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Granfondo Axel Merckx - Cycle

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Penticton, British Columbia
45C / 113F
Total Time = 8h 12m 10s
Overall Rank = 849/987
Age Group = M60 - 69
Age Group Rank = 101/122
Pre-race routine:

I got up at 5:00am and had oatmeal with agave and butter for breakfast. Without the butter I'd be starving again within an hour. I felt pretty relaxed and got ready then drove to my friends condo right beside the start/finish line and we loaded up our bikes put on our helmets, gloves and shoes then walked down the block to our starting chute.
While there were 987 men and women riding the GranFondo there was a total of approx. 2600 riders in the Gran (160km), Medio (92km) and CortoFondo (55km) rides. So there were a lot of people lined up for the ride.

In anticipation of EPIC heat on this day many people who were signed up for the GranFondo switched to the MedioFondo and would be finished their ride well before the heat hit hard.
Event warmup:

There was no time or space for a warm-up. We just lined up and waited for the start. While waiting I found Lisa a lady I swim all winter with at the pool so we had a good chance to talk.
At 7:00am they blew a horn (I think - My chute was several blocks from the start). I could see the riders at the front turning a corner right after they crossed the start line.
  • 8h 12m 10s
  • 160 kms
  • 19.51 km/hr

It took several minutes after the 7:00am start before we started to move forward. It took several blocks of just rolling slowly forward then just before the start line I was able to start riding and picking up speed. At the start line I started my Garmin so I could record all my climbing for the ride.

Right after the start line we turned an immediate right and a half kilometre later we were bunching up at the bottom of Vancouver St - the first climb of the day. It is a steep climb and there are lots of photos of the riders climbing up the hill en mass. From my perspective looking up the hill I could see over a 1000 riders climbing the hill and every rider had sun reflecting off their helmets. It was really a stunning view.

The ride out to Summerland was fairly fast into a headwind and I rode along side a man and his 10/11 year old daughter who was keeping up quite nicely. Then we rode along the Summerland waterfront and then we turned up Peach Orchard Drive. Our second climb of the day.

KOM - King of the Mountain - They time everyone's climb up this mountain and everyone who has the fastest time in their age group wins a bike Jersey and a Swagman bike rack. I'm terrible on hills and have no chance of winning but I want to do my best. My time was 11:17 which is about double the winners time. While I'm climbing the hill (head down and just chugging along) the fellow and his daughter I had ridden with for awhile passed me on the hill easily and Dad had his hand on his daughters back and was pushing her up. It really looked cute (I'm a grampa what can I say).

At the top of the hill we hit our 1st Aid Station and I grabbed a few honey stinger waffles, water, banana and watermelon. The air temp was still nicely cool and I was passing lots of people.

After the Aid Station I got back to the highway and headed back to Penticton - with a tailwind - YeeHaw!! I made the trip back at 40kph most of the way. I flew past some Cops for Cancer Mounties and shouted, "I'm speeding and don't care who sees me." Got a few laughs from them but shortly after they flew by me going a fair bit faster. Passed a couple friends I swim with at the pool through the winter.
Back in Penticton we were riding down Main St which is always fun when you're riding in the middle of the street and ignoring the traffic lights. Now we're out of town along Skaha Lake and then climbing McLean Creek Rd. We're passing an amazing number of people with flat tires all along the way.

Made it to Okanagan Falls and another AID station. I checked the temp here and it was now 35C/95F. The heat is still tolerable but building. Soon after I found myself chatting with a native fellow who was riding along by himself (I later found out he was the first native to finish the old Ironman Canada). We rode together until we reached Le Vieux Pin Winery. I took some time at the winery to get water and put on some fresh sunscreen. They had some really good looking sandwiches here but I took two bites and realized I had no interest in eating a sandwich, pretzels or bagels. Later I saw the native fellow off and on and I never saw him take much water or food and he just seemed to be fine with the heat. Pretty cool fellow.

When I left the winery I stopped after crossing the second of 8 cattleguards we rode over during the ride and had a volunteer soak me with ice cold water. As I hopped on my bike I saw the air temp was 44C/111F! The heat was on full force. In my mind I'm thinking just keep going as fast as you can and get through this. At this point I was about 4hours into the ride and I had the hardest half of the ride ahead of me.

I was thrilled to reach the end of the 22Rd and turn back north and onto the highway. Along the highway temps were actually a bit cooler (100 - 104) and now it is just a chore to get through. I was pleased to turn off the highway onto 5Rd and I knew it was only 3km to the next AID Station. Immediately, I saw two riders hiding in some shade of a small fruit tree (didn't think to suggest there may be rattlesnakes in the tall grass). I carried on and shortly I was sprayed by the orchard's watering system. It felt wonderful. Then I turned a corner and 500m ahead was the Fairview Golf Course Aid Stn.

I made it there well ahead of my attempt two years ago and this was the same AID station I pulled out of the race in 2012 due to the heat (it was about the same temp here as back then). From here on the heat was intense and my time in each AID stn was progressively longer. I needed the time to eat, drink and just cool down a bit in the shade. I also was having gear shifting problems on my bike so I went straight to the bike mechanics and left my bike with them. These guys were great and in minutes they had it working again. I was lucky to get a chair in the shade and while I was there a volunteer started stuffing ice down my back and my head. I only sat for 5 minutes and saw my native fellow head out and my friend Lisa come in.
Said Hi to both then mounted up. This next bit was slightly emotional for me. I didn't make it past here the last time but I rode out strong and felt great in spite of the heat. I thinks to myself and laughing (in my mind), I curse the heat and I laugh at it. Heat can't stop me...but then right out of the Station is this nasty little bug-ger of a hill. It isn't particularly long or steep but I can't make it up (maybe heat can stop me). I got off the bike and walked maybe 200m then got back on and struggled up the rest of the hill. Very near the top - maybe 100m to go a farmer was sitting on the side of the road spraying everyone as they went by. He got my chest, back and head. It was so cold and so welcome. I heard a couple fellows talking about him at another AID Stn and say they wanted to really thank him. Along this next 20km there was very little shade but many of the few bits of shade had people standing in the shade to cool down. I wound up switching from side to side of the road to take advantage of every bit of shade I could.

