This weekend was a fun ride. I’ve been looking for a century to do (100 mile ride). Last year, I did the Horsey Hundred. It was much harder than I expected and the elevation change was significantly different from what I expected from the map. When the opportunity to ride on the Indy 500 track came up, I thought to myself, “I have got to do this”.
I drove up to Indy on Friday evening. The charity ride organizers arranged for a group rate at one of the downtown hotels. I expected a clean hotel to sleep in. I didn’t expect to get a room in a really nice hotel. I’ve done my share of traveling for work over the years. At one of my past employers the Ritz was a standard corporate hotel (financial services companies are like that). This was way nicer than any room I stayed in at the Ritz. It was not what I was expecting in downtown Indianapolis; New York, LA, San Francisco, maybe but not Indy. Too bad I was only going to be there 8 hours and 7 of those should be asleep.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I’m not sure what it was. It could have been the climate control in the room. It could have been the excitement about a low pressure ride the next day. It may have been being away from the family. I’m not sure, but I was awake every hour all night. It kind of sucked. When 5:30am rolled around, it was pretty easy to get up and out of bed. A nice breakfast showed up at the door just after 6 and then I was off.
The drive to the track was short. I’ve been to Indy as a spectator, but driving up into the infield and hanging out was really different for me. It was bigger inside than I remembered. I unpacked my bike and got dressed. This was really no different from any race weekend at this point. I have a good routine down to make sure that I don’t forget anything. The biggest differences were I was carrying 4 water bottles instead of 2, the number of people was significantly greater, and the participants were a much wider variety in terms of fitness (4 year olds all the way up to 80+ year olds on the widest variety of bikes ever). Pretty typical for a charity ride.
I met up with Bagel and Brian at registration. For the 100 mile ride, they wanted to check the reading on your bike computer to ensure that you actually completed the 100 miles. If you finished there was a “prize”. We then made our way to the track. Out through the pits, through the barrier and onto the smoothest pavement ever. It was pretty cool. We lined up near the middle of the 100 mile group. You looked 50-100 feet forward and there were 100s of riders, you looked back and it looked like riders stretched back all the way to turn 4. It was the largest mass start that I’ve been a part of. I am truly surprised that Susan and Mike found us in the mass of people. The target kick off was 7:30… it ended up being more like 8:05 by the time it was all said and done.
Off we started. My plan for the day was to take it easy. I’ve been working a training plan all year and I didn’t want to over do it; I know that sounds funny for a guy getting ready to ride 100 miles. When I left home my goals were:
- ride solo… I can control my exertion that way
- try to maintain a zone 2 workout for the majority of the ride. This was going to be a purely aerobic exercise and since it was flat as a pancake, it shouldn’t have been a problem
- Go without stopping. I brought food and water to cover the time I planned on riding. Good test if I ever want to do RAAM 🙂
- target pace 18mph. This was a reasonable pace for me and should have been around 5:35 for the finish time.
Immediately the group went off fast. Brian and Bagel joined up with a really fast lead group and I moved fast enough to get out of the mass of people and into a good position. The first lap was significantly faster than my target pace, but you need to have a little fun. Get everything limbered up for a couple of laps and then drop into a rhythm.
By about lap 4 I was going pretty good. I had a nice rhythm going, I was figuring out which riders to stay away from (e.g. small children, people on beach cruisers, pace lines that looked like they didn’t know what they are doing, you the idea). I knew my speed. Then I hear “hey, Dave” and there are Bagel and Brian lapping me. They got into it and every 3-4 laps they were lapping me. That group was going really fast and most of the time Bagel was towards the front.
One thing I did notice about the track is how narrow it is. From the stands and on TV it looks really wide. On the track you get a feel for how small it really is. In the corners its really clear where they drive because of the rubber and oil stains. The pros are going around the track at 200+mph several wide in the straight aways and single file in the corners. There is very little margin for error. It really gives you an appreciation for how good those guys are.
At lap 20 I decided to take a break to get a refill on water and use the facilities. (I saw one guy pull the urinate while riding trick, but I didn’t think it appropriate.) I had just gotten off of my bike and walked over to the water jug when I heard someone yell. I looked over and here comes the fast group (100+ strong at this point) and I see a guy go sideways, a bunch of scrambling, bikes flying, riders going down all over the place… it was mass carnage. It looked like the first guy down got run over by a couple of people. It was out of hand. Luckily Bagel was in front of it and Brian was able to avoid it. Several people had pretty bad road rash and there were a couple of pretty serious injuries from what I could see. It was not what we needed on a charity ride. I was glad that there were several ambulances on hand for exactly this type of thing. They were all over the scene pretty quickly.
The 2nd half was definitely harder than the first half. At about hour 4 the sun finally came out and unfortunately the wind picked up. It had been pretty calm up until then. My pace dropped off from the 19mph I had been managing. At about lap 28 my bottom and my saddle were no longer good friends. Laps 30-39 were pretty slow. Around Lap 31, I saw what remained of the large group pass me by as they were finishing; and off the front by a couple hundred yards were Bagel and one other rider. It looked like a race finish 🙂
When I passed the line for the finish of 39 I decided I was going to make lap 40 count. 4 turns left. I punched it up a notch and went to it. The end of it was pretty awesome. I ended up with a final pace of 18.6 mph and was under my final estimated time. I managed to stay in zone 1 or 2 for most of the ride. The only goal I missed was not stopping, but I think a 6 minute break for water, watching a wreck and peeing is pretty good for a century.
If you get the opportunity, I definitely recommend it. It was an “easy” century and also seems somewhat family friendly.