Well, I’m back from vacation, and what better way to end my final pre-taper training week with one last century ride? After seven days of sitting on the beach — don’t worry, I didn’t miss a single workout! — it was great to get back into the IM mindset with six hours in the saddle.
Katie and I have been anticipating this ride for awhile now, and we’ve used the course as a new-and-different training spot for our other hilly races. We knew every turn, every climb, every maddening detail of those loops. Unfortunately, Katie’s new training plan scrapped all this century madness, leaving me to ride by myself. Thankfully, I recruited Anna and Laura to keep me company for much of the day.
I really wanted to use this ride as a test of my ability to execute my almost-final nutrition and pacing plan. Reston is similar to IMWI in that it is an out-two loops-back with some good hills, and I figured it was the closest I could get to race prep without actually doing the course itself. So after a long drive back to DC on Saturday, I gathered my nutrition, packed my bike gear and crashed for about six hours of sleep.
My alarm went off at 4:30am — the same time I’ll set it on race day — and as much as I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, I jumped up, put on my lovely new Soas race kit, made my pre-race oatmeal, mixed bottle after bottle of EFS and headed out the door for the 30 minute drive to Reston Town Center.So, basically, race plan followed so far.
Once in Reston, Anna and I unpacked our bikes, grabbed a cue sheet and met up with Laura in time to clip in and roll out at 6:45. The course starts by following the W&OD trail out through Asburn to Hamilton/Purcellville — the end — but thankfully the way out took us through neighborhoods and actual streets instead of 30 miles of the trail itself. This part was pretty flat, and because the start was show-and-go we weren’t with large groups of people at any point. This meant I could just spin and warm up — as my race plan requires. We rolled through the first rest stop in Ashburn (at mile 10) until we hit the Hamilton stop where Katie and I typically start our rides.
This stop is located in a shaded park on the course, and riders hit it three times during the day. They had water, Gatorade, a huge spread of food and Sno-cones (I KNOW) but unfortunately sticking to my nutrition plan meant that I didn’t get to indulge in any of this. So sad, since that is one of the best things about tour riding. In any case, after diluting my EFS with some water, we headed out for a 30-mile loop.
As soon as we left the park, I knew something was wrong. THIS ISN’T THE ROUTE I PRACTICED! This part of the course (as Katie and I rode it) is hilly and has some mean steep climbs on rough roads and basically is relentless and makes you angry but is totally awesome at the same time. But as we got further and further into the loop it became clear that we weren’t just using a back way to get going — the course was different altogether and cut out the worst road. It was still hilly, but not as tough as the practice we’ve been doing. About 2/3 of the way through it actually does pick up the loop as I know it and takes it backwards back to the Hamilton stop. I imagine they changed the course because of the condition of the roads, but I was super bummed not to get to ride that section because it’s hard but super fun. SIGH.
Loop #2 (20-ish miles) after the rest stop was the same as we practiced. Some good hills, some good descents. Laura dropped her chain at the bottom of one nasty winding climb, so I ended up going down and up it a second time. Back to the Hamilton rest stop to refill our water bottles one last time before heading home.
The 24-ish miles back to Reston are almost entirely on the W&OD, so, relatively flat with a few little inclines. Thankfully it wasn’t crazy crowded, but the constant overpasses and stop signs and the narrow path really wore on my nerves. Plus we were trying to out-ride a huge looming thunderstorm. Once back, Laura and I laced up our running shoes with every intention of getting a 30-40 minute transition run in, but after 6 minutes out on the trail we saw a huge bolt of lightning nearby, heard lots of thunder and knew the sky was about to open up. Which it did just as Anna and I hopped in my car to head home — and it poured for an hour as we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Beltway.
The one thing I really do appreciate about this ride is that it is very scenic — lots of farms, mountains, green space, etc. Plenty to keep your mind occupied for 100 miles.
So, for the day, we did 105.75 miles in 6:09 with 4,409 feet of climbing. I got my nutrition mostly down — though it’s hard to execute a plan that relies on aid stations every 10 miles and a special needs bag when you have none of those things — and managed to get in some protein without destroying my stomach. I was definitely underfueled by the end, but that’s a problem that will be remedied when I have all the pieces in place on race day.
All in all, I feel really good about IM prep after this. I’ve ridden 100+ six times this summer with brick runs after at least three, my stomach cooperated with my nutrition, my race kit was great and I had a decent day despite spending the Saturday drive and only a few hours of restless sleep. I was pretty ready to get off the bike, but who wouldn’t be after a century?
Now it’s time to taper. The next 18 days are going to fly by!