At Mile 106
Extraneous information here-I thought about not blogging about the Cycle Salt Lake Century ride that I participated in on Saturday. I even discussed it with a friend. She said I should challenge myself. I agree with her, and I will. Just not today. Today, I really want to write about the bike ride.
This century was full of surprises for me. First, I was very nervous in the morning. I was able to sleep the night before with relative ease, but I popped awake a full hour before I needed to get up. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t ready for this ride. I knew the course, having ridden it last year, but that almost made it worse. I envisioned myself wearing out somewhere on the causeway, the lake stench overpowering me, and having to wait for my riding mates to pick me up on the way back. I have had some knee discomfort on longer rides as of late, which only added to the fear I wasn’t physically ready for the distance I had to ride.
At the same time, I was excited to get out, get going, test myself again. I met up with my brother Dylan, our mutual friend Keith and two others who were to join us. The temperature was in the high 40’s when we started, just cold enough to require long sleeves, warm enough to ride in shorts. Once we hit the road I knew I was in for a good ride. I have a rule, if my legs don’t burn, pedal a bit faster. Three of us were riding at a pace of about 20 mph through Rose Park. The other two just a bit slower. I knew the course was flat, but it was more flat than I remembered. We didn’t hit our first hill for 7 miles, and that was just an overpass. Before I even had time to think if I was tired, we were at the first rest area.
We had all agreed to spend as little time as possible at the rest stops, as we felt that was part of the reason we felt so tired at the end of last years ride. Our bodies took the rest as a cue the riding was over. Very hard to get back on the bike when your legs begin to shut down. Keeping to our plan, we stopped long enough to use a restroom, grab a snack, fill up water bottles, then get going again.
Another error we made last year was eating lunch too early. This time, we reached the lunch station and once again stopped long enough to refuel, fill up and go. It was at this point, roughly 40 miles in, that I realized I had once again broken a spoke on my front wheel. This has become too common an occurrence, and I worry that my wheel might need to be replaced. Anyway, broken spoke and all, we started out across the causeway towards Antelope Island. If you have not experienced the lovely smell of the Great Salt Lake, you are lucky. This causeway is notoriously windy, long and tedious. The five of us formed a decent enough draft line, taking 1:30 second turns and keeping a pace of around 18 mph. The only real climbing on this ride is a short uphill on Antelope Island. I recalled this being a challenge and was preparing myself for a difficult climb. Wow, not really. We were up and over it with little effort and found ourselves with under 50 miles remaining, feeling great and ready for more. The lake was particularly foul on the way back. So much so that I actually gagged once or twice. Lucky enough there were very few bugs and the temperature was tolerable.
Back at the lunch station, we took an extended break, having a sandwich and I had my spoke repaired at the aid station. Unfortunately, a little over twenty miles later, I ran over some lovely thorns and had to stop and change the tube in my front tire. As I was getting ready to inflate the tube, I noticed that I had broken yet another spoke on that damn front wheel. Two on one ride, now that just isn’t right!
What surprised me the most was my fitness level as we came into the last rest area. I recall the year before, being totally spent, no energy, headache and muscle pain. This year, I rode on zero caffeine, though I did take ibuprofen, and zero energy supplements. I felt really good. I was tired, but more than ready to finish the ride very strong. The last 17 miles flew by and at just over 6 hours of actual ride time (seven total hours) we finished mile 106. Our average speed was 17.8 mph and I am more than thrilled with that pace.
I have been trying to think of how to compare riding a century to running. Having never finished more than a 5K, it is hard for me to make an accurate comparison. I am guessing it is much easier to ride 100 miles than to run 26.2. I am also guessing it is harder to ride 100 then run a 10K. Perhaps the equivalent is something near a half marathon, though I think cycling is something that can be done at a much more leisurely pace than running. You can rest more, not pedal at all for stretches (though I do my best to make that as little as possible). Plus, the wear and tear on your body is not as extreme. I am not trying to diminish the accomplishment of riding 106 miles, rather I am trying to put it in some perspective.
I plan to ride the ULCER Century in early August, then if the Heber happens again, ride that. Next September, the goal is to ride the LOTAJA . For that ride, I would love to get a group of ten or so. It might make the winds and distance easier to manage.
If anyone wants to ride with us on these century rides, or just on a Saturday, you are always welcome. We are by no means hardcore riders, so don’t let that intimidate you. If you have a bike and want to ride, come along.