Saturday, June 9, 2012

Long Post – Longer Ride!

How did I get here?

I think that anyone who gets involved in cycling starts to think about it.  (By involved, I mean they move from the meandering pace, enjoying the sights and sounds, to pounding out a rhythm with the pedals, doing it for their health and occasionally suffering in the saddle.  Working to go faster, climbing hills, buying gear….you know the type.)  You start to think about how far you can ride in an hour, or two hours, or a morning, or even a day.  You eventually think, “I wonder if I can do a Century Ride?”

You start out in complete disbelief and denial.  (A hundred miles????  I don’t even like to drive that far if I can avoid it!)  You continue to do your fifteen mile course that you do every time you ride, exercising for about an hour or so.  Then, one day, you stretch it a little bit just to see if you can.  And you’ve now ridden twenty miles.  That’s when it starts!  Like something that’s really bad for you (and heaven knows I’ve done my share of that over the years) you begin to think about it, whenever you go for a ride and begin to indulge more and more.

The next time you feel up to it, you push it again and now you’ve done thirty miles.  You’re doing twice what you did before!  And, if you do less than that, you feel as if you’re cheating and chastise yourself.  (Come on, you big weenie!  You’ve done more than this before.  What are you, a quitter?)  So, you keep riding at least thirty whenever you go out, exercising for 2 hours or less if you can lower your time by getting your average speed up.  (Wow, got way under my personal best this morning!  Love it when it’s not windy!)

One morning, you wake up and decide to try for forty five miles.  For me, that was the day.  The day I told MB, “I’m planning to go for three hours this morning.  I’m going to shoot for forty five miles.”  And when I got home, feeling good about my accomplishment, that’s when I said, “You know, I think I’d like to see if I can do a Century Ride.”

(Fortunately, MB understands me better than anyone else.  She knows that once my mind is made up on something that is within my control, it’s going to happen.  What’s wonderful for me is that, instead of trying to talk me out of it or distracting me with something else, she provides encouragement and support to help me get to my goal.  She’s quite something, really.  I’m lucky to have her.)

Because the Universe knows what it’s doing, within a few days of this pronouncement, I received an email from a friend at work telling me about a group of people that were going to ride in the Tour de Cure, a fundraiser to eliminating Diabetes.  One of the rides was a century and the team captain was planning to ride that length.  I signed up!

With a goal in mind, a date set, a location selected, and a team to join in I couldn’t miss!  I began getting people to donate and quickly raised enough money to join the team.  Thanks to all of you wonderful people!  We raised $1250 for this event!  I’m proud to call you all friends!

I spent the last few months preparing myself to ride.  Most of that preparation has been documented in this blog.  If you’re not a regular reader and perhaps you’d like to catch up, feel free to read the rest of the entries here.  Go ahead!  We’ll wait. 

Shouldn’t one be resting in a place called Reston?

Tour de Cure of the National Capital Area takes place just outside of the Nation’s capital, beginning in a place called Reston, VA.  It was the state’s first planned community and began back in the mid-1960s.  After almost fifty years, it’s become a vibrant community.  (I spent a lot of time in this area back in my youth but not having been there for about thirty years, I was quite impressed by what they’ve done.)  The start of the TdC was set up in the Town Center Square which has a big pavilion that is surrounded by some great shops and restaurants.

Since Reston is about a two hour drive from Richmond, I made arrangements to stay at a Holiday Inn Express (so I’d be smarter!) the night before the ride which was beginning at 6 a.m.  I invited MB to join me and she was glad to tag along.
We rode up Saturday in the early afternoon, arriving at The Bike Lane around 2:30.  The Bike Lane ( is a wonderful LBS (local bike shop as they’re known in the bike world) that is owned by a young couple in the area.  It’s a great store and was acting as one of the hosts for the Tour.  The check in desk was set up on the sidewalk out front and after getting my bib and t-shirt, MB and I walked around the store.

Adam, the store manager, greeted me warmly and offered to help.  I identified myself as one of the Tour riders and MB pointed out that I was going to try my first century and did he have any advice?  He said, “Don’t be a hero.  Be sure to eat and drink a lot during the ride – get something at every rest stop.  Go out at an intelligent pace, just survive the middle section up in the hills, and finish strong.”  It’s funny, that’s what I had been thinking all along based on some of the stuff I’ve read online.  That comment about “surviving the middle section” gave me pause, however.  Was it really that hard? 

