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BikeFest 2006 Century report

skatey-mark's picture

This past Saturday, Dave & I skated in BikeFest, an annual cycling ride put together by Carolina Tarwheels. We've done it before, and it has always been a very well-run event. I'd say the rest stops are just about as good as those provided on Tour to Tanglewood, which is really saying something... Last year, we did the metric century and I remembered the route being quite nice. There was a bit of gatorback at the beginning, but other than that the roads were generally very good. Last year, though, it was insanely hot, so that detracted a bit from the experience. (But what do you expect in August?)


This year, I got the crazy idea of doing my "Double Century Weekend"... Well, I decided that BikeFest would be a good supported ride to do on day 1 and that I could do an unsupported skate on day 2. So when I registered for BikeFest, I signed up for the full Century... Now, all of the plan was dependent on the weather and other factors... So it was just tentative. As BikeFest got closer, the weather forecast looked too good to be true. Forecast high of only 80 degrees on Saturday and 82 degrees on Sunday! Of course, it was calling for some rain Saturday morning, but I had my fingers crossed that it might turn out to be dry.


Well, Saturday morning got here and it was indeed wet. I checked the hourly forecast and it looked like it would rain for the first couple hours of the skate. Oh well... Could be worse. I finished packing up my stuff and got out of the house at 6:15... That was a little later than I expected -- a bit of a "bathroom delay" probably brought on by the Thai food I had for lunch on Friday -- not the smartest of meal choices the day before an event! I knew that Panera would not be open yet, so I had planned to munch on a couple slices of leftover pizza on the way to Hillsborough. But of course I forgot those... So I ate a Snickers Marathon bar that I keep in the truck for just such an occasion. When I got to Hillsborough and parked (about 1/4 mile away from the start) I had one of the many Gu gels I brought. (I figure I packed at least 10 gels and some Sport Beans.)


I skated down to the registration table, got my packet, pinned my number on the Camelbak, and then skated back to the truck to get rid of my t-shirt and socks that I got in the packet. I got back to the start at 7:25 (scheduled start was 7:30) and Dave was rolling up about the same time. I made some last-minute adjustments to my skates and I was good to go. I had boot covers on in an attempt to keep my feet dry as long as possible, hopefully long enough to last until the rain stopped... Dave & I chatted a bit as 7:30 came and went, then 7:35, then 7:40... Finally, at 7:45 we started!


Police blocked some of the early intersections in town, which was nice -- and pretty much a necessity with 850 cyclists. (Well, 848 cyclists and 2 skaters...) We were pretty comfortable right in the mix of things for the first half mile or so -- then we hit the gatorback. That first stretch lasts almost 3 miles and is pretty rough in spots. So we got passed quite a bit duing that stretch. The cyclists were all very friendly and encouraging - similar to the cyclists on TTT. Many asked how far we were skating and were very surprised when we said "at least 60 miles"...


Now, last year, the 60-mile and 100-mile routes were exactly the same (if I remember correctly). Upon arriving at the finish, anyone that wanted to skate a full century could then do another (shorter) loop. So the idea was to see how I felt after 60 miles and decide whether to go for the full century. Dave was less enthusiastic about the prospect of 100 miles, but that decision didn't have to be made for quite some time. (Or so we thought.) Since we were a little short on time before the start, neither of us picked up a cue sheet. So we didn't know what the 60-mile or 100-mile route was like, or where the rest stops were. We did ask on cyclist before we started though (that had a 60-mile cue sheet) and she said the first two stops were at 25 and 40 miles...


Anyway, so we eventually get past the gatorback and settled into a rhythm. We occasionally would draft off a cyclist or two on the smooth roads, only to get dropped later on a patch of rough road. At about 20 miles, we decided we probably had enouh water to skip the first stop and go straight on to the second. We were drafting a cyclist at the time, so when we got to the rest stop, she peeled off and went in, while we continued. (After thanking her for the pull, of course!) We cruised by some cyclists that had just left the rest stop and were probably less than a mile down the road when we saw a marking on the road...


100-mile route turned left and 62-mile route turned right!


