I have wanted to ride a century for a while now. I signed up for one last year, but after driving the 100 mile very hilly course, I started having second thoughts. Especially since I was running a marathon within a week or two afterward. I decided to focus on the marathon, and dropped down to the 50 mile ride. It was a good thing since the 50 miler turned out to be pretty difficult. Actually the 50 miler turned out to be about 55 miles.
But I am a stronger rider now. I have done a lot of spinning on my wind trainer. And now that the weather has improved, I have done some rides out on the roads. But the 55 miles that I rode last year, was still my longest ride.
Earlier this year the company I work for added a new program to encourage employees to get fit. We get points to do various activities. We get 25 points for doing a 15 mile or longer bicycle event. Last month I did a 30 mile mountain bike race. It was very hilly, and technically challenging, but I completed the course in 2 1/2 hours.
I planned to try to 100 mile century ride that I originally signed up for last year, but that wasn’t until August. I looked around for another event. I found the Tour De Cure, a bike ride to raise money for diabetes. The local Rochester ride was on June 8th. But I was going to be out of town for a wedding on that day. But I saw the Buffalo ride was the previous weekend on May 31st. I signed up for it.
I needed to raise a minimum for $150 in pledges to do the ride. I hate asking people to donate money for things like this. I posted a message on the Las Vegas Marathon board where I am active asking for people to sponsor me. In barely over an hour, my friends there had come forward and had not only met the minimum, but exceeded it. I was totally stunned! I had to do it.
I did a couple of longish rides, with the longest being about 38 miles. The 55 mile ride I did last year was still my longest ever ride. I would just have to rely on my fitness level to get me through the 100 miles. I was planning on taking it easy anyway.

A couple weeks before the ride, I got a Tour De Cure jacket in the mail with no explanation. Cool. It was really nice, made by Sugoi. I figure they must have sent these out to all the riders. A week before the ride I got one of the weekly Tour De Cure emails that announced the 7 winners of a drawing for the free jackets. My name was there as #1. Way cool! I won the jacket. Nice.

The Tour De Cure was scheduled on a Saturday. The weather forecasts said partly cloudy with thunderstorms. Hmmm… Not what I was hoping for. But what is, is.

The night before the ride, I set my alarm for 3:45am. I actually woke up before the alarm went off, so I got up. I had pretty much everything loaded in the car the night before. And I had my cycling clothes laid out ready to go. I took a quick shower, got dressed and was out the door about 4:15am.

I planned to stop along the way to get breakfast. One of the rest areas along the thru-way has 24 hour McDonalds. I got there, and went through the drive-though only to find the drive-through closed, and the lobby open. What the? Every other 24 hour McDonalds in the world closes the lobby and leaves the drive-through open. Whatever. I put the cable lock on my bike, and went inside. I hate leaving my bike unattended on the back of my car like that. I used the rest room, and got a not-so-quick breakfast (Steak/Egg/Cheese Bagel, Hash Bowns, Coke), and was back on the road.

It is close to a 2 hour drive to ride start. I had planned to get some munchies for along the ride. Chocolate of some sort. The ride wasn’t actually in Buffalo, but north of Buffalo. I found a mini-mart near the ride start, and they were opening just as I got there. I got some M&Ms. They didn’t have a public restroom, and I really needed to go at this point. All the Coke.

I was a short drive the ride start and I got there a little after 6am. I parked, and hit the porta potty. It was raining, so I put on the Tour De Cure jacket which worked great. I wish I had brought a hat.

My wet bike

Check in didn’t start until 6:30, so I started unloading my bike. I shoved the M&Ms and some Carb-Boom gels into my Bento Box. Then I headed over to check in. That went smooth, and I got a t-shirt, and my number bib (#181).

I lined up and after various announcements, the ride start at 7am.

I got into the lead pack, and were cruising along at 23mph. I had planned to take it easy today, and maybe average 15mph. But here I was cruising at 23mph. Wild.

The road was still wet, and I would get road spray from other rider’s wheels. Around the 8 mile mark one guy’s bike washed out on the wet road. I slowed, and asked if he was okay. He said he banged his hip, but okay. I kept on going along with the group.

Around the 14 mile mark I found myself falling back from the rider in front of me. I looked behind me, and was surprised to find that I was the back of the pack, and I watched as the pack slowly disappeared off into the distance.

There was a rest stop around mile 16, so I pulled in there, stretched my legs, ate a banana and drank some Gatorade.

A guy on a tri-bike said he would ride along with me. We cruised together for a awhile, but we were still going faster than I really wanted to go, so I let him go. I found myself enjoying the ride much more going at more sedate pace, listening to my iPod. I was still cruising along doing maybe 20mph.

