Jun 3, 2007

culmination of big dumb bicycle moron's efforts

did a century (100-mile) bike ride from babylon to montauk yesterday.
http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/activity/2905935
It was an organized tour.

I first heard about this ride when having dinner in vermont with four friends. Nils proposed it, and as inexperienced as I was, I've always wanted to do a century ride, so I eagerly joined in. So did two others. In the next week, three more also joined in, and it looked like it was going to be a grand get-together.

I'm not going to go into details, but it turned out that nobody could make it except me. I had never ridden a bike more than 25 miles in my life. I hadn't ridden a bike in over two years. And the way my schedule worked, I was unable to even start training for the ride until about ten days prior. it was on. Called a bike ship manager friend from California where I spent a month, and asked him to line up a pair of size-15 bike shoes for me - because that size was pretty much impossible to find. The week I got back, I schlepped my bike into his shop in manhattan, got a clean bill of health for the bike, cleats installed, and everything ready to go. 9 days out, and I had to start training for a century ride. haha.

In the 9 days, I accumulated about 30 total miles of training. (ha!) I wasn't able to train at all on Thursday and Friday, but I still thought at least two friends, who were both opting for the 66-mile option, would be coming. It might be a suffer-fest for me, but at least it'll be a suffer-fest with friends.

Here is my bike the day before, on the roof of my car:


Here is the bike on the night before, in the hotel room:


My wife asked me why I didn't do the 66-mile option. My well-thought out and logical answer: "I just sat in traffic for 3½ hours to get to Long Island on a friday night for a century ride. I didn't do it for no 66-mile ride."

Wanting to give myself as much time as possible to complete the ride, I arrived at the babylon train station right when registration opened at 6am. I had a cup of coffee, saw a group leaving, and took off to follow them. It was an anti-climactic start to such a fondly-looked-forward to day.

Here is me and the bike at 6am just before the ride, with wifey-in-the rear-view-mirror-goodness:


Here is the first photo I took on the ride itself, probably only a mile in:


This was about 10 miles later, but with people fishing:


According to my GPS device, these guys were cruising at 18-20 mph. Now, intellectually, I knew that I wouldn't be able to maintain this pace for the 100 miles. But it was so damn hard to slow down! With running, I could easily pace myself. Not with this. And so I kept up the pace. And I felt pretty good when I got into the first rest stop.

This is where I took the last ever photo with my camera:

It took 4169 photos in its lifetime, but it's dead now.

The best thing about this ride was the rest stops. Besides being on a very picturesque beach, the food was great!! They had the normal energy-bar and gatorade deal, but also had things like fresh fruit (Long Island strawberries are in season and are DELICIOUS!), pie, and pound cake!

It was at this spot, however, when I found three things: 1. Courtney had text'd me, saying she was not going to be there. My phone had been repeatedly calling SAG for the first 20 miles. And my camera broke. Spirits were down, but I started this thing and intended to finish it.

The interval between the first and second stop was the longest interval of the ride, 29 miles, but it went pretty quickly. I was not particularly fatigued yet, but I was starting to feel a little bored after 3½ hours of riding. I just wanted to finish the thing so I could go home and eat chinese food. I wasn't hungry, but I would later crave lo mein. I spent 20 minutes at this rest stop, which was located in westhampton beach, and continued on.

One thing about cycling in general - when the tour director says the thing is "FLAT FLAT FLAT," I didn't know that meant "oh there are still hills here and there." nothing was big, and nothing (until the very end - get to that in a sec) was particularly hard, but it was annoying to me - the only reason I signed up for this ride was that I took "FLAT FLAT FLAT" to mean.. you know.. flat. So mile 60, when we went over the Ponquoge bridge, with maybe 75 vertical feet of gain to get to the summit, was the first time I felt really tired. This was, by the way, after a truly flat, very straight, 8 miles on dune road, where I spent a lot of time in my highest gear over 20mph. I passed a bunch of people who smoked me on the bridge. I don't think anybody noticed, however, as we were all gawking at the $30 million dollar trophy summer play-homes of those more fortunate.

5 miles after the bridge, with 10 miles to the next rest stop, I pulled over because my rear tire felt a little flat. It wasn't. But when I pulled the pump out, I also pulled the stem right out of the tube. So stupidity is how I got my flat. I repaired it right there on the side of the road, had an energy bar, and continued. 15 minutes total delay.

We were clearly going through the "money" part of of Long Island. This is the part where I saw some dude in a ferrari every 5 minutes. We spent a lot of the ride with nothing but offensively large homes between us and the waterfront secret quiet tree-lined streets parallel to but away from the mess of traffic on montauk highway. It was nice - but the growing fatigue was taking over. My heart rate monitor was always reading about 160 - at the beginning of the ride, it was reading 140. But the real pain was in my right knee and hip. Turns out that the bike doesn't fit me correctly.

I'd also get these random severe pains from time to time - they'd come out of nowhere, kill me for 2 minutes, then go away. I particularly remember a particularly bad one just before the third rest stop, in my left foot for some reason. I have no idea what caused it, but it did go away.

The third rest stop was the best. Free soft-serve ice cream (which I didn't partake in), and fresh strawberries (which I did...).. plus freshly-baked pound cake.. Here, at mile 75, I noticed that, aside from a little gatorade at each stop, I had only drank about a 1 liter of water on the whole ride so far. I forced myself to finish my 100-oz camelback and refilled it part-way with gatorade, which seemed to go very quickly on the last leg of the ride. I spent almost half-hour here.

The last part of the ride, most of it anyway, went a lot easier then the portion before the third rest stop. A lot of it was truly flat, and I really had a second wind on a section between miles 92 and 98, where it was completely flat and straight. Here I was going 20mph in my highest gear again. Then, reality struck as the route put us on old montauk highway.. and, as I passed mile 100, I was rather angry because, overwhelmed with fatigue, I was facing a set of rolling hills that were steeper than any part of the ride. I thought I was going to shoot someone when, at mile 101, I had completed my life-long goal of riding a bike 100 miles, and still had these effing hills to go over on this "FLAT FLAT FLAT" course.

In fact, I can tell you that I was screaming "WHY THE EFF CAN'T A CENTURY BE 100 MILES??! WHY THE EFF ARE WE ON THESE HILLS PAST 100 MILES!?!!? THIS EFFING SUCKS!"

At mile 102.5, I was in downtown montauk. When a guy in a parked car opened his door right in front of me. I missed it by about 10 inches. and then, at mile 103.5, a half-mile from the finish line, a 20-mph headwind hit us. Why the hell not?

Then, 8½ hours after starting, I finished my first century moving time: 7 hours. avg speed: 15mph. GREAT weather... warm, low humidity.. and my heart rate monitor estimates almost 13,000 calories burned.

I did have fun at times during the ride, but it wasn't an entirely positive experience. When I finished my first marathon, I knew right then and there I wanted to do another marathon. I can tell you right now that I have no desire to do another century. I just didn't get the satisfaction I get from running.

-steve