Cache Valley Gran Fondo (105 miles)

I discovered this race when I was looking for cycling events to help me prepare for LOTOJA. I liked that the race proceeds went directly to the Logan Regional Hospital Foundation and the Cache Valley Community Healthcare Clinic (free clinic). This was their inaugural year and I must say it certainly didn’t feel like a brand new event (I’ll explain why a little later). I set my alarm for 4 AM the night before. I was able to get to bed by 10 PM so I got a good six hours of sleep, which I was pleased about. When I woke up I hurriedly got ready and had everything ready to leave by 4:30 AM. The drive to Logan is about an hour and a half away from my house. My husband and I signed up for this event together. In order to keep us both awake and alert for the drive we cranked up the tunes and had an enjoyable drive up to Logan.

We arrived at the starting line, which was at the Logan Regional Hospital at about 6 AM. We picked up our packets and then drove to the finish line, which was about 2.5 miles away in the center of the city. I was able to meet up with my triathlon coach, Lora “The Blonde Runner”. All three of us then rode our bikes back to the starting line. I was impressed with the race already considering the nice event cycling jersey (actually fits me!) that we got as part of our registration but then they had breakfast available for all the racers at the starting line too. I didn’t eat any of the food that was provided due to race starting soon. I barely had time to use the restroom before the race started. I was pretty excited to start the race. My heart rate was already 130 and we hadn’t even started yet!

All the cyclists were lined up at the starting line. I’d say over half of the riders were wearing the event jersey so everyone was looking like pros. The competitive riders started precisely at 7 AM. I chose to do the recreational 105 miler and our start time was just five minutes afterwards. My coach was doing the 70 miler and her wave was five minutes after ours. At 7:05 we were off. My husband and I stayed with the main group at the front of the pack and the leader was setting a good fast pace. There were a lot of riders around us so finding someone to draft off of was pretty easy. The first 18 miles went by in a flash. We made such good time drafting off of that big pack of riders. We averaged 20-21 mph and I was feeling great. My heart rate was ridiculously high at the time though (175-180!). I knew it would drop when I got in more miles. This event had a sprint challenge in it and I completely missed it! I didn’t notice the start of it so I didn’t even push myself. I was keeping up with everyone around me but I could’ve pushed myself so much harder. I was bummed that I missed out. Ahh well.

The starting line

 

Cameron at the start

 

Me at the start

The weather couldn’t have been better. It was 70-85 degrees most of the time. It was overcast so we never had the sun beating down directly on us. It was humid but in a cool and refreshing way. I was expecting 100 degree weather and I’m so happy it didn’t turn out that way! The scenery was beautiful. Lots and lots of open fields and mountains.

We stopped at the first aid station at mile 18 and it was a party. There was music and lots of different foods, drinks and even lip balms. I’d never seen an aid station so well equipped. There were also a lot of volunteers offering to hold people’s bikes while riders refilled water bottles or used the restrooms. My coach caught up to us at this point. I knew she’d catch us because she is wicked fast. We decided to ride together for a while before the 70 mile route diverted from the 105 mile route. We road less than a block together before the routes went their separate ways. Haha…. My husband (Cameron) and I were basically on our own for the rest of the ride. There were no other packs of riders around us to draft off of and our pace dropped.

Cameron, me and Coach Lora at the first aid station

We passed a minor aid station about 10 miles after the first one and decided not to stop since our water bottles were pretty much full. If I remember correctly the “hill challenge” started around mile 30 and consisted of 5.5 miles of hill climbs through a canyon to get to Malad. I passed a couple on a tandem bike and had a nice chat with them. They had signed up for the 70 miler and was pointed in the wrong direction at the turnoff and ended up on the 105 mile route by accident. Yikes! Nothing like adding 35 miles to your ride unexpectedly! The hills in the canyon weren’t that bad (about 2000 feet of climbing) and I was still feeling pretty good. I stopped at the top of the canyon because I thought it was another aid station but it actually wasn’t. Riders were just taking a break before the descent into Malad. The ride into Malad was lots of fun. I think I topped out at around 42 mph. So awesome!

