In one word: epic.
For those outside the triathlon/cycling/endurance circle, the coast ride is a three-day, 375ish mile bike ride from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. An event I have been wanting to do for a while, but up until now did not have the courage, or the riding legs, to take part in. And even now, with a few solid years of cycling and an Ironman under my belt, it was the hardest event I have ever done.
That is not to say there weren’t amazing moments. Riding up and down, and up and up and up and down, the coastline of Big Sur was jaw droppingly beautiful. Watching the sunset in Morro Bay with new friends and a basket of delicious fried seafood helped me to forget just how much climbing we had done. And best of all, riding every single mile with my husband who is strong enough to hang with the fast boys and chose to pedal along each day with me instead.
The good memories were worth the experience. But in all honesty, there were also times when things were not so cheery. 55 miles into day two and 30 slooooow miles from lunch, I was hanging on by a thread and not sure we would ever make it. On day three I almost chucked my bicycle into the ocean (and during my twenty-mile meltdown I’m sure Mark would have gladly thrown me in with it). I under estimated just how uncomfortable I would really be. Back, shoulders, neck and don’t even get me started on the saddle sores.
In the end, here are my biggest lessons learned.
Be comfortable riding in a pack:
Not just comfortable, but confident, hanging onto wheels, identifying and voicing hazards, keeping a line, etc. This is key unless you are OK to ride the majority of the time alone, see below.
Be comfortable riding alone
Admittedly I did not ride any of the miles alone, but if Mark had opted not to ride I would have spent a good deal of time in my own head. Probably too much. Unless you have a group that has decided to ride together, stop together, eat together, etc be prepared for some serious solo time.
Carry a cue sheet
A continuation of the above. Even though there was SAG along the way you never knew if they would be there when you arrived or be ahead or behind you. Being self-sufficient was important. As was carrying a cue sheet. We were lucky enough to roll out each day with a group who knew exactly where they were going, but we typically rolled in on our own. The cue sheet was key. Unless you really want to tack on some extra miles…
Never underestimate the power of a cute kit
As I mentioned, day three was not my shining moment. But one thing that helped put a pep in my step every morning (even if only for a few miles) was being happy with my kit. Never underestimate the importance of good shorts. Enough said.