Before the Valley Fondo, I asked a few people if they wouldn’t mind writing a report on their experience so that the other riders could benefit from the lessons they learned. As well, I thought it would be helpful to those who have never done a fondo before to hear first hand what some of our riders thought about the event. John Schwenk is in the advanced group and rode the 160k distance. This in his third season of riding and he definitely had a time goal in mind. Over the next few days I will be sending you a few different stories of the same day.
Here is John’s Story:
Three years ago the Prospera Valley GranFondo was my first fondo ever. So Sunday was the third time at the event and as usual, I wanted to beat my time from last year.
I had trained hard for it, tapered (slightly…) and ate well the few days before. I felt prepared and had organized everything for an EARLY start. I went to bed early and tried to get as good a sleep as possible with a 4:45 am wake up call.
On my way to the fondo I ran into a roadside alcohol check as well as construction which narrowed the lanes across the Port Mann Bridge. But all was good, I still got there early and placed myself in the sub 5 hour time corral.
One of the lessons that I learned from last year was that I pulled too much; so I was intent on finding a good group to work with this year. It took a while for the riders to form into groups but once they did, I unfortunately found myself with a group that was just a bit too fast for me. But I could hear Coach Facundo’s voice telling me, “ No matter what, find a group and stay with them!” And so I did for as long as I could. As the pace was a bit fast, I burned a few too many matches just to stay on. Cheryl reminded me to ‘watch my power’ and I knew that I was running too high.
I had 4 water bottles and 6 gels on me, in the hopes that I wouldn’t have to stop. But with the heat, the fact that I rode the Penticton Fondo last weekend and along with the fast pace, I started to fade and eventually dropped off the group.
Fortunately, I found a couple of guys in the same category and we agreed to work together. We really tried to work to catch the peloton and got close but it cost us some significant efforts.
In the windy section up to Sumas Mountain, I managed to form another group of 5, which was really helpful. But with the steady climb up Sumas with grades up to 16%, it was enough to break up the group. Again I found myself largely on my own for the rest of the ride. My energy was fading and as I watched 5 hours come and go on my Garmin, I decided to just do my best and not kill myself for a time.
It was about this time that I started to see people lying on the side of the road in the shade, overcome by the heat. One of the guys that I had been riding with told me that his Garmin was showing 38 degrees! No wonder I was exhausted.
With my time goal gone, I made a really quick stop at the last aid station for a water refill and refueled on a bunch of orange wedges and my second last gel.
I found the last 30 km to be extremely hard. It was so hot and I was riding into the wind. I watched as Jeremy passed me, but I just didn’t have the gas to get on his wheel. In retrospect I might have been able to try a bit harder as he finished only a minute and a half faster than me but things always look more clear after the fact. 🙂
So after every fondo there are always lessons to be learned. For me this year those lessons are:
#1. Watch my power
#2. Don’t ride at a power too high for too long
#3. Keep some battery power (aka matches) in reserve to catch onto other groups or to climb the hills a bit faster
All told, I’m still glad that I suffered through it! That cold towel at the finish was such an amazing welcome!