2013 was my 6th edition of the Coast Ride so I knew exactly what to expect heading into the weekend. Thankfully, the weather gods delivered spectacular sunshine and warm weather (mid 60s to mid 70s) for our trip down the coast... and this forecast seemed to tempt even more people than usual on this 3 day cycling trip down the California coast. When I first did the coast ride, there were maybe 20-25 people making the trip. This year's group numbered about 125, with a second group of 50 cyclists also making the trip. That's a lot of people for an informal ride... kudos to the *organizers* for making the trip happen.
What is The Coast Ride? It's riding your bike from San Francisco to Santa Barbara over the course of three days... 375 miles and about 18,000ft of climbing.
Since racing Ironman Cozumel in late November, I went into serious off-season with barely any exercise for 3 weeks after the race, and then very light and short workouts through the holidays and into the first few weeks of the New Year. I accidentally rode 5hrs the Saturday before the Ride but all other rides had been 3 hours or less. This made me nervous about tackling the three successive 7hr days, especially among a group of very fit, hard-core cyclists. We had several pro cyclists and pro triathletes along for the three days... it's a talented group!
Coach Hauth had me do a lactate test a few days before the Ride so we would have some baseline numbers to help me stay as aerobic as possible (goal is base-building) during the Ride. The magic number was 200w... and the instructions were to ride the flats in the 140-170w range and 180-220w on the hills, but to really avoid spending too much time above 200w. I haven't been working on any top end power so it would hurt me to spend too much time in the 230w+ range.
With the numbers in mind, I developed a plan. The plan was that my husband and I would push off 20-30mins early each day so we could get on the road, warm up our bodies and get into our own rhythm without the pressures of getting caught up in group cycling dynamics. I figured a group would catch us at some point, but I hoped that the 125+ riders would be broken up into smaller groups by the time we were caught and we could jump in the group if the pace/effort was appropriate.
Day 1 took us from the Golden Gate Bridge to Seaside on the Monterrey peninsula. 127 miles (including the ride from home) and about 5,000ft of climbing in just over 7 hours. Surprisingly, no groups ever caught us and we were the first to arrive at the hotel. I averaged 155w for the day and spent just 10mins about 220w. I felt fantastic at the end of the day and was psyched that I had stuck to the plan.
Day 2 took us from Seaside to Morro Bay, including 80+ miles of coastal scenery on highway 1. The views are stunning and the terrain is leg-breaking. Once again, hubby and I pushed off early with another friend, pro-triathlete Beth Walsh (californiatraining.blogspot.com). Again, the goal for me was to ride well within myself using power as my gauge. A couple of groups of riders passed our trio while we were dawdling over coffee and scones at the Big Sur Bakery (so delicious!). As we got back on our bikes, my husband slipped off the front while Beth and I hooked up with a group four, including friends Barb (http://energizerbanzo.blogspot.com/) and Hailey (http://haileyintraining.blogspot.com/). Our group of six worked together for the next 40 or so miles until the lunch stop at Ragged Point. My husband was waiting there with Hailey's husband and we were thankful that they had ordered up some salty ham and grilled cheese sandwiches and cokes for us to share. Nice work, boys!
We had just enough time to scoff down those calories when one of the guys in the lead group announced they were leaving in 2 minutes. Now, having done this ride before I knew that the final 45 miles to Morro Bay were relatively flat... some rollers and only one real bump of a hill in the small town of Cambria. It would go REALLY FAST in the group of 40+ riders... BUT it would also be very challenging since you have to STICK the rollers to stay with the group and you need to pay close attention at all times, riding two abreast in a double paceline. I decided to try and ride with the group, even though I knew I probably did not have the top end power to get over all the rollers, especially if the guys pushed the pace at all.
The first few miles were stressful but I was hanging in there even as we lost a few riders off the back of the paceline. I had a death grip on my handlebars as I sat in the group, riding my line and trying to maintain my front wheel 6 inches back of the rider ahead. The boys in the group were chatty so it helped take my mind off the miles remaining and the *stop-go power* that I needed to apply to my pedals to maintain that 6 inch gap. One cyclist asked me what I did for a living. I responded back ("finance") then asked him the same question. His answer was simply: "this". It turns out that it was Ken Hanson (USA Cycling Pro Criterium National Champion) of the Optum Kelly Benefits team.
The paceline was rotating and as we reached the *bump of a hill* in Cambria, I found myself sitting third wheel with at least 20 riders behind me. I had figured that I would be off the back of the group by this point but now I saw an opportunity... maybe I could *pull off a Thomas Voeckler* and hang on to the tail end of the group over the crest of the half mile hill. As we started climbing, I was riding 260-270w but I was sliding backwards through the group. Just as I was sure I would pop off the back, another pro cyclist from the Optum Kelly Benefits team came alongside and whispered to me to stay seated. He then gently pushed me up the hill... my power plummeted to 160w but I was riding with the group! It was pretty awesome... and I was so thankful not to be staring down 20 solo miles when I was already over 100 miles for the day.
I ended up making it to Morro Bay with this group and I have to confess that I was pretty stoked, even if I did get an *assist*! There were about 5 other women in the pack of cyclists but four of them race with a pro card so I was beyond happy to be in their company.
The last 45 miles changed the numbers for day 2 quite considerably: 124 miles, 7hrs and 165w average power but I spent 45mins above 220w and many of those minutes occurred in those last two hours of riding.
Celebrating day 2 with Jess, Sonja, Christine, Beth and Hailey... before I got sick!
Unfortunately, this year there was no day 3 of riding for me. I got food poisoning overnight and was unable to start the day. I hitched a ride to Santa Barbara and spent most of the day napping and waiting for my friends to meet me in SB.