I had been wanting to do some kind of bike event, since I've been riding more than running and haven't done any kind of race or event yet, other than club rides with AABTS and the tri club. At those rides, my furthest distance to date was a 38 miler, two weeks ago. I had a flyer lying around for the PEAC Celebration of Cycling ride for the past month or so. I had written it off initially, since I was planning on being in PA that day for my nephew's birthday. However, since I was out of the house all last weekend at Woodstock, I decided to stay in town this weekend to get all the housework and everything caught back up. I'll go to PA next weekend. I talked to Jeff Friday night about planning on going to the PEAC ride Saturday morning, and told him I wanted to do at least 50 miles (There were options of 12, 34, 50, 70, and 100 miles). He has done centuries in the past, and told me I shouldn't do that, at least not without training more. If you know me at all, you know that he might as well have held me at gunpoint and told me I HAD to do 100 miles. So I blame him.
It was pretty chilly in the morning, 40 something. I like that for running, but I figured it would be cold on the bike, with the wind in your face and all. That would have been easy enough to dress for, but it was supposed to be in the sixties later in the day, so I had to dress for both, ideally without having a bunch of crap to carry around after I shed the layers. I ended up wearing capri tights with a padded liner underneath, a bike shirt, and a light jacket over top.
I got there and was officially "undecided" on the distance, so I circled 50, 75, and 100 and put question marks by that part of the registration form. The photographer got a glimpse of me in my indecision.
Day-of registration was only $35. Considering there were multiple snack and lunch stops and that it was a fundraiser for PEAC (a great cause, check them out), I thought that was a really good price. You had the option to also buy a shirt, but I did not.
|What to do??|
It was strange compared to a running event, in that you could start basically whenever. The event ran from 7:30am to 5:30pm. Their only stipulation was that the 100 and 75 milers had to register/start by 10am. After I registered, I took off on my own, at 8:22 am.
The first 20 miles or so weren't much fun. I was by myself, and my toes were numb. My hands were hurting almost immediately. I couldn't figure out why, but then I remembered that this was the first time I had ridden my bike with my new bar tape, which was much less squishy and padded than the original white bar tape that I was used to. I love the bright green look though!
|Robin's new 'do!|
I found myself really missing the music I would have if I was running. I almost immediately was doing "mileage math", which is never a good sign. "I've done 20 miles, I only have to do that 4 more times to make 100!" It's not that I was tired. I was intentionally taking it easy because Jeff had warned me that my legs would give out around 75 miles. I was just bored. There was nobody around and I was just pedaling along hoping to not get hit by a car or miss a turn (the arrows were painted on the pavement).
I was glad to get to a food stop and finally see some people. This was at around 25 miles. I had a cookie and porta-potty break, and took off my shoes to massage my feet and try to get some feeling back into them. No luck on that.
I thought about asking around to see if anybody was about my speed, or considering doing the 100 mile, but I chickened out and headed on my way. Most people seemed to be there in pairs or groups. If I do this ride again, I would definitely bring friends with me! I didn't realize how spaced out we would all be. I'm used to running events where there is always somebody around, except maybe at very small, long distance events.
After leaving the rest stop I did come upon a guy riding about my speed (slightly slower, or else I wouldn't have caught him!), who was riding alone. I stuck with him for a while. He was planning on doing the 75 mile route. He had done the ride before, so I was asking him about the course. I found that the 100 miler went into Ann Arbor! I didn't know that. Suddenly 100 miles seemed really far, especially since I would have to ride back to Dearborn Heights from Ann Arbor! This part of the ride (between Plymouth and Ann Arbor) was kind of scary. It was a football Saturday so there was LOTS of traffic heading into A2, and moving pretty quickly too. The only bright side was that there were some stretches of nice fresh pavement! This part went quickly though, thanks to the company. A lady ended up jumping on behind us, so we ended up a party of three! We got to about mile 38, which was where the 75 mile route split from the 100 mile route. I sat there for a minute to make my decision. I still felt fine, not tired at all, so I turned left, while my compatriots turned right. I was committed to 100 now! I wish the split would have been at mile 50 or later. If it had been, I think I would have chosen differently....
I'm going to go ahead and put the