Well, yesterday was the day. I had trained well, since January really, when I did the Cooking Light Personal Coach for Cycling which was supposed to get you ready for a 25-mile ride. Most of the work for this I did on my old clunker miyata, on a trainer in my bedroom. The final 25 mile ride, I did outside on a relatively nice day in February.
Next up, I scoured the web to find training programs for a Century ride - that translates to 100 miles in one day, for many avid roadies, not a huge accomplishment, but for me - well - way huge. And just so everyone remembers how huge, let's take a look at where I was several years ago.
Okay - so I scoured the web looking for a training plan and I found this one: Easy Century Plan which basically had you finishing the century.
But I just didn't want to finish it, I wanted to finish it with strenght to spare.
So, I looked in the left link bar and found this one, Finish the Century With Strength to Spare. I took that one and extended the ten weeks to 18 and built in rest weeks every four weeks and came up with my own. I still haven't figured out how to upload it but will post it later this week.
Now understand me too - that was just a plan - did I do every single workout? Who am I kidding, No! But I did do a bunch. So all the background done, let's get on with the show.
The Morning Of
The alarm went off at 5:30 and we were up and dressed pretty quickly. Having been riding early weekends for a few months, we had the routine down of workout clothes out the night before, water bottles filled, bags packed etc. So arriving at the Bagel Place for Chris (my sometimes coach, most ardent supporter, and more often than not my constant competitor on the bike), by 6:00, when they opened was easy. I had already eaten my usual oatmeal, milk and raisins before we left the house (they say don't change your routine on ride day, and I didn't).
He always starts his rides with a bagel with chive cheese (and usually pockets one with peanut butter for the ride).
After we got our bagels, we took the 30 minute ride to Mercer County Community College (MCCC) for short, to ride in the event sponsored by the Princeton Free Wheelers. We checked in, got our little paper bracelets that entited us to food and stuff at the rest stops, got our cue sheets (with turn by turn directions), and headed back to the cars.
After putting air in our tires, and getting our gear on (helmets, gloves, shoes, camelback with water for me, lip balm, chamois butter, anti-bonking raisins, etc). We were ready to go by 7:05.
A huge "peleton" started at the same time as us and I knew Chris really wanted to latch on to them for drafting purposes but either they just weren't pacing themselves or their warm-up was at 17mph. I knew if that was their warm-up, in this heat (at 7:00 it was already 78 degrees and the sun hadn't risen that high yet), there would be no way I could maintain that pace. So we fell back, and went with our original plan of starting slow and warming up well (we started at a 13 to 14 mph pace).
I knew the pace was annoying Chris a bit, but the heat was going to be oppressive and I didn't want to "shoot my load" so to speak too early. About 14 miles in, there was a rough, sandy, gravely patch of road that almost sent us and all the riders around into the pavement but it gave me an adreniline burst and I was finally able to shake off the the morning lethargicness and we picked up the pace to the 17 - 18 mph range. Though it also sent my back into some achey spasms.
And God Speaks
I don't think many people know this about me, but I do believe in God. Pretty adamently at that after having some hits and near misses on loved ones and close friends. Now, that doesn't mean I believe in organized religion; I still haven't made up my mind on that, though I am a Jew and do attend services semi-regularly. I guess I view religion as a tool for formalizing a relationshop with God, but not a necessary tool.
Anyway, just so you know, I do believe that God speaks in many different ways, at many different times, and we can hear if we recognize and listen.
So there we are 30 miles into this ride, the sun has risen and is beating down, my back is stiff and has some spasms and Chris and I are bickering because the pace he's setting is too fast, he stalling at the base of hills which kills my momentum, lots of different things. And it's at this point when the negative thoughs whisper, "Turn around at the rest stop," "Have someone pick you up there," "It's no shame, it's too hot to do this."
Then we turn a corner, and we see this:
I think they're marigolds. Chris thinks they're something else. And I am sorry that the quality of this picture from my camera phone sucks. But it was basically this large field, in the middle of no where, with thousands upon thousands of these colorful flowers, planted for no other reason that we can see, than the beauty of them. For the only time during the ride, we get off our bikes at a non-designated rest area, and snap some shots.
