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My First Century Bicycle Ride

Easy to smile at the beginning . . .

by Laura Drake

Alpha Dog and I had been training for three months, so I had mixed feelings about finally attempting my first organized Century bicycle ride (100 miles in a day.)   On one hand, I was looking forward to not having to spend 8-10 hours a week on that darned bike seat, training, and was getting behind in chores around the house.  On the other hand, I was dreading it. I had serious doubts about my ability.  How embarrassing would it be not to make it after telling everyone my goal?  No such fears for Alpha Dog, he could do this with very little sweat.

We decided to spend the night before in Poway, so we would be at the starting line in plenty of time.  After a huge Italian dinner (one of the advantages – you can eat whatever you want the day before the ride) and a good night’s sleep, we were up at 4:30.  I had planned on a big breakfast, but found that I was too nervous to eat much.  When we got to Old Poway Park it was still dark, but the place was soon hopping with 1500 bicyclists.  Who knew there were THAT many crazy people in Southern California?

There didn’t seem to be an official start; no gun going off, or cheering. We just inserted ourselves into the huge peleton of bikes on the road.  Police were directing traffic through town and it sure was nice to have someone to stop cars so we didn’t have to wait at intersections.

That hill was a bitch-kitty

Within a mile and a half the dreaded “Poway Grade” began.  They’d closed off one of the lanes to traffic for the ride.    4 miles of 9% grade…ugh.  The good news was that we’d come down the weekend before and I tackled the hill, so at least I knew I could do this part!  I hadn’t done it elbow to elbow with 1500 of my closest friends however.  It was scary to be clipped into the bike with people either whizzing by me at close proximity or lugging ahead of me slowly.  I was so hyper alert that I didn’t even notice that the hill was hard!

On to the next 96 miles.  We were lucky with the weather; overcast and a high of 80 degrees.  Alpha Dog’s dust wasn’t even visible — I was sure I’d seen the last of him for the day. He was testing his testosterone level against a bunch of young riders at the front.  As the riders spread out, I had a chance to look around.  The land is beautiful: rolling hills, trees overhanging the road, and gated estates.  We went by the Wild Animal Park, Legoland, a thoroughbred racetrack, the ocean.

It’s funny, I only remember “snapshots” of most of the ride; I think the rest of it I was concentrating on the road, traffic and my level of energy (or lack thereof).  The motorcycling skills paid off going downhill, as I was able to whiz along while others heated up their brakes and slowed down.  Saw one wreck along the downhill…a guy had been going too fast to take a turn, and he went off the road – CHP was on the scene.  That slowed everyone down!

I caught up with Alpha Dog at the rest stops, where he’d waited to be sure I was okay.  He was so happy he was giggling, and by the third one I was a little “testy.”  Okay, to tell the truth, I was snapping at him like a woman in labor.

The last 25 miles were seen through a haze of pain: legs, lungs, butt.  They had advertised the ride as having 4500 feet of climb, and I kept looking down at the ascent display on my bike computer every few minutes, and when we passed 4500 feet, we still had twenty miles to go.  I thought to myself, “Oh good, now the rest will be downhill – I can do this!”   But the road kept climbing.  At 5000 feet, I realized we’d been duped!  Then I really got bitter.  The route took us along the freeway on a bike trail, with retaining walls on both sides.  We were climbing endless hills, and it was HOT!  We finally rolled back into Poway and I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the city limits sign. Alpha Dog was ahead, but keeping fairly close at that point, and stopped me from taking a shortcut 3 miles from the end.  Boy he was lucky he was out of earshot from then on!

The Finish Line

To his chagrin, we finished in the bottom third of the riders (obviously not due to HIS lack of ability!).

I was just happy to have finished, and to pull the seat out of my butt.  I hobbled to where they were serving food and sat as far from anyone else as I could . . . I stunk!  You can’t imagine how filthy you get – you’re slathered in suntan lotion, which picks up road grime and seven hours worth of sweat.  I wanted to burn the clothes I wore, regardless if I was still in them or not.

