Ok, it was only 100. Only.
I rode in the Apple Cider Century yesterday. It’s a biking event (as opposed to a race), with upwards of 5000 registrants every year. This is the 40th year of its existence, and it’s quite a tradition for some cyclists (their website says it is the most popular century event in the Midwest). They have a number of different routes you can take from 15 to 100 miles (with a bunch of options in between). One of the nice things about it is that you pretty much start whenever you want – though, if you’re doing a longer ride, it’s recommended that you start EARLY, so that you finish before rest stops close and they stop serving the spaghetti dinner you get at the finish. Since people arrive at all times and use different routes, none of them is ever crowded to the point where it’s annoying. This all takes place in and around Three Oaks, MI, which is a lovely area with farms and views of Lake Michigan. I think this is the first time one of my routes has taken me through New Buffalo (right on the lake), and biking through town was fun.
A friend of mine and I had agreed to do the FULL century (as opposed to the metric century, which we did last year). We’ve never actually done this ride together – as in alongside, let’s ride together together. We get there and text each other a lot at the rest stops about our progress and what we’ve seen along the way. This year I saw a lot of horses and alpacas (or possibly llamas, since I can’t really tell the difference). There was a whole farm specializing in Belgian horses (they’re a big drafty sort). Lots of woolly bear caterpillars, too. And a husky that was rolling in something (probably disgusting) at the side of the road with all of his legs in the air and an expression of pure bliss on his face.
It takes a long time to ride 100 miles, and Three Oaks is a couple hours away, AND they’re in the Eastern time zone (you lose an hour in that direction), so I had to get up early… What’s early? I thought I’d try to leave at 4am. Then I realized that I really needed to be up before that to do a few things (like put my bike on my car) before I left, and I should probably give myself another half an hour for those things. Ok, 3:30. But, maybe, countered my feverish brain, maybe you’ll need MORE time. FINE, brain. We’ll get up at 3:00.
My first mistake was getting the coffee ice cream with the fudge swirl and chocolate chunks the afternoon before – which was delicious, but which kept me up waaaay past my bedtime. That and the excitement – “I get to ride my bike, I get to ride my bike!!!” I didn’t sleep particularly well. Plus, I don’t have the knack for falling asleep whenever I want/need to. And, so, I was wide awake past 11pm. I tossed and turned after that, and finally, got a text at 2:30 and figured, eh, it’s almost 3 anyway, and got up.
I got into Three Oaks by about 6 (7, their time), and got some rock star parking (I’ve never gotten there quite so early before). It was way too dark to ride, though, and I hadn’t put any lights on my bike, so I had to wait about 20 minutes for the sun to start to come up. But it was beautiful – biking through mist and watching the colors slowly appear in the sky. Some man was behind me for the first few miles – like right on my tail behind me – and that was a little irritating, but eventually he decided I was too slow, and passed me up. I made good time to the first rest stop.
Oberon got to be my timekeeper – mostly because it was easier to text him my distances and times along the way. I didn’t use my biking app, because it’s a battery drain and I figured I’d be biking for HOURS, and might need the juice for other things. Here’s what I sent him:
Start to Spicer rest area: 15.0 miles, started 6:14, finished 7:20 (13.6 mph)
Spicer to Soni rest area: 20.9 miles, started 7:30, finished 9:05 (13.2 mph)
Soni to La Lumiere rest area: 21.4 miles, started 9:32, finished 11:22 (11.7 mph)
La Lumiere to New Buffalo rest area: 13.0 miles, started 11:50, finished 12:48 (13.4 mph)
New Buffalo to Lake rest area: 19.0 miles, started 1:19, finished 2:50 (12.5 mph)
Lake to Finish: 14.5 miles, started 3:25, finished 4:32 (13.0 mph)
I DID bike for hours. I was (on and off) my bike for 10 hours. That’s a lot of biking.