It was only 10km to the Willowbrook AID Stn and I was glad to get off the bike again. Then the most wonderful thing EVER. They had Ice cold Coke. I popped it open and revelled in the taste and it's coldness. It was so good. While I was drinking my coke I chatted with a woman who was waiting for her friend who was overdue. And, I talked to a Cop for Cancer who turned out to be from Boston. He seemed in bad shape and I wonder if he went on or dropped out. I also met a quite fit looking fellow who had just returned from Germany after finishing a Challenge Black Forest full distance race and he was finished and dropping out.

Lisa passed me here and she said, "See you at the finish." Once I felt cooled off somewhat - and I had finished my coke - I headed out for the last major climb up to White Lake and "the Observatory". I had to walk up a part of this climb as well - maybe 200m - amazing because I had ridden up this hill only a few weeks ago without any trouble.
Cresting this hill was awesome. The heat here was 45C/112F but I knew this was it. I could finish from here the worst was behind me. There was still some climbing to be done but nothing too intense. I finished the last couple km to the Observatory AID Stn 138 finished and 22 to go.

A fellow there had a hose and he soaked me, Took my breath away for sure. Found some watermelon, water and coke. Stood in the shade feeling a bit lightheaded but soon cooled down and felt good. Time for the final leg of the ride. I'm in good shape, feeling strong and determined to finish.

The next 7km was rolling hills then a fast downhill a last cattleguard and a short steep climb to the highway. I'm back in civilization. There's a few climbs to go but 80% of the ride is now fast downhill. I was leap frogging with a man and woman down the hill. It was still hot, hot, hot but we were excited. This 10km went buy fast. Skaha lake to my right looked really inviting and we rode into town along the Skaha beach. I paid no attention to any of the bikini clad ladies. The only thing on my mind was the last 6km up Main St.
Now I'm climbing again. Last year I rode this last climb - about 3km - at 28kph but today pushing as hard as I could in this heat all I could muster was 16kph/10mph. It was frustrating. I wanted to finish fast and strong not like this. Two km later I passed my home and Cherry Lane mall. A little more climbing and I reached the crest of Main St. 3km to the finish and it is all downhill. I'm energized I'm pushing hard. I don't want to be passed any more. I'm flying through town almost 40kph. I can see the finish line. I can hear Steve King saying something about me - don't know what - I don't let up and I cross the line going fast then braking and come to a stop.

Okay, I'm smiling to myself now - this is it - the real test for the day. Can I get off my bike without falling. I'm old, tired, boiling hot, lightheaded but I feel great actually quite steady and I lift my left leg up and over my seat and back down and I'm off safely. Yeehaw!

What would you do differently?:

I think I did quite well except for all the time I spent at AID Stations. It was really necessary due to the heat. I will likely do this ride again but if it will be this hot I will switch to the mediofondo. I know I can ride the distance but How fast can I do it on a cooler day?
Last year I rode the Challenge Penticton 180km bike route and it was easier than this by far. And, I was an hour faster.
Post race
Warm down:

My wife, Margaret (swim buddy) and Greg are yelling, cheering and I walk to them they're grabbing my bike all I want is to get my helmet, shoes and socks off. I seriously feel really good. I'm not thirsty or hungry. I'm loving the cool shade. They're trying to push some gross chips at me so I can get some salt. They get me a chair to sit and they're pulling off my socks and shoes - really I'm fine! Margaret has taken care of my bike. Greg's talking stats - I don't care - where's my beer - Priorities!!!
They give me a couple ice cold towels - heaven. Then I see Lisa and my native buddy. I walk up to them with a towel on my head. I probably look pretty funny with the towel on my head. Lisa finished 20 minutes ahead of me and looks like she hadn't worked out yet today. Then I introduce myself to the native fellow and it turns out his wife knows me from our winter cycling class. Small world, eh?

Now I feel good and what I want is popsicles! After that I get my beer and it is cold and good but the coke was so much better. After this Greg and I walk over to the beach (500m) and walk right in to the lake and I submerged myself. Very nice.

Today was about drinking gallons of water and Perpetuem. Waffles, watermelon, bananas and coke. I figure I consumed about 4400calories and I felt great except for the heat.

At the end of the day my bike says I rode 161km and my riding time was very near 7 hours but my stops at Aid Stations was over an hour total for 7stations. My Garmin says I climbed 1664m/5459ft - over a mile of climbing. The volunteers were awesome all day and made it a great day. I loved them all.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Just the heat. Before the heat of the day hit I was making great times but after Okanagan Falls and the heat really hit my pace dropped dramatically.

Last updated: 2014-07-15 12:00 AM
08:12:10 | 160 kms | 19.51 km/hr
Age Group: 101/122
Overall: 849/987
Performance: Good
Wind: Headwind
Course: A 160km circuitous route through Summerland, Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Average
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2014-07-16 12:37 AM

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Extreme Veteran
Penticton, BC
Subject: Granfondo Axel Merckx

2014-07-16 4:03 AM
in reply to: #5026274

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Gold Coast, Australia
Subject: RE: Granfondo Axel Merckx


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