On Sunday, I rode my first 100 mile bike ride. A century ride. And I survived to tell the tale. I was VERY nervous going into this. More nervous than I’ve been about a sporting event for a VERY long time. I thought I could finish it but I wasn’t entirely sure and I had no idea what condition I’d be when I crossed the finish line.
I faffed about my saddle quite agonisingly for the last few days. My saddle has caused me a lot of discomfort when training so I decided to swap it for my touring saddle, which has been nothing but gentle on my lady bits. So on Friday, I swapped it over and went for a test ride. In 6 miles, we stopped 3 times to adjust the height and the angle, and it wasn’t right. On Saturday we tested it again, couldn’t get it right. So the Husband suggested I swap it back to my old road saddle. I did so, and immediately felt better. To add to the drama, the Husband decided he’d ride the 100 miles too. Bearing in mind he tore 1/4 of his calf muscle a few months ago and has done barely any exercise and had only ridden 20 miles training, I was a little concerned for him.
The Dude spent the weekend with friends, so on Saturday lunchtime, the Husband and I headed down to Santa Cruz, stopping at the bike shop to spend $80 without quite knowing how. I’d made energy balls and flapjack. We had brunch at Zachary’s and carb-loaded to excess, frankly. We checked into our hotel and had a nap (a child-free joy) and wandered back into town for the sunset. And then an early night.
The morning started at 5.15. I had a clothing crisis. The forecast was hot so should I wear:
- my sleeveless coral top that I love but that would expose my shoulders to burning hell?
- my brand-new, bought-for-the-occasion black jersey which makes me look super-foxy but was BLACK on a hot day?
- my neon jersey which would protect my shoulders but only unzips half-way?
I went neon. The husband was also going to wear his neon jersey but, upon learning I was wearing neon, switched to his tri-suit. He hates us matching outfits. (I love it).
The remainder of the early-morning getting ready will go undocumented. It was the closest we have ever got to divorce. (I was NOT to blame to be clear). But somehow, we got our bikes down to the garage as a still-married couple and went to pump the tyres up. Only to discover that our wonderful, 10 year-old track pump had lost its nozzle overnight and was thus useless! I used a rude word.
We cycled the half-mile from our hotel to the start point at the Santa Cruz courthouse. It was pitch black. The event staging area was tiny but well organised with plenty of portaloos (which, as you can imagine, I needed several times) and an on-site mechanic with a track pump. Imodium popped, numbers pinned, tyres pumped…we were ready to go. It was a TINY event – maybe 100 people doing the century, only a handful of whom were women! There was some cowbelling and we were off!
The first hour or so of the ride was lovely. Cool temperatures and we floated down the coastline where pink skies lit up the beaches. Really beautiful. I was very careful to pace myself – I was in no rush for these early miles. I was initially perturbed by the signage – there were pink arrows at all turns but in the bright rising sun, we missed one or two and I found that quite stressful. I was very nervous of being last – not from an ego point of view but more about being the last one on the road with no-one behind me to rescue me if necessary. I was reassured to see the SAG wagon quite frequently and the on-route mechanic’s van as well.
By the time we hit the first rest stop at about M18, I was relaxing more. We cycled past fields of strawberries, which made the air smell delicious, to a rest stop by a bike-builders where they make bikes out of bamboo. I drooled over the wooden bikes as I refuelled.
On we went. The terrain levelled out now for the next 30 miles or so as we cycled through endless agricultural fields, flat as far as the eyes could see. The fields smelt of what they grew – sometimes berries, sometimes cabbage. We had a VERY unpleasant stretch on Highway 1 which was very busy – an RV sucked me across the shoulder, it was pretty terrifying, so I was so glad when we turned back onto agricultural roads again. There was a water stop at M36-ish and then we turned towards the hills which loomed in the distance.
By the time we got to the rest stop at M48 it was hot – easily 90F/33 C. The rest-stop was at a really cute little school so we ate all their snacks and I doused my hair in their hose (be damned, drought). Because next up was the hill – the big one! I knew I’d trained well for it – this hill was half the distance and half the height of the hill I cycled up on every darned training ride. But the heat!!
