Bart Haynes here in sunny San Diego with my weekly ride update. Last week I rode in the San Diego Century race, a 102.5 mile ride with several challenging hill climbs. The ride traverses all over the greater San Diego area, including near down town, Poway, Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Marcos, and Escondido.
I have cycled in this century every year for the past few years, and this year oddly ended up being one of my best.
Why I almost didn’t participate in San Diego Century
I almost didn’t participate. I was involved in a pile up on the freeway four days before the race. Thankfully wasn’t seriously injured. Un-thankfully I had a totaled car and I was very sore, somewhat banged up, and left with some extreme discomfort in my lower back.
Simply put, getting on my bike was painful.
Come the day of the race, I felt only moderately better. Around mile 25 of the course, my house wasn’t too far away. So I thought, Okay, I’ll just put in a short ride and veer off and head home. Worst case scenario, my wife could easily come pick me up if I couldn’t make it the 25 miles.
The first 30 miles of the San Diego Century
The race starts in Encinitas and makes a 31 mile loop inland towards Carlsbad, then back along the 56 towards Rancho Sante Fe.
The first 20 miles were fairly rough. I was stiff and plagued by random stabs of pain. Fortunately, the weather was good and there was no wind to further punish me. I tucked into a group that kept a good but not too strenuous pace.
By mile 20 I thought for sure that I would veering off the course and hanging up my cleats in another 10 miles, where I could rest comfortably at home.
However, my body had other things in mind. Around miles 20-30 my muscles relaxed, and my body released enough endorphins that the pain in my back subsided just enough to put me in a sort of mental crisis: do I continue on and risk hitting a wall, or do I do the “smart” thing and pull off and call it a good effort.
Why I continue on
Confronting these kinds of questions, the cyclist and competitor in me always kicks in and burns away any thought of not finishing the race. I have never not finished a race, and I have felt worse in races before. So I continued on.
As it turns out, this was the right decision. By good luck or smart nutritional choices on my part, I peeked around 50-80 miles, which happens to be a tough part of the race. Around mile 50 is the Purple Monster, a 1.7 mile climb with a 7% grade.
By the time I hit the hill climb, I felt strong, loose, and mostly pain free. The climb was hard, but after finishing it, it didn’t slow me down at all and my energy kept up for the next hour and a half. I found myself hopping up from group to group, and don’t remember being passed much. That’s always a great feeling.
I won’t deny that the last 15 miles were a real challenge, and I slowed down quite a bit. But then again, the last 15 miles are usually always tough. In many races, this is what we call The Hour of Silence: an hour of digging deep, keeping your head down, and pedaling on when your body is telling you, “quite now quite now quite now.”
None the less, I still finished with my best time for the San Diego Century by several minutes. Sometimes hitting your peak at the right time is the best way to set personal bests.