Cycling 100 miles is referred to as a “century ride” and spoken of with great respect. Experienced cyclists know what it feels like and newbies aspire to complete it. I think it’s a significant achievement, and since a typical rider will take 5-6 hours to cover the distance, planning and preparation should be done before attempting one.
On March 8th, I rode my first 100-miler. Normally, I ride with a group, but as far as I was aware, no one had plans to ride that far that weekend, so I did it alone. The week prior, I’d ridden 92 miles and it hurt. I realized that I could have pushed for the additional 8 miles, but, I didn’t. Towards the end of that ride, all I could think about was getting off my damn bike. I didn’t give a shit how many miles I’d gone, I was already way beyond my previous best.
I was ready to quit. And I did.
After the ride, I felt accomplished but disappointed in myself. I had endured 92 miles…was I really too weak to push to 100? On that day, I was mentally defeated.
Negative feelings ensued…quitting just doesn’t sit well with me.
So, I decided that to complete a century ride the following weekend…alone.
I completed the ride and loved almost all of it. I miscalculated the route by about 5 miles and ended up back at the start too soon. I had to ride around neighborhoods for 5 long, painful miles.
When I hit the 100-mile mark, I shouted out with joy…then quickly got back to my car and got off the bike.
I rested well that night…mission accomplished.
No races but Ironman training continues unabated
For the past month, Johnny had several four and five-hour rides scheduled on back-to-back Saturdays. So, for the last three weeks of July, I did three long rides – 80, 85, and 90 miles. Having done 80+ miles three weeks in a row, I was feeling physically strong and my ego had become activated…overconfidence was creeping in.
Since he had a 5-hr ride scheduled the 1st Saturday in August, I decided to just “go for the gold” and ride 100 miles. Typically, I’ll cover 75-80 miles in 5 hrs, so I knew that going 100 would be significantly more effort and time. Again, I was feeling overly confident, so I didn’t hesitate. I asked the B-group and only Cruz was willing to take the journey with me. She is really an A-grouper who isn’t training for a race, so she rides with us for the joy of being on the bike. She and Anthony rode the previous weekends. We’ve become a long-distance team.
A group start
Portia and George, two other members of the B-group, were planning to ride 40 miles, so we decided to start at the same time. It’s nice to begin as a group, get warmed up and then go our separate ways about 10 miles into the ride.
6:30 am – Wheels down and the adventure began.
7:00 am – Portia gets a flat tire, forgets to unclip her shoes, and falls over. Small scrape, she’s embarrassed more than injured. We all fall from time to time.
7:20 am – She and George are still trying to change her innertube…turns out it’s too big and doesn’t fit. Cruz gives up one of her tubes, and we get the tire changed and inflated
7:30 am – Weels down again. Cruz and I don’t see them again.
Leaving the group
She and I rode at a comfortable 18 MPH for the first half of the day. I’m hydrating well and keeping an eye on my power output. My goal is to stay in zone 1 – which is 199 watts, or less. Ideally, I’d average about 145-150 W, but that’s unlikely since we were riding towards the coast and we usually get headwinds.
Our turn around point was the marina in Mims, TX. When we stopped there, I was beginning to feel overheated and a little fatigued. I’d been battling with my seat too. I can’t seem to find a position that doesn’t’ end up pinching or smashing and causing significant and pain around my naughty bits. I’m unsure if it’s the seat geometry or its positioning, so I’ll do a few more adjustments and moderately long rides before I look for a replacement saddle.
I forgot to bring my Base salts which are important in the intense heat, so I bought some Pringles and a Gatorade. Cruz had her PB&J and some cold water. We took our mandatory photos then got back to the business at hand. The temperature was rising fast and the longer we waited, the more intense the heat would become. One thing that makes Cruz an ideal training partner is that she shows up ready to work. Not to chit chat or bullshit with excuses. When it’s time to go, she’s always ready.
Getting on the Struggle Bus
During the 50-mile return trip, we fought persistent headwinds. Our speed slowed considerably. My struggle began around mile 65. This is where growth occurs and mental toughness is developed. I felt it happening and welcomed it with open arms.
Fortunately, traffic remained fairly light but the temperature was reached the triple digits so I was very mindful about staying hydrated. My thighs were cramping and I knew it was because I was sweating so much that I was creating an electrolyte deficit. From Mims, we rode about 23 miles to reach stop at a mini-mart. There, we get cold water, snacks and use the bathroom before setting off on the final 27-miles home.
Cruz ended up pulling most of the last leg. My ass (balls and taint) were raw and my legs were cramping a lot, so I kept the effort lower which resulted in slower speeds. To save energy, I drafted more than I lead.
While struggling, my mind went to dark places…ie., Uber, Lyft, stopping, doubt, just ending the pain and discomfort. Fortunately, I was waiting for that shift in mindset. I’ve dealt with it in the past, and I know that it’s temporary. The trick is to keep pedaling, drinking, and paying attention to the current moment. Eventually, the thoughts will pass and a feeling of strength and renewed confidence will emerge. This series of mental highs and lows are a part of my process of self-discovery and pushing through my perceived limits.
About a mile from the cars we realized that we were going to be 2 mile short, so we’d have to cruise through the local neighborhoods to ensure 100 and not 99 or 98 miles.
I had a moment of super weakness- I said I’ll stop and get some cold water from my car then ride the last mile. <== Bullshit!
My mind wanted to quit and had found a rational way to do it – even if it’s just short of the finish line. She looked at me and didn’t respond. I took a moment to think about what I said and realized how ridiculous it was…
We continued to ride until we completed 100 miles.
- Regardless of how good I feel in the beginning, proper pacing is essential…respect the distance, know my limits.
- On hot days, frequently take salts throughout the ride. The excessive sweating and 5+hrs of continuous physical work are taxing on the muscles. Adequate electrolytes are necessary and need to be replenished during the activity.
- Use lots of chamois cream. Then use some more. Friction is not my friend.
- Drink, drink, and drink more. Never stop replenishing fluids.
- Bring extra calories. Riding for long periods of time consumes a lot of calories. Replenishing them along the way is essential. Consuming only liquid calories doesn’t seem to be sufficient for me. I think that I need to add some solid foods.
- Proper seat adjustment is critical for long rides. Simply enduring 5-6 hrs is difficult. Enduring it while in pain because of a misaligned saddle is unnecessary.
- Celebrate the accomplishment and cherish your companions who choose to suffer with you.