Ride Report: Century 101
Saturday night, I went to bed at 10:30, thinking it would be nice to get almost 8 hours of sleep before a big ride for once.
Sunday morning, I finally heaved my carcass out of bed at 5:45 AM. I had slept a whopping one hour.
I asked myself a single question: “Can I ride 101 miles on 1 hour of sleep?”
The answer, it turns out, is yes.
I suppose I should explain my logic. We are dealing with stuff and I am not getting to ballet class three times a week, or even two times a week, though I hope to get back to that this week at least. I am also not getting any other exercise because I have been grappling with an episode of very agitated, unpleasant hypomania, which has made sleeping and completing projects almost impossible for the past couple of weeks.
As such, I’ve spent basically all my time wrestling very basic household tasks (and, I am forced to admit, mostly losing), and haven’t even done my grocery run by bike since things started getting really tough.
Saturday night I decided that it was really important to try to get out and ride, even if I didn’t make it the whole way, because getting some real exercise in would help me get some real sleep (maybe). I figured it might also take the edge off my agitation.
Sunday morning I decided that it was important to try to go as far as I could: to complete at least the 50-mile ride, then to continue if at all possible. I felt sure I could do that much.
I’d organized my stuff and printed out a checklist on Saturday night. This made it easy to get up and running in the morning. I threw my clothes on, ate my oatmeal, gathered my stuff and headed out — .95 miles to the bus stop 😉 (I didn’t think I was quite up to the 200k I’d be rolling if I rode all the way to the ride start and all the way home.)
I hopped off the bus a little less than five miles from my destination, grabbed some ride snacks and Gatorade (I’d managed to forget one water bottle, somehow, but remembered absolutely everything else) along the way, arrived at the wrong destination, and then backtracked until I reached the right place, which I’d somehow overshot.
Fortunately, I was still 15 minutes early — really 30 minutes early, since the ride left on “Wheelman Time,” 15 minutes late. I signed the release form (basically: “If you die on this ride, you won’t sue Louisville Bicycle Club”) and picked up both 50-mile and 100-mile cue sheets. Our Ride Captain, Richard, gave us the obligatory quick talk about things we might need to know on this ride (construction areas, detours, that it was possible to bail at the 50-mile mark even if you had the 100-mile cue sheet). Then we all turned on our Garmins* and rolled out.
Soon we were whipping along in a big chatty group, making good time on familiar roads. Most of us had ridden most of the route on other rides, so we were all feeling pretty comfortable. It helped that Timothy Stephen was along; later in the ride, having around who I felt really comfortable talking to would help pass the miles, not to mention a rider I completely trusted in a tight paceline and someone to trade pulls with**. It was also cool to finally be able to ride all the way across the Big Four Bridge, our new pedestrians-and-bikes-only bridge (which will feature in upcoming school commutes).
After twenty-five pleasant miles, I was feeling pretty great — especially since those miles included a climb that made me say, “Huh, this used to be a hill.” I guess my fitness really has improved (the remainder of the ride confirmed that fact!).
We hit up our first store stop at a gas station called Temco, where I threw back a Payday bar (the cyclist’s friend!) and a Cherry Coke Zero. I joked that my Payday bar (at 240 calories) had probably just about replaced the fuel I’d used on a long pull cranking away into headwind.
I had decided to take in a bit of caffeine at each food stop to stave off the potential effects of sleep deprivation. This strategy proved highly effective; I left the Temco store stop feeling refreshed and ready for more. Timothy and I decided that finishing the full century route was much likelier than we thought.
By the time we were sweeping back through Utica, IN, we were absolutely certain we had the 50-mile route in the bag, and we were both still feeling pretty strong. We again encountered a stiff headwind along a stretch of road heading south-west; this would become something of a theme throughout the first seventy-five miles of the ride. Soon, though, we were at our lunch stop — a Subway in Jeffersonville, IN — where, evidently, my food must have looked a wee bit suspicious or something:
As we ate and dawdled, we came up with a plan to incorporate both an extra food stop and a couple extra miles into the ride by detouring to The Comfy Cow on Frankfort Ave at around mile 99. Then we found ourselves reminiscing about the lunch stop on last year’s July 4th Boston century, which we kept much shorter, since we were soaked to the bone and freezing our butts off in the air conditioning***.
Soon — refueled and refreshed — we were back on the road. We zipped back over the Big Four Bridge (the ramp, by the way, is steeper and a bit narrower on the IN side than on the KY side), rolled through downtown, and headed west-by-southwest on Main.
Immediately, we realized that the next several miles were going to be, well, interesting. We were feeling well-fueled and pretty spunky, but we were already chugging into a significant head wind — and once we got out on the Levee Trail, we would be very exposed.
Still, we were determined. Timothy and I rolled along, sometimes chatting side-by-side, sometimes swapping pulls to save energy. Much of this segment of the ride took place on the Louisville Loop Trail, so we didn’t have to deal with too much traffic. Likewise, for much of this segment, we didn’t spot a single other soul from the ride. We began to speculate about the fate of a pair of tri-girls, also on the ride, who’d been dining across from us at lunch. Had they undereaten and bonked? Had they blown away?
