Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014 Granite State Grind and Roll Century on an ElliptiGO

Another week, another Century. Last week's Seacoast Century was an all out effort to go as fast as I could go on an ElliptiGO. I loved the challenge, except for the wind, and am very satisfied with the result. This weekend, I wanted to do something different and decided a few days beforehand and 5 minutes before online registration ended to ride the first year Granite State Grind and Roll which started in Franconia, NH. I have always wanted to do a fall ride in the White Mountains and another  ElliptiGO rider, Andrew Warby, was also going to do the event. It was an early morning getting up for the ride up to Franconia, but it was looking to be a gorgeous and perfect day to be outdoors. Andrew and I planned to meet at 8 am for the ride and I rolled up with two minutes to spare.

All the other full century riders (actually it was only 92 miles) had already left long before we did. It was a bit chilly at first with a morning fog, but that soon burned away and by the first aid station, we had pulled off the extra clothing. I had decided to ride this one for the fun, the scenery, to ride with a friend, and for the challenge, too! It was a completely different mindset than last week's century, but I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

The course, of course, was beautiful and the trees were in color. The roads and views were awesome and the ride was fun. There were some steep downhills that I was cautious on, but I still hit 40 mph. Andrew was a better downhill rider and hit 45 mph. At 29 miles we hit I steep (average grade of 7%) downhill over incredibly bumpy roads that we had been warned about. Near the top of the descent, as I was being jostled over the bumps and uneven roads, I heard a tinny sound underneath my ElliptiGO, I didn't notice anything falling off my bike and couldn't see any missing parts, but stopped just the same as it was an aluminum type sound and I didn't want to lose a bike part. I walked about 50 yards up the hill to discover that my car keys had bounced out of the not fully zippered pocket of my front handlebar bag. Whew! The ElliptiGO key ring saved my day. That would have been a real long ride home (I have had problems with losing keys and taking long roads home in the past).

Andrew set a great pace and I let him do a lot of the leading. We stopped at all four of the aid stations since the volunteers were so friendly and curious about our ElliptiGOs and also because they had waited for us as we were the last riders. We never do encounter an century cyclist. We did pass a few doing the shorter ride. The sun was out and I never saw a cloud in the sky all day. The variety of the course was great, many of the roads were free from automobiles, and everything was marked very well. It did get a little hot between 60-70 miles or so with the sun beating down, a bit of a headwind, and some big uphills. The last aid station was a welcome relief as we both needed some water. Eventually the course went of the roads and onto the shaded bike path starting at The Flume, going down to Profile Lake, where you used to be able to see The Old Man of the Mountain, around Cannon Moutain and Echo Lake. That was refreshing! At which point it was just a few miles of downhill to the finish back in Franconia.

Here is a short video I took while trying to use my Polaroid XS100 camera for the first time, I posted it low on my handlebar stem so I had to bend down a bit to turn it off and on, and I didn't secure it well enough so the camera kept rotating, but otherwise it took decent video.

At the end of the event, we joined the wonderful barbecue complete with music, and the two best hamburgers I have had in a while. It was fantastic to ride with Andrew, enjoy a long ride just for the fun of it, and to experience a beautiful day surrounded by the mountains, lakes, rivers, and fall foliage of the White Mountains. Andrew and I both agree that this would be a perfect event for an EllitiGO gathering next year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2014 Seacoast Century on an EliptiGO

Saturday, I participated in the 2014 Seacoast Century for the second year in a row on my ElliptiGO and for the third time overall. I also did the 100k route of the Seacoast Century on my Kickbike 12 years ago. Last year's ride was tragic as 2 cyclists were killed by a speeding driver just minutes up the road from me. It made for a surreal day where I also plunged into the depths of energy depletion due to a lack of eating or drinking in the final hours on my part. Here is my account of that day. This year I had high expectations for a fast century. I have been putting in a tremendous amount of miles this year (closing in on 5000 miles since the beginning of the year). I also have worked very hard at my speed on the ElliptiGO. In other words, I have been thoroughly enjoying training solely as an ElliptiGO athlete! I have probably not been so consistently well trained for a sport (running was my sport) in many years! According to studies done at the University of California, San Diego, riding an ElliptiGO for 30 miles is the energy equivalent of running 10 miles. Riding at 16 mph is the equivalent of running 8 minute miles (this does not take into consideration the effects of wind or hills). Using those figures, I have been training the equivalent of 70 mile weeks at about 8 minute/mile pace for an average week this summer. Unfortunately, I don't have many opportunities to compete on the ElliptiGO. There is one race, The ElliptiGO End of Summer Classic, which I have won both years it has been held 2013 and 2014 as well as century rides (which are technically not races-but I turn them into time trials for myself). I did two centuries last year, but the Seacoast Century was to be my first and probably only century this year.

