Saturday, May 20, 2017

Salt Lake Gran Fondo 100 Miler!

 My triathlon partners in crime, Jason and Cristin, and I, were going to go on a long training ride on Saturday.  Cristin is prepping for Ironman Boulder and Jason is getting ready for Alaskaman.  I was on my tri club page and saw that many of my tri club teammates were doing a Century ride with the Salt Lake Gran Fondo and it wasn't too late to sign up even though it was just 48 hours away.  My training plan in training peaks only called for 1-2 hours of easy riding, but I am not really doing any race specific training for another month or so, so I figured why not?  Plus, if you're going to ride long, you might as well have someone else lay out the aid stations, control traffic, and give you a medal and t-shirt, right?  So, I texted Cristin and Jason about it and we were all signed up!

The course starts and finishes at Saltaire and you literally do a big giant circle around the Oquirrh Mountains down through Tooele County, into Utah County, and then along the west bench of the Salt Lake Valley back to Saltaire.  We had to be there at 6:00 to pick up our packets.  The ride started out and you literally merge onto I-80 for a few miles until you hit the Tooele exit.  This was kind of scary as it is an Interstate, but we had the shoulder and the lane next to us was closed with Highway Patrolmen escorting us.  Still scary!  Within the first 5 miles I saw a semi about take out 4-5 of the cyclists as he was merging onto the freeway.  This was the first of many close calls I saw today on this non-cyclist friendly route.

Not long after we got off the freeway I decided to try to draft.  In the past this has terrified me, but I  figured it would make 100 miles go by easier. I was on my road bike for this event.  I found a pack and quickly  just joined them.  Sweet!  This paid off well for the first 30 miles or so.  We worked together and took turns pulling and I found it wasn't bad at all!  Cristin was in my group and Jason had gone way ahead of us.  Weather was nice and cool, and clear! (We had snow just 48 hours before this event).  Cristin and I stopped at every aid station, and we found the volunteers were so friendly and they had gels, Honeystinger waffles, water, EFS nutrition, and even Hi-Chews!  The first half was literally middle of nowhere.  It was also a long slow grind with what seemed like a false flat but was a gradual climb.  We kept wondering why it felt like we were going so slow but working so hard! And we can't forget about the fact we had a head wind the WHOLE FREAKING TIME!  Don't ask me how that works, but that was the case!

We hit the half way point and we were feeling pretty good.  We refueled, used the restrooms, and were on our way again.  Just shortly after this point Cristin got the first of two flat tires.  We had everything we needed between us to change it, but we aren't very fast at this process :/.  We had someone stop and help us change it then he headed on his way.  We got going again and within a mile she was flat again.  This time we checked and double checked the tire, but couldn't figure out what the issue was.  We had the sag wagon guy get out and help us and found that her tire was literally split about a centimeter wide.  We used a Gu wrapper to patch it (I remember reading this tip somewhere and it worked!) and we were able to get on our way again.  Thank heaven it held for the remaining 44 miles!

Fitness wise for this ride I was fine, though it was by far my longest ride in two years.  I felt great the entire time energy and fitness wise.  My only issues were my shoulder (this is always an issue on long rides) and my saddle was HELLACIOUS!  I finally am comfortable saddle wise on my tri bike for aero, but now need to figure out something else for my roadie.  My legs felt great as well! When the ride was done they were a little heavy, and later that night they were stiff, but next day I was great.  Nutrition wise this ride was no big deal, I had my Infinit in two different bottles, but also added a gel or waffle at the rest stops.  I probably should have taken in more fluids, but it was okay.

Once we hit north Utah County the route put us on Redwood Road.  This is major road that runs through 3 counties.  It was busy AND under construction.  It was scary to navigate turns and even just ride on this road.  We were grateful when this section ended and we turned onto Mountain View Corridor.  This is a busy road, but it has a huge shoulder and bike lane, so it was much better from a safety stand point.  We knew we were on the tail end of riders for the Gran Fondo, but there were several other rides going along the same routes, so we always had other riders within a reasonable distance.  The aid stations got further in between than they had been the first half, but we were still greeted with happy, cheering, and helpful volunteers.  The weather had warmed up and we were able to ditch arm warmers and jackets that they brought to the finish for us.  They were great!

About 15 miles from the Finish Cristin and I stopped at the final aid station and they had peanut butter and jelly Uncrustables.  They were heavenly at that point!  The portion of the course on Mountain View Corridor also ended and we rode up to the Backus Highway.  The remainder of the ride was spent mainly downhill, but there was a lot of swearing, praying and hanging on for dear life as the roads and traffic were just dangerous.  We were on roads with no shoulder or bike lane and heavy traffic.  There was tons of debris that could mean a flat tire at the least, or accident/injury as well.  We actually had to merge onto the 201 (another freeway) where there was nothing but traffic barrels separating us from traffic going by at 75-80mph.  Not safe at all.  We were also the tail end of the riders, so there wasn't exactly a group to ride with.  There should have been a police man directing traffic or something.  I still can't believe how bad and dangerous this was!  We were very grateful to be done and back to Saltaire.

By the time we finished they were out of food.  However,the race director did give us free event jerseys since "you guys suffered longer than anyone else.".  We got our stuff together and hit Taco Bell for our post ride grub!

My thoughts on this race/ride are mixed. For the positives: It is always fun to ride with a friend.  It was great to complete my 5th 100+ ride.  The volunteers were all very good, happy and cheerful, and very helpful.  It was also fun to ride where I hadn't before and see new areas I am not familiar with.  The weather was perfect.  The Cons:  My saddle sucks.  My shoulder is still an issue.  The organization was poor.  The routes they had us on were not safe or rider friendly.  There should have been more controlling of intersections or alternative routes on less busy streets should have been utilized.  I was reminded again why so much of my riding (around 80%) is indoors.  There just isn't enough safe riding around here! And no organized ride should utilize freeways!!!!  Needless to say, this will be the last time I participate in this ride.  Jason, Cristin, and many of my teammates had the same thoughts.

So what's next?  Just easier/transitional training until mid-July where I start the ramp up for my fall 70.3, Brineman.  I do have East Canyon Olympic in three weeks and my Alcatraz swim in a month! in the meantime, happy training and racing!!

80 miles down, 20 to go!!

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