When I got off the bike, Alpha Dog said, “Wasn’t that fun?!” He looked so happy that I didn’t hit him.  But I did lay some ground rules:

  • I didn’t want to hear the word “fun” again,
  • He seriously needed to stop smiling,
  • I didn’t want to talk about the ride, or what ride we were doing next, or even LOOK at the bike for at least a week.

By that time I figured the last 25 miles will have faded like the pain of childbirth (it didn’t.)

Final mileage: 104.  Final total ascent: 5700 feet.

Am I glad I did it?  Yeah.  Am I going to do it again?  Not in this lifetime.


13 Responses

  1. OMGOSH! Go, Laura! This sounds brutal and although I love riding bikes for fun, I’m with you. Not in this lifetime! LOL Congratulations on crossing that finish line! You Rock! 🙂

    (Oh, and if it were my hubby and he was smiling after something like this, I’m afraid I would have hit him. Hard! LOL)

  2. WOW!! More power to you girl. My hubby bought me a bike in March. First time I’ve ridden since I was a kid. I can barely do two miles. You should absolutely feel a huge sense of accomplishment!!

  3. Yay for you, Laura! We’re riders, too, but 100 miles in a day sounds grueling and no fun at all. We rode 30 miles one day, and that was more than plenty for me. I had to chuckle at the burning up brakes downhill part. It reminded me of a ride me made in Hawaii. DH had gotten into riding in a big way. We were on vacation and he signed the family up for a 20-mile ride down the side of a volcano. Sounds fun, right? It was a very breezy morning. We took off downhill, gaining speed very quickly. I came around a curve and caught a crosswind that literally threw me off of my bike. Luckily I landed on the right side of the road rather than in the lane with the busload of tourists headed to the top. I wasn’t hurt, but it scared the crap out of me. I rode my brakes the rest of the way down. I squeezed them so hard they squealed and you could hear me coming from a long distance away. The kids were embarrassed to death:-)
    When we got to the bottom of the volcano, the next mile was straight up, and then the rest of the ride was rolling hills. We finally ended at a winery for lunch, which made the terrors of the morning fade pretty quickly, but I still refer to the tale as the ride DH tried to kill me on.

  4. Go you! That would be one of those things that’s great to say you’ve done. Past tense.

  5. I am so impressed…and jealous of your stamina. Good for you! You are an awesome woman..please note I didn’t say OLD woman. I’m afraid you’d challenge me to a bike ride and I think after 1/2 a mile or so, I’d die.

    Congrats! Love the pictures

  6. I am so impressed. My friend’s husband loves to bike; she stays home. I’m with her. I’d stick to the couch and maybe add a short walk. The last bike ride I attempted, I only went about a mile or two and was sure death was next. By the way, I visited your website. I love the photos, and congrats on “Biker-chick.” After reading this blog, that name has a whole new meaning.

  7. omg–your POOR POOR BOTTOM!

    but huge congrats on such an accomplishment!

  8. Awesome! I’m so proud of you…and I like those rules. Sound like ones I would make.

    Husband asked me today if I enjoyed working out. ???? Really? Who enjoys THAT? Sadists. That’s who. Me. I like ice cream and reading books. I’d be over 200 lbs if I weren’t married to him.

  9. Very, very impressive, Laura! And wonderfully described. I could taste the road dust and maybe even smell you a little bit… 🙂 Congratulations!

  10. Thanks everyone – it was more stupidity than drive. And someone tell me WHY I still have a weight problem? Oh, the hormone thing. And the eating thing. Crap.

  11. […] other hand, some of us have taking aging past forty to a disgusting level (*sticks tongue out at Laura Drake for her 100 MILE bike ride and Pamela Hearon for her 30 MILE bike […]

  12. […] got other interests as well. The past months, I’ve written about bicycling (you can read it here,) motorcycling (here,) and fly fishing (here.) I realized I haven’t shared my biggest obsession. […]

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