Breaking the 100 mile wall
Ten months ago after completing my first 20 mile ride I decided that I was going to commit to training for a 100 mile ride, I eventually chose the inaugural Tour of the Unknown Coast, Avenue of the Giants Century ride. With a little over 5,000 ft. of elevation gain and 100 miles of beautiful Redwood tree lined byways, I felt that this would make an excellent challenge for my first century ride. I think that most people who train for endurance events have the feeling that they could have or should have trained more on the day of the event, I was definitely feeling this way the morning of. I was nervous as not only was this my first attempt at riding 100 miles but also my first organized cycling event. I knew my adrenalin would be pumping due to excitement but I wasn’t expecting to feel like I wasn’t fully prepared as the group left the starting line at the fairgrounds in the charming victorian village of Ferndale. The pace at the front of the group was fast. I kept telling myself to calm down and just focus on riding my own ride. My heart rate quickly climbed into the 170’s within the first mile, I slowed myself down trying to lower my blood pressure and tried to find my rhythm. I was being passed by so many riders I was starting to feel like I was going backward not forward. At mile 10 my heart rate was still stuck in the 170’s, and I started to get nervous, I knew that it was going to be a really long day and I didn’t want to blow up before I even made it to the half way point. As I approached the first set of three short climbs I just focused on keeping in my seat and my rpm’s in my climbing zone. I skipped the first aid station at mile 13 as I was planning to stop and say hi to a few of my board members in front of the local coffee shop in Rio Dell, and enjoy a quick espresso as we chatted about the day ahead. The stop was good for me as it gave me a few minutes to refocus, it wasn’t a race for me, it was an endurance challenge, and it was a good thing to just pause for a few minutes. The lead pack of riders was already 10 miles ahead of me as they were averaging around 20 miles per hour. The awesome thing about cycling is that it attracts all kinds of people, all shapes, and all ages. Everyone fits in because we are all out doing the same basic thing, enjoying the outdoors and riding our bikes.
In the previous ten months of training for this event I cycled 171 hours and 2,166 miles. The longest ride that I had completed was a little over 80 miles. Based on that ride I estimated that it would take me around 8 hours on the bike with an average speed of 13 miles an hour. I knew that I could keep up a 13 mile an hour pace if I kept my heart rate around 140 to 155 bpm, this had become my endurance zone. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it was comfortable and I knew I could keep it up all day. This is why I was becoming worried when I pulled into the second rest stop at the 25 mile mark and my bp was still hovering around 170.
As I filled up my water bottle and grabbed a banana, I began to mentally prepare for the first of the bigger climbs on the route. Even though my heart rate was registering higher than I had wanted it too or planned for, I was feeling strong and just told myself to keep going no matter what, focus on drinking and eating and keeping a comfortable cadence. As I got back on the road and hit another climb a fellow rider came along side and we began to talk about the day and our love of cycling. This mental break from the ride made the next 10 miles fly by and I found myself almost 30 minutes faster than I had estimated at the 50 mile turn around. I stopped again for a few minutes to visit with my two biggest fans, my wife and son. I was feeling really good and I wanted to keep moving so I grabbed a couple of extra gels and was back on the road. The rest stops along the Avenue of the Giants century ride were excellent. Plenty of food options, bananas, cookies, sandwiches, red vines, water, sodas, and a lot of other items I skipped over. I had planned to stick to eating my own food, as I knew what worked for me and I wanted to avoid eating something that wouldn’t sit well in my stomach. But who can pass up red vines and bananas? I couldn’t, and at about the 65 mile mark I devoured a turkey and cheese sandwich, a couple cookies, and about five red vines. I was still feeling pretty strong and positive, I was enjoying the views of the Eel river along the route and the beautiful redwood groves. Everything was coming together and I was staring to look forward to crossing the finish line. Until I hit the 85 mile mark and a 25 to 30 mph head wind! At this point I was alone and in the open along Hwy 101 headed back toward Rio Dell. The wind was ruthless and as I pulled into the final rest stop at the mile 90 mark I was starting to hurt. It took me a good 10 minutes before I convinced myself to get back on the bike. I knew the last three short but steep climbs were going to be tough at this point but it was really the wind on the other side of the hills that I was dreading. Open farm land for the last 8 miles or so and that 25 to 30 mile an hour head wind! I crawled up the first two hills, I was tired and sore. On the last climb I started to gas out a few hundred feet from the summit. I kept telling myself that I was almost to the top, I was going so slow that my gps paused thinking that I had come to a stop! As I crested the top of that final hill I knew that I would complete my goal of breaking the 100 mile wall. As I coasted down the backside of the hill I tried to get as many free miles without pedaling as I could but as soon as I came around the corner and back out into the open space the head wind was waiting for me. I put my head down and tried to focus on just keeping my cadence going, I think I yelled out loud a couple of times at the wind! I could see a few other riders a couple miles ahead and I started to focus on just trying to close the distance. It seamed like the last few miles were taking forever to get anywhere, but the riders ahead started to get closer. I was almost finished, when I crossed the 100 mile mark I yelled out loud “ 100 miles!!!” Luckily, there were no other riders near by, as afterward I realized that it was kinda of embarrassing! But who knows, maybe everyone yells out loud when they hit the big 100? The finish line for the event was actually at 101.46 miles according to my bike computer and waiting there to congratulate me was my wife, my son, and a couple of friends. It felt good to finally get off the bike, it had been a long day. My body was definitely sore, I was tired, and hungry. But most of all I was excited to have accomplished the goal that I had worked for over the last 10 months. It wasn’t the hardest century ride out there or the easiest, but it was a challenge for me personally and I completed it, and it felt good. I’m learning that you can push yourself much further physically and mentally then you think is possible. Your body and mind adapt to the stresses you inflict on it and begin to desire for more. I’m already planning to sign up for another century ride in a few months and playing with some ideas for my next big personal challenge. Will it be a 150 mile ride? A double century? Multi day bike packing? You will just have to wait and see what’s next or better yet grab a bike and come along the journey with me and enjoy the ride.