My new bike and I had some serious bonding time this past Sunday on what turned out to be my longest bike ride EVER. IM France is the first hilly ironman that I have trained for, so my bike rides have been taking a bit longer this time around. Plus, I'm hoping that if I do hilly enough training rides, the IM France bike course won't seem so bad in comparison. I opted out of doing the Mountains of Misery bike ride this past weekend - I didn't feel like traveling all of the way down to Blacksburg (and, ummmm, I kind of procrastinated and missed the registration deadline...). So, I asked Damon Taaffe, a fellow Team Z'r who also happens to be a self-masochist on the bike, for a recommendation for a good, hilly bike ride in the area. And he didn't disappoint, sending me the cue sheets for a 25-mile loop and a 36 mile loop of a ride called Ascension. Not quite as scary sounding as OMG WTF, but 10 miles in when my average speed was STILL only 8mph, I was a little concerned about how I was going to finish a 120 mile ride before sunset at that speed. The ride was basically this - there is a big hill (I'd like to call it a steep mini-mountain) north of Frederick, MD and the loops basically went up one side of the mountain, down the other side, back up the backside, down the frontside, and repeat. I came to loathe street names such as Hamburg, Harp Hill, Crow Rock, Coxey Brown, Shookstown, and Middlepoint. Ugh, I hated Middlepoint. I started off with the 25 mile loop, met up with friends who did the 36 mile loop with me, then I did another 36 mile loop on my own, and I had every intention of doing the 25 mile loop again, but 90 miles into the ride, I just couldn't handle the idea of going up Coxey Brown again. So, I opted to go up and down Gambrill Road a number of times to hit the necessary 25 miles - Gambrill was gently rolling and rather pleasant. Overall, the day was an exercise in patience, mental fortitude (because who really WANTS to do 120 miles worth of hills, steep, unforgiving hills), and climbing - LOTS of climbing. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get my Garmin to download data from the ride, but I think the elevation was significantly more steep than what I will encounter in France.
Oh, and my average speed for the day was 12.5mph. Slower than my speed at Savageman. Fingers crossed that Sunday's ride was harder than what I'll find in Nice!