. Around 3pm I got up and rode my bike up to the venue, hoping to pick up my packet and possibly stop for some food on the way home.

I was two hours early for registration. I took a ride around the lake (very pretty) but that only killed about 45 minutes.

The volunteers were very nice but they didn’t have the timing chips yet, could I wait till 5? So I stayed around and helped them set up, move chairs, carry boxes, etc. All in all not a bad thing to do but I still had not eaten. I rode back to the hotel and got my van so I could eat with “the gang.”

Well, “the gang” I was hoping to ride with were all staying at a cabin, and had already made plans for dinner. When I left registration at 6pm I was quite hungry but did not relish going in to a restaurant in a strange, country town by myself to eat dinner alone (hear those banjos?) so I went to a Hardees and picked up a fast food meal. Which leads to:
Lesson Two: Don’t Travel to Major Events Alone.
I need the peer pressure from a “travel buddy” to make me eat correctly. Fast food and a couple of food bars is not enough nutrition the day before a very challenging 106 mile mountain ride.

The next morning I was up sufficiently early to wolf down some pop-tarts, drink a bottle of water and wait for nature to take its course. Cyclists understand that you want to get all your “business” done before starting a hundred mile ride. Fortunately for me, my digestive system agreed with me and all was well.

At the event they were offering donuts, pastries and coffee. I took half a cup of coffee. I have no idea why I didn’t eat at least one donut or a pastry. I certainly did not have enough carbs in my system to fuel me for the whole ride.

Still, the first 30 miles or so I felt great. I was riding fast, climbing well, and the disc brakes on my new bike (Giant Defy Advanced 1) really made the descents enjoyable. I felt so good I skipped the first two SAG stops, which leads to:
Lesson Three: Don’t Make A Problem Worse By Ignoring It.
I should have stopped and at least grabbed some cookies, peanuts, bananas, or something.

At mile 42 I stopped because I realized I was having a problem. I wasn’t flying up the hills anymore. I was getting shaky. I still didn’t feel hungry but I should know by now I can’t trust that feeling. I stopped and ate some peanuts. Then one of my buddies came in and left quickly. I didn’t want him to get too far ahead so I hurried up and followed him. Which is mistake #4:
Lesson Four: Don’t Race Other People, Race the Course
The right thing to do would have been to stay and eat something. Instead I was determined to “be that guy” who was going to perform. Another rookie move.

I got to the mile 52 SAG and saw a lot of contemporaries relaxing, eating, drinking, etc. I only needed a little water (or so I thought), grabbed a cookie and got back on my bike. Big Mistake. Big. HUGE. What I had failed to do was study the course. If I had, I would have realized that the next 13 or so miles were all uphill at an average gradient of 7 – 8%. This was “the stop before the big one.” Not a good time to skip a rest and recovery period.
Lesson Five: Know The Course!
The first three or four miles were fine. I was just riding along, saying to myself “wow this is a long hill” and it finally came to me, this is the big one.

It was very beautiful. I enjoyed the view. What I did not enjoy was how my body was running out of gas. I was bonking. I had depleted my reserves and my body had switched to fat burning mode. In this mode it is impossible for me to climb up a 7 to 8% grade. I started shaking. I had to stop and rest. People started riding by me. I knew the next stop was at mile 63, some 5 or 6 miles ahead, and they were all uphill. I started walking. This was really the end of my ride, as the next 30 miles I finished were just survival.

I made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway rest stop and guess what, they were out of water and almost out of food. It had taken me two hours to get to the top of that hill and I was at the tail end of field now. Everybody had gone by.

The smart thing to do would have been to wait for supplies. I didn’t. I followed one of my contemporaries out (see lesson four), thinking that I only had a little climb left (wrong. Had a big one left, see lesson five.)

I was looking forward to the infamous tunnel, since I had my trusty USB light mounted on my bike. Hah. At mile 80 I went in to a hole in the side of the mountain that was pitch black, and no dinky little 25 lumen light is going to help me. Next time I will bring a BIGGER light.
Lesson Six: Bring the Right Equipment
I made it through the tunnel without dying but it was mortifying. Well, see the video below. Realize also that the Go Pro adapts to lower light much quicker than my eyes. I never saw the reflectors or the white line to the right. If it weren’t for the car coming the other way I probably would have smashed in to the wall.

I made it to mile 85, halfway up the last big hill (7 mile climb at 8%) when I had to be sagged in, because I would not make the requirement of being off the Blue Ridge Parkway before 5pm. It was frustrating, knowing that I was only 3 miles from a 17 mile descent to the finish, but rules are rules, and I wasn’t going to argue with the BRB staff. I endured the embarrassment of being sagged off the course, and lived, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.

