From a fitness perspective, I began the year strong: I swam, rode my bike trainer, and even threw in some runs, with a vengeance.
That paid off for me in April, May, and June. I began my endurance season with a decent ride at the Redbud Ride. That was my third Redbud, and my most uneventful. My only concern was my lack of power on the hills, but I was otherwise strong: I rode aero and even got good use of my big ring on the flats and downhills. I was clearly improving.
In May, I had a half-Iron triathlon (Toughman Indiana) and a tough century ride (Horsey Hundred) on consecutive weekends. I came back from an asthma incident in the swim at Toughman Indiana to beat the swim cutoff, and earned my first triathlon finish. The following Saturday, I struggled in the heat and bonked at mile 80, but still enjoyed my fourth Horsey Hundred finish.
In June, I had scheduled a century ride (Bike Morehead) and a sprint triathlon (Tri Louisville) on consecutive days. Bike Morehead was of concern because of the brutal hills: almost 7,000 feet of climbing according to the cue sheet. I finished Bike Morhead feeling very good (was barely tired and not sore), and felt excellent at Tri Louisville until a mechanical problem ended my race at mile 3 of the bike. That was frustrating, as I had one of my best swims, and was going strong on the bike.
In July, I got my second triathlon finish: an Olympic distance at the Louisville Landsharks Triathlon. Hills, Heat, Humidity, Horseflies, no problem.
But after June, my fitness dropped a bit, largely because I am not training for Ironman this year. This month, I had two events left: The Hub City Tour, followed by the Air Force Marathon.
My goal for Hub City: finish comfortably, and leave some room for recovery.
The only reason I signed up for Hub City: I wanted my third consecutive Kentucky Century Challenge jersey. If you do all 4 rides, you get the jersey for free. I wanted the freebie. It’s all about the bragging rights.
But going in, I had not trained for this one. I had focused mostly on strength work, and had done some smaller rides and runs. And Hub City is the hardest of the rides, featuring a nasty, hilly stretch from mile 43 to mile 77 which is downright awful.
Complicating matters: a brutal line of storms was on the way.
My group departed at just north of 0700. Our goal was to enjoy the ride, and beat the incoming storms.
The first 45 miles were relatively smooth. A few areas of rough pavement, and a few climbs, but nothing major. Pulling into the third rest stop, the hills had begun, but we all felt pretty good.
Then the fun began.
(1) I struggled on the hills. My lack of rides was showing, as I simply did not have good power on the hard climbs. Having said that, I still wasn’t hurting.
(2) The heat was nasty. The incoming storm front was bringing some colder air, but we had none of it. Several riders were laying down at the rest stops. They were clearly pooped.
(3) Headwinds were very rough. Hub city is known for headwinds on the back 50, but this was a circle of hell all its own. We also had some very bad crosswinds. Sustained winds were at least 20-25mph, with gusts worse than that. I nearly got blown off the road twice.
(4) For the first time at Hub City, I saw seasoned riders dismount from their bikes to walk their bikes up the toughest climbs. In spite of my struggles, I never had to do that.
(5) I nearly hit a deer. On one of the downhills, I decided to go easy, as I was concerned about road quality. That was a wise move. In the middle of my descent, a deer popped out of nowhere to cross the road. Had I gone all-out in the aero position, I would have nailed the deer.
(6) There were lots of bone-jarring, hemmorhoid-popping rough spots in the pavement. Due to these stretches, it was tough to capitalize on the downhills. It was also tough to use the aero bars in these sections.
(7) On the toughest climb, there was a gal who was running hill repeats. She PASSED us on the uphill. I remarked to one of the guys in the group: “You know you’re having a bad day on a bike when a RUNNER passes you on a hill!” (I blew past her as I got to the top, though.)
Once we got past mile 77, things improved somewhat, although we still had some tough climbs left. The good thing about Hub City: once you turn onto Ring Road, it’s a piece of cake. A small jaunt down Ring Road, then a ride through the E-Town Sports Park, then, after a few short turns, a left onto Mulberry Street, then a left onto Helm Street, and you’re done.
We beat the incoming storm by 15 minutes.
Overall, a fun ride. Mission accomplished.
This Saturday: Air Force Marathon.