Adam also told me that his mechanics would be out in force tomorrow for support and if I needed anything to let them know.  Volunteers really make an event and these guys and ladies were great!

I walked around the rest of the store admiring some of the new Trek bikes that are out.  The new Madone model is quite amazing; feels like it weighs about ten pounds.  I haven’t found many bikes lighter than my old Giant these days.  Then I looked at the price tag and understood why.  The more you pay per pound, the lighter the bikes are.  This one was about $400 a pound.  MB was looking at me with that don’t-even-think-about-it look in her eye and said, “You realize that’s about number 35 on the priority list, right?”  I sighed and put it back in the stand.  (So the new Bicycling Magazine has a review of this bike and it's actually 16 pounds.  That's less than $300 a pound.  Wow!  What a bargain!)

After looking around the store, we decided we had a few hours to kill before dinner.  I suggested to we go to the Udvar-Hazy museum (, the air and space museum of the Smithsonian, located nearby.  We got in the car and headed over.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

In my last post, I talked about the Wright Brothers and their little invention in Dayton that they then flew in Kitty Hawk.  They began an industry that is nothing short of remarkable.  I’m willing to say that the airplane was the single biggest invention of the 20th century.  Udvar-Hazy has more of them on display (222 is the current count including space craft) than any place on earth!

What an amazing facility!

In one place you can see, an early Wright Flyer, early machines by other flight pioneers, World War I biplanes, World War II fighters, the Enola Gay (dropped the first atomic bomb) a Boeing 707 jet, a Concorde SST, and SR 71 Blackbird – one of the fastest aircraft every flown (New York to Los Angeles in 56 minutes which is an unbroken record) – and the Discovery Space Shuttle.  

And there are hundreds of other planes from experimental home built models to the hottest jets ever created.  We saw one tiny speed plane, seriously it looked like a toy, that was a 9 time national champion with a top speed near 400 mph!

Every time we’d turn a corner, another famous airplane would come into view and we’d just stand and gawk, eyes wide open, and read the information sign.  It was a terrific way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.  It’s the best free museum you’ll ever find.  (Parking, however, is not.  It’s $15 a car to get in.  I consider it a bargain and that money goes to help the museum grow and improve.)  

The Traditional Carb Loading

Having never done anything like this event, I did a lot of research in preparation.  One of the things I learned about is the tradition of the Carb Loading beforehand.  Allegedly, getting a bunch of complex carbohydrates into your body the night before helps you to maintain your energy level during the event.  I don’t know if that’s true but who am I to argue.

I’m a big fan of carbohydrates.  Part of controlling my diet in my new lifestyle means that I don’t get to eat them whenever I want, however.  Having a reason to do so makes me smile.

MB and I went back to the Reston Town Center area where we’d seen a number of restaurants.  The Tap House grill had caught our eye because we’re both fans of good beer and this place had a couple dozen taps, many of which had names that we’d not seen before.

After getting a table near the street where we could people watch effectively, we ordered some amazing food and a couple of really good micro-brewed beers.  I made sure to have a larger than normal meal with a good mix of proper nutrients, washed down with plenty of water and, of course, some good beer.

Appropriately carb loaded, we headed back to the Holiday Inn to get some sleep.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to because I was pretty excited about the next day.  Fortunately, I was able to go to sleep quickly.

McDonalds – No one is lovin’ it!

I woke up before my alarm went off, turned it off, and headed for a shower.  This was so much to clean up (I was about to go get plenty sweaty) but was more about stretching things out.  A few minutes of blazing hot water on my back and neck does wonders for loosening me up.

I suited up in my riding shorts and a Carytown Cycle Shop jersey.  (I wanted to make sure people knew I was from the Richmond area and this LBS is only in that location.)  I filled my water bottles for the first time and collected all the gear I’d be taking with me; helmet, gloves, shoes, a half dozen Honey Stinger Waffles, and MB and I headed out to get me some breakfast at the McDonalds across the street.  

According to the sign on their window, they opened at 4:30 am.

