This is the time of the year when most cyclists are preparing their indoor trainers and cold weather gear for the long winter just on the horizon. Here in Central Florida, however, the next few months will provide a welcome respite from the stifling heat and humidity that we deal with most of the year. This past weekend was our first real taste of fall, and an absolutely fantastic preview of “century season” here in Central Florida.
On Saturday morning the cool front was pushing through, and so rain was a concern. I decided to do my usual Saturday morning group ride anyway. There was some early fog and some of the roads were wet and slick, but we were lucky enough to avoid the rain. Originally I’d planned to do about 80 miles (129 kilometers), but I was crunched for time on Saturday morning and wound up driving to the group ride start by automobile (I normally ride to and from the group ride meeting location, which adds about 25-30 miles). I still wound up with about 51 miles (82 kilometers), which probably wasn’t a bad idea since I had a hilly 103 mile training ride planned for Sunday… 🙂
While I enjoyed Saturday’s group ride, Sunday’s ride was the one I was really looking forward to.
My friend William came up with an absolutely brilliant 103 mile (166 kilometer) route with nearly 5,000 feet of elevation. This is the same distance (actually a few miles more) and nearly the same amount of elevation as the infamous “Horrible Hundred” ride, which takes place every November. William’s route was a perfect training ride for this event, and it also took us through some of the most beautiful and scenic areas of Central Florida.
The weather on Sunday was, without any exaggeration, perfect. There was a slight, but welcome, chill in the air (about 55° F) when William and I rolled out at 7:00 AM, but after a spectacular sunrise the temperature eased its way into the mid-70s, and went no higher. The skies were clear and sunny, and there was practically no humidity in the air.
Yesterday reminded me of why I’m so addicted to cycling. Everything I love about the sport was on display: beautiful scenery, incredible weather, exhilarating speed, fresh country air, good company and tough challenges. One of my top 5 days in the saddle, without question.
We did have to deal with some very strong headwinds during the second half of the ride. This is also where most of the climbing was (just like the Horrible Hundred), so that made for a powerful 1-2 training punch.
From a training point of view, the way I approached this ride was two-fold: average speed for the ride was not a concern, but make strong efforts on all the climbs. When I say “strong efforts” I mean I attacked the climbs hard, but I didn’t go all-out or redline. I wanted to sort of gauge how hard I could go, and how much was left in the tank at the end of the ride.
I was happy to find that I had plenty left when I finished the ride. Apart from a slight bonk (that happened to coincide with a flat tire at about mile 93, and was quickly squashed with a Clif bar), I felt great the whole way.
The cool thing is I finished this ride with an average speed almost 1 MPH faster than my 2013 Horrible Hundred performance, and I wasn’t even trying to keep my average up. Another interesting point of note is that at last year’s Horrible Hundred my average heart rate for the ride was 165 BPM, while yesterday it was just 144 BPM. Almost a 1 MPH faster average, and 21 BPM lower average heart rate to boot. Very happy about that.
I also destroyed ALL of my Horrible Hundred times on the various climbs (like, not even close). I wound up with with 9 or 10 new personal records for time, and two new power output personal records.
There’s no question that I’ve improved a lot as a rider over the past year, and I’m very excited to see what I can do at this year’s Horrible Hundred. Yesterday’s training ride was a good litmus test/confidence booster for that event.
This morning I can tell that I rode yesterday, but my legs feel surprisingly good. Still, I’m going to keep it light this morning and spin out any heaviness.