Uh-oh... They apparently made a new 100-mile route this year! That threw a BIGTIME curveball at us. Time for a quick decision as we're coasting to the intersection... I'm feeling pretty good, and a bit impulsive, so I say "Let's go for it! What the hell?" Dave's balking a bit, not having a cue sheet and now knowing how far the next rest stop is, or what the route is like... All perfectly reasonable concerns that a thoughtful, intelligent person should have... "Come on - it'll be an adventure!" I grinned... "If it's too bad, we can always turn around..." So Dave grudgingly went along with my insanity... And of course the road we turned onto was BAD gatorback. I mean REAL BAD. But we're trudging along. And now the cyclists that pass us are in total disbelief -- "you're doing the FULL CENTURY???" and encouragement/praise very reminiscent of TTT. That definitely kept our spirits up (or mine at least...) We asked one cyclist who passed us how far to the next rest stop and I think she said at mile 37 and that was 13 miles away. It was a little hard to hear, and I looked at my GPS which said we were at mile 27... So I figured we had somewhere between 10 and 13 miles to go... No problem. The gatorback went on and on, and eventually we made a quick stop for Dave to do a boot adjustment and for me to dig some more Gu out of the Camelbak. (I had already eaten 4 and we were maybe 2 hours into the skate at this point -- I was eating a little more often than usual since my breakfast was a bit lacking.) I think that stretch of gatorback has to be at least 5-6 miles long, maybe longer. But we finally got on some smooth road. Of course, it was about that time that I ran out of water. That was around 2:20 - about how long 2 liters of water should last, although it was cool enough that I probably didn't need to be drinking that much. I look at the GPS - 32 miles. Well, the temperature was still very cool, so I figured I could make it. As Dave reminded me - "it's an adventure - maybe we'll even have to stop at someone's house to get water!"... :)


The rain had stopped a while ago (probably shortly after passing the first rest stop and turning onto the 100-mile route). And now the roads were starting to be dry, so we had that working for us... Fortunately, the roads stayed relatively smooth for the most part. Dave had some powerade left and offerred a couple drinks to me as we got closer (hopefully) to the rest stop. Mile 37 came and went... Mile 40 came and went... We actually passed a couple dubious-looking gas stations along the way and it was tempting to stop and resupply there. If they had looked more inviting, I probably would have. But I also was hoping (probably foolishly) that the rest stop was indeed close... 41... 42... Finally - a sign "BikeFest Rest Stop - 1 mile ahead". Sweeeeeeeet...


So we finally make it to the rest stop, and again the cyclists express disbelief at what we're doing, as well as encourage us, and ask some of the typical questions like how fast do you go, how far do you usually skate, etc... I made a beeline for the gatorade and drank a couple cups worth while munching on a PBJ sandwich I snagged on the way. A second cup of gatorade accompanied the second half of the PBD sandwich, then I grabed a handful of grapes and a cookie... I refilled the gatorback with water and added some elete electrolyte mix I carried with me. A quick trip to the porta-john and I was ready to go. There were maybe 10 cyclists at that rest stop, which we saw off-and-on the rest of the day. We also found out that there were cyclists still behind us! We drafted off the cyclists almost immediately and things were going great until the first turn took us onto -- more gatorback... So we got dropped and resigned ourselves to trudgingly along at a slower pace. The next rest stop was at 62 miles, and it was relatively uneventful getting there. My stomach was feeling a bit weird from all the food I ate -- I probably needed a little longer break to digest it better before skating again. Oh well, it eventually subsided... I occasionally checked the GPS of course, and noted when we hit mile 50. Dave asked how I was feeling and I replied "oh I'm feeling it!" Indeed I was - my legs were pretty tired already as the course was not only rough - but very hilly as well. Still, the heart rate was looking pretty good still, so I figured I could make it.


Sometime around then I noticed that I was having trouble with my left skate. I was pronating like crazy! I had to make a very conscious effort to set it down vertically, and it felt unnatural when I did so. My suspicion was that my frame slipped while we were going over all that gatorback, but I still havent verified that, I figured (at the time) that I'd just deal with it. So my technique was a bit sloppy for the second half of the century. But we made it to the next rest stop without incident. The cyclists are starting to look a little haggard, as are we. But spirits are pretty high among everyone, and it's definitely a huge boost getting all the encouragement we were from the cyclists. I overheard one of the volunteers talking to a cyclist saying "you've already done a metric century, and you have all the time in the world to finish the rest..." Definitely good to know... :) Before leaving, we asked when the next rest stop was, and were told it was 17 miles away. (So at mile 79 or so...)


I think we drafted some more... it's a little fuzzy, my brain really stops working after 50-60 miles. Dave can probably fill in some details if any are lacking... :) Of course the draft only lasted as long as the pavement was good. We also knew we had at least one hard climb ahead of us before the next rest stop. (Something about a downhill to a river, then a long climb up.) My left inside ankle is starting to bug me a little bit, but doesn't seem to be affecting much, so I try to be a little more conscious of my set-down... I don't recall if it was in this part (or if it was before the previous rest stop) that we had a killer climb on gatorback. Reminded us of Lystra hill on the NCBC Summer Rally 62-mile route... VERY tough! But again we kept going, looking for the next rest stop. At about mile 77 we saw a driveway with a water cooler sitting on a chair. I thought "How cool - someone put that out for the cyclists!"... Mile 78 came and went. (No rest stop yet...) And I start thinking "was THAT the stop? Surely not..." Then I remembered that there had always been signs, and they'd never have something that small for an actual rest stop... And of course there were no cyclists there. 79, 80, 81... Finally we see a sign saying the rest stop is 1 mile ahead... We arrive at the rest stop at mile 83... I ask what the mileage is supposed to be and they say 82 miles. So we're not far off, we just had the wrong mileage for the rest stop.


