I forgot to ask why our ride Saturday was named the Salmon Run. I didn't see any salmon running.It was the hardest physical activity of my life (or at least the hardest my memory recalls, since I tend to forget how hard something is after the next hard something comes along). We rode 81.8 miles (or 83, or 80.2, or somewhere in the middle, depending on whose computer you believe) with about 5000 feet (or maybe almost 6000 feet according to our coach) elevation gain. My longest ride ever, my longest time on a bike ever, my longest time doing some continuous athletic activity ever. It took us nine and a half hours from start to finish, with just over 8 being our riding time. None of my stops were long but they were numerous, most to catch my breath.
It was a beautiful, windy day in Marin County, overcast but with crystal clear visibility, and windy. Very very very windy, especially along the coast. Windy. Have I ever mentioned that I dislike wind even more than hills? Well, it was windy.
It was hilly too, but the hills would have been much easier without the wind either pushing us backwards or sideways. In addition to being scary (the crosswinds were pushing me into traffic) the wind was hell on my asthma and allergies and I wheezed and gasped and dripped along almost the entire route. I think without the wind it would have been my favorite ride yet, but I had a terrible time and got quite cranky about halfway through. I think the coaches expected me to bail but I refused. Hey, breathing is overrated, right?
Bree and I carpooled to the start again and met up with the team. We started (late, of course) at McInnis Park and headed out along Lucas Valley Road. We climbed up to Big Rock and then headed down through Nicasio again. I think this was our third time through Nicasio and it just gets prettier as it gets greener. We then went on Pt. Reyes/Petaluma Road, over the top of Cheese Factory Hill, along Hicks Valley Road to Marshall/Petaluma Road. Then we climbed up Marshall Wall which was just as bad as the name would suggest. But scenic, absolutely gorgeous. Yes, it's nice to ride uphill at about 3-4 mph because you really get to take in the scenery. In depth.
After a steep, twisty descent on scary rutted roads we turned onto Highway 1 for a trip to Tomales Bay, then back again. This part was "rollers" (or "hills" as I like to call them) and my wheezy lungs were not having a great time. On the return trip traffic got heavy and man, some of those drivers get very impatient and mean when they have to slow down from a gazillion mph to something approaching the speed limit. We went through Pt. Reyes Station and Olema and then turned away from the coast to go up Olema Hill. It was less windy after that but the winds didn't disappear unless we were in a sheltered spot.
We returned back through Nicasio Valley (the reservoir seems to have much more water in it since the rains), returning to Lucas Valley Road. We got to climb back up to Big Rock, actually easier in that direction. Then a steep downhill, back through town and whoohooo, we were done! For the last few miles one, then another of us would hit 80 miles on our odometer and we cheered each and every time. I think we were all giddy at the thought of being done. The last mile or so all I could think of was "are we done yet? Are we done yet? Are we done yet? Are we done yet" and I think some of that was out loud.
One of the biggest problems I had is that when (1) I'm wheezing and gasping to breathe and (2) the wind is making me white-knuckle the bike to stay upright, I can neither eat nor drink. I barely touched my pop tarts (in total over the long day I only had 3) and I only went through 4-1/2 bottles of drink. I had (I think) 5 gels, but that was hardly enough for 8 hours of hard riding. When the winds calmed I was able to stuff my mouth, but otherwise I think I was skirting close to the edge of a bonk for the middle 40 miles.
Two more big rides are left; our 5o mile taper ride next week and (sound the horns and bells and whistles) Solvang the week after. I have no doubt that I'll be able to do 100 miles, as I have no doubt I'll feel like crap afterward. I'm astounded how much harder riding those long distances is than running a marathon, even a hard marathon (... or maybe it's just been too long and I've forgotten ...). I enjoy this team and all (or almost all) of my teammates and coaches and staff and I can't say how much I've loved seeing all the new areas. But my exhaustion levels are incredible. I got up this morning and felt like I had the world's worst hangover without the benefit of having had any alcohol first. I think sticking with metric centuries or less will be smartest for me, unless my asthma and allergies go away (and unless somehow I become faster so I can get it over with quicker).
I'm excited and terrified and elated and scared and full of anticipation for the century. I'm ready now, as ready as I'll ever be. Let's do the damn thing!