Cache Gran Fondo 2014

Introduction

Dear Readers, this is my first blog post on this website, and I was lucky enough to sub in for Rachel (aka utahtrigirl) for the Cache Gran Fondo. I was really excited to get to do this particular race, as I have participated in this venue before and had a great time. But first allow me to introduce myself; tongue in cheek I’ll refer to myself as Utahtryguy, because while I  attempt bike races, running events and triathlons, I mostly just “try”. I’m essentially a self taught runner, I dabbled in track and cross country with friends in high school, flying under the radar of the coaches who never really knew I was there, and I never officially joined any of those high school teams. Later on in life, I did a 5k here and there, and continued to do so after I was married. I have run the South Davis Rec Center valentine’s day 5k I think every single year it has existed as a yearly tradition.

Things changed once my wife started getting interested in triathlon and racing. She joined a triathlon team and running club, and continued to get more and more involved and participated in sprint triathlons, century rides, marathons, etc..  That’s when I had to up the ante in order to keep my pride as being the fastest runner in the house. (Which may or may not be true depending on the day, the specifics and who you ask).  I “try” to keep up my own way by doing my own self-guided training, I’ve never joined a club or enlisted a coach, but I generally have done many of the same racing events that my wife has. My philosophy in general is that I’m doing these things to stay fit, have fun, but after working a full time job and doting on my two lovely daughters, along with several other side hobbies and jobs, I just don’t have the ability to invest a fully charged effort to endurance sports. Because of this, it is not uncommon for me to do a racing event with very little training hours invested which is why I just….. “try”.

Well before I get too far off in my own self reflection, let’s get back to the subject matter at hand, the Cache Gran Fondo!

Cache Gran Fondo Event

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I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Cache Gran Fondo, since it was the first century ride I ever completed back in 2012. Located in the Cache Valley / Logan area, it is a beautiful course that is mostly flat with some rolling hills. The Cache Fondo describes itself as an “Italian style ride” which I’m not sure what that means, but that sounds fancy and it definitely fits in with the feel that you get riding the beautiful course rolling through the countryside.

Pre-Race Training

I found out I would have the opportunity to make this race about two weeks before the actual event, and while I have done several long biking events and commuted off and on to work in the past, I’ve been more focused on running events and I hadn’t even been on my bike all of 2014 so far. So I needed to get going quickly if I wanted to gear up for  the 50 mile course without being in pain. I did two 8 mile sessions on the computrainer at work on my lunches, then the Wednesday before the race I did a 32 mile commute into work and back. It felt good to be back on the bike, and I although the first few workouts on the bike I felt super lethargic, by the time I did the commute, I felt pretty confident in my ability to do well at the Cache Gran Fondo at the very least without dying on the roadside.

The Gear

So for those who know me, no shocker here; but I’m a total nerd. The single biggest reason I got into biking was because I wanted to build my own road bike. (My first bike as an adult was an electric bicycle with huge battery packs and a custom lithium ion battery pack that I rigged up…. but that’s another story). So here she is:

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Hello Beautiful!

 

My black beauty here is a custom build that I spent a lot of time researching which parts to get, what parts I actually needed, invested in a bunch of bike assembling tools, and spent a lot of time sanding down, assembling and tuning. The frame is a full carbon fiber with the same geometry as the Pinarello prince, direct from the carbon fiber factories in china. I went with a shimano 105 groupset which is a great set for an amateur cyclist like myself. It has worked very well for me, and because I built and assembled all the parts myself, it cost me a lot less than a full carbon bike would cost at the bike shop, and I learned a lot about building and tuning bikes at the same time. I’ve used this bike on all my triathlons, century rides, etc..

The next relevant bits of kit I used on the Cache Gran Fondo was my Garmin 910XT for tracking my distance traveled, pace, etc… New for me this race was the fact that I was also wearing my Samsung Gear 2 watch. This watch is not a conventional fitness device that you see lots of athletes using, but it does track heart rate right off your arm without the need for a chestband, pace and distance. The main reason I wore it on this ride was to get in some good footage of the race since the watch also has a built in camera.

 

What

So what if I’m a nerd with two watches on…. I still compete.