The next aid station was at mile 52. Being the halfway point I expected this aid station to be stocked like the first one but it wasn’t. There were a couple of coolers of bagged ice and one drinking fountain that didn’t work very well. A lot of riders were not happy that there wasn’t any food/nutrition available. We only stayed for a few minutes and headed back out again. It was around this time I started not feeling very well. There were a couple of packs of riders we tried to keep up with but their pace was to fast. At mile 60-70 I started to hit the wall. This is common for me to hit a wall at this time. I did the same thing in my last two previous century rides.  I was tired and knew we’d have to cross some type of mountain/hills to get back into Cache Valley. At mile 70 we hit a dirt road with lots of large gravel. pieces… Ugh… The dirt road was about 2.5 miles long but it felt more like 10 miles. I kept my pace very slow. From mile 73-82 I was trying to keep my thoughts on the positive side and was having a bit of a mental battle with myself. I kept thinking things like, “seriously who does this type of thing recreationally?”. I knew if I let my thoughts wander that they’d take me to a negative place which would only make things worse. I then started thinking things like, “Only 25 miles left, I can go for a 25 mile ride”.

The next aid station was at around mile 82 and it looked like an oasis. PB & honey sandwiches, beef jerky, powerade, string cheese, etc. I ate a half a PB & honey sandwich and was starting to feel better. We headed out again after a few minutes. I checked my watch and our average pace was 17 mph. If we kept that pace we could finish in 6 hours and 20 minutes (not including breaks). After we left that aid station the wind picked up and hit us straight on which slowed us down considerably. We then started the climb out of that valley to get back to Logan. Those hills were harder for me then the canyon we went through earlier in the day. I was so tired at this point any uphill grade was rough for me. I never quit though. I kept trucking along. The descent back into Cache Valley was a little scary. I had to break often so I wouldn’t go too fast because the wind was so strong I was getting blown back and forth on the road.

We made it to the last aid station at around mile 97. I downed two bananas and man oh man did that make me feel better although my pace didn’t improve much. The last five miles seemed to take hours. I kept looking down at my watch and thinking it was broken because I’d only traveled .2 miles since I checked it last. We turned down a main road and we could see the finish line. Relief flooded over me. As soon as I crossed the finish line I was handed a finisher’s medals, an event towel and a meal ticket.

Our final time was 6:57:07, average pace 15 mph.  That is our time riding in the saddle and doesn’t include breaks. I was bummed that our average pace dropped so much in the last 25 miles. Cameron and I didn’t draft off of each other very much. We were going different paces for a lot of it. We pretty much played tag back and forth. We rode a total of 107.5 miles with just over 4200 feet of climbing. I really enjoyed doing this ride with my husband. It was good for us to share a difficult experience like this together.

After we finished the ride we packed up our gear in car and walked over to cash in our meal tickets. The event had a city block shut off for a post-race festival. There was live music, a raffle, food and vendor booths. The awesome thing about the meal ticket was that we could choose from six different food vendors. I got a nice big juicy cheeseburger. It tasted so good! We stopped at a Wendy’s on our way back home too. The person  in the drive thru taking our order gave me a funny look considering I was eating a cheeseburger while ordering a cold frosty! HA!

I learned so much from this event. Realistically I don’t think I’ll be ready for LOTOJA by Sept. 8th. This ride drained me and it’s half the mileage and less than half the climbing as LOTOJA. I also have the Tour de Park City in just two weeks. Looks like I might be dropping to the 50 or 100 miler for that one instead of 157 miles. I think was a little to ambitious when I planned out my race schedule and packed to many big events to close together. My main focus to date has been for triathlons. I have the Utah Half which is a half ironman distance and it is only six weeks away! I’m also afraid that I’m going to completely burn myself out by the end of the season. I’ve done 10 races in the last four and half months and I’m starting to feel it.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I was surprised this was this event’s inaugural year. So many things little things were put into this event that made it really great. Free breakfast, free quality event jersey, finisher’s necklace/medal, event towel, free post-race meal, the festival, etc… This race had a challenging course, beautiful scenery, good support… a high quality event.

Here is the link to my Garmin data. http://connect.garmin.com/activity/200216978 for those who want more in depth info.

Event jersey and event towel

Finisher medal/necklace

 

Wish I would've taken more pics of the scenery. This doesn't due it justice. Took this pic as we were driving home through the car window.

 

Q: Have you ever experienced burn out? If so, what did you do?

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