Last weekend I had the privilege of going down to St. Louis to visit my best friend Jim and his lovely wife AnnaMarie.
In high school we were pretty big into mountain biking but over the years we’ve both moved towards the simplicity and practicality of riding on the roads. We get together about once a year or so and if possible we get some biking in. Some of it better planned than others. Not unlike our getting lost in the Mark Twain National Forest in high school. A four hour ride that turned into ten. A few years later I drove down to visit him when he lived in Columbia MO and we ended up continuing the drive till we got to some admittedly great single track in North Carolina – around the Nantahala National Forest as I recall.
So when he picked me up at the airport on Friday morning I asked him if we had anything planned for the weekend and he said, “Have you ever done a century?” (For those of you who have better things to care about, a century in cycling refers to riding 100 miles. There’s also the more European metric century which is 62 kilomiles.)
The fact of the matter is that neither of us had ridden a century and in fact we both had 85 miles as our longest ride to date and for both of us even that 85 was a bit of a distant memory.
We went out for breakfast at The Rooster and talked it over a bit more. The more we talked the dumber the idea sounded. The dumber the idea sounded the more we thought we should do it. We’re a heck of think tank.
A ride like this demands certain preparations so Jim and I got to work looking up training tips on the world wide web. There’s a lot of information out there and we were dealing with some time constraints so we had to do a little gleaning.
Another tip we picked up on is the importance of saddle time. My inner MacGyver kicked in and I developed an innovoative technique to get maximum saddle time along with maximum comfort.
Now I know how the Dyson guy feels. Breakthroughs like this come once in a lifetime. It’s nice to have that checked off.
By our calculations we had 6 more hours to train at this point. I had brought riding shorts and a helmet and was able to borrow the rest of the necessary gear from Jim, including a bike. Unfortunately all his cycling jersey’s were a bit small on me. Normally I’d be fine in a t-shirt but the forecast said it might rain and it seemed like a good idea to pick up something more conducive to wet riding. We went to REI and I found this great jersey on sale.
Back in the car I spent a little more time training by continuing my prehydration.
The rest of the day involved raising the seat on the Salsa Casserole I was borrowing from Jim and eating shawarmas and french fries. Of course we weren’t so presumptuous as to call this food. We were men in training. This was fuel.
Ah, waking up at 5am. Oatmeal, bananas (the first of many), and the energy drink of the gods, coffee.
We had a 45minute drive out to where the ride began.
We arrived at 6:30am, registered for the ride, came back out and as we got ready it started to sprinkle. I decided to take this last shot before leaving the camera in the car.
Originally I was going to take it along, but it looked like it might just get a little wet. So no more photos till after the ride.
By mile two it was pouring. By mile three we were soaked to the bone. The rain continued in varying degrees for the next 70-80 miles. It did let up between 12 and 1. Coincidentally this is when we stopped for lunch and were debating whether or not to to go out for the last 35 miles.
Every 30 miles or so you came by the starting point. This made for an easy out. I broke my ride into thirds.
Part 1 – Distraction. I figured if I talked enough I wouldn’t even notice the riding. This pretty much worked.
Part 2 – Completion. I pretty much tucked in behind Jim and conserved my energy, my theory being as long as I made it through this loop I’d only need enough energy left to begin Part 3.
Part 3 – Begin. Yep, as long as I began this loop I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. It was like Pascal’s wager but on a bike. And it worked. As we finished Part 2 I was hurting pretty bad and ready to throw in the towel (also borrowed), but Jim in his wisdom and more fit position suggested we have lunch and then decide if we wanted to start the last loop. Well lunch made all the difference. That and the fact that it had stopped raining. My legs felt better. We headed out. It started raining again. Not so bad this time and it stopped for the last couple of hours of riding. Sometime after 3:30pm we crossed the finish line. The first one hundred miles.