The next couple rest stops were at the 27 mile mark and 35. I stopped at these, go some munchies, and drinks, and stretched my legs. I saw the guy who dumped on his bike earlier. He was doing okay. He had cut his thumb but wasn’t sure how. He got a bandaid at one of the aid stations. All of the volunteers at the aid stations were great. Fire and police people were along the way at various roads to make sure were turned the right way and to make sure we were okay. They were great also.

Somewhere around the mid 40 miles, I was riding along and got into a small group of four riders including the guy who dumped around mile 8.

I drafted along with them, and then go up front to take my turn in the lead. I was cranking away, and then turned to see how the other guys were doing only to see them way behind me. Maybe they didn’t want to draft off me? Don’t know.

The next rest stop was at mile 49 in a campground. I leaned my bike the building and got some food here.

They had sandwiches. The four guys they I had been riding with showed up. I talked to them and laughed that I thought they would fall in behind me.

I never got their names until end of the ride, not that I would have remembered. The guy who dumped (who I will call Orbea after the bike he was riding) said that he tried to stick with me, but was having a tough time keeping up, and realized that his buddys had fallen behind, so he fell back to ride with them. I said that I would try to hang with them for the ride since they were going about the same pace. Since I didn’t get their names, I will refer to them how I thought of them along the ride: Orbea, Speed Racer (he was wearing a Speed Racer jersey), Felt (after the bike he was riding), and Trek.

We stopped, hit the bathrooms. Real bathrooms and not just porta-potties. I took off my Tour De Cure jacket, and had Orbea pin the number to the back of my jersey. Then were were off. We soon were riding into a strong head wind. Riding in a pace line was pretty helpful here.

We thought the next rest stop was only 7 miles away, but that turned out not to be true. For the people riding the metric century, theirs was only 7 miles. Ours was 16 miles. I tried to eat some of the M&Ms that I had pack in my Bento Box, but found them difficult to eat while riding. I couldn’t get them out of the little bag very easily. And the bag had gotten a little damp in the rain, and I found M&M’s falling out of them bottom. I will have to try different things to put into my Bento Box. Maybe Snickers Bars? I never did use any of the Carb-Boom gels. But there was plenty of food at the stops.

After a while I noticed that I was now riding with only 3 guys. I thought I was riding with 4 guys. We stopped at an informal water stop about mile 60.

I asked what happened to the other guy (Trek). They said that we lost him about 5 miles back. Hmmmm… It was now just Orbea, Speed Racer, Felt and me. I also realized that I must have bumped the stop button on my Garmin 305 since it is still showing the data from the rest stop at mile 49. I restarted it knowing there would be this gap in the data. Oh well. I had now ridden farther than I had ever ridden in my life in a single day. Cool!

So we were cruising along in a pace line trying to take shelter from the head wind. I had to be careful when I took the lead. I would be cranking away, turn, and find that I had dropped the other guys. So when I took the lead, I would be careful to try to maintain the speed we had been going. I also found that I would pull away from the other guys on the uphills as well. After on hill, I found myself way ahead of the other guys. I slowed up and Orbea caught up with me. Speed Racer and Felt were together farther back. Orbea and I rode together at a relaxed pace, talking and reached the rest stop at mile 66. We stopped and waited for Speed Racer and Felt who weren’t too far behind us at this point. We had no idea what happened to Trek.

Then the four of us took off again to face the head wind which would last most of the ride to the finish. Again we rode in a pace line cruising along at around 17-19 mph. Around mile 70, the pace line was rearranging. Speed Racer came up passed me on the left, and started coming over. I saw his rear wheel edging over towards my front wheel. I shouted something like watch out or oh sh*t. His rear wheel clipped my front wheel. My front wheel turned to the right, and my bike leaned to the left. I cranked my steering wheel to left, but I was leaning so far over to the left, there was no way I was going to recover. In the split second, I had enough control and choice of where I was going down. The grassy area on the left side of the road looked better than the asphalt. I went down, rolled and found myself in a ditch with water. I got up and seemed to be okay. I struggled to pause my ipod. The other guys had stopped to see how I was. Orbea said that in the best crash competition, I won. LOL! I was okay with a couple minor scrapes. My bike seemed to be okay. The handle bars had gotten turned a little, but they were easily straightened. I pulled out my Park Tools, and tightened the stem clamp. The chain had come off the rings, and cogs. But they were easily replaced. Another rider stopped to check to make sure I was okay. While the crash was dramatic, there was no significant damage. I was a little wet and dirty from the dirty ditch water. No biggy. One of the guys took a picture of me with my camera.