Because I’ve had troubles with leg and toe cramps in the past (and knee pain, etc.) from overdoing things (whaaaaat??), I took longer breaks this year, and went through this whole stretching routine at each stop. As insurance, because, hey, you never know, I brought along (and consumed at each stop) some packets of mustard which is supposed to help with cramps (some people on the Internets SWEAR this to be true – and you know those people never lie). Whatever. Some strategy worked. By the end I was sore and didn’t really want to ride anymore (especially not up any more hills), but I didn’t have any major complaints. (Minor complaints were a slightly cranky Achilles’ tendon – left side – aching need for a shower – had to wait a few more hours to make that happen – and an uncomfortable seat – but not to the point of thoughts of bottom replacement surgery).
My pace was pretty good and right on spot for me. I am SO SLOW compared to those crazy club riders who dress alike and fly up hills like they are nothing. NOTHING. I was passed by a bunch of those. But, I find I like being passed better than I like having to pass other people – on hills, especially – who are slower than me. Plus, they call out funny things when they go by sometimes. Like, “Hey, Miss Surly!” (I have a Surly bike, not usually a surly expression when I am riding it.) I am not such a bike enthusiast or snob to know All the Things About Cycling, but there are usually a few people on rides like these who are curious about my Surly Long Haul Trucker (yep, that’s its name), and want to ask me questions about it. This can be slightly embarrassing because there’s some kind of assumption being made that I know what I’m talking about when I talk about this bike. I like it. But compared to what? My only other bikes are my Mt. bike (a Fuji something or other that’s now 10+ years old) and a 5-speed Schwinn (World Tourist, I think it was) that I had when I was a kid. It has a nice ride. The frame is sturdy, and I don’t feel a lot of noise on it (the ride is very smooth even though there’s no suspension). I found myself tempted to talk about bike geometry with this one guy, but that would have been treading into Modern Jackass territory, in that I know something about it, but have no idea how to fit ME to a bike. Surly is a bit tall for me and I probably should have sized down when I realized that, but overall I’m very happy with it.
So, what does 100 miles feel like? It hurts a little bit. And trying to do it on 2 hours (maybe) of sleep is kind of insane. I am somewhat consoled by the fact that all those bike club people looked pretty tired afterwards (the ones who were still around when I FINALLY finished), too. Or maybe those were the 25, 37, 50 milers? Everyone was tired. But in a good way. When I was leaving New Buffalo, I really wanted to be done. Right then. But there were still 19 and then 14.5 miles to go. I told myself that if I could do the 19, I would be fine. Never tell yourself you still have 30some miles to go when all you really want to do is sleep. 19 sounded a little tough. 14.5 sounded like nothing. Together they are/were possibly achievable.
JM texted me this morning to see if I’d survived, if I’d conquered my first century (my first! maybe my last!), and – most importantly, if I’d won. To answer his question – yes, I did win (except that this isn’t a thing where you *can* win, JM). But only because my riding partner dropped out. Her back tire wasn’t true and kept rubbing up against/knocking into her back brakes. Added resistance training? Then she had a bout of food poisoning or illness/over-exertion and felt just awful. With the bike issues she was having she considered cutting back to 62 miles. Then, once the nausea set in, she tried to head back to start post haste. The short cut she chose, however, added another 25 miles (ack) and she ended up doing 56, which is pretty respectable under any conditions.
The worst part was having to drive home, because after my pasta dinner, all I really wanted to do was curl up somewhere warm and sleep (ok, after the shower, but if no shower available, sleep = ok substitute activity). The audiobooks I had with me ended up being BAD choices, and my music was…somewhere? In a bag, way back there out of reach. So, I chewed a lot of gum and yodeled and moaned, and cursed traffic, and beat on my thighs with my fists to keep myself alert. And once my GPS finally figured out where I was, it kept telling me to go in directions that I wasn’t sure would actually get me home EVER.
I stepped in the door to a very triumphant bunny who said, “LOOK WHAT I MADE FOR YOU!” and I did gaze upon his many, MANY presents with something akin to awe. And horror. But mostly awe. Thanks, ever so much, Bun. You are So.Thoughtful.
Will I ever ride another century? Yesterday I said, “No, definitely not. I have done it once.” But I have a feeling that this is sort of like summer camp – where you complain a lot while you are there about certain injustices and deprivations, but the weeks and months pass and by the time summer rolls around again, you are READY for it, eager for it, chomping at the bit.