‘Race’ recap: Surf City Aids Ride

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.

santa cruz beach sunset beach sunset santa cruz


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!

me cycling century surf city
My nervous face
rich husband map cycling surf city
The Husband clutches the map for moral support
surf city
Staging area

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.

bamboo bikes
Confident I can find a reason to buy this beauty

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.

surf city aids ride husband
The Husband heads east towards the hills

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.

san juan grade surf city cycling
The view from San Juan Grade
surf city
The Husband crests the hill


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.

surf city
A swing band and some gorgeous seniors!
me ice
Ice ice b**bies!


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!

me cycling surf city me cycling surf city


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!

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Nic J says:

    Brilliant! The “Ice ice b**bies” made me laugh out loud!!. Can’t imagine doing that here – we’re in gloves and brollies territory here… Well done for keeping going, and totally sympathise with the anti-climax afterwards. I did a 100 miler from Bristol to London which turned out to be just over 135 in the end. Couldn’t speak for about 3 days afterwards – didn’t know who I was for about 36 hours afterwards. How I drove home from Bristol without ending in a hedge is a miracle! You did brilliantly! Loving the sights and smells tour -particularly the strawberries! xx

    1. Cathryn says:

      I don’t think I knew you cycled that far – 135 miles is ridiculous! I kind of fancy doing it though, that sounds fab. And yes, I remarked several times how grateful I was that the Husband drove me home because I would not have been safe!!!

  2. Erin says:

    Wow!! You are so awesome. Congrats on the great accomplishment 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      Aw thanks!!! It was just a case of turning the pedals but I was pretty chuffed with myself!

  3. Kate says:

    Amazing job Cat and wonderful write-up!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks, gorgeous x

  4. Congrats again! I hated cycling on busy roads too. I did cycle on the PCH multiple times but always during the week, in the mornings, so not rush hour. I wouldn’t have done it on a Saturday or Sunday for example…
    Also: peach pie at the rest stop?! How could you resist? YUM

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you!! Yeah, the PCH was pretty terrifying, I was very glad when that stretch was over! And that pie stop was amazing – if you were still here we could meet in the middle, more or less, and eat pie! You’d love it.

      1. RRRRAAA, don’t tell me that!! I WANT to be still there. But, we’ll do it when I’ll be back 🙂

  5. Layla says:

    Yay!! This was fun to read, and I’m so happy for you! I love how you breezed up the hill, but without an actual breeze. Hills are so terrifying until they’re done; why is that?? I also love your negative split — I run that way and quickly found that it’s a great mental boost in cycling, too.
    As for “stopping at the bike shop to spend $80 without quite knowing how” — if you figure this out, let me know, because I encounter this problem at bike shops and runningwarehouse.com every time!
    I would have used MANY rude words about the pump! What terrible timing!
    I love your nervous face photo, as well as the ride-eve ocean photo, and I LOLed at your ice photo. And I want to see those bamboo bikes.

    I need to add this to my list of possibilities next year (though that road surface on the downhill looks dreadful). I mean, really, rest stops with elderly people dancing and pie?!

    Your feelings at the finish line and about your time are very similar to how I felt after my first century — my ride had a lot more people, but I still had the same feelings, so you’re definitely not alone. I think, based on your great success with this ride and your touring experience, you would do very well on a multi-day distance ride, like Seattle to Portland or maybe even the AIDS Ride. Mental endurance is half of it, and you clearly have that. Well done!!

    (Oh, and what does a dying raccoon on a bicycle look like??)

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you for the lovely comment. I’d definitely recommend this ride – the only negative was the stretch on the PCH and that awful road down the hill, everything else was brilliant. I’d be tempted to do a multi day ride, the challenge is just finding the time to train with all my other commitments. But if you’re up for cycling round Lake Tahoe next spring, we could have a LOT of fun.

      Jen mentioned that she felt the same way after Big Basin. I think that once you’ve done something you’ve been working towards for so long, there’s an inevitable lull. I thought of you during Sunday’s ride and what we talked about ref that – I was nodding along with you!!

      1. Layla says:

        You’d probably be surprised at my amount of training for STP — I actually want to go through and organize it all so I can figure out run/cycle training for next spring’s lofty goals, so maybe this conversation will help motivate me. I LOVE the idea of cycling around Lake Tahoe with you, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do!!

        I really think your next century ride will be easier. You had a lot of climbing on a hot day, with the unknowns of “first 100-miler” in your head (I sure did, anyway). Now you know you can do it, and do it well. 🙂

  6. Caitlin says:

    “ice ice boobies” LOL! Ice down the sports bra is THE BEST. And it sounds like you needed it because those temps were crazy hot. (And what’s up with that downhill? Forget walking the bike up the hill; with paving like that I’d be tempted to walk it *down* the hill.) Congratulations on your century ride! I hope you are enjoying some well-deserved rest right now.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Ice in the sports bra pretty much changed my life!! When I went to the ice-station to get ice, I reached out to take the ice-scoop from the man and he held it out to me and I was so hot I basically pulled my bra open and he filled it with ice. When I laughed, he told me these weren’t the first boobs he’d seen that day! Oh the modesty and glamour, eh?

      Hope your 70.3 goes amazingly at the weekend – I’ll be keeping an eye out to see how it goes!

      1. Caitlin says:

        I’ll be posting a report later this week, but I’ll tell you right now that my report will also feature lots of ice down the sports bra (and the hat…and down my shorts…) It was STUPID hot this weekend. Oy.

  7. jess says:

    Great, great work!! I really want to know who took the ice, ice boobies photo?? wasn’t the husband already gone? did you have a stranger take that?? On to serious stuff, I was curious about the touring saddle decision – I don’t hear you complaining too much about the road bike saddle, so assuming all is good? Great work!!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Ha! A fellow cycling lady took it. She was laughing at me/with me and offered to take a photo and frankly by that point, all modesty had gone so I posed for her. I’m kind of laughing at how nonexistent my icy boobs look in that photo. Maybe they shrink from the cold like gentlemen’s appendages?

      The saddle ended up working REALLY well. I wonder if, when I put the original saddle back on, I changed the height a little (just a tiny bit as it felt like the right height) but that changed the pressure on my lady bits and it didn’t hurt as much? I was sore but nowhere near as sore as I’ve been on other rides of 60 miles upwards. I was delighted about that!

      1. Jen says:

        Ha, I had the same question as Jess re:ice boob photographer!

  8. Paulette says:

    Huge congrats, that’s awesome! I can’t believe it was so hot, I think I would melt. Excited to see you this weekend!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you. I did melt a little!! REALLY looking forward to finally running with you on Saturday! x

  9. Angela says:

    Huzzah!! What a fantastic accomplishment. Good luck rolling the momentum over as you get back into running!! 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      YAY, RUNNING!!!!!!!!!! Hold me back, baby!

  10. Jen says:

    I knew you would crush it, and you definitely did! Great job!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s