I suppose every long ride has low point. Mine came while riding the Levee Trail, which runs (perhaps unsurprisingly) along the top of a riverside levee. It’s scenic, but very exposed — and now we were heading straight into the wind, with occasional significant gusts.
Fortunately, we were too far out to bother turning around. It might’ve meant riding 91 miles instead of 101, and I wasn’t about to let that happen. I kept my mouth shut (except for the occasional non-verbal grumble after a particularly emphatic gust) and rolled, because that’s how we do it, right?
Then, after what seemed like forever, we passed the site of the next store stop, which meant we were only a mile or so from the turnaround.
…Which meant, in turn, that we were only a mile or so from the tailwind.
As we came about in a concrete circle on the grounds of local landmark Farnsley-Moremen Landing, I was filled with triumph, jubilation, and — yes — even a little bit of relief. As we headed back to the Five Star to hit the mile 75ish store stop, our pace — which had dropped to a grinding 12 MPH — picked back up, and we spun along at around 17 MPH once again.
At the stop, we caught up with a bunch of riders. I enjoyed another Payday bar, a half-and-half Diet and regular Pepsi from the fountain, and a Gatorade. For some reason, I really wanted a chicken salad sandwich, but that seemed like a bad idea, so I skipped it.
I also skipped taking any more pictures — but not on purpose. I just forgot. I was having too much fun chatting with other riders and enjoying the rare Payday treat (Paydays and Salted Nut Rolls are about the only candy bars that I’d say I enjoy enough to be dangerous — so, with exceptions of surpassing rarity, I only get to eat them on long rides).
Other riders began to head out. We finished up our snacks and headed back to the Levee Trail soon after — and there, we finally got to really enjoy the tailwind we’d earned ourselves.
That tailwind lasted most of the way back to downtown. With more than 75 miles and counting under our belts, I can’t say that all of the remainder of the ride felt entirely effortless — parts of me were starting to hurt, and I had long since decided that the Tricross needs a shorter stem if it’s going to fulfill its promise as a go-to century bike — but parts of it did.
I watched my Garmin’s Total Distance meter tick up and was filled with the sheer joy of knowing that, yes, I was going to finish this ride. I was going to do this thing I’d set out to do — and I was going to get to eat awesome ice cream in the process.
On the way back downtown, we caught up with fellow riders Laura and Patsy (on her awesome ‘bent). We rode with them for several miles, from the end of the Levee Trail portion of the Loop all the way to just past Saint James Court, where we made all kinds of crazy loops around the scenic, tree-planted, fountain-bedecked medians just because we good (and also encountered a minor traffic jam).
By then, I was really starting to get tired. I wasn’t actually sure I could make it up the climb on Frankfort Ave — one I used to ride daily, and which once seemed pretty stiff. Once again, though, I had the good sense to keep my mouth shut … and when we got there, I found that the climb in question must have eroded considerably in the past few years 😉 (That, or else I’m just a lot stronger now than I was back then!)
We rolled up Frankfort Ave and deposited our bikes in the not-so-effective rack in front of Comfy Cow. As we parked, my Total Distance readout read 99.0. We were not just going to make it, but we were going to make it feeling strong.
Timothy got some kind of sundae concoction in a chocolate-dipped waffle bowl, and I got the Milkshake To End All Milkshakes: a pure, unadulterated coffee malted (just a few years ago, it was basically impossible to find one of these in Louisville, which didn’t know from coffee ice cream). There was no need to worry about sugar, calories, or caffeine content: I was already well over 100 miles for the day, I had eaten nowhere near enough to even begin to approach working off the burn of 8+ hours on the bike, and I knew I would have exactly no trouble sleeping when bedtime rolled around.
Once we’d thrown back our ice cream treats, we leapt back on our bikes and banged out a final four miles. I rolled up to the car (Timothy had offered to drop me at home) with 103 miles on the meter.
After factoring in the morning’s two transport rides, my total distance for the day amounted to 109.74 miles. A pretty nice day out, I think!
A few stray thoughts and some things I learned on this ride:
- Even tough I try not to overdo it with sugar most of the time, it works pretty well as fuel on really long rides as long as it’s accompanied by appropriate amounts of fat and protein.
- I can ride longer and harder than I thought.
- Even though I have way, way fewer miles under my belt this year than I did at the same time last year, I’m a stronger and fitter rider than I was then.
- If I can ride just shy of 110 miles, I can ride a 200k.
- If you feel like maybe you can do something, but you’re not sure because you’re a wee bit sleep deprived or whatever, give it a go. You might just surprise yourself!
*Garmin units seem to be nearly universal around here. The beginning of any club ride is now accompanied not only by the unmistakable sound of cyclists clipping in, but also by the signature Garmin beeps as everyone simultaneously begins to record.
**Sadly, swapping pulls with Timothy benefits me much more than it benefits him, since I’m both shorter and skinnier than he is.
***In case you’re wondering: given the choice, I think I’d take Dairy Queen as a lunch stop on a century, even though Subway offers better nutrition — but I think my Number 1 Fast-Food Ride Fuel choice would have to be Burger King. Unfortunately, Burger Kings are pretty scarce around here, and the only one that’s on one of my regular long-ride routes is currently closed for remodeling.