I flipping nailed the hill. I started last out of about 10 riders in our ‘group’ and I passed all of them. (Oh that felt good). I just wound my way up steadily. It was almost unbearably hot, like cycling uphill in an oven. As I got higher, it got hotter, there was no breeze. But somehow, sooner or later, I found myself at the top! I rested there for a bit and waited for the husband to join me. I was SO hot at this point. We found out later that it was probably about 105F/40C. No wonder I was hot.
The descent was awful. Really badly surfaced road (you can see it in the photo above, it got worse). I clung to my handlebars and my brakes until my hands ached. I was accompanied by the Husband and another guy, and interestingly neither man tried to pass me (I descend really slowly) because we were all basically hanging on to not fall off. We gratefully landed in the cute town of San Juan Bautista and the rest stop in a shady park. Salt tablets, oranges, drinks.
Shortly after that, at about M63, the Husband decided he was done. Too hot. His calf was aching. He’d done better than either of us expected. Sweaty kisses and arrangements to meet at the end…and I was off. I pretty much flew from this point. I think going slower at the start may have paid off because for the final 37 miles I literally flew along. (Please remind me of the benefits of negative splitting at my next half). I sped along a road through a eucalyptus forest to the lunch stop where I sat in a cool village hall for a while and watched elderly people at a tea dance. Before I got back on my bike, I filled my sports bra with ice. It was the best thing I ever did.
On I went. The next rest stop came about 9 miles later. I wasn’t planning to stop at all, I wasn’t hungry (I fuelled so well all day) but I thought I’d refill my drinks. However it turned out to be at an apple farm and there was fruit pie, so I found myself stopping and eating peach pie, despite my best intentions. And best of all…there was coffee. I’d been dreaming about coffee for miles so I nearly kissed the guy. When he casually said ‘And there’s ice, if you want iced coffee’ I nearly fainted with joy. I gulped that iced coffee down and it was the best thing ever. I refilled my ice-bra and pressed on.
More agricultural fields. Still flying. I was feeling SO good! I got to about M85 and took a gel just to be sure. I turned up a beautiful road, one of the nicest I’ve ever cycled, Day Valley Road. Lots of apple orchards, lovely houses, gentle rollers and a mile or two of shady redwood, which made me grin like a crazy girl. One more rest stop at M95 (water, ice in the bra) and suddenly I was speeding through Santa Cruz back towards the start. And then I found myself turning into the car park by the courthouse, the Husband leapt to his feet to photograph me and boom, I was finished!
I’m still not entirely sure about my ‘time’ and don’t quite know what to tell you. If you include rest stops, I took just under 10 hours to do it. Literally 9 hours, 50 minutes. But personally I feel justified in NOT including rest stops, in which case my time was 7.49 which was a 12.4 mph speed. I’m super-happy with that.
I was left feeling a little ‘flat’ for the following days. Initially I was just knackered – I was SO tired on Sunday evening and all day Monday and was too tired really to relish what I’d done. In addition, the finish had been anti-climactic. It had taken us so much longer than expected that we had to shoot off quickly to get the Dude back. I finished, the Husband put my bike in the car as I numbly ate pizza and then we’d driven home immediately. No razzmatazz. There were no medals, no tangible sign of what I’d achieved. I also have this niggling feeling that I could have ridden it much faster – I think I could have taken a good half-hour off my time. My first 66 miles averaged 11.9mph but my last 34 miles averaged 14.1 mph
Having said that, there’s a lot that I am satisfied with. My training was not perfect but it was plenty for what I wanted to achieve. I NEVER felt rough during the ride. Never faded, never got tired, never fell into a dark place. I felt strong for every single mile, I didn’t drag my sorry arse over the finish line like a dying raccoon. I am super-proud of how strong I felt. Of the hundred starters, I believe only about 30 finished the full distance and I suspect very few women!
As far as events go, I really liked the Surf City Aids Ride. It was tiny but well organised. Signage was good (once I started spotting the signs). The route was excellent (apart from the stretch on Hwy 1 and down that awful hill). The rest stops were well spaced, well stocked and friendly. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a century ride and it wasn’t expensive ($85 with no fund-raising requirement).
I won’t do another century ride for a long time. It’s too much time for training, too much time away from my boys. But I DO want to do more 100k rides and next year I want to do a day-cycle around Lake Tahoe once the snow melts.
In the meantime though, I am BESIDE MYSELF to start running properly again!