More food, more water, more chitchat... Everyone is looking real tired by now. Several of the cyclists were lounging in chairs, taking a break, in no hurry to finish off the ride. (Nothing wrong with that!) Once we were resupplied, Dave & I decided to just get it over with and headed back out... 20 miles to go until the finish... Tantalizingly close... After that rest stop, I was down to 2 Gu and my pack of Sport Beans... So in addition to all the food I ate at the rest stops, I had gone through almost all the food I brought as well. Those were plenty to get me to the finish, so I was certainly not concerned. We looked at the elevation profile of the course before we left the rest stop, and it looked much less hilly. Of course, even small hills are hard at this point! Again, I kept a watchful eye on the GPS, and soon I noticed -- 87.6 miles... We had just done A2A distance. Our time was about 6:55 at that point. Not bad, considering that we had done probably 25 miles of gatorback, maybe more... The actual distance of the route was supposed to be 101.8 (or something like that) so, with the 1-mile discrepency, I figure it would be at least 102.8 on my gps, maybe 103 miles at the most (hopefully!).


Aside from being tired, the rest of it was uneventful... Any hill was tough... We got passed by some of the cyclists that we left behind at the last rest stop, and eventually the various support vehicles passed us as well. (Except for at least one SAG vehicle that stayed out as the sweep behind the last couple cyclists.) As we got closer and closer, I checked the GPS more an more, usually dismayed to see that only a 1/2 mile had gone by since my last check! We hit another stretch of gatorback, which is just cruel that late in the route! But we got past it... Eventually I was able to announce that we had hit 100 miles! Not long after that, the route started to look familiar and we came upon our first traffic light since the beginning of the skate! Looking at our watches, it seemed like we might be able to finish in under 8 hours, depending on what the mileage difference was between the GPS and cue sheet. Knowing we were so close, we picked up the pace ever-so-slightly and soon we saw a street sign for a school. (I had parked at a school...) Sure enough, we came around a turn and there was my truck! Time on the watch: 7:57... We picked up the pace even more, knowing we were very close now! A couple turns later and we were at the finish! Time: 7:58:05...


We made our way down to the food, getting stopped along the way by a couple curious volunteers who asked us the usual questions... Then some cold liquid, mroe food, and more chatting with the cyclists and volunteers that were hanging around the food. One of them did a short 'interview' for their newsletter about the skaters that did their first century... Dave did most of the talking, as my brain was still pretty scrambled from the skate... :) After that, we left, definitely feeling a HUGE sense of accomplishment!


As for the double-century weekend... Well, I didn't count on the first century having so much gatorback. So my legs were too beat up to do any skating on Sunday. But I'm still quite happy finishing my first century on a very difficult course in a very respectable time! :)


For anyone that likes data, here's the HRM graph:

And the gps graph...

And the lap data...

And finally, some overall data, including time spent in HR zones and total calories burned...

(Red = 90-100%, AT = 80-89%, AER = 70-79%, MOD = 60-69%, LIT = 50-59%, EZ = 0-49%) 

- SM -


eebee's picture

Elevation Profile at a rest stop

Very enjoyable read, Mark! I was wondering how you were able to see the elevation profile of the course at the rest stop? I guess you have what you'd already done on your GPS, but I read it to mean you looked at what was to come. Did someone have a print-out at the rest stop?
skatey-mark's picture

printouts at the rest stops

Yeah - at each of the rest stops, they had a big map that showed the course, and also an elevation profile that I think was generated with the Garmin map software...  Note that the softwar-generated profile said there was over 5200 feet of ascent over the whole course, where my GPS only recorded around 4400 I think.  The granularity of the GPS data is somewhat of an unknown though, so it's hard to say whether it's more accurate or less accurate than the software...


Dave pointed out that as far as an average ascent per mile goes, this course was on par with A2A...


I wish I had hit my lap button when we passed the first rest stop (I forgot, since we didn't actually stop...)  But looking at the data, it seems there was approximately equal amounts of ascent between each rest stop -- assuming tht you can cut lap1 in half to get the ascent between start & rs1, and rs2 & rs2....


- SM - 

eebee's picture

Good Idea - Rest Stop Elevation Print-Outs

I don't think I've ever (knowingly) done any skates or rides where elevation profiles were available at the rest stops, or even at the start (other than Uwe's, for A2A). First off I thought that I'd probably not want to know, especially if it's hillier during that last stretch than anywhere else on the course. But on the other hand it's probably good to know it ahead of time.
Jack's picture

What an effort..

I am very impressed by what you guys accomplished, particularly re: the road conditions. What a grueling skate! Loved all the good stats do, great job.


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