Monday, June 8, 2009

Cross It Off the Life Goal List: 100 Miles. Done.

Riding a century has been on my life to-do list since I got into cycling last summer. Considering that at this point a year ago, riding a cruiser bike while donning flip-flops was the extent of my cycling experience, I have come a long way. Literally. And Kate has played a major role in this (thank you!)! She helped me get comfy on my road bike last summer, patiently riding up and down the lake path on early morning rides. And she helped me through a couple of longish rides the past two weekends, giving me the endurance and mental strength to attempt 100 miles. And, she encouraged me to join her and her husband on The Udder Century Invitational 2009, despite my doubts that I could finish it. I'm pasting my TOC blog recap below (all mention of "friends" is Fit-Inker, Kate, and her very awesome—nice, funny, athletic—husband), or you can click here to read it.

I came, I rode, I ate: The Udder Century

Four cups of coffee.
Two bottles of Ensure.
Three and a half peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.
Two chocolate chip cookies.
One orange wedge.
One bag of trail mix.
Two pretzel sticks.
Four cups of lemonade.
Ten cups of water.

It may sound like a picnic lunch for a kindergartner and her grandparents, but no…this is the stuff I ate to fuel myself through the Udder Century Invitational 2009 in northern Illinois yesterday. I feel a little queasy recapping this feast of bland-sounding snacks, but they tasted absolutely delicious during my six-and-a-half hours of cycling. And trust me, you need lots of energy to power you through 100 miles.

The weather forecast for Sunday 7 was bleak: scattered storms, rain and wind, depending on whether you’re an or follower (I tend to believe whichever one gives me better news). And as I drove an hour outside of the city to Union, Illinois with two friends in the early morning, the darkening clouds and splattering rain on the windshield didn’t bode well for our 100-mile aspirations. The Udder Century also has 31-mile, 50-mile, 62-mile and 75-mile course options, so we decided we’d see how the weather played out and make the call on how far to go on the road. Fortunately, the rain didn’t hang around long. By the time we’d knocked off 18 miles and scarfed down the first PB&J sandwich, the rain eased up and we knew that barring any major issues, we’d go for the full distance.

I was more than a little anxious before this event, having only ridden two longish rides (42 and 63 miles the last two weekends) in my life. But since I got into cycling last summer, “Complete a century ride” has been on my life to-do list, so there I was. I’m biking regularly and running and swimming, so I’m fit, but I didn’t know how my body (quads, lungs, brain) would react to 100 miles. Fortunately/happily/amazingly, the distance isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. The kind folks of McHenry Bike Club, who organize and host the ride each year, set up rest-stops manned with volunteers at roughly 20 mile intervals along the course, so participants can take a break every hour or hour-and-a-half—stretching legs, re-applying sunscreen, guzzling fluids, eating, etc. (They also host a post-race pasta party.) I quickly adopted the strategy of thinking only to the next stop, and not how many miles stretched beyond it.

And the riding itself is pretty mellow. I chatted with my friends as we pedaled along, keeping a a nice clip for the duration of the ride. That said, they are stronger, speedier cyclists than I am, so inevitably I’d fall behind on hills and whenever we encountered headwinds. But we’d meet up at the next rest stop and all set off together again. And I didn’t mind the parts where I rode alone–there was beautiful farmland to look at (lots of cows!) and there were other cyclists passing or slowing and there were signs alerting us to turns in the course. Plus, after a month of dodging folks along the lake path, it felt wonderful to just ride. The terrain is pretty flat with some rolling hills, until the last 20 miles, where there were many hills—most of them steeper than those elsewhere along the course. My legs were fried, but it was a blessing to encounter them on the home-stretch—when I knew I was finishing the miles no matter what.

At the end of the ride, my odometer read 99.9 miles. (Kate's read 102.8, go figure, we rode the exact same course!) You know what you do when that happens? You ride a couple of laps around the parking lot (much to the confusion of the other cyclists happily disembarking from their bikes) and cheer when you hit 100.0 miles. Then you go inside, put your feet up, and swear off PB&J for a couple of days.

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome, I love it! but don't forget, I was learning to ride my tri bike last summer too so I needed your patience too :)



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