I nicknamed the ride we did today “The Beast.” Not only was it the longest ride of my life (75 miles) and the most climbing I’ve ever done (3,668 feet), it had the most terrifying roads and alarming street signs of all time. As I mentioned a million times, Ironman CdA has a very hilly bike route with 2,306 feet of climbing per 56 mile loop for a total of 4,612 feet of climbing over 112 miles which equals 41 feet per mile). This fun route that we found on MapMyRide.com (which happened to be mapped by the triathlon/running coach who runs the track workouts I sometimes go to), is 49 feet per mile. When I originally wrote this post I had accidentally calculated total climbing based on max elevation, not gain and thought that this route we did was the same feet/mile as CdA but actually it was 20% harder! I”ll leave the blog past as it was…I’m still scared, but a little less!
Here’s the CdA course profile (1 loop):
Riding the Beast
While I can’t say that I tamed the beast today, I definitely gave it a try. We had planned to ride on Saturday, however due to high winds and a morning showers, we decided to switch our workouts. Saturday we ran 12 miles and did a quick 45 minute spin on the trainer. I finished that workout feeling great despite it being my biggest volume week to date. By that evening, though, my legs were feeling it!
We set out at 7 a.m. this morning to get an early start, knowing this route would take us a long time. The route was completely foreign to us – it took us from coastal Encinitas all the way through San Marcos and up a long country road all the way into Valley Center, a town near the Pala Casino. The first 20 miles are pretty much straight up hill and it took us seemingly forever to get through them. These miles were mostly through commercial and residential streets that we were fairly familiar with. Once we left San Marcos we turned up a road scattered with horse stables, churches, the occasional large house, and greenhouses. It was pretty scenic and fairly quiet but we were still riding uphill. By the time we got to our first bathroom and water refill break we had only ridden around 22 miles and it took Asia and I about an hour and 45 minutes!
After a very long break due to a line at the bathrooms, we continued on until we eventually met up with Mike again who had started riding back on the country road because of an intimidating “No Trespassing’ sign. We decided that the triathlon coach wouldn’t have made this route if it went through private property, so we just continued on. We made our way down some very steep, windy roads, which we held on the brakes for until we found the sign. After that sign there was a gate with more forbidden signage, but luckily it was open so we kept going. This is where the road got a little sketchy. There was quite a bit of gravel and a lot of pot holes and dirt patches. The going was definitely not smooth on this section. After we made our way through it we reached some super steep declines before making our way to a very, very busy highway that we drove on for a few miles before crossing over the 15 freeway. By the time we finished riding on the sketchy highway, the dirt road, the steep declines and passing the no trespassing sign, we all agreed that we wouldn’t be riding this route again! We were all scared of being hit by one of the crazy cars on the highway and not looking forward to the trek back through the windy, steep country road.
However, we kept going, knowing we’d have to add on nearly 15 miles on the coast if we gave up now. We had one big loop to do and we were glad that we decided to do it once we started. Although we passed a sign that said “Extreme Danger of Wild Fire” and then another that said “Caution: Falling Boulders,” the scenery was nice and there were also signs that cautioned drivers to slow down. There was also a nice paved shoulder. Not bad in comparison to what we’d been riding before. The fun was over pretty soon though when the coup de grâce came.
Just ahead was a windy hill that looked like it belonged on the road to a mountain ski resort. It certainly didn’t belong only 35 miles away from our beach side home. We huffed and puffed up the hill, which lasted about 2.5 miles. It wasn’t any steeper than some of the hills we ride on our familiar Pizza Port Course but after 30 miles of uphill riding it was daunting. After gathering ourselves at the top of the hill, we continued on the loop and headed home, enjoying some nice downhills, which of course, never seem as long as the uphills.
After braving the scary traffic road, we got back into the No Trespassing zone of the country road and encountered two incredibly steep short hills. We were all riding out of the saddle, huffing and puffing, barely moving. My speedometer showed 4 mph, 2 mph slower than the crazy steep hill that people were walking their bike up during the Oceanside Half Ironman. By the time I got to the top, my heart rate was way into Zone 4- 180! Oops. I probably should have walked my bike. After these short hills we descended very slowly through gravel and dirt on a bumpy road, sadly not able to take advantage of the downhill’s free speed and pressing our brakes the whole way. Next we came to the last really long climb which was the windy downhill road we had braked down on the way out. When we reached the top, the view was gorgeous and I started singing, “The hills are alive with the Sound of Music” from my favorite childhood musical.
Toward the end of the windy road we finally found water (no water or bathrooms between miles 21 and 50) and a bathroom and felt rejuvenated to finish the ride. Although the last 20 miles were mostly downhill, there was a strong headwind that we had to battle the entire way. When we reached the house after nearly 76 miles of riding and over six and a half hours on the road, we were hungry and tired but feeling accomplished.
The fact that this ride and CdA have practically the same feet of climbing per mile scares me, especially since my average speed on this ride was only 14 mph! That puts me at a nice 8 hour bike time at CdA. Obviously this ride was coming off a very long week – my highest volume to date in fact – and my ride time includes braking for lights and windy downhills, slowing for stop signs, etc, so I expect to ride CdA faster, but it definitely put the course into perspective. CdA bike course is very challenging and it won’t be anything but difficult for such a new rider.With only 10 weeks left until the race, there is little time to get much faster – I just need to work at my endurance so that I can add 37 miles and 1,830 feet of climbing to this route and get through it with enough energy to run a freaking marathon!!!
Ok I’ve officially scared myself. Time for sleep undoubtably filled with dreams of gigantic hills at CdA.