I've actually tried twice before to ride a century, but both of those ended early due to weather. The first cancellation was during the "Hope on Wheels" ride in Leiper's Fork, TN. I hit the 65 mile rest area when a torrential downpour hit. Very low visibility on a very hilly course. Knowing that Dudley was only a few miles away, I called him to come pick me up. I was a little bummed because I trained a lot for that ride, only for me to pull out, but I still think it was the smart thing to do given the circumstances. The weather was really, really bad and I just didn't think it was worth the risk to continue.
The second cancellation was during the W.C. Handy Festival Bike Ride in Florence, AL. This time a tornado was coming through, and the riders were pulled off the course around the 72 mile mark. Up until yesterday, this had been my longest bike ride to date.
The most current round of century madness started earlier this week when I received a text from my FTP training buddy, Jan. The entire FTP crew was already planning on riding the Bike the CRAM (Clarksville Rotary Annual Metric), but I was personally riding the 62 mile option. Sure, I toyed with the idea of riding the century, but considering that my longest bike ride this year had only been 60ish miles, I thought riding an extra 40 miles might be a little too daring. But Jan's text got me thinking. She was planning on riding the 100 miler, and so was Kathy. The CRAM route was famously flat...maybe I could hang with them and see how I did? If worse came to worst and I totally dying, I could pull over at a rest area and have someone drive me back in. Might as well TRY for the 100, right? So - I signed up.
It's just a little 100 miler.
The day started at 4:00 am because Kathy was picking me up at 5:05. (Sidebar - I've GOT to find a sport where I can sleep in later. I'm naturally nocturnal and these crazy-early mornings are killing me.) The ride started at 7:00 and was about an hour away, hence the early alarm.
We checked in for the ride without a hitch. The CRAM is based out of a high school. You walk in the door, check in, get your shirt and that's it. No loud music. No crazy announcer. Just get your shirt and be on your way. It was a distinct change from the hoopla of the REV3 tri last weekend. Not that was one better than the other - just different.
That's a lot of arrows...
Conveniently, the FTP crew met up at Kathy's car, so we didn't have to search for our group. Andrew did a quick roll call of who was riding what distance. Turns out, only three of us were riding the 100 - me, Jan and Kathy.
FTP train a comin'!
The century riders were supposed to start before everyone else, but we let most of the cyclists take off first. It can get a little dangerous out there with so many cyclists leaving at one time. I'd rather wait five minutes and miss the cluster.
Kathy was the only one of the three of us that actually had the century on her training schedule, since she's racing Ironman Coeur d'Alene at the end of next month. She was using this as a race simulation and testing out her cadence and nutrition. My plan was to let her set the pace and I'd try to hang on as long as I could. This worked out great for me, because that meant I got to draft off of her. Normally on a ride like this, I'd do my share of pulling, but since I hadn't trained for the distance, I didn't want to burn out and not be able to finish the ride.
Jan, Kathy and I rode along steadily along the beautiful Tennessee / Kentucky countryside. Both Kathy and I had done the 62 mile course before, so we were familiar with some of the ride. It's flat, but generally pretty windy. While the winds weren't horrible yesterday, we definitely felt them at times.
One thing that is great about this ride is how well-supported it is. There's a rest area about every 10 to 15 miles. We skipped the first one and hit the second one, which was at around the 30 mile mark. I think we spent about a half-hour here because we ran into so many people we knew, most of whom were riding the 62 mile ride. It was a little disheartening to think about them being half-way done, while we still had another 70 miles to go.
After we filled up both our water bottles, and our stomachs, we hit the road again. I don't know what it is about rest areas, but I eat like I'm never going to see food again. I have food with me AND I know there is another stop in 15 miles, yet I still have to sample whatever is there. It's crazy.
Somewhere before the next rest area, we picked up two more friends who were riding the 100 - Marc and Paul. Our little group stayed together for the rest of the ride. The miles ticked by one by one, rest area by rest area. We made a point of yelling out when we surpassed our previous individual ride records, celebrating the little milestones before achieving our main goal - the century.
The last rest area was at mile 85. Getting off the bike at this stop was the first time that I really felt any pain. I had a hard time walking at first. However, the stiffness worked itself out quickly and I got back in the bike feeling good and ready to tackle the last 15 miles. I was really happy about how good I felt at this point. Baring an accident, I knew I would finish the ride. And even though I pretty much drafted the entire time, I was surprised at how strong I felt. Drafting or not, 85 miles is still 85 miles and I was relieved I was hanging in there.
Unfortunately, the feeling only lasted for about five miles. It was at mile 90 that I hit the wall. I could still ride, but I REALLY wanted to get off the bike. Those last 10 miles seemed like it took forever. I was really happy when we finally turned into the Rossview High School parking area. We had done it. 100 miles.
After a few obligatory celebration photos, we headed in for the spaghetti lunch and ice cream that was waiting for us in the high school cafeteria. Since I ate so much during the ride, I didn't think I was that hungry. Apparently I was though, because I ate a huge plate of pasta, two pieces of garlic bread, and a Twix ice cream bar. It was so good.
Yeah...we rode 100 miles.
Thankfully, I still had the strength to lift my bike over my head.
This was such a great ride, and I'm so happy signed up for the century. It was fun (and scary) to get out of my comfort zone and push myself further than I had before. Though I know it's going to be hard, I'm looking forward to pushing myself more and more as my training goes on.
See you on the road! Happy training!