Training for my first Century

In Blog by Eric BenjaminLeave a Comment

If you know me or have followed this blog you know I have done a century before. In fact when I was training for the Dirty Kanza 200, I would do a century every Sunday there for awhile. That may have been a little excessive but I enjoyed planning routes and riding through the hills for a day. I also successfully finished the 150 mile hilly course at Gravel Worlds in 2011, which I suggest you try. So I am not a stranger to a dirty century by any means, but since heart surgery, the longest I have ridden has been 50 miles.

Currently I feel that I am healing up very well. I got a clean bill of health from my cardiologist last year and my chest and heart feel great when I ride. In fact I have gotten to the point on my trainer that I really have to push it to keep my HR at 145, which is where an exercise physiologist told me to train at. My resting HR has fallen back down to normal and things feel pretty good. Except for the shape of my muscles. It basically feels like the umph I had to pedal hard up the hills or to keep pedaling hard during interval sessions is just not there. My legs feel like jello. Now that my heart feels normal again, I am trying to get my legs back into shape. It’s not like I have been sitting around, but I haven’t been training very hard, just moderate which is to be expected after heart surgery I think.  But being out of shape when once I was in amazing shape can be a little hard to take. Some of you that have had injuries know exactly what I am talking about.

I have been riding and thoroughly enjoy my Salsa Beargrease, but Tim Mohn asked me if I wanted to ride with him as he was doing a little scouting for this year’s DK200. If you don’t know Tim, he’s the DK200 route planner. He has podiumed at the DK200 twice. He is one tall drink of water and is one of the fast guys. I told him I would ride but warned him that I am still pretty slow. He said that would be OK. I was nervous but riding with faster people is a great way to push myself and I had signed up for the Land Run 100 in March, just a month away. I needed to step it up a notch.

Since I needed to be a faster I decided to ride the cross bike which I haven’t ridden off the trainer since I got the Beargrease. I got it ready and rode over to Tim’s house. He was on his Ti Warbird. The hubs on that thing are so quiet it was like he was in stealth mode as we rode away from his house. The debate of should I get an aluminum Warbird as my gravel racer and then a Ti Fargo for my bikepacking racer or just get the Ti Fargo and have a race setup and a bikepacking setup and pass on the Warbird for now was still playing out in my head as we rode towards the gravel.

Tim wasn’t pushing it as he would have dropped me out of the gate but even his slow pace was a step up for my usual riding. It was fairly windy and in the 40’s. The forecast said it was going to warm up and I was a little worried I dressed too warm for the 50’s they were calling for, but with the wind it would still be a cool ride.

As we got out to gravel and I won’t say where, because the DK200 route is top secret, I could no longer keep up with Tim on the hills so he would go ahead and then let me catch up. We rode along like that for awhile. I was feeling pretty good and my average after a crosswind and then a nice tailwind was in the 14 mph range. Not too bad. The sun was out and things were feeling pretty good. I was feeling tired but not too bad.

 Tim is that little spec in the road

We had planned to get 50 miles on this ride which would be a great training ride for me but as we kept going we realized this would be more like a 60 mile ride which I was pretty happy about because it would be my longest post surgery ride. But soon we would turn and ride into the wind. We would have to face about 20 miles of headwind to get home. I was planing on hanging on Tim’s wheel for a windbreak. Everything would be fine.

I think it was at mile 38 that I realized I was in trouble. I stopped a few times to eat and sucked a few Gu Gels down to keep me going but at mile 38 my legs got to the place of exhaustion that it takes all I have to just keep the pedals turning. And I had to try to keep up with Tim Mohn. Luckily He’s a nice guy and didn’t leave me in the dust although he easily could have.

We headed east with a cross wind for some time before finally turning and heading back towards Emporia. We hit some really nice hills before our turn back towards Emporia. We both thought that those would make the DK200 riders want to curse Tim’s name at this point in the race. Probably some 170-180 miles in. I am pretty sure we found the hilliest route back to Emporia. We were both quite pleased at that, but I cramped up trying to get up the last hill. Now I had to face a strong headwind for almost 20 miles. Tim makes a pretty nice windbreak, that is if one can keep up with the moving windbreak.

My body started shutting down as the sun was covered by a thick blanket of clouds. It was like a little man was at the breaker box of my body and began to open circuits starting with my legs and working his way up to my neck. I told Tim that my legs were done. I had nothing left. I had used all I had in the first 38 miles and there was nothing I could do. Tim would drop me on the hills as we had another big one that made me shift down to first gear and wobble up the hill at a mere 4-5 mph. The wind was killer and the temperatures did not warm up. It was feeling quite cool.

I made it up the hill and got back on Tim’s wheel until a gust of wind blew me back and I was left struggling to keep the pedals moving. I felt bad because I was making Tim go so slow. I knew I’d be slower than him, but I wasn’t planning on a full-on blow up. Finally, he left me. I had been there before – trying to ride with a slower rider but not being able to ride that slow anymore. I could barely keep myself moving at 7mph into the wind. Tim had disappeared up ahead and the pain was starting to cloud my mind. I have been doing quite well keeping my mind positive at work, in fact better than any other time in my life, but right then I was facing a physical challenge that my body was not able to meet. I put my head down and kept the pedals moving, but I knew I was in trouble. There was a small town ahead. All I wanted to do was to make it there. I needed to get off my bike. Riding the cross bike didn’t seem like an advantage anymore and I thought I should ride the Beargrease at the LR100. Of course at this point I didn’t know if I would be able to finish that Oklahoma gravel grinder. You get to a point in training where you know you can finish any ride, and the call of shame is not even an option. I wasn’t at that point. All I could think about was making that call.

I seriously had to give it all I could to just keep the pedals moving. I had nothing left. My muscles were on the verge of cramping and I was sore everywhere. Obscenities were thrown at the wind and I just needed to make it into that small town. When I got there I saw Tim waiting for me. I rode up to him and said, “I’m done man. I can’t go any further. Just go without me” I apologized for slowing the ride down so much as he pedaled away. I hate being that guy.

I called home and waited. I suddenly realized I was cold and went inside the store to stay warm. After standing there for a number of minutes, I did not warm up. I was cold down to my core. I didn’t feel cold on the bike but standing there I was freezing. The thought of calling off the rescue and going ahead and pedaling home crossed my mind, but the misery of the last 15 miles made me reconsider that idea. I was toast.

It was a wake up call that things were good in my body, I am just simply out of shape. There is no reason not to step up the training a couple notches. My HR on this ride averaged 150, a little higher than suggested but my heart felt good all day and near the end of the ride my HR was pretty chilled. My legs were what was fried. So I am going to step it up a few notches. With my work schedule, it won’t be easy to put in more time, but I am going to push harder on the trainer and on my rides on the weekends. Thanks Tim for the ride. Good luck to all you DK200 riders.

It’s supposed to be 60 this Sunday. I am thinking a fatbike 80 miler is in order, as long as I keep my average HR around 145, I should be able to make it.

Feed Your Monkey!