I suppose there is a lesson seven in all this too, since I don’t want to end with six. That would be to plan my trips better, and further in advance. I am working with my coach (who was NOT part of my BRB planning – another mistake) now to get ready for the next mountain ride: Six Gap, a 100 mile ride in Dahlonega, GA which traverses six mountain passes (gaps) on September 28th.

Pray for me.

Race Reports – Fishhawk and Airport TT #8

ORR Team at Airport TT #8Dual race report coming here, as your author apologizes for being a little bit behind.

“I had the opportunity to try the new Fishhawk Time Trial series put on by R&M Cycling, leader Nathan Rogut, near Brandon, FL (outside of Tampa.) A few weeks later I returned to the Airport Time Trial for race #8 in the series” John Tenney tells us, “Both were breakthrough races for me, and for the team as well.”

Below are two race reports from John.

Fish Hawk Time Trial

This is a new venue and new event. Located in a rural area just southwest of Brandon, FL, the course is a 14.1 mile out and back, a little over 7 miles in each direction. July 24th at 6pm the inaugural event was launched. I was the only one of our team to make this one.

The Course
At the finish of the inaugural Fishhawk TT

At the finish of the inaugural Fishhawk TT

The roads are south of the local town, and are in good shape. The only real problem was that at 6pm there was some car and truck traffic, and a lot of it turning onto and off of the road. Other than that, it is an excellent course, with some slight elevation changes that make it interesting. The 180 turn out just past mile 7 is actually about 40 feet above the starting line, and it is a slight climb in the latter part of the ride. On the plus side, after the turn you get to go down that hill.
My Race
I wasn’t sure of the exact length. Katelynn Dittman, who was handling registration, told me it was almost 15 miles. I rode out about 5 1/2 and rode back as a warmup, so I was not sure exactly how far away the turn was. Katelynn told me it would be clearly marked, and it was, as Aeropro coach Roy Foley was marshaling the turn (and doing an excellent job by the way.)
Training Peaks Analysis of my race

Training Peaks Analysis of my race

My goal was to be under 42 minutes. Since it was my first time on the course I did not anticipate really trying to pound it, but to pedal hard while studying it. 42 minutes would still be a 20+ mph average.

On the way out, the last uphill section of the course was slowing me down, as I was unable to maintain 20mph up the hill. When I was held up at the turn as Roy let two large trucks go by, I noticed I was turning at around 22 minutes, which if doubled did not beat my goal.

Fortunately the downhill on the return allowed me to pick up speed. Only one incident ruined a perfect return ride as a large SUV passed me going around a corner and then stopped in front of me, blocking the entire lane, as they waited to make a left turn on to a side street. I had to slam on the brakes and pass the SUV on the shoulder. It not only slowed me down but of course drove my heart rate up a bit.

The finishing stretch is slightly uphill but I didn’t notice as I was using up all the power I had left. I crossed the line in 39:50, which was well better than my goal and resulted in an average speed of 21.6 mph.

After the race we retired to the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings for some well earned socializing. There were 16 riders total for the race.

Airport Time Trial #8

This was the eight installment of this 10 race series, and our team was represented by myself, Randy Durkee and Chuck Peabody.

The venue has been discussed in previous articles. August 5th, the weather was hot and a little muggy, but the winds were somewhat light. The temperature was 93F at the start and only cooled to 90F by the end of my lap.

My Race
Great photo by Darby Hardesty of my finish

Great photo by Darby Hardesty of my finish

I started towards the end of the Masters 50+ group. Chuck was two riders in front of me. Randy was right behind me. My nemesis, Kevin Clark, was directly in front of me. He was returning from a broken collarbone so I hoped to keep him in sight. Not a chance. Kevin is obviously fully recovered because he set a new personal record for the course. Well so did I in fact.

My main goal was not to be passed by anyone, and maybe to catch Chuck, who was a minute in front of me.

I was not passed. Thanks to my coach Dave Severn I found myself with more available power than in any previous attempts of this course. I started out fast and did not let up. I got my heart rate right up over 150 and kept it there the entire ride. It was great to have power! My legs were not complaining, I was not worn out from rough rides earlier and I had a great time. In short, Dave had prepared me well.
Training Peaks Graph of my ride

Training Peaks Graph of my ride

I made the turn in 9:15 which worried me, as I was shooting for a finish in the low 18s. Not to worry. I picked it up on the return leg, caught and passed not only Chuck but a couple of others that started before him and finished with a new PR of 18:17. My highest average ever for any time trial, 22.8 mph.

A great night!

Randy and Chuck also set new records as well. Randy finished in 19:24 and Chuck finished in 20:17. Both exceeded their previous times by 15 seconds or more.

Randy at the finish (Darby Hardesty Photo)

Randy at the finish (Darby Hardesty Photo)

Chuck at the finish (Darby Hardesty photo)

Chuck at the finish (Darby Hardesty photo)

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