My training for the Furnace Creek 508, 2011 edition is finally over. I begin serious tapering starting today and I can honestly say that I am glad it is has finally arrived. I didn’t enjoy the training as much this year and was plagued by serious cases of loneliness. I spend many hours in the saddle alone, through all hours of the day, and it was getting to me.
It wasn’t so bad when my kids were in Spain for the summer and I was left home alone to train to my heart’s content. Once they returned though and I still had to go out and train, I felt pangs of guilt knowing that I was spending so much time away from my children. Yesterday was my last longish ride and after about an hour into it, I called Beast Jr. and asked him if he wanted me to come home so I could be at his Flag Football game. Had he said yes, I would have turned around without hesitation and gladly sat on the sidelines watching his game with the rest of the parents. Instead of telling me to come home, Beast Jr. said to me that I should continue training because it would help me. He knew all that I put into preparing for the race and he honestly didn’t want me doing anything that would jeopardize my training or doing something that would not allow me to do my best. My heart swelled with pride at having such a thoughtful boy and I was at least able to motivate myself to do what I had to do, if only to make my children proud of their father.
The riding was so much harder this year. This is partly because I got a very late start on my training. I really didn’t begin until June and did so without much of a base. I was almost starting from scratch in the form of shotgun training. I just went from no distance to doing centuries, then double centuries in just a few short weeks of time.
Another reason for the difficulty, especially during my longer solo rides is that my legs were always a bit fatigued. Even after I ramped up my mileage (albeit quickly), I still did not do close to the mileage I did last year. This year was a lot of strength training in the form of Boot Camp fitness. I went to this class 2 – 3 times per week, but I must say I feel so much stronger this year that I did last year. I don’t have the cycling mileage, but I am hoping the increased strength will help when it comes to the endurance and speed.
I went out to do several double centuries this year. Not all of the attempts were successful and I found myself really hurting at times. I rode well into the night on several occasions and wondered how I was ever going to get home. On one trip I took, I began to follow the Englewood 300K Brevet route. It goes through Port Jervis, Goshen, Cornwall, Harriman and other towns. On my first attempt at this I was in Cornwall very late in the day and I was at serious risk of not making it to the George Washington Bridge before they closed the pedestrian path home. I decided to take a short cut home, but wound up climbing Storm King Highway/9W, which was the biggest, most trafficked climb around. Cars whizzed past me as the sun set and exhaustion set in. At about the halfway point I pulled off to the side of the road into some grass to rest and have a snack. I was literally melting into a puddle and suffering a major bonk. If I would have lain down I could have easily fallen asleep – probably until morning. By the time I got up again, it was completely dark and I still had hill to climb. I finally made it over the top and flew down into Highland. I am very familiar with the area and debated on just staying in a local hotel/motel. I kept going until I reached a convenience store and loaded up on water and ice, drank a Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy. It was around 8:30pm by now and deep down I knew I couldn’t make the bridge.
Mercifully, another cyclist came into the store and started to talk to me. I explained my dilemma and he suggested that I just head over the Bear Mountain Bridge to Garrison and take the train home. I don’t know why this didn’t dawn on me earlier, but it was a brilliant idea. The cyclist even offered to drive me to the train station as he lived just a mile or two up the road. I gladly accepted.
The next weekend I managed to successfully complete this ride and clocked in around 225 miles. I still got home very late and was completely exhausted, but at least I finished it. The weekend after that, I went up through New Paltz, New York, and then over the Mid-Hudson Bridge for a ride back home on the East side of the Hudson. This was the first time I did this ride and it was an experience I am not likely to repeat anytime soon. The roads on this side of the river are not that conducive to riding all the way back south, especially under cover of darkness. At one point during the ride, around 12:30am, a driver pulled alongside me and asked if I was alright. Physically I was fine, but I am sure he was questioning my mental faculties. I assured him that I was doing just fine. I only had about 26 miles left to home at this point and continued on. Around a mile down the road, the same driver flagged me down and once again asked if I was ok. We were right outside his house and he invited me in to grab a cold beer and to call a taxi to take me home. Never was an offer for a beer so tempting, but I assured him I was ok, and that I was training for a very long race and must get used to riding through the night and exhaustion. It was soon after this though that the ride started to get sketchy as I went through some rough neighborhoods, that being Yonkers, upper Bronx and various sections of upper Manhattan. Eventually I made it home in one piece, having ridden for over 21 hours and 215 miles.
I did two more long rides after that. A 160 mile ride through High Point, NJ and then to Beacon and a hilly 90 mile ride up through Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain and then to Cold Spring. Both of these rides ended with a pleasant ride on Metro North back home. Thankfully, my training is now complete and now I am concentrating on getting the taper correct.
I don’t know if I will sign up to do the FC508 again next year. It is really too early to know, this year’s race hasn’t even arrived yet, but I really suffered during my training this year. It wasn’t so much the physical punishment as it was the mental stress that I put myself through. The loneliness was terrible this year. So many hours on the road by myself was beginning to get my spirits down. A few times I shouted out to myself “I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to do this”. I guess though that is what shows the true character of the person as somehow I persevered and managed to do all of my training.
I definitely trained differently this year. Whether it will pay off or not is yet to be seen. I am a lot stronger overall, having done two days a week of Boot Camp Fitness training. I am hoping that my greater strength will translate into increased endurance and speed on the bike. I am nowhere near the mileage I had last year, but perhaps this is a good thing. I’ll find out in almost exactly two weeks time.
A special shout-out goes to all my twitter followers who tracked me during my rides and offered encouragement, especially @Dean who was good enough to txt me the Metro North schedules so I could make the train. All of your support made the rides less lonely, knowing that there were people waiting to see my progress and how I was doing.
And before I end this post, I ask my reader to consider donating to The Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This is the charity for which I have decided to raise money for this year as part of my commitment to doing the FC508. Please consider donating less than 1 cent for every mile I will be riding. That is a donation of only $5.00. If interested, please make your 100 percent deductible donation here: www.crowdrise.com/brooklynbeast.