Friday, October 9, 2009

Epic ride in Taiwan

I remember picking up a book one day when I was visiting a cycling friend in San Antonio and reading about what defined a truly "epic ride". There were several factors that I remember that was listed that qualifies your ride to be regarded as a true epic:
  • Invariably at some point during the ride, you bonk from lack of food/fluids and the last miles take a momentus effort just to keep going
  • You suffer the misfortune of a mechanical or a puncture/burst side-wall
  • The ride is longer than originally planned - riding in unknown areas
  • You experience cramps and have to fight them to get home
  • When you start fantasizing what foods you will eat when get back
  • When you start watching every mile ticking over and feels like it takes forever
Today's ride was very much what was described in the above, I started the day rising at 5.30am and riding to meet Taiwanese rider, Chih Wei who rides for the Specialized Novatec Racing Team that is based out of Taipei. From there we cycled to the meeting point out at the Cheng De Road McDonalds where the rest of the team was waiting. The plan for them was to ride 160km down to Taichung where they would be doing a intensive three-day training camp. My plan was to ride with them till about half-way and then turn back the same way. This was a plan made that morning as I originally thought the team was going to do a loop ride in the Taipei Area. As it turned out I ended up doing 190km - by far the longest training ride I have done for a long time.

Summary of the ride progression:
  • After riding through heavy Taipei traffic and once the roads had less traffic, the Specialized Novatec team of seven riders set quite a fast tempo that I was regularly putting out 350 plus watts to stay in the pace-line.
  • We rode single-file and hard once we were out on the highway next to the ocean, with the powerful wind behind us we were averaging over 30mph (48km/h) and sustaining 35mph for good periods of time. When I hit the front for a turn, I was putting out 400 plus watts to maintain the speed.
  • Covered 80kms in 1hr 38mins and ended up in Hsinchu City, almost halfway to Taichung. The pace was ramped up considerably 20km outside of this city and the team was splintered and only 3 riders plus myself were riding hard. I pulled the plug when I realized I was over-doing it and especially since it was my first real training ride since the Deaflympics.
  • I rolled to a stop in Hsinchu City to wait on the side of the road for the Specialized Novatec support van to come. I must have been there about 10 minutes when all of a sudden my rear tyre went completely flat. I pulled out my spare tube and proceeded to change tubes. While checking for foreign objects in the rim and tyre, I discovered that the tyre side-wall was ruptured. Support van eventually came up and fortunately they had a spare tyre which I was able to use.
  • My plan was now to head back the same way we came (if I could find the way back). The weather had now heated up since we left Taipei; it felt very hot and humid. I drank the rest of my fluids and got replacement water from the support van.
  • Since I was having so much fun riding in the pace-line with the Specialized-Novatec team, I had failed to realize we had traveled so far. Now I was faced with the daunting prospect of riding directly into the powerful wind. After enjoying high speeds on the way down, I was now grinding at 50-60rpm going at a snails pace of 16km/h. My power output had fallen to 150-160 watts.
  • I also missed the turn for the highway we came on, and continued my death march along highway 15 that went through several small towns. That did make the ride more interesting and since I can communicate in Mandarin, I stopped to ask for directions back to Taipei and one kind Taiwanese man gave me several bottles of cold water as by that point I was seriously hurting and was not in good shape. I mixed my REV 3 Surge powder mix into one of the bottles, and that's what kept me going for another hour or so. I also had a caffeine gel plus two bananas to eat. The old man told me I still had a good 60 or more kms to go! That was not good news to hear.
  • The wind was so ferocious that when I cycled past buildings, I would get some respite but the instant there were no buildings, the power of the wind really kicked me side-ways. My front wheel was a HED Jet 60, so most of the sideways movement came from that. After grinding along for a couple of hours, I jumped at the opportunity to draft some trucks including a truck filled with big fat pigs all squashed together. However, this brief activity of higher cadence and power-output caused the first of my cramps to come on.
  • I had to stop shortly after the drafting to shake the cramp out of my big thigh muscle. From then on I was battling the cramp. I controlled it for the most part by pointing my heel down and keeping the gear light.
  • I enjoyed my Usana Oatmeal Raisin bar as the last of my food supplies. I had packed enough food in my pockets to last me for 100-120kms! So, I was definitely going to suffer the last 60kms home. I finally made it back to Ba Li, a small town that marked the beginning of entering the sprawling city of Taipei and cruised up to a traffic light. There was a drink van in front of me, so I rapped on the window and asked in Chinese if I could have some drink. He motioned for me to wait on the side of the road while he pulled up to park. I saw that he had 250ml cans of milk coffees and water, so asked for three milk coffees and two bottles of water. I told him that I did not bring any cash with me and would he give it for free since I was shaking from lack of energy. He said that he could give me the water for free but not the coffee. However, I noticed some on top of a box and asked him what they were. Was told that they had expired by two months and could give my stomach problems. I replied that's no problem (I was desperate for something sweet to keep me going for another 30km). He gave me it and I gulped it down and that gave me a new lease on life.
  • After drinking the coffee and drinking more water, I actually noticed my power output increasing back up to 170-180 as I continued on my adventure to get back home.
  • Once back into Taipei City proper, I had to contend with the cramp that was coming back slightly along with dodging crazy scooter riders, taxi drivers and trucks that would cross my line. Riding in Taipei City is not for the faint hearted and I was constantly weaving through the traffic to get to the front where the hundreds of scooters were waiting to take off.
  • I also had to rely on my sense of direction to get back to my apartment on the other side of the city. I almost crossed over a bridge that would have taken me in the opposite direction, but before taking the bridge I stopped to ask two traffic wardens which direction was the International 101 building, one of the tallest buildings in the world. Once they pointed me in the right direction, I was able to navigate myself back home using the 101 building as a point of reference.
  • I was stoked to have finally made it back after pedaling for almost seven hours and 190kms!
Summary of food/water during my EPIC ride:
  • 9 bottles of water
  • 1 x 250ml coffee
  • 2 x caffiene gels
  • 3 x bananas
  • 1 x USANA Oatmeal raisin bar
  • 2 x REV 3 Surge paks
Once inside, I immediately downed a bowl of pineapple and Dragon fruit with yogurt. This was followed by gobbling down three pieces of toast with honey, a pineapple cake, a glass of milk with Milo and a Usana Peanut Choc Crunch bar. I cleaned up and immediately crashed out for a couple of hours as I only got 4 hours sleep the previous night!

5 comments:

Jared said...

Wow, that is quite an effort. I generally travel to Taipei once a year and so far have only had the nerve to ride the cycle path by the river. Might look at doing some longer rides, although maybe not 190km.

Tim Haran said...

Nice going! It sounded like quite the adventure. Glad everything worked out OK. Great blog post.

Tim

Rollo Tommassi said...

Oh, Daniel, truly epic! A great read! Hope you have recovered, as I always say, a hard effort makes the beer taste better!
Anne - Turin, Evanston USA

Bicyclesidewalk said...

Wow - that sounds like a monster of a ride. I imagine it was a bit humid in October.

Nathan

Peter said...

That sounds torturous. The winds down the west coast can get pretty strong. Part of the reason why Hsinchu is Taiwan's "windy city". Glad you made it home in one piece though.