I set some high expectations for myself and I think my training backed me up. My goal was to break 6 hours for the 100 mile route. According to the ElliptiGO website, these are the fastest official times for riding a century.

5:32:35  Stuart Blofeld Thruxton 100 9/7/2014
5:50       Brent Teal Seattle to Portland Classic 7/17/2010
6:36:02  Stuart Blofeld Bucks 100 9/16/2012 
6:57:56  Hector Calvo Gonzalez Calvin's Challenge 5/5/2012

I am not sure how accurate the list is and have been told it will be updated in a couple of months. No one has mentioned going faster for 100 miles, but maybe someone else has. Actually, my time of 6:47 from last years Seacoast Century is not on the list so it may not be fully accurate. To be on the list, the time has to be made in an official event and it has to be an elapsed time (in other words if you stop and rest or eat that time counts too). The Garmin GPS makes this task easy to check. Stuart is from England and just set the new world record a couple of weeks ago. There was a little something in me thinking if everything went right: weather, mechanics on the bike, traffic, and nutrition that I had a good shot of breaking Brent's fastest time by an American. From reading about the ElliptiGO records, Brent's 100 mile time was part of a 200 mile ride he did on a point to point course from Seattle to Portland. Brent is also the engineer who along with Brian Pate designed the ElliptiGO!

I did everything wrong the day before the event. I put a new chain on my ElliptiGO, but didn't have time to seriously check it out. I also started replacing my brake pads. I got halfway done before I realized that I was late to meet my son and get to a concert: Mike Peters of the Alarm. By the time I got back home and got everything set for my ride, I didn't get to bed until 2:00 am with a 5:30 wake-up call coming.

I arrived at Hampton Beach for the start, got organized, and before getting going, made the most important decision I had at the time: how much clothing to wear. It was cold and in the 40s, but I decided not to wear a jacket thinking that if I got real cold, I would just have to ride faster. I then took off on my own for the first 16 mile loop down into Massachusetts. I immediately noticed the strong headwind along the ocean heading south. I felt good and kept a strong pace keeping even with if not passing cyclists along the way. I had mounted my phone and a sportscam on my bike, but going over a bump, the camera bounced off and I had to stop and run backto find it and then run back to my GO. I decided to stuff them both into the camera bag I had mounted to the front handlebars and forget about them the rest of the ride. I had business to do and realized I wouldn't have time to document things along the way. Once I hit the road back to NH, the wind was at my back and I started watching my average speed climb. It was a somber moment riding over the bridge where the accident happened last year and then soon I was zooming up the New Hampshire coastline hitting speeds, I would normally hit only on a downhill.

By 25 miles my average speed had climbed to 18.7 mph and by 30 miles I hit an average speed of 18.9 mph. My fastest 30 miles on the Nashua Rail Trail was at an average speed of 18.2 mph and my average speed in winning the 5 mile ElliptiGO End of Classic race this year was the same 18.9 mph so I was flying (despite a rubbing sound coming from my chain -too tight?). On Strava, one 16 mile section going north from Salisbury to the science center has my average speed clocked at 21.1 mph so the wind was really helping me along!

