Monday, February 14, 2011

Tour de Palm Springs and Palm Springs Half Marathon

Tour de Palm Springs, the Return

In 2007 the Tour de Palm Springs was my first ever cycling event. The 25 mile route. Angi and I decided to return this year. I signed up for the 102 mile route, and Angi the 55. We both signed up for the half marathon.

First the bike. The century kicked off at 7:00 AM. There were so many riders I didn’t start pedaling until about 7:30. The first several miles were very slow with way too many riders and frequent stop lights.

Once the road starting going up there was some separation. One of the big differences between a century with thousands of riders versus a double century? I was passing far more riders on the climb than riders passing me. The first aid station was at 15 miles, with another at mile 27 I didn’t plan on stopping at the first SAG. but I did stop; not for food, drink, or even a nature break. I stopped because the entire road was filled with stopped cyclists meandering through the aid station. This was really poorly designed. Too many cyclists with no clue, or so self absorbed not to think others might like to keep riding. Finally I get through and enjoy a nice long downhill. Not steep; the downhill was right on the boarder of tuck and go, or keep pedaling for maximum speed. But going 30 plus for seven or eight miles was fun! Between the second and third aid station I got into a couple of pace lines, but always had some squirrels, so I dropped back on one, then jumped out in front of the second, which wound up meaning I pulled the group for a bit. No worries, I didn’t blow myself up, I just held what I would have if I were going it alone. After the third stop I got into a good pace line. How do you make friends with people you don’t know? When a rider from a group looses contact, bridge the gap and bring her back! Then take a pull. After that I reaped the benefit and sat in at 21 MPH for several miles.

The fourth stop was at mile 71. Now we were in the desert cities, and lots of stop lights. This was a bit frustrating as every time we would get up to speed a light would change. I skipped the final rest stop at mile 91, I had enough fluid to go the final nine, and really didn’t want to stop.

I crossed the finish line, got my sticker and t-shirt, grabbed a water and some electrolytes and headed back to the motel where wifey was waiting for me. She did the 55 mile route and was already showered and recovering.

I checked my Garmin and downloaded the ride. I averaged 17.7 MPH. This is a PR for me over a century. Only 3,500 feet of elevation gain, so flat for a California century, but I was pleased since even with that little elevation gain I consider 16 a pretty good effort. Maybe this working on getting faster is paying off? Need to recover quickly because tomorrow is the Palm Springs half marathon, my longest ever run!

Sunday morning, 6:30 we parked the van and got out into the chill of the morning desert air. A short walk to Ruth Hardy Park where the race was to commence. It didn’t seem long before the announcer said GO! It was about a minute later when I passed through the starting gate. It was time to run. I hadn’t really made a plan since a strained hamstring had curtailed my training. I didn’t know if it would cooperate, I’ve run without it bothering me just the last week and a half, and four miles was the most I tested it. I settled in the first couple of miles about 20 strides behind a group dressed in costumes singing. One guy even had a guitar. I think they were San Diego area residents since most of them had Nytro hats on. (A local tri shop) Around mile three they stopped and set up at a corner to play. Ten miles to go.

There were several rolling hills on the course, and I was worried on the climbs that my hamstring would balk. Climbing puts more stress on it, and I strained it doing hill work in training. I shortened my stride and increased my turnover up the hills. It seemed to work.

The course looks like it was plotted out by someone who had a few too many, see my Garmin Connect map here. Up down, turn, turn, turn, eventually back the way we came.

Mile 10 and I’m feeling better than expected. I am not at the pace I had sort of wanted, pre hamstring, but I am not too far off, either. I’m guessing I’m going to finish around 2:40 at this point, and when my training had been going well and I had made some improvements I was thinking I could break 2:30.

Mile 11 and some folks on the side of the road were cheering us on. One says, “looking good!” To which I replied, “Thank you, you lie, but thank you.” Somewhere in the 11th mile I hit the wall. Hard. Mile 12 to 13 was beyond challenging. I gave it more effort than I had all day, and the legs just wouldn’t go. It was my slowest mile of the day.

Finally mile 13, just a bit to go, I decide whatever I had left, I was going to give it to at least look strong coming in. One final turn, and the finish line is in sight. The announcer calls my name, I give a fist pump with my right hand, cross the finishing mat, stop the Garmin, and for the first time in 13.1 miles, I walk. Actually stagger would be a better word, I stagger to the volunteers that remove the chip timer from my shoe and give me my finishers medal. My first running medal, my first half marathon. The official time posted was 2:40:24. I’ve got some work to do to get to where I want to be.

I found some water, then meandered back to the finish line to cheer wifey (Angi) on in. She did Carlsbad in 2:58, so I was thinking I'd see her soon. I chatted with a nice man who was waiting for his wife when I saw Angi make the turn, she was going to break 3:00 hours after riding 55 miles the day before. Way to go wifey!!

Finishers Medal, my first running medal.

A few notes on the weekend. I could not believe the number of residents that were on course for both events cheering the participants on, some even with cow bells. That was awesome. Thank you, greater Palm Springs. The cars were really courteous to cyclists, too. A real treat, again thank you. These events took a tremendous amount of volunteers, and I thank them all, also the police and civil air patrol that helped with traffic control.

I think the ride organizers may want to consider a limit on the number of entries. There were points on the course and at aid stations where it was really chaotic. Overall, though it was a fun ride and great scenary.

Ride – 102 miles at 17.7 MPH, top speed 39.1, 3,500 feet of gain.
Run – 13.18 miles in 2:40:24 bet mile at 11:34.
Ride: Bike, Specialized Roubaix Expert, full Ultegra compact crank, 11-28 cassette, Shimano RS 80 wheels, Continental 4000S tires, Specialized RBX bibs., Garmin Edge 500

Run: Shoes, Nike Vroomero 5, Skins compression shorts, Nike run top, Nike run hat, Garmin 305.

Upcoming events:

February 19 – El Camino Real Double Century
March 19 - San Diego Randos 400K
March 26 – Solvang Spring Double Century.

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