We pulled up and all the lights inside were on and at least one customer was sitting at a table.  We walked in and were greeted by a young man who took our order.  As he did, we over heard a middle aged woman, who turned out to be the manager, mumbling about people not being prepared to work or something like that.  I grabbed my receipt and we went to find a seat.

At that point, we were treated to the strangest thing I’ve ever seen at a Mickey D’s.  The customer that had been seated inside when we entered, got up and went to the counter to ask how long it was going to be.  The “manager” offered him a refund which he took and then left.

A few moments later, three local police officers came in to get breakfast.  I assumed they were about to go on duty as it was around 5:30 in the morning.  The “manager” told them it would be a while.  They left.

The person that had ordered immediately before us went up to the counter and requested a refund as he couldn’t wait any longer.  The manager gave him one and he left.

At this point, MB looked at me and asked what I wanted to do.  We had managed to get our drinks so far but from the way the manager was mumbling, and the lack of staff apparent in the back, it was going to be a while before I got to eat.  At that point, I heard the manager say, “The grill isn’t even on yet….”

I walked up to the counter and asked, “How long will it take to get my breakfast?”
She responded with, “She didn’t even turn the grill on, yet.”  I think she was referring to someone who was supposed to be working in the back but I hadn’t even seen yet.

“Yes, I heard you say that already.  What does that translate to in minutes?  How long will it take to get food?”

She sighed and said, “About forty five minutes or so.”

“Okay. I’d like a refund then.”

She gave me one and we headed off to the Town Center starting area.  I hoped that there would be some kind of fruit or something to eat.

In my lifetime, McDonalds became the largest fast food franchise in the world.  They did it by providing (according to founder Ray Kroc) Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value.  The lack of same, along with a trend toward more healthy fare, will be the thing that drives them out of business, given enough time.  I realize this was an anomaly but I’ve also seen more examples of this type of execution there in the past five years than in the rest of my lifetime.  And I eat there far less frequently these days than I ever did before.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just that Americans have gotten used to horrible service and it’s become the norm.  Whatever.

107 miles – Hills suck except when they’re going down!

MB dropped me off near the Pavilion about 5:45 and I gave her a kiss.  She was heading back to the hotel to shower, pack up our stuff, check out, and then wait at a rest stop on the ride.

I walked my bike across the square to get the lay of the land and then hung it in a bike rack that was filling up quickly.  I found some tables of fruit and grabbed a banana and orange for breakfast.  As I ate, I looked around at all the riders beginning to queue up in the area, looking for my team captain, Wes.  I was also looking around at the various shapes and sizes of riders in the crowd.  I haven’t done much riding with others and, I suppose, I was sizing myself up to see if I looked like someone who could ride a century.

I finally spotted Wes in line to check in.  When I caught his eye we exchanged pleasantries, and I told him where I was waiting so we could connect and get organized.

Once he checked in and collected his stuff, I helped him pin his number on the back of his jersey.  Then we grabbed our bikes and rolled them past the mechanics from The Bike Lane to top off the tires.  After fidgeting around for a few more minutes, we realized that it was shortly after 6 am and, since we were allowed to start anytime between 6 and 7 am, we saddled up and rolled off through the starting area.  I punched my computer to let it know I was really doing this and we were off.

The first twenty seven miles of the course followed the W&OD trail, a multi-purpose trail that began its life as a railroad bed.  As a result, the trail was relatively flat although I could detect a very slight uphill grade.  Because it was so flat, our pace was a pretty solid 17-18 mph for the first 90 minutes or so.  On flat ground, I can do that for many hours but I had Adam’s words ringing in my ears about going out at an intelligent pace.  The thing is it just felt like the right speed so I went with it.

There were dozens of riders on the trail, large groups and small, and they kept passing me.  I let them.  I planned to make it to the end and that meant that I had to go with my own pace, listen to my body.  (Sometimes it says things to me that can’t be repeated but right now it was saying, “This is fine!  It feels good, we aren’t breathing hard, heart rate is good, legs feel good.  Just stick with this!”) 

In any case, I was getting comfortable with riding in a large group of people very close together which can be a little unnerving.  Once I got comfortable, it felt great!  So this is what the peloton feels like, huh?  People riding about a foot away at a pretty good rate of speed, blocking the wind.  Not bad!

