I’ve spent a lot of time on my bike recently. After a two year hiatus from triple digit rides, I came back with a vengeance two weeks ago at Vineman Aquabike and logged 112 miles after a 2.4 mile swim. Last weekend was not much different – I woke up bright and early on Saturday for the Marin Century Ride – a very well supported 103 mile ride through pristine terrain just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
I added an asterisk to the title – the first rule of the Marin Century ride: it’s not a race. Tony from Podium Wheels generously allowed me to demo the Reynolds 72/90 wheel set I’ve been riding for my races this season one more time, and the local road riders definitely passed judgement about a triathlete on a TT bike with race wheels rolling up at their hallmark event. I was not out there to race – I simply wanted to participate in a well-supported long ride ahead of Ironman Lake Tahoe.
My plan was simple: ride easy, even split, and stop at each aid station to ensure that I stayed well-fueled. Although I’ve done many long rides at this point, this was my first true century ride – one where I wasn’t on the clock and could stop and refuel without worrying about my overall time. Plus, how could I not stop at the Marin Century? With aid stations that could have doubled as farmers’ markets complete with organic produce, brie, focaccia and the usual aid station suspects, there was a plethora of fine dining to choose from.
In the days leading up to Marin Century, I made it a point to take it easy – I didn’t go for any long runs, I rode short and easy, got a massage, swam, and slept. By the time Saturday morning rolled around, my legs were feeling good as new, and I easily held a 20+ mph pace through the early flat miles. The early climbs ticked by quickly as well, and I rode the first 50 miles in 3 hours flat. Lucky for me, the scalding-hot temperatures I experienced at Vineman were nowhere to be found: I caught a classic “summer” day in Marin – high 60s and overcast through the first half.
I saw a couple of Golden Gate Triathlon club members at the 50 mile aid station and we rolled off for the second half – easily my favorite part of the ride. We rode the rolling hills of route 1 near Point Reyes, climbed the 3 mile descent from route 1 up to the top of a massive hill known as Marshall Wall, and descended to an aid station complete with a calypso band at mile 72; it was awesome.
Although I’ve rode many of the segments in separate rides, I really enjoyed linking them together for the first time. The second half was much less laborious than the second half of Vineman when I was pushing through heat and mechanical issues – I easily held my first half pace and let off for the major climbs. I put in a final push toward the end and rode a better part of miles 90-100 at a 25+ mph pace – a very positive sign after my recent spike in volume.
The lingering question kicking around in my head during the ride was whether I would swim from Alcatraz the next morning. It wasn’t a question of whether I could finish the swim – I’ve done it twice, and I’ve improved my swimming substantially since my last crossing in 2011. The question was whether I wanted to do it – I’ve been waking up for races before 5am the past two weekends, and I really was not in the mood to do it on Sunday. The race entry was free, I have a training weekend in Tahoe ahead this weekend (2.4 mile swim, 56 or 112 mile bike, 17 mile run) and I didn’t have a burning desire to make it happen – so I didn’t. I slept, and Taylor and I went for an amazing trail run instead. No regrets.