At the weekend, the Husband cycled the Incarnation 100 – a century bike ride – as part of Ironman training. I’m posting about it for a couple of reasons. 1) It may be useful for people looking to do the ride in future years. 2) Also, we discovered a new part of California at the weekend and I love showing how beautiful our adopted state is!
The Incarnation 100 is a cycling event run by the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, raising money for homeless projects in the area. Santa Rosa has a pretty significant homeless population. Someone told us on the day that, because it’s the first city of any size as you head south out of Northern California, it attracts homeless people because there is some infrastructure to help them, unlike more rural areas. In any case, the problem is visible but in this case, people working towards a solution are also visible. The volunteers at this cycling event are involved in the non-profits working in Santa Rosa and they thanked us continually for supporting their work by doing the ride. It was pretty humbling.
The event itself includes three rides of 45 miles, 100km and 100 miles. It started at 7am although you could start any time that suited you until 9am. There was an official blessing of the bikes at 7am but there was no pressure to join in, if that wasn’t your thing. The Husband rode the 100 miler (as an early Father’s Day ‘gift’, hahaha) and he had a good ride, with our friend Kat who is training for IM Canada a week before IM Vineman.
- The course was rolling pretty much the entire way. There was a beast of a hill at about mile 30 which hit a 19% gradient, it was pretty brutal.
- Some of the road surfacing was poor quality, with bad potholes but the scenery was, in the Husband’s words, amazing.(He doesn’t usually rave about scenery so you know it was pretty.)
- Aid stations were plentiful and well-stocked except the penultimate one, which could have been both earlier and better-stocked with water – we gave that feedback to the organising team, who actively asked what they could do to improve the ride next time! That was impressive.
- It got hot – up to 97 deg F- so start early, hydrate and be sensible.
- The volunteers were some of the friendliest and kindest that either of us have ever met at running or cycling events – the whole thing had a really lovely feel to it. They even invited the Dude and I to share the cyclists’ snacks at aid stations. Usually aid stations are (rightfully) only for participants so we really appreciated the offer. I left the food for the riders, but my son helped himself to cookies and gatorade 🙂
- Cyclists got a nice cotton t-shirt at check in. The ride’s jersey was for sale – we didn’t buy it but it looked much nicer than many I’ve seen.
- At the end of the ride, there was a hearty meal for the riders (chicken, salad, bread, beans etc) plus beer or wine and a guy on a guitar. Lots of the volunteers hung out with riders, chatting! The people on the beer/wine stand were super ‘generous’.
I have to say, I had pangs of FOMO, I really wanted to cycle this with the Husband and Kat. I have no complaints about my own first century ride last September but this one had SUCH a nice feel to it. We both remarked that the food, drinks and hanging-out at the end was a really nice way to mark everyone’s achievements. My own century’s end point was a balloon arch in a car-park and some leftover pizza, which left me feeling a little deflated.
What it’s like to spectate
From a spectator/cheerleader’s point of view, this was an awesome ride to send your other half on. The whole Russian River area is totally beautiful – everything was lush and green. Vineyards lined the fields, thick forest covered the hills…we loved it immediately. Guerneville is the host ‘city’ for Ironman Vineman, which the Husband is doing in about 6 weeks, so I was really excited to see the place as we haven’t yet been. It’s tiny but has a really cool hippie, chilled vibe.
- Try eating at Big Bottom Market. Apart from having the best name ever, it serves good coffee and a flipping delicious granola bowl. It’s all hipster/kinfolk-y but also friendly…I kind of loved it.
- If you’re there in the summer, rent kayaks on the Russian River from Johnson’s Beach (Nic!!) where the Ironman swim will start from. The river was beautiful but pretty low – apparently they dam it in a few weeks time to make it deep enough for triathlon season. The current was surprisingly strong, this lightweight got blisters on her poor, lily-white hands! (Oh the mortification). We slogged upstream, turned round and floated effortlessly back to the start. We liked that bit the most.
- The Armstrong Redwoods are a few miles north of Guerneville. I hadn’t expected the flipping spectacularness of the redwoods there. I seriously squealed with glee when we walked in!! We didn’t have too long there this time, but we did a quick mile hike to the biggest tree. I cannot wait to run there in July!
- The Ramsden holiday favourite, mini golf, is just over the bridge. It opens at 11am. It’s old-fashioned but it has a juke-box that plays on a speaker over the mini-golf area!! Our fellow-golfers got to rock out to the Dude’s current obsession ‘Karma Chameleon’. Also there’s a ginger cat called Pumba who lives there and you know how I feel about ginger cats!
- Blended Choice in Guerneville does the most amazing smoothies!!! We had free samples on the street and we both immediately decided to have a liquid lunch!!! Cannot wait to go back and drink more smoothies in July.
- There are also plenty of wineries. Our plan was to go to a winery in the afternoon…but my son fell asleep as we got in the car and I had to drive sadly past the wineries, dreaming of the glass of rosé I’d been looking forward to all day.
- Nearby Sebastopol looked like it would be a lot of fun to mooch around…but the Dude was still sleeping. Sob.
In summary, the Husband and I would totally recommend this ride if you’re looking for a century (metric or imperial) in June. It was a beautiful, challenging course for the riders with wonderful options for spectating families. The thing that really struck me was the hearts of the volunteers. They were all involved either in the homeless ministries themselves or in the churches that support those ministries, and you could really tell that they had a passion for what they did. They were so kind and warm, they made the event really special.
Incarnation 100 2017, I’m coming for you!!!