At some point, I realized that Wes had been swept along by one of the large groups that kept passing me.  I could see him about 200 meters ahead of me and, although I knew he’d wait for me at the first rest stop (he promised he’d drag me around if he had to) I didn’t want him to feel like I was holding him back.  I was riding with five other riders in a small group when I decided I needed to jump across the gap and catch up with Wes.  The problem was I didn’t know how to do it as I’d never done any of this before.

I stood up on the pedals and did some power cranks for about ten seconds.  This increased my speed enough to pull around the person I’d been riding behind and begin to close the gap.  Since I’d kicked up my speed by 3 mph, I sat back down, shifted to a smaller cog, and kept my eyes focused on Wes’ rear wheel while trying to keep my cadence the same as it had been.  The gap grew smaller and in about 10 minutes, I was back on his wheel.  What do you know?  That was easier than I thought.  I had crossed my first gap.

At that point, it was just the two of us riding together as no one had followed me and the group with Wes had ridden off.  We continued along at the same pace as before and started to chat.

Wes is in sales for the company we both work for.  He is one of those people who can talk with anyone (I saw him do it throughout the course of the day.  I’m convinced he can carry on a conversation with a mannequin) and is a good listener, too.  He kept asking me questions and I kept answering; this continued throughout the ride as long as we had breath. We had a pretty long discussion about health care reform at one point.  I don't think we solved anything but it helped the miles go past.

At the first rest stop, we pulled over for a quick break.  I refilled my water bottle and realized I was bordering on hungry.  I grabbed two halves of a PB&J, which I promptly ate, and stuck a couple of Clif Bars in my jersey pocket.  I tore open a Honey Stinger so that I could eat one of those during the next section of the ride but wouldn’t have to open it while riding. (I’m famous for dropping it as I get it open and I wasn’t planning to turn around.) I was going to make sure I gave myself every chance to eat and not lose it based on a lack of energy.
We got back on the bikes and continued along the old railroad bed for about 15 miles to the Purcellville stop where we would leave the trail and switch to country roads.  As we pulled into the parking lot of the Post Office, where volunteers had set up for support, I saw our car in a parking space and knew that MB had made it.  I saw her sitting on the curb, reading her Kindle and called out.  She looked up and waved and walked over to where Wes and I were pulling to a stop.

Wes and I got off our bikes and parked them.  We had decided to take a 15 minute break and it was welcome by me at that point.  As I refilled bottles, got another sandwich and some fruit, and stretched, MB was looking me over to see how I was doing.  (She’s smart enough to know that I’m probably going to say I’m fine unless I’m near death.) I must have passed the examination because when she asked how I felt and I responded positively, she allowed that I looked okay, too.

I introduced MB to Wes and they exchanged niceties.  As they did, I realized that we were slightly over ¼ of the way and I felt pretty good.  My legs felt good, not great.  I also knew that it was about to get considerably more difficult.  I was determined to see this through.

We finished our break, hit the portable toilet (Don’s Johns! I had forgotten that company name.  They must be the market leader in the DC area after all these years - We're #1 in #2 or something like that.) and got set to ride on.  

MB said she’d be waiting at the halfway point or thereabouts and expected us in a couple of hours.

We rode out of town and onto two lane blacktop roads.

The next four hours or so are a bit of a blur to me.  We rode the first 25 miles through some lovely parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains, passing farms that were over 200 years old and some that were less than 10.  We saw some tiny shacks and some enormous mansions.  What I mostly remember though were the hills.  We climbed and we descended.  Over and over again.  Some of the hills were short and not very steep; these are often referred to as rollers.  Some of them were longer and a little steeper.  These are referred to as climbs.  Some were long and steep.  I refer to these as hell.

Sure it's pretty! You aren't riding uphill in front of it!

That first half of the road loop was plenty exhilarating to me.  The climbs were enough to get my heart pounding near my maximum (I have no idea what that is but I’ve heard serious cyclists say it) and I was unable to speak for several minutes after each one.  After looking at the online road chart, I know that some of them were around 8% for short stretches.  That’s what real riders do.  I’m not a real rider.  

As a result, I was struggling.

Around mile 53, I saw a parking lot coming up where riders were pulling in.  It was the halfway station!  As we pulled in, there was great clapping from the volunteers and I saw smiles everywhere I looked.  MB stood up and smiled and then immediately frowned.  She had our digital SLR and was going to take our picture as we came in when the battery died!  What a shame that we’ll never have the look of relief on my face saved for posterity.

