My First Century

In another 60 years, I can re-use that title. Heh.

Seriously though, a few weeks ago, I did my first Century bike ride. For those who don’t know, its 100 miles on a bike in one day. Yeap. That’s a long ride. On September 9, 2012 I rode 100.67 miles powered by my legs, gourmet sugar cubes, a banana and a few carbo-bars.

Andrew after his first century ride.

Minutes after 100.67 miles.

I wish I could embed it, but here is the ride.

A few other fun facts before I go into the story.

  • I meant to do 85 miles. First time ever I did more than planned.
  • Me, my bike and gear weighed 300 pounds when I left
  • It was mild out. I only drank 4-5 liters of water
  • Road kill: 2 field mice, a large turtle, and some fury non-squirrel thing
  • Average moving speed 12.3 mph
  • 5500 Calories burned
  • 8.25hrs moving, 10.5-11hours out

Completing this marks a fitness goal I have had for 3 or 4 years now. Every year has been met by a set back. I moved twice. I had a back injury early on last year, and got a late start. I did my first Metric(100k), but then decided to get new brakes and lost all momentum waiting until the jackasses got me my bike back. This year, I got a reasonable start to the season, but couldn’t get motivated for many rides during the week. I start work later these days, and can’t seem to walk back my get up time. Luckily, I’ve been working out a couple times a week, and that provided some fitness to carry me over. I did start jumping mileage pretty good.

Last year, and then this year, I also couldn’t get comfortable on the bike. Along with some other symptoms, I just didn’t feel right. I know my overall fitness level has changed a lot since I got the bike, so I decided to drop the cash getting re-fit. The only problem was my saddle. I didn’t even know a saddle could wear out. 250 pounds jostling around does not bode well for plastic planks. I got a new seat, but chose very poorly, and dropped to 1 ride a week because my ass was so sore. It took 3-4 days after every ride to not feel tender.

After I changed saddles again, I was very nervous about doing too much during the week, which is silly in retrospect. The trainer I work with backed off my legs too, and I started jumping 10-20% in mileage per week.

The weather was kind of wet, with the only rain coming when I was going to ride. The best example is the CanAm put on by the Niagra Frontiers Bicycle Club. I did the shorter 35 mile ride, and missed a crazy thunderstorm by 10 minutes by pushing hard into 20mph+ winds. If you can do the CanAm, please do. The ride is well supported and they are super friendly. If it goes well, you get to ride up the Niagra River in Canada, past the Falls, and return down the US side. Weather in general forced me to skip a couple rides.

I had a 70 miler, which has to be the worse of my life. Holy cow. I’ll just summarize by saying lost, flat tire, bananas dramatically transformed to baby food. The following week, I had some wicked chafing, and was geared to jump to 85 miles.

Each week I bump distance, I spend at least 3 hours with various websites to try and get the route planned. Ride with GPS being my current planning favorite. For someone like me, with less experience, it can be tricky. I want to add mileage, give myself a reasonable route, and maybe more importantly, have guaranteed known rest stops. I try for about 20 miles apart. Each week, I sit there dragging and dropping and playing until I get my target distance. The downside is you are always getting unknown roads and conditions. For the 70 miler, I chose poorly enough that I was up on sidewalks.

The start of the century was a bit brutal. I was going around a pond in Malden that seems to be on top of a mountain or something. If you don’t bike, unexpected big hills can ruin you by forcing you into using strength muscles instead of endurance muscles. This can give you an energy deficit that’ll ruin you. Not a great start. After the hills, I had what I thought would be a nice trail around the west side of the pond. It turns out I boldly chose a path that was more running trail and mountain bike. At some point, it became a no bike zone, and I lost a lot of time trying to figure out how to get around. Just getting out of the trail system was a chore.

I ended up home again after I stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts, and realized I didn’t have my wallet. I knew I had to buy food en route, so I headed back. Dana and I had a nice lunch and I set out again. I was going to do a modified version of the 70 miler that’d put me on familiar ground. I was already feeling pressure because I only averaged like 8mph for the first 20+ miles because of trails and hills.

At mile 65, I was taking a break at a gas station I like, and got to thinking I just needed to be done. The missed weeks and rought trips were really killing my enthusiasm and it had become a chore to ride. Given the number of hours, it also meant I was losing a lot of weekend. After the station, there is a nice rail trail that follows 495 SW from Chelmsford toward Acton. I realized if I wanted to do 100, this would be some of the best area to pick up extra distance. I can tell you with confidence this bit of trail is 5 miles, almost on the nose. I rode until the end, back, and to the end before continuing on. That still left five miles.

For what its worth, most of the trip was pretty uneventful. I made sure I took hills as easy as I could, so I didn’t fry early. I’d brought my lights, just in case which allowed me to continue after the early Boston-metro sunset. I kept shoveling in my Clif Shot Bloks every 20 minutes like a religion and kept pedalling.

As the miles wore, I tell I was getting fatigued, though my speed didn’t suffer too much. I started to feel it in my shoulders, then neck, then wrists as I slumped onto the handlebars more and more. I picked up some miles with a random up and back detour and took a slightly longer way home.

I’d thought being back on the Minuteman Rail Trail would feel like a homecoming, and the last 11 miles would melt off. Not so. In the dark, I didn’t have anything familiar to really gauge it, and felt like I was getting into a never ending bubble. I made it back without incident. Well, that’s not true. I saw a white bunny.

Getting home, I was just relieved, but Dana’s excitement helped me rekindle mine. I’d not told her, but just when I expected to be home. I took a shower and she shoved tasty food into me while listening to my story of the ride.

Post ride wasn’t too bad. I felt a bit out of sorts until Wednesday. My legs weren’t too sore, and I think I stopped before the rest of the body was too bad. My appetite returned late Monday, at which time I began consuming everything. I had a dream about all the sugar I ate. That was one of my dinner comments to Dana, “I am so tired of sugar.” In the dream, I was trying to explain to my dentist that I normally don’t eat this much sugar, but I had done this ride…

What’s next? This week or next, I’ll try out spinning classes. The goal is to keep the legs up a bit, so I can come out stronger next year. I feel I’ve earned my way into a more proper road bike, and hope to start looking around soon. Its both exciting and a hassle. The current bike will become a secure commuter, and the current commuter will be used for really terrible weather, or when I don’t have as much faith about leaving it out. Next year, my goal is faster and sooner. Stick with me, we’ll see what happens!

A final note of thanks to Dana especially, but also to the others who were both impressed and supportive while I worked on this.

Posted by Andrew     

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