route for my first century ride

280 to 70.3: My first century

I went to deliver an “I’m a brick” shirt to a local brick! As we were talking she mentioned a ride in a couple of days. A local bike race was canceled and a group of riders decided to do most of the race anyway. 102 miles, instead of 140. She asked if I wanted to join them. With out really knowing what I was getting into I said yes, I would love to go. 

I had a few days to get ready. So what do you do to get ready for something like a century in just a few days? I prepared my bike for the ride and made sure it was tuned up and lubed. Then I focused on my food. What kind of nutrition would I need for a century. The longest ride I had gone on to this point was 60 miles. For that ride I packed a couple of almond butter, salt, and honey sandwiches. The first sandwich was lovely, the second at 56 miles, my stomach didn’t like. I didn’t want to to repeat that.

I packed a couple bananas, some almonds and dates, a couple of ziploc bags with applesauce, and plenty of water. At the last min I packed a few packs of belvita crackers. 

The morning of the ride was colder than I expected, I thought about using my sleeves, but ultimately decided not to because of space of packing them when it got warm. We gathered at a park near my home. There were about double the amount of people that I was expecting. I have never been in a group that large. As we took off and went through the first few intersections I felt like a big biker gang rumbling down the street, only we didn’t rumble, more like a swoosh I guess.

I started talking with a few people and found myself at the front of the group. I enjoyed the conversation and stayed up near the front. I didn’t really notice that we were starting to pick up speed and leaving the rest of the group behind. I was with the front group, that was great. Maybe I am not too bad of a biker after all. It was quite the thrill to ride with the front group. They were all amazing cyclists. I learned so much just watching them. Traveling as a pack, with precision, moving the front riders to the back and allowing the group to ride so much faster. I don’t expect I will be able to go faster for as long as I did in that group. Near the 50 mile mark I was on the back of the group and found myself having a hard time keeping in the group up a small hill. It was amazing how quickly I dropped away and watched the group disappear in front of me. I was now a lone rider. 

It was kinda nice because that is what I am used to. I am used to long solo rides. I like riding at my own pace and pushing myself. We stopped at mile 60 for lunch. I had been eating my bananas and my favorite was when the dates had adhered to several almonds. It had created this wonderful sweet salty treat. It was here that I learned of the power of the pickle. It was offered to me by my friend who invited me to come. I took it thinking, “sure, why not?” When I put it in my mouth my body seemed to be giddy. It was great. I have since carried a pickle on long rides.

After lunch we took off again. I had long since watched the front group disappear into the sunset. Well, horizon I guess, it was still morning. I just had to hang on for the next 40 miles. I wasn’t too worried, I probably should have been.

In this group we headed out at a good pace, it was just a little slower than the front group, but was a pace I was able to sustain. I was happy to keep with the group. It was fun rotating and riding. It was a pace that if I dropped off the back I could catch up. I had to do that a few times. It was only about 10 miles since lunch and I was starting to feel the pace I had before lunch. My legs were starting to complain and, it was actually quite suddenly, my legs decided I couldn’t keep pace with the group I was in. I, once again, fell off the back of the group. I got down in aero position and kept going. 

Just a few miles ahead the group I was in had split. A few members lived near where we were and they went home. The rest waited for me. I told them I didn’t think I would be able to keep up. I was drained. My energy was spent and I was struggling. I learned the importance of pacing the entire ride and of fueling up during the ride. After just a few miles I dropped off the back again.

I was now alone at the end of my ride. My mind started playing games with me. It was a constant battle of should I keep going or not. I had already made my determination to hit 100 miles. I decided that nothing would keep me from hitting that goal. I had thought about the when I did the brick event and my daughter kept me going. My wife planned my kids to each run with me towards the end. I decided here that I was going to finish myself. I needed to be able to do it on my own if I was going to do an Ironman 70.3.

I gritted my teeth and kept going. Just past mile 80 something really strong hit me. A thought. “I am soo stupid. Why am I doing this? Why do I even care to put my body through this? It hurts. My bum is screaming at me and my legs don’t want to keep going. You know. I can sell my bikes. I am sure I would get a bunch out of them. I think I will sell my bikes. I guess I have to get home first.” I can look back and chuckle now. It was a real thought then. I put as much mental power in as physical now. It wasn’t an option. I wasn’t going to pull over to a home along my route and ask someone if they wanted to buy my bike and give me a ride home. I decided I wasn’t going to call my wife either. I needed to do this. I needed to be able to finish what I had started. 

The mental battle was just as hard, or harder, then the physical one. I came up to the last 10 miles on my ride. I crossed the highway and pulled over for a short break. As I stopped I got some water and a few of those almond crusted dates and started back down the road. When I was with the group we stopped every once in a while. While on my own I didn’t even think to stop. A few minutes down the road I felt the fuel hit my legs. I started feeling good and the mental struggle was over. With new energy came new hope and life. I knew I could finish and finish strong. So I started being sure to have fuel in me as I finished.

I came to the final stretch of my ride. A downhill section about a mile long. It was nice to finish peddling downhill. I made it to my destination, just over 102 miles. There was no finish line. No crowd. Not even the group of riders that were in front of me. It was just me rolling into the park, but I knew I had done it. I finished. I hit my goal despite my numb bum, burning legs, and brain that didn’t want me to keep going. 

 

I didn’t have a reason to stay, so I rolled home…then collapsed and enjoyed a wonderful chocolate milk. I finished!

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