Our next rest stop was at mile 79. I cleaned myself up with napkins. And got some more food to eat. I got a picture was the other guys, and I hammed it up with Speed Racer a little. Only 20 miles to go.

We headed out, and cruised along towards the next rest stop at mile 89. Orbea, Felt and I got into a good rhythm and Speed Racer fell behind. When Orbea and Felt were cranking a long, and I started finding it difficult to stay behind them, I would just get down in my aerobars, and found myself cutting through the headwind. I really like my aerobars. I spent some good chunks of time down on them. Though I tried to stay off of then while riding close to other riders.

Soon we were at the last rest stop. They gave us some cups of warmish water. There was also some warmish Powerade. I drank a little of each. Then Orea pointed to a little inflatable thin with ice water, and bottles of water in it. He said he has stuck his head in the ice water and it had felt great. I tried it, and yeah it felt great. I also drank one of the bottles of water. Some Speed Racer showed up. Another rider was asking for a spare tube. Both Orbea and I offered him one. He got one from Orbea. Orbea hooked up another guy who was also riding and Orbea bike.

We headed back on the road. At this point the group sort of broke up for the last 10 miles. Orbea rode on ahead with the other Orbea guy. I was behind them, but having a hard time keeping up for some reason. Somewhere behind me were Felt and Speed Race. I let Orbea go, and I just rode easy. About 4 miles from the end, I looked at my front tire, and something didn’t look right. I stopped, and got off the bike to check it out. My front tired was not flat, but very soft. Not wonder I couldn’t keep up with Orbea. Felt stopped shortly to see what was going on. I debated about using a CO2 cartridge to pump it up, or whether I would need to change the tube. He said that Speed Racer had a pump. So we waited and Speed Racer showed up in a minute. I used his pump but the tire was still pretty soft. I decided to change the tube. I have been getting pretty good at changing tubes lately. It didn’t take long. I felt around the tire, and the only thing I could find was a small pebble embedded in the tire. Maybe that was it? The whole tube change took 5 minutes or less. A volunteer stopped to check on us just as I was putting the wheel back on the bike. We told him we had it covered. He said a storm was coming in, in about 30 minutes. Then we were on the road again. Felt and I rode together, and Speed Racer took up the rear. Thankfully for some of the last part of the ride, the headwind was gone. Then we were at the finish. I hit stop on my Garmin 305. Speed Racer came in shortly after Felt and I. Then it started to rain. It was almost 2pm. So the ride took about 7 hours. Not bad. The cut-off time was 4pm.
We decided to put our bikes away then hit the food tent. After my bike was on the back of my car, I headed to the food tent. I got a hot dog, and a couple cups of Coke. The Coke it the spot!
They had a massage tent. I asked about the massage, and the guy told me to fill out a form. I had just finished filling out the form, and the guy told me they were closing. Grumble. Then everything was closing down, and they were kind of rudely telling us to get out from under the tents. Apparently because of the storm. It was a little annoying. Too me it felt like congratulations for finishing 100 miles, thanks for raising the money, now go away.
Orbea talked to Trek (remember Trek who we dropped back around mile 55?) was now around mile 80. Apparently he had had 3 flat tires. I quickly exchanged email addresses with Orbea and Speed Racer. They wanted to get copies of the pictures I took.
I got into my car, and the rain really started pouring. I started my drive home. In a bit there was a little bit of lightning. In about 10 minutes after it started, the rain ended. Yeah, some storm. I found my Garmin 305 was running again. I must have bumped the button again. I guess any data from the ride will be a total mess. My bike computer said I averaged 18mph. Way cool!
I was pretty tired, and didn’t feel safe to drive all the way home. I stopped at a rest stop along the thru-way. I put the cable lock on my bike, cabling it to the bike rack as always. It wouldn’t be impossible to steal, but hopefully the cable lock would slow someone down. I took a short 20-25 minute nap, waking up periodically to look in my rear view mirror to make sure the bike was still there, and nobody was messing with it. Then I continued my drive home.
When I got home I took a nice hot bath to wash off the dirt from the ride. Then we went out to Red Robin for dinner. When I got home, I went to bed early.
Today my legs are kind of sore, but not as sore as they are following a marathon. I will have to try another century ride later this year. Maybe the one in August that has a lot of climbing. I do want to look into getting my bike professionally fitted.

Here are all the pictures I took:

Thank you again to all the people who sponsored me. I thought about you guys while I was out there.