I dismounted and propped the bike against a fence, stretching my back and legs.  Halfway and I felt like this?  Maybe the worst was behind us.  Yeah, right.  It can always get worse.

I drank and ate again.  PB&Js had now become the best food I’d ever eaten!  And the orange was amazing, too.  I also wolfed down a couple of Clif bars for good measure.  I started to feel better, at least I think I did.

MB asked me how I was holding up.  I told her I thought I was okay but those hills had been killers.  She smiled and said, “I overheard a couple guys talking about them.  One said they were just a warm up. Evidently, it gets harder from here.”  I smiled.  Kind of.  Actually, it was the face I make when I’m trying not to vomit.

Wes leaned in.  “He’s doing great! We’re going to make this, no problem!”  I agreed.

Wes and I stretched for about fifteen minutes or so, and made sure to get enough food down for another two hours.  Before heading out, I topped off my water bottles again, tore open two more Honey Stingers and a Clif bar, and saddled up.  MB said she’d be waiting at the finish line.  I told her we’d see her in about four hours or less.

Hell makes a return visit

The guys that MB overheard were right, dammit.  There were slightly fewer hills on the next 25 mile section but they were steeper.  How steep?  For the first time since I’d gotten my road bike, I shifted to the smallest chain ring and the largest cog.  That’s affectionately known to cyclists as the “granny gear.”  It’s where you’re pedaling steadily at your normal cadence and hoping you remain upright since you’re moving so slowly you might fall over.  It’s designed for the steepest hill that no other gear will do. 

Despite using the granny gear, I still had to get off the bike and walk it because I couldn’t go any further pedaling.  My Ass Just Hurt. Too. Badly.  I simply had to get off right this very second or risk falling off.  I was on the verge of sobbing.  Seriously.

Good grief!  The walk of shame.  Three times.  I felt like a wuss.  Until I saw several others riders (who all looked like cyclists – full kit, nice jersey, nice bike, the whole thing!) pushing their bike, too. 

That’s when I realized that pushing the bike wasn’t a walk of shame. It was a temporary respite from the pain so one can continue.  So that one doesn’t have to quit entirely.  And I began to feel better.  I even managed to ride my way up a couple of hills that were steeper than ones I’d walked up already.

The downhill parts were pretty cool.  On one, I simply glided to a speed of 38 mph without once touching the pedals.  (I was trying to rest.)  That’s pretty steep if you ask me.  (I realize that folks that live in the real mountains, out west, are laughing at this blog post.  Yeah, yeah, I know you have real mountains out there.  Get over yourself.  It’s all relative.)  Those downhill bits are the payback for the climb.  I just wish they lasted longer.

See the blue in the background?  Hence the name!

By the time the hills were over, we’d done over 6,000 feet of climbs in a 45 mile stretch.  Based on what I’ve read, that’s some pretty good climbing.

Eventually, we rolled out of the last roller and back into Purcellville.  We were at mile 80 or so.  The rest of the ride would be on mostly flat railroad bed/trail.  But first we had a rest stop.  Thank God!

We pulled back into the Post Office parking lot that we’d hit coming off the trail on the way out.  The volunteers had the same fare as before laid out and added Subway subs.  (I'm always impressed with the sponsors of events like this.  Thank you Subway!  And thank you Clif Bars!)  Riders were grabbing sandwiches and wolfing them down.  I stuck with the PB&J as I felt like I needed the quick energy burst.  I also knew that I could eat them without worrying about dietary issues.  I refilled my water bottles, too, after drinking my fill.

At this point, I felt like I was going to be able to finish.  I knew the last thirty miles or so were flat with the tiniest of downhill grades.  Wes still looked strong but he’s one of those guys who always has a smile on his face anyway.  He mentioned that there were 2 stops left and he wanted to know if I was okay with skipping one of them.  We agreed to hit the last one, about eleven miles from the finish.

We swung back onto the bikes and picked up the old railroad trail.  After all the hills, it was glorious!  I felt like singing.  I hung on Wes’ wheel as we hit about 18 mph, passing riders, runners, and walkers in both directions.  Now that it was after lunch, the trail was crowded with weekend outdoor lovers, not just TdC riders.

