Today has been on my calendar for a long time.  I knew that when I set up my training plan that today would be my longest ride to this point of my life.  I signed up to ride the 50k route of the Raven Rock Ramble (http://ravenrockramble.org/).  The ride consists of distances from 10 miles up to a full century.  Since my training plan had me down for a 100 minute ride this weekend, I planned early on to ride a bit longer than that with the 50k.  My goal was to finish it in 2 hours – which would put me at an average pace of 15mph.  I wasn’t going to push it too hard because I wanted to make sure I had enough to go the distance.

Why Raven Rock?  Well, my brother has ridden this ride in the past – plus it benefits the UNC Kidney center, which is where my Mom had her transplant (as well as all of the other work preceding that day).  So, when my brother asked, I jumped at  the chance.

As luck would have it… my brother canceled on me at the last minute.  No worries though… I was still going to have a good ride.

So, I arrived at the Harris Lake parking area, got unpacked and ready to ride.  I ate a quick 1/2 of a bagel, drank some water, grabbed a banana – and went to the starting area.  The group was setting off in two groups:  the long distances, and the short ones (50k & the 10mile).  I sat back and waited for the second group to start.  No mind you… this is my first ever group ride.  I have never been in this situation before.  There were around 600 riders there, all waiting to start.  It was a bit crazy.

Finally, we got the green light and off we went.  The pace at the beginning was rather slow as we all tried to find someone to ride along with.  I ended up realizing I can climb reasonable hills fairly well – and did quite well on the flats.  I ended up finding a small group to ride a pace line with for a few miles.  Things were going well, but I noticed that my heart rate was low… and I was really just relaxing, rather than pushing it at all.  So, it was time for a change.  At about 30 minutes into the ride, I shifted gears and pushed my pace.  Instead of riding behind someone, I was determined to pass people.  When we got to the first aid station (mile 12), I decided to skip it (I was barely sweating… no need to stop) and keep pushing it.  That was a good idea.  I got out of the masses and found myself alone on a nice road — That is — until — the HILL.  Yep… after descending a very fun, very fast hill, we were faced with a 12% -> 7% gradient uphill climb.  This climb is by far the most severe climb I have attempted in my meager training.  It was crazy.  Everyone that was spread out, was now bunched up, spinning for their lives, up this hill.  My MPH dropped down into the mid-low single digits as I spun like crazy.  By the time I reached the top… I was wishing for an aid station!  But alas, there would be no more of those on this ride.  I was on my own, with the nutrition and water I carried with me.

After recovering from the hill, I set out on a nice solid 17-18mph pace.  I ended up catching a group from the earlier start as they were about to break off for their longer ride, while I carried on straight ahead.  That was interesting… since after they broke off, I found myself alone.  Not just me and a few people… but literally alone.  I could see no one.  I started to doubt if I made a wrong turn.  I of course didn’t expect to ever be alone, so I didn’t bring my cue sheet.  Oh well… what is the worst that could happen?  With that… I carried on.

Finally, I saw another marker on the roadway that indicated I was on target.  Yes.  Good.  I am doing ok.  But I was still alone.  The best part about being alone… I could get into my aero bars and attack this ride.  I was now less than 10 miles from the finish, so I decided to really go for it.

Then… when I was approaching a stop light/left turn, I noticed what looked like three riders about 1/2 mile ahead of me.  I had 4 miles to the finish, but I was determined to catch them.  Of course, I get stopped by the red light (and the traffic), so they get further ahead of me… but I have a rabbit to chase now.  The light turned green and off I went.  Pushing harder than I have on this ride.   To add to this, the last four miles of this ride are rolling hills with a descending trend.  So, I could go fast.  These last four miles I averaged: 25.2, 22.1, 19.4, and 20.8mph.  I was cooking.  Sure enough, that was enough to catch the three people ahead of me, passing each of them on an uphill section of the rollers – then about one mile before the end, I passed another rider.  I felt great.

I meandered through the park back to the shelter, to grab some post ride food and drink – only to find the place next to empty.  I guess I was the first of the 50k riders to finish – and most of the 10mile riders had already begun packing up to go home.  No worries, I had my post race food, and my post race drink – then headed back to the car to pack up and head home.

It was a fun ride – and I am surprised by how well I felt throughout it.  I have ridden rides half this long that felt worse than this one.  While I did use the draft for the first 1/3 of the ride, I didn’t for the majority of it, so I cannot say that made much of a difference to how I felt.  I think just not being bored on the bike, but having others around for most of it helped.

I will be back next year.  But next year, I will go a longer distance.

Thanks for reading.

– Adam

Today’s workout:

Plan: 100 minutes on the bike (replaced with Raven Rock Ramble)

Actual:  1:53:10 for 30.6 miles at an average pace of 16.22mph

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