Front Runner Century

I participated in the Front Runner Century in 2012 and was excited to be participating again for 2014 (took off 2013 to have a baby). The Front Runner Century is fun because you start in Salt Lake City and end at the Ogden Union Station and ride the Front Runner Train back to the start. The organizers take your bike from you and pack it up in a big 18 wheeler and drive all the bikes back to the start so you can enjoy the train ride back.

The weather forecast for the event called for rain so the first thing I did when I my alarm went off was jump out of bed and look out the window. Rain, rain, and more rain. I’d set all of my cold weather cycling gear out the night before so I was prepared, or so I thought. I arrived at the Salt Lake City Front Runner Station at around 7:15 AM. There were a few other cyclists buzzing about, trying to get ready for the start. There was no line at packet pickup, which was a plus. I picked up my swag bag, tech t-shirt (loved the shirt!) and rider number bands. They give you three rider number bands for security purposes. One band is used to put on your drop bag that they take to the finish line for you. One is put on your bike when you put it in the truck to take it back to the start. The last band is to put on your wrist to gain you access to the train back to Salt Lake City.

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I chose to wear long fingered cycling gloves, arm warmers, cycling jersey, waterproof cycling jacket, cycling shorts, thermal leggings, wicking socks, thermal head/ear cover, cycling shoes and thick shoe covers. Oh, and a big clear plastic bag over all of it. None of this could save me for what mother nature had in store for all of the riders ahead.

 

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The race director, Matt, got on the bull horn at 8 AM and shouted out some directions. A decent amount of cyclists showed up even though the rain was not letting up. I was able to participate with many of my friends and TBR (Team Blonde Runner Triathlon Team) teammates. Once the race director was finished giving instructions all the riders headed out. It’s always so fun to be in such a big pack of cyclists. Lots of like-minded people just enjoying the ride together.

The first 20 miles to the first aid station seemed to go by in a flash. More than 500+people registered so the course was no longer part of the Legacy Parkway Trail. I really enjoyed the new course. I went out with the one of the first pack of cyclists and our pace for the first 20 miles was more of a warm up (between 17-20 mph average). The first aid station was well stocked and had great volunteers running it. Once we left the first aid station the pace picked up (20-22 mph average). My sunglasses were fogging up something fierce and every half mile or so I’ll have to wipe the clean to be able to see. I considered putting them in my back pocket but the rain was coming down so hard I thought riding without them would be worse.  At this point all of the riders were pretty drenched. I hardly had to drink out of my water bottle. All I had to do was open my mouth and it would fill up with water… and grime.

At mile 40 I remember thinking the next aid station would be coming soon. The wind was starting to pick up, causing my pace to drop. Aid station number two was a giant wading pool of water. I refilled my water bottle and grabbed a banana. I stayed at that aid station much longer than I should have. My body temperature started to drop and I was shaking quite a bit. Everyone I could see was shaking from the cold. A lot of people were experiencing the early stages of hypothermia and decided to end the ride there. I can’t blame them at all. It was brutal out there.

I was pretty bent on finishing the ride so the next 19 miles to the finish became one giant mind game. The wind picked up even more and my pace dropped further and further. I remember looking down at my Garmin and seeing a 9.5 mph. Yikes! I lost the feeling in my feet, legs, arm and hands. Every few blocks I would test out my fingers to make sure I could use my brakes. I remember trying to will my legs to spin faster but I could not get my pace up with the wind and rain hitting me head on. I started singing songs in my head to keep myself distracted. I imagined all the cold and pain I was feeling and put it in the back of my mind. A thought came to my head that this was supposed to be my easiest ride of the year but is ending up being perfect mental training for Ironman Arizona. That thought brought a smile to my face. Just keep spinning…. Just keep spinning.

I knew once I reached Plain City the course turned east and that the wind would no longer be hitting me head on. I could see a single cyclist in front of me. When he made that right turn up ahead and started east I nearly jumped for joy. I booked it to that corner and turned east. Oh joy, so happy once I did that. The wind ceased being so annoying and now I had somewhat of a tail wind. I took advantage of this and tried to make up some time. I have aero bars on my road bike so I decided to duck down into aero position; nope, not happening. I was so stiff and cold I couldn’t move from being in the upright position. For once I was happy that I’m still carrying 15-20 pound of baby weight to keep myself warmer.

Those last 19 miles were lonely ones. Lonely ones I really ended up enjoying because they were a challenge. I had made it through the toughest part of the course and was at the home stretch. One I turned south on Wall Street I started getting nervous because I could barely use my brakes and change gears. There was a lot of traffic on that busy road. I was very lucky I hit all green lights going south the last mile to the Ogden Union Station. When I pulled into the finish I was numb and happy. A volunteer handed me a finisher’s medal. I MADE IT! WAHOO! EAT THAT WIND AND RAIN!

The race director was at the finish. He directed me to where I could drop off my bike, get my drop bag, grab a boxed lunch, use the restrooms, and where I could change my clothes. What an oasis! The race director’s wife helped me get some of my gear off. My hands were so numb I couldn’t unclip my helmet or unzip my jersey. Once I got into dry clothes, ate my sandwich and drank some hot chocolate I started to feel normal again. The race director was also offering any of the riders to go warm up in his van which was greatly appreciated.

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Like I mentioned earlier, this was supposed to be my easiest ride of the year. A metric century (100km/62 miles), relatively flat course, plenty of people to draft off of. It ended up being one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done because of the darn weather. It rained for the entire event. It sure made the finisher’s medal actually mean something. My goal was to finish between 3-3.25 hours. I ended up finishing in 3.75 hours. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Big props to the event crew and volunteers. They did everything they could to help out the riders. The course was well marked and the aid stations were well stocked.  A big thank you to my coach, Lora Erickson (aka The Blonde Runner). I rode with her for the first 40 miles. Her training techniques are what kept me going and allowed me to make it to the finish.

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