 

Pre Race

The night before the race, I received a really nice email from the directors of the event, with excellent concise information on what I needed to know for the proceedings of the next day. This made things really nice, since I was on the go, travelling up to bear lake for some family events, and then waking up early at 4:30 and driving down through the canyon via US-89 for about an hour to arrive at the event. I decided to park my car at the finish line, and ride my bike to the start, since I felt I wouldn’t want to ride my bike another few miles after completing the race. I prepped all my gear, put on my biking shoes, got some sunscreen, body glide, moisture barrier protected my phone, and made sure my tires were properly inflated.

Hey! bib number safety pin ziploc doubles as a great moisture barrier for your Phone!

Hey! bib number safety pin ziploc bag doubles as a great moisture barrier for your Phone!

I knew I was in the right spot because lots of riders were taking their bikes the same way and riding north, which made it easy to jump in behind someone who knew the right way to go. I had the address and I remember roughly how to get there from 2 years before. I followed a friendly biker over to the starting line at the hospital parking lot. There was some good preparation here at the starting line, lots of volunteers, food table and plenty of honey buckets were available. The breakfast spread was really decent, lots of good food items to chow down on before doing the long ride. I loaded up on some yogurt with some serious toppings, and a banana before making my way over to the starting line.

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Breakfast!

The Launch

I watched the participants in the 100 mile course take their places and head on out before those of us doing the 50 miler lined up and got ready to go. Excitement was high. I heard the race announcer mention that it was a higher turnout than they had ever had before. I felt good, and was excited to get out on the course.
Here’s what the start looked like:

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line…..

 

So I was off! I decided to take it easy and just enjoy myself at the beginning and just get a feel for where I stood compared to other racers on the course. There were quite a lot of people bunched up at the beginning, but everyone was courteous, and eventually people spread out into more closely matched groups. I passed a lot of tandem bicycles which was cool to see, but I also saw this guy (squint, he’s hard to see):

Pretty Sweet Handcycle!

 

I can only imagine powering a bicycle in this long of a race with just my upper body. I don’t know if the rider was a parapalegic, or a true sadist, but either way; mad props to this guy, he was fast, and was keeping up with the quick group of kids out there. After about a mile into the race, I had been pacing behind a large group of riders, just content to stay in line basically but I felt a bit cramped, so I started pushing up to the front of the pack and zoomed along until I was in with a crowd I felt was more my pace. But then by mile 7 I felt I could be working a lot harder… I have a bad habit of telling myself “Hey you haven’t trained very much, just take it easy, slow and enjoy yourself.” But then I know I can push harder, and the competitive impulse kicks in and I say “Screw it! Lets do this!” So that was me at mile seven, I dropped in behind a quick rider on one of the big downhill portions of the race, and somehow we got a paceline group of four riders who I drafted along with at a nice pace up until the first rest stop.

Pit stop 1

The first rest stop was awesome!, I’ve seen bananas and oranges at the rest stops before, but look at this:

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Yum!

I’m a sucker for pineapple and watermelon, and the fruit was perfectly ripe. I felt like pineapple was a nice sugar boost to have while tackling this type of race, and it was plenty juicy. I was carrying two water bottles on my bike, and had only finished off about 2/3 of the first bottle. I thought to myself…. why do I even need two bottles weighing me down full of water when there are awesome pitstops every 15-20 miles? Well… I should have probably just dumped my water then to lighten my load, but like an idiot, I carried a water bottle + another full size and a half water bottle full of water throughout the whole rest of the course…. Oh well, I just got a better workout in.

The Climb

I only stopped for about 2 minutes at this first stop, I was feeling good, and wanted to keep riding. At this point in the race, the course diverged, and it seemed like the majority of racers seemed to take the 100 mile course to the right, while I took a left to continue on the fifty mile course. There was literally nobody in front of me that I could see at this point, and this was my first time even being on the fifty mile course, so I appreciated the large signs and the arrows on the road, that showed me where the next turn on the course was. At this point, when I turned I saw the biggest climb of the course; it was a slight incline, followed by a steeper hill. I actually wasn’t expecting it, and assumed the 50 mile course was mostly flat… but having done the Tour de Park City (Medio Fondo), I was pretty comfortable with my ability to climb hills, so I buckled down and went at the hill..

Here’s some nice footage of the beautiful climb:

Up we go!

 

The hill ride seemed to pass quickly, and as I neared the steep portion of the climb, I saw something pretty amazing, something I’ve never seen at a race like this.