We get on our bikes and ride on to our first rest stop at 34.5 miles and everything is fine. My back stops hurting, we're able to splash cool water from a kiddie pool they have set up all over our heads, we get a snack of bagel and peanut butter and some watermelon, refill our gatorade bottles and hit the road again.
It's those types of moments, the quiet ones, when I think you can hear God or some such force speaking, giving you the strength you need.
Onwards We Go
The next 22 miles whiz by - really. Oh yeah, we still have the same argument because Chris has the directions, and I keep hearing him say things like, "I think we're supposed to turn here." Which drives me crazy because when you're riding 100 miles in 90+ degree heat (that's 34 celsius for my European friends), you don't want to ride any more miles than you have to, but we pedal onwards.
Throughout the first half, riders pass us, also on the quest to finish their century, but we stick to our now steady pace of between 15.5 mph and 16.5 mph.
When we arrive at the second rest stop in Tabernacle NJ (at 56.7 miles), I'm feeling pretty good. Again we refill our bottles, eat some bagel and peanut butter (which has liquified in the heat) and use the rest facilities to apply some more chamois butter (to reduce irritation in that, well, you know those private areas).
We hit the road again, but this time, we're starting to pass those riders that had originally passed us. We pick up one other rider for a while (maybe 10 miles), who stays in our draft, but I don't care. Eventually though, we lose him and pick up two more, who had passed us in the morning. At some point, I make Chris give me the instructions because as much as I don't want to know how much further we need to travel, listening to him wonder about where we are on the route makes me crazier. I have to say though, in Chris's defense, the cue sheet wasn't 100% accurate, it said Stop signs when it was really traffic lights (or vice versa), missed some intersections, and had some wrong road names, but luckily when the cue sheet failed, the arrows painted on the road succeeded.
At almost six hours into the ride, we rolled into the third rest stop (which had also been the first one) at 81.3 miles. We called home and gave them a 90 minute warning to our finish. We splashed more water on our faces, refilled bottles and someone turned me on to Twizzlers, which I have to say tasted fabulous. As I was waiting for Chris to fill his water bottles, I was listening to other riders, complain how tired they were, how they were thinking about having the SAG (Support and Gear) vehicle take them back, how they weren't sure because they had never finished a century but how they had started too hard this morning and had no energy left for the heat. I was glad we stuck to our slow and steady plan but wanted to get the heck out of there and get home before they brought me down.
We hit the road and I was pumped for next ten miles, but I have to say, while not hilly, that last 23.3 miles (yes, 23.3, the course planners made a 104.6 mile course, not a 100 mile course), were completely exposed to the sun, in mid-afternoon, with temps reaching for 95 degrees, I started to lose it about 93 miles. The thought of drinking any more gatorade made my stomach flip, the water in my camelback was hot, and a warm breeze kicked up working against us but we plodded on.
I would like to shoot the person who took us on Flock (I think it was Flock) road with it's speed bumps, and the person who made the course 104.6 miles (not including miles into and out of the campus, giving us a grand total of 105.75 miles), but nothing looked so sweet as we rounded the bend towards the parking lot, as seeing my girls, my parents and my good friend, Lisa waiting there for us.
And here I am coming in for the finish. You don't see Chris because he didn't see the group and was weaving through the parking lot.
Chris had arranged a surprise for the finish too, some champagne!
No champagne ever tasted as good as that cheap $5 bottle of Cooks!
We finished the ride, 105.75 miles with an average speed of 15.7 mph. It took 6:45 of riding time and about 7:25 overall.
So now I can ride for fun. What's next though, I'm going to train for my first 5K in the fall. And then for biking, who knows, maybe The Longest Day (200 miles in one day from High Point NJ to Cape May).
I'd like to thank everyone who supported me through this, all my friends (and Lisa - thanks again for coming to see my finish and bringing us all that sweet ice water!), my parents, my daughters but especially Chris; without his inspiration, encouragement, and his gift of not one but two bikes, this would never have happened!