Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The First Century

This past weekend I had the opportunity to complete a century ride with my brother. This ride has been the goal of my training this past year. I have struggled with how to write up such ride.

I have no stories of epic breakdowns-I had only the annoyance of a squeaking chain. There was no battles with traffic-I enjoyed 100 miles of bike trails in the open expanse of central Iowa. No hills-the trail was a converted railroad track. No beautiful photos-the ride started in the rain, so the camera stayed at home.

It was the culmination of over a thousand miles of training. Every road bike ride this summer had this ride in mind. After all that, I spent a day riding a beautiful, quiet loop in near-perfect weather. And now I'm not quite sure what to do. I have other projects to work for (The Living History Farms Run in Nov.), but the switch is still jarring.

The century ride went well, better than I had expected. At the end of the ride I was sore, and a bit bored of being on the bike, but I felt like I had another 50 miles left in my legs. We held a slower, 15 mph average for the ride. For about 10 miles in the later half of the route we experimented with pacelines, working up to a 18-21 mph pace. We were forced into a slower pace as it got dark.

It's only been a few days and already what I remember is getting blurry. I remember how cold and miserable the first miles were as we faced into the rain, and the relief as the trail moved into the trees and the rain tapered off. I remember dodging golf-ball sized walnuts that occasionally carpeted the trail.

There was the joy of being out on a bike that tapered down to drudgery as we reached the halfway point, in need of a break, and really, really needing something to eat. Then the vibrant rhythm of pulling for my brother, seeing if I could hold 20+ for mile long shifts.

Then the rapidly falling night, the dark tunnel through the trees giving way to small town centers. We were almost entirely alone, rare on a trail that sees hundreds of cyclists each weekend.

And then we were done, grateful to be sitting in the warm car, though jittery in our attempts to keep legs loose after an eight hour effort. I was tired, but not obliterated as I had by 50 mile rides. I expected some sort of epiphany as a rider, but I was simply tired and very hungry.

Now rested and with aches well in the past, I think what this successful ride has given me is a hunger. I will do this again. I will do it faster, on harder courses. I will not shy from foul weather, I will train in the dark, in the heat, even the snow if I can find a line.

The Almanzo 100 is May 17. It is a brutal gravel course with 6100 ft of climbing, capped off by a 8% grade climb in the final miles. I'm afraid of this ride.

But I'm going to be there.

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