See for yourself:

Enjoy a Live Band for your Hill Climb!

 

The effect was pretty surreal… The band on the skyline looked like a music video, and the weather was just perfect. I had to stop my climb and get some footage of this before continuing on.

If you notice in the footage above, there was a really awesome rider right there, he was a bigger guy, and initially I thought, Ill just blow by this guy…. several minutes later, I realized that I wasn’t even catching up to him.. It was taking everything I had just to keep up with him until the next pit stop area. One thing about biking that has always surprised me is how deceiving appearances can be, you never know how strong a biker someone is until you actually see them ride.

Pit stop 2

I stopped in to the second pit stop, and grabbed a complimentary gel, some more delicious fruit and downed some Gatorade, as I was talking with some other riders and mentioned I did this race two years ago, they said “oh the year they had nothing but water at the recovery stations?” It never really occurred to me that only water at the recovery station would even have been an issue, but I vaguely recalled that two years ago a few of the stations did only have water available. It was my first long ride, and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. It does go to show though that the organizers did an extra great job this year, I’d never seen such a variety of food available during a race. The recovery stations were an 11 out of 10 in my mind. Even the volunteers were cheerful and very nice.

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Thanks for helping us riders out!

 

After this pit stop, It was back on the road. The scenery was beautiful, I was especially surprised how green everything was. The next bit of section had some downhill, at first I was following a few riders down the steeper sections, pedaling hard and cruising down the hill. I then took an unconventional posture on my bike lying on top of the top bar off of the seat and pulling my legs in getting as aerodynamic as possible, my bike coasts very nicely, and surprisingly I actually was passing people who were pedaling while I wasn’t pedaling just lying down on my bike. It worked really well. The next section was long and lonely…. at first. I couldn’t hardly see any other riders at all. Just then, a very speedy and extremely considerate lead rider blew past me and yelled “hop on in!” She and her friend were cruising along. It took a big effort, but I was able to gear up and hop onto the tail end of their pace line and hold the speed. We continued passing riders like that and everyone our pace setter passed she invited to hop on the back. A few riders hopped on the back behind me, but eventually they all dropped off. We were just going too fast. Once again I found myself in a group that it was everything I could possibly do to just draft off these amazing riders. We stopped at the final pit stop.

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Big Finish

I continued with these two quick riders up until the last mile or so, at that point having gone 49 miles, I just couldn’t keep up with them anymore. I wasn’t extremely tired or anything or sore, just spent, my lack of sufficient training had finally caught up to me. I reduced my speed from about 20 mph to 14 mph and closed in on the finish line. I was really happy with how the race had gone, I had lucked out being able to tack onto some really great pace lines that really allowed me to push myself hard, and actually finish the fondo in a really nice time frame. Here is my final push into the finish line:

Done and Done!

 

More nice volunteers gave me a towel, more refreshments and directed me where to go, I congratulated my fellow paceliners who also had just finished, and grabbed my complimentary refreshing soda. It was super cold and really delicious after a long ride.

refresh

I don’t know what an IZZE is, but nothing tastes more delicious as an ice cold one after a 50 mile ride.

Post Race Events

I had my picture taken at the finish line, and I actually was done so quickly that many of the tents and attractions had not even been set up yet. I initially had a bit of trouble figuring out where I could actually redeem my meal ticket. Luckily a helpful volunteer let me know that the Great Harvest was open right behind the booths that would get me taken care of. I had a nice chicken pesto club and called it a success. Just check out the size of these medals as well:

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Spoils for the winner… um er… finisher

 

So all in all, I was entirely pleased with my second experience at the Cache Gran Fondo, I was supplied with good and concise information before the race, the courses were clearly marked, lots of police and volunteers helped direct traffic, the pit stops were fully stocked and amazing, little surprises along the way were appreciated and there was a lot to do and see at the end of the race, I consider this fondo my favorite biking event of the year in Utah. Truly an enjoyable event. I would recommend it to anyone looking to get their feet wet with biking on the 50 mile course and more advanced riders to have a blast on the 100 mile course. Now lets see that obligatory finish line picture:

SUCCESS!

Stats

I kindof goofed on the stats since I paused my watch at the first pitstop but not at the others, then an accidental start on the way back to Bear Lake further destroyed my beautiful graph.; but in general you get the picture:

stats

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