We rolled through the first rest stop and continued on with about 20 miles to go.  As we rode, we were continuously passed by other riders.  Some were TdC riders who were headed for the finish.  Most were just riders out on the trail.  In my area, we have nothing like this trail for cyclists at least not that I’m aware of.  The number of folks using it was amazing to me.  (I may have to look into this.  If Richmond is holding the World Cycling Championships in 2015, shouldn’t we have this kind of system going, too?)

Our pace had slowed considerably and we were holding about a 13-14 mph pace.  This was driven to some degree by the traffic.  Occasionally, we’d have to slow down to wait for room to pass someone.  There was also a bit of wind kicking up here and there which was dead in our faces.

At one point, Wes slowed down a bit and was stretching his back while coasting.  Since he had been leading most of the way, I thought I should help him out.  I swung past him and said, “I’ll pull for a while.  Get on my wheel. You’ve been doing all the work.”  He slid into line and immediately said, “This is much easier! Wow! Where have you been all day?”

I laughed and hollered back at him, “I’ve been trying to keep up!” 

I stepped the pace up a little bit as we crested a tiny hill caused by a flyover a road.  I held the pace at about 16 mph for a couple of miles while Wes recovered behind me.  I was catching another wind and feeling okay again.  I found it really interesting that when I just ground through the really rough spots, my body would come back again a little farther down the road.  Clearly, the mental aspect of this is a big deal on these long rides.

We were only about 8 miles out when Wes passed me and said thanks for the pull.  He was feeling better and took the lead again.  A couple of miles went by in silence, as had most of this last thirty mile section.  Suddenly, Wes sat up and looked around.

“Hey dude, check your odometer.  What’s it say?”

“I was watching it, too.  I’d have to call that a hundred miles!” I replied.

“Congratulations, sir!  How’s it feel?” Wes was grinning as was I.

“It feels great!  And we’re almost home.  Let’s get busy!”

We continued down the trail for about twenty minutes and suddenly there was a detour off of it.  It looked as if the trail was closed due to some kind of work being done to a bridge up ahead.  The detour took us down to the road where we hit another detour caused by a carnival that was set up and taking over several blocks of parking lot and roads. 

After several turns through a neighborhood we came back out on a main street and suddenly, the trail reappeared.  We turned onto it again with only a couple of miles left to go.  At this point, Wes had slid back behind me again.  I think he wanted me to have the chance to go first as we headed into the finish area.

Finally, I could see we’d reached the trail end.  There was a sign pointing to the street that we’d crossed to start the ride 8+ hours before and there was the pavilion!  There was a wall of sound emanating from the area as we approached.  I caught a glimpse of MB sitting behind the stage as we approached and she jumped up to take my picture.  I raised my left arm and grinned as she snapped it and turned down the roadway next to the pavilion.  Both sides were full of people who suddenly started applauding as Wes and I made our way toward the bike racks set up for cyclists to park and eat.  It felt really cool to have all these people smiling, clapping and giving us the thumbs up!  

It felt like I’d won something.  I suppose, I had.

We stopped and dismounted.  I stuck out my hand told Wes thanks for dragging me through the rough spots.  He thanked me for pushing him along and pulling him when he needed it, too.

MB came through the crowd and patted me on the back, asking me how I felt, if I was hungry, thirsty, did I need anything?  I said, “I just want to get something to eat and walk around for a few minutes.  And then I want a beer.”


After relaxing for about twenty minutes with several sandwiches, a slice of pizza, and another quart of water, I was ready to head for home.  I thanked Wes, again, and we agreed to do another ride soon.  (No, Wes, I’m not doing that Severe Century or whatever it was.  That sounds too brutal, or impossible.  Don't even suggest it.  Okay, maybe next year.)

MB and I walked my bike to where the car was parked and I loaded it onto the rack, changed my shirt and shoes, and collapsed in the front seat.  Frankly, the next hour or so was kind of a blur. 

I felt totally wiped out but very much alive.  My wrists and left elbow, which toward the end of the ride were on fire, didn’t seem to be hurting so badly.  My legs were tired but seemed to be able to support me.  My neck was pretty sore but tolerable.  

