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BikeFest 2009 Report

skatey-mark's picture

Last Saturday, I skated in the annual BikeFest ride in Hillsborough, NC.  I've done this event many times in the past.  It's very well run and I've always felt welcomed by the organizers and cyclists.  Like last year, I skated solo this year.  For those thinking of doing this event next year, be sure to sign up at least 3 weeks before the event.  They limit the number of participants, and they've hit the limit every year for the past few years...


I skated the 62-mile route (actually more like 62.9 miles according to the cue sheet.)  I started in the middle of the massive pack of bikes.  Registration was limited to 850 this year, and I'd guess most of them showed up.  The first couple miles are always dicey, as the faster bikes pass the slower ones (and me...)  I had just started to settle into a groove when I hit the first stretch of gatorback.  That was about 20 minutes into the skride, and it took me about ten minutes to traverse it.  Another 20 minutes went by, and I passed a few cyclists (and was passed by others.)  Then another 10-minute stretch of gatorback.  I finished the gatorback right around the 1-hour mark -- I checked the mileage and I was at 16 miles.  Not too bad...


After that second bit of gatorback, it was smooth sailing for quite a while.   I eventually found a couple cyclists riding a steady pace in my range and drafted off them for a while.  That maybe lasted7 or 8 miles at the most.  I had to drop though, and skated the last few miles to the 25-mile checkpoint by myself.  I stopped for maybe 10 minutes to refill my camelbak and grab a little food.  I also tightened my skates a bit, as they were a little loose.


I started out again and was by myself for a mile or so when a pack of 8 or 10 bikes passed me.  I jumped into their draft and followed them for several miles, hammering up the (slight) hills to keep up.  There was probably a bit of irrational exuberance happening, as I hadn't even hit the halfway point yet.  After a few miles, I came to my senses and dropped...  :-)  On the cue sheet, it mentioned a "shortcut" at mile 30 that would knock 12 miles off the 62-mile route, turning it into a 50-mile route.  It was tempting, as I hadn't skated over 48 miles this year.  But I passed the turn and kept going.


I had hit the lap button on my watch at the rest stop.  After that, my distance stopped updating.  It still said 25.5 miles, even though my current speed was displayed.  (So the GPS was working.)  I'm still figuring out how to use this HRM, so I probably hit a button and put it in a weird mode.  I didn't feel like messing with it, so I skated the rest of the day without distance information.  I had hoped that the data would be there when I uploaded it to my computer later.  (That turned out NOT to be the case though...)


Anyway, I vaguely remembered something about the course becoming much hillier after the halfway point.  That definitely turned out to be the case.  I climbed hill after hill, getting more tired.  The next checkpoint is at 44 miles.  I was going slow enough that I wasn't able to do much drafting.  I'd say that after mile 40, I didn't do ANY drafting for the remainder of the course.  When I finally made it to the 44-mile checkpoint, I was ready to be done.  Too bad I passed up that shortcut!  In retrospect, I think turning around at the 31-mile point and skating the course in reverse would be a fairly nice route.  Of course, I look at this event as hill training for A2A, so even though I felt awful, it hopefully will have a beneficial training effect. 


I haven't checked what my average speed was for the stretches between CP1 and CP2, or CP2 and the finish...  But I think it's safe to say I got progressively slower as the day went on.  I rolled past checkpoint 3 at 53 miles, since I had plenty of liquid left.  I just wanted to be done, so I figured stopping would just prolong the pain.


One epiphany I had during the event was that I need to heat mold my boots.  There's a lot of slop around my heels.  Dave W. pointed out that my boots seemed excessively loose during the Cup & Cone skride.  Even tightening them up still left quite a bit of space.  I suspect that it's because I weighed at least 20 pounds more when I had my feet molded.  I don't really remember them being loose last year, but they probably were.  Anyway, heat molding is definitely on the to-do list now.


I think there were maybe 3 more significant stretches of gatorback on the course, all about the same length.  Of course, the last two took me longer to traverse since I was much more tired than at the beginning of the skate -- I'd say closer to 15 minutes apiece.  I came up to an intersection with a traffic light where some cyclists were stopped and asked the mileage.  One of them told me is was 59 miles...  Almost done!  Not long after that, we crossed a bridge that I remembered from previous years.  At that point, it's maybe only 1.5 miles to the finish.  I gritted my teeth and managed to finish with a group of 5 or 6 cyclists.


I cruised past the finish and went immediately to my truck.  I had to get the skates off as soon as possible...  :-)  Despite being quite tough, I did enjoy the event.  The cyclists I met on the road were always very upbeat.  Those who have done events like Tour to Tanglewood would have felt some deja-vu as the cylists lavished praise when they passed.  All day I kept hearing how awesome I was...  :-)  The best quote of the day:  "You're impressing me and depressing me at the same time."  :-)


The course definitely spoils you with how fast it is in the beginning, lulling you into a false sense of security.  Then, around 35 miles, it starts piling on the hills.  I don't know what the 50-mile course is like, but that's probably less hilly, as it'll have to take a fairly direct route back to the beginning.  (Hopefully missing most of the hills on the second half of the 62-mile route.)  One year, Dave W. and I did the 100-mile route and it was VERY challenging, with lots of hills and crazy-long stretches of gatorback.  


I fortunately switched my wheels from the ultra hard Matter yellows to the much more forgiving Bont gen4 wheels.  I think the gatorback would have been unbearable if I hadn't made the switch.  I was a bit disappointed that I lost all my speed data.  Hopefully I can make some time to figure out how to use my Polar RS800 so it doesn't happen again.  I'll eventually post a more thorough review of it.  But overall I like it.  It's a little too easy to hit the buttons with my hands behind my back though.  (Never had that problem with my previous 2 Polar HRMs.)  And then there's the issue with it losing the speed data, but I think that's probably just user error...


Keep BikeFest in mind for next year.  It's great training for TTT and A2A...  The rest stops are well stocked...  And everyone there was super friendly.  Unless I have a scheduling conflict, I'll be there!


- SM - 


MikeB's picture

Nice Job!

Sorry I missed it Mark. Next year (but not the 62 :-)
eebee's picture

Well done!

Wow, Skatey-Mark. 62 miles mostly on your own, not drafting. Sounds like you handled a lot of gatorback!

I've heard people mention their shoes no longer fit after losing weight but I'd assumed that was mostly people who'd lost over 100lbs or so! Sounds like a great training event, or an event in itself.

MikeB, no pressure, but I'm pretty sure you'll be fine for the 62 next year...that's miles, not mph :-)

roadskater's picture

Awesome Metric, Skateymark! GPSVisualizer?

Hey skatey-mark... Thanks for a great read. I love the idea of this event and loved it when I did it with Craig so long ago, but it sure does sound challenging in terms of road surface...and undulations in the 62. Congrats on showing up well in front of the cyclists. Regarding the data, you may be able to convert that data into some format that gpsvisualizer.com can use, and if so, you may be able to produce a speed color map from the data, even without the speed data per se. In other words, I have some vague memory that gpsvisualizer ignores speed data and interpolates for itself based on position and time. It might be worth checking it to see, as I can't recall for sure. Any info you give us on the Polar HRM is likely to be a much read article here, and much valued by those who love skating or cycling and gadgets. As for me I'm probably going to have to stick with the Forerunner 305 for a while, but when there's color model with built in maps, well, who knows...but the price would need to be sweet too. Yes I dream.

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