The morning did not have an auspicious start. I was running late (par for the course), proceeded to get a bit lost, go to the wrong entrance and found out that I needed to go to a different entrance thirty miles down Skyline Drive. Now I was really, really late. And why don't we top it off by going to the wrong meeting spot, 8 miles down the road in the opposite direction. Oh, no cell service either so I just hoped my friends figured I was fine and would eventually catch up (which I did). By the time I got my bike on the road, it was an hour later than I had initially planned and my excitement for the day was a little deflated as I faced the potential of 100 very hilly, very lonely miles on my own.
I left my car at the Mile 24 marker on Skyline Drive and enjoyed some very fast miles out to Thorton Gap. Most of the time when I ride Skyline, we jump on 211 at Thorton Gap and go down into Luray to do the 80 mile SkyMass loop. Only once have I ever biked past Thorton Gap and continued down Skyline for a few miles. Today was going to be from the 24 mile marker to about the 74 mile marker. Climbing galore in both directions.
Some sections of Skyline reminded me of Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, just a bit less steep. I was able to stay in my big ring the whole day today without any problems. There were sections where you could settle into a rhythm and feel like you were really making progress on the hills. However, unlike Mt. Lemmon (which is 25 miles of UP and then 25 miles of DOWN with very little variation in between), you are constantly climbing or descending. And when you're doing an out-and-back, every descent you enjoy on the way out means an ascent you get to enjoy on your way back.
I caught up with Melanie, Mike, Chad and Tom a bit after the 50 mile mark. It was SO NICE to have someone to ride with - time just flew by and suddenly we were at mile marker 74. We couldn't have had a better day weather-wise either. The way back felt like it had alot of climbs. Part of this was probably because we were getting tired. I tried to stay on task with my nutrition, taking in something every 20 minutes and then taking some water every 10. But on the last few miles of the bike, I was definitely feeling a bit of a calorie deficit and couldn't wait to eat some non-powerbars/Clif bars/Hammer gels after the ride was finished.
I completed the ride in just over 6 hours and was very close to evenly-splitting the ride time-wise, so it was nice to know I didn't lose too much time on the way back. Besides feeling a bit of a calorie deficit at the end, I felt really strong the whole ride. Hopefully this bodes well with the rest of Ironman training and Lake Placid in July. Toward the end of the ride, I was remembering my first really long ride (68 mile organized bike ride in Myrtle Beach after the 1/2 marathon in 2008). It was flat, flat, flat and yet it still took me FOREVER to complete the ride (4:45 or something ridiculous like that). I think today illustrates that improvement in biking really does take time (in my case 4 years).
Here are a few pictures from the day. A huge thank you to Melanie's husband Joe for being a great sport and sagging for us the whole 100 miles!
Bikes at the rest stop
How we really felt at Mile 85
One of the vistas.