Monday, October 24, 2011

Carolina Century, 2011

http://bl2u.com/events/carolina-century-2011/



Once again, I completed the 102 mile Carolina Century this past Saturday. The family did the 31 mile option on their bikes. I need to get my girls used to skating long distances...

Not much to say, the skate was drama-free. So I'll just give some initial impressions.

What a great skate! Just like last year, conditions were perfect. No special difficulty, just a great day to skate.

Four skaters this year: Blake, Elizabeth, Bob Harwell, and me. Bob and I left Blake and Elizabeth fairly early in the skate, around 5-7 miles in (?). In Blake's defense, it sounded like he was on his phone quite a bit still working out some issues with other event organizers and volunteers.

Weather was perfect. Started at about 40 degrees, I think, but that wasn't a problem. Hey, it was 35 degrees last year and that turned out fine. Rose to nearly 70 degrees by the end of the day (and most of the day was closer to 70 degrees than 40 once the sun came out). Perfectly clear day, not a hint of rain. Just a crisp, clear, mountain day.

As good as the weather was, and it was incredible, the roads were even better. Let me be clear: I have never skated a course with better roads and I don't expect to for the rest of my life. The roads were THAT GOOD. Many roads looked like they had been paved within the past week--perfect, smooth, black ice (including one stretch that had been chip sealed just before this skate 4 years ago, so the contrast with skating that same stretch on gravel was striking). In fact, they were still paving one portion of the course during our skate and they were still painting another recently-paved portion. They didn't quite get the whole course done in time for our skate, but they were trying! Amazing. Really emphasizes the need to paint the course as late as possible!

No missed turns this year. Two years ago I missed a turn marker in the driving rain. And last year we missed a turn that cost us 2-3 miles as we backtracked (not a big deal). But I know the course a lot better now, so I don't expect to miss turns in the future.

I skated with Bob for about 85 miles. Bob is fast but I had a bit more climbing ability on this day. We skipped every other rest stop, but when we did stop we took our time. I'm NOT complaining, just describing the day. Lord knows that when I've skated with Mark Sibert in the past I've slowed him down (judging by our A2A times).

I felt very good all day, except for the usual general fatigue towards the end. Much better than I felt at A2A. At A2A my heart rate was up in the 140+ range, even my average heart rate early in the skate. For whatever reason, I wasn't up to the job at A2A. But during this event my average heart rate on the day was only 128 bpm. And it was in the low 120s early in the skate. Yeah, the pace was a little slower this year, but I did feel better than I did at A2A.

I was a little surprised at how many people were out shooting this year. There were at least three groups of people shooting rifles along the course this year. Looked like they were shooting at targets, sighting in their guns. Not a bad thing, just surprising to hear a number of gunshots along the course. Two of the groups were rather close to the road (shooting away from the road, by the way!).

Only hit 42.7 mph on the steep downhill near "Mount Trashmore" this year. Bob was concerned with the slight turn that doesn't allow you to see the end of the downhill so he didn't want to go down in a pack. He said that next year he'll be comfortable taking it all-out.

The downhill into the "T" was tough, as always--gotta make sure we controlled our speed. And then the infamous 4-mile uphill (around Miles 74-78?) that follows it was as grueling as ever. Bob told me I could skate ahead if I wanted to, but I didn't want to part company yet so I hung with him. I stayed with him until "A2A Hill" around Mile 85 or 86. I call it "A2A Hill" because it just seems like a cruel injustice to have such a steep hill at that point. Your legs feel like you should be done around 87 miles, but no, you're right in the middle of a monster climb. At that point I climbed on without Bob.

Not much more to say. I had enough water to make the finish, and didn't feel like eating anymore, so I skipped the final few rest stops. Blake added a few more "surprise" stops to make sure that people struggling to finish would have a place to rest and to take on some more water. Much appreciated but not necessary for me on this day.

The uphill finish was tough, as usual, but I made it. After resting a bit, I wanted to make sure that Bob was doing okay. So I grabbed a ride back to where he was. Turns out he was still 4 or 5 miles from the finish. Since I had rested for a while, I was relatively fresh (as fresh as you can be after skating 102 miles, I guess) so I did what I could to lead him home.

Some stats, from my Garmin GPS:
Total distance: 101.83 miles (GPS drops out a bit, it was probably a bit longer)
Total time: 8:01:18.38 (this must be "moving" time)
Avg. speed: 12.7 mph (again, "moving" speed)
Avg. heart rate: 128 bpm
Total Ascent: 9477 ft (should be the same as descent, some error here)
Total Descent: 9186 ft (should be the same as ascent, some error here)

Note: Starting time was 7:30a and finish time was 4:28p, so that works out to an official time of 8:58. Slower than I've done with Mark Sibert in the past, but not bad for me. We did have more resting time at the stops and we weren't able to climb the hills as quickly as Mark and I did. Even though my time was slower than last year, I felt like I could have duplicated my time from last year if Mark had been there.

Blake didn't have a scale handy at the finish for his power challenge (if you weigh half as much you have to skate twice as fast!), but I estimated 245 lbs. (with skates and such) as my official weight.