Soon we hit more technical riding over bridges, in traffic, and meandering down different roads. If I didn't have any cyclists ahead of me, I was worried that I might go the wrong way by missing the orange paint on the road. There is one bridge we are forced to dismount and walk across a narrow walkway. On this, I get stuck behind cyclists trying to walk in their cycling shoes and I lose about 2-3 minutes of time each time I cross coming and going. The ride takes some scenic detours once we are in Maine, but I am not one to look around as I am extremely focused on my ride. I am so focused that I find it hard to eat and drink. I downed a bottle of Gatorade when walking across the bridge, but except for drinking from my water bottle, I can't take a bottle out of my camera bag and screw off the lid. I did bring a bunch of Clif bars and Clif block energy blocks, but I didn't open them up before the ride and find it hard to ride and get them open. I ate one Clif Bar the first half of the ride and one and one-half packages of the Blocks (not nearly what I really should have eaten on the ride). I had a Camelbak filled with water, but only took a few sips out of it, and drank all the water in my large mounted water bottle. I stopped to hit the woods at about 70 miles and poured a Gatorade into my water bottle, but that was all I ate or drank this year. I think the cooler temperatures helped. 

By the time I hit the Nubble Lighthouse in Maine which was the 50 mile mark, my average speed had slowed to 18.1 mph which was world record pace, but I would no longer have a tailwind, so my time would keep getting slower from then on, but it is fun to say I was that fast for the first wind-aided half. I watched my average speed slip below the American record speed (I had these written on a paper and in view on my camera bag) at about 70 miles. Battling the headwinds along York Beach was brutal as I can't draft another bike like all the cyclists can. I have to take the wind standing up. Eventually, I helplessly watched the average speed go below what I needed to break 6 hours. I had the energy to go fast, but whenever we got near the ocean, the wind was just whipping into my face and I had to go all out just to get my speed above 10 mph. Fortunately, we took had some loops to do off route 1A so it wasn't a straight shot down to Hampton Beach to the finish. 

I didn't start feeling a bit weak until around 90 miles, but I slowed down enough to grab the one bottled water I had put in my camera bag. I eventually got the cap off and splashed half of it into my mouth so quickly I had to spit it out. I slowly drank the rest and feeling a bit refreshed headed towards the finish. Hitting the headwinds again was just nasty. I would see cyclists go by me in packs drafting off each other. If it was a lone cyclist, I was usually able to pick them off. It was a relief to finish as I was battling hard trying to break 6 hours and 20 minutes. I tapped my GPS off at the finish and was pleased to see it read 100.0 miles exactly! My time was 6:18:46! I think I gave it my all and with the wind realize my time was slower than what I could have done without  both the tailwind and the headwind. I am certain I can break 6 hours next year, but I have to find a century with a straighter course and no big winds.

Once I finished, I wanted nothing better to do than sit down. I noticed that cyclists seemed to all want to stand up after being locked into the saddle all day. One cool and unexpected thing during the ride was seeing a deer run across the road about 15 feet in front of me while in Maine! Cyclists don't say a lot about my ElliptiGO. Most just ignore me, but I am so focused I am not trying to chat up someone passing me or who I am passing, although I will say something if they talk first. After about 80 miles when the cyclists realize that I am doing the full 100, I tend to get a bit more comments. With less than 5 miles to go and riding into the headwinds, a pack of about 10 cyclists caught up. One guy slowed down and wanted me to high-five him. I told him I couldn't because if I did, at that point, I would probably fall over if I one-handed it!

So when the ride was over and until ElliptiGO updates their record page, it looks like I have the third fastest century ride ever on an ElliptiGO, the second fastest American time, and the fastest American time on a loop course! I got a note from Brian Pate, the ElliptiGO inventor, saying he wishes I were riding in the ElliptiGO World Championships this week in San Diego. He said I would be a contender, particularly for the time-trial. That was a great compliment. There are some top level world class runners, and former Olympians, who race the world championships.  Maybe one of these years, I can afford a trip out there to see what I could do in these races: there is a mountain climb up Mt. Palomar and a time trial on Fiesta Island. I know it would be fun to be around other ElliptiGO athletes and it is fun to help pioneer the sport, particularly when I found a sport I can do quite well in as long as I keep working hard. 

As a former runner, I am just pleased that I can work out with the intensity that I do and to be in "training" again. I enjoy feeling like an athlete again, and the nice part is that the ElliptiGO does not beat up my body. We just need more people riding and more races to keep that competitive fire going. I am sure that in the next few years, as the ElliptiGO gains more traction, that those 100 mile times are going to be incredibly fast! I don't mind being at the beginning years of the sport where what I can achieve is considered fast for now! If helps me not feel so old or washed up due to my injuries.