As MB negotiated the Beltway, finally getting us onto I95 South, she told me several times how proud she was of my efforts and glad that I was no worse for wear.
At some point, I apparently fell asleep.  Traffic was at a standstill and MB took this shot which she immediately posted to Facebook.  That’s me, out like a light, holding a water bottle, and snoring. 

I slept for about 30 minutes and when I woke up, I had to lift my head with one hand as my neck seemed to have lost its hoisting ability.  Once I woke up fully, I became much more aware of things and spent the rest of the drive chatting with MB about the ride, the sights, the hills, the volunteers, and the feeling of finishing.

When we got home, I was surprised to find that I could climb stairs with no problem.  This was good because I had to do it several times to put stuff away.  I was in much better shape than I thought.

I took the hottest shower I could stand for about 20 minutes.  I was surprised at how much grit was on my face, arms, and legs from the ride.  That may have been the best shower I’ve ever taken in my life.

Once I got dressed, I felt totally human again.  I opened a beer and watched some TV while MB fixed dinner.  It was good to be home.

The next morning, I woke up with some trepidation.  When I’ve done something exhausting in the past, it’s always the next day that hurts.  Badly.  I opened my eyes and started mentally checking out body parts.

Neck?  Seems to be okay; yes I can turn my head.  Wrists? Hmm, no pain at all.  Elbows? They seem fine, too.  Legs?  Well, I can tell I did something yesterday but they don’t feel any worse than when I’ve ridden 40 miles.  I’m going to live.  I sat up.  Definitely going to live!  And much happier than ever, too!

I got dressed and went to get the paper.  Life is good.

Thoughts on Riding a Century

I started out wondering if I could do this.  Frankly, if the ride had been on that old railroad trail for 100 miles, I would barely have broken a sweat.  I feel as if I can ride all day long on the flats.  (We’re going back to OBX in July.  I’ll let you know if that’s true.  I’m thinking about trying a solo century down there.)

What this ride taught me is that the hills are going to challenge me for a while.  I don’t ride them very often (not any that are this big, anyway) and so my climbing technique and the power to do it, isn’t very well developed.  Part of me is thinking that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be.  Another part of me is wondering how I go about doing that.  Damn, retired athletes.

Will I do this again?  That’s still something I’m wondering about.  The answer is probably yes.  I love that it was for charity; that made me feel really good regardless of the pain.  I loved the challenge, the camaraderie, the struggle, and to some degree, the suffering.  There’s something about learning how much you can stand, how much you’re willing to take, that you’re limit is farther out than you thought, that is eye opening and fulfilling.  It’s not an adrenaline shot.  It’s much more for the soul.  

And I needed that.  And will need it again.


  1. Hey Brian, just saw your post. I'll read it in the AM and get back to you. Right now I have cops and all manner of drama swirling about and not able to savor the experience see ya tomorrow

  2. Nice ride, brother! All my c-rides have been solo and on the flats, but never disregard the pull of a riding partner! Your post was a fantastic representation of the actual time and tedium of such a long time on the bike. It really is a long time to turn pedals and a lot of stuff happens internally and in the countryside all around. Road kill alone can fill volumes as well as the wild stuff that passes through your head while you pedal and pedal and pedal some more.

    Congratulations, Brian, you make us proud. More, please!


    1. Thanks TJ. I consider that very high praise indeed! I'm starting to feel like a writer and a cyclist. :>)

      Hope all is well and the park; I look forward to your next entry!

  3. Hi Brian!
    I'm SO GLAD I found your blog! (It was posted by another cyclist friend of mine.) I am training currently for my very first REAL ride, a century, in September. It's in honor of my cancer fighting kiddo. Anyway, I'm so thrilled to read your advice and experience. I, too, am addicted to cycling. I love every single miserable second! ;) It's something I think about constantly- and I'm glad you do too! Thanks for posting this and allowing me to "come along for the ride!"

    Ride: Trek 1000 C

    1. Thanks Sarah! Good luck on your century! I hope it's everything you hope for!

  4. Great race report! Love the "local color" details that make it such an experience. Favorite pics are that gorgeous shot of the Blue Ridge--that's some serious technicolor!--and BK nodded off in the car LOL!
    Congrats on a fantastic ride and lots of $$$ raised! I won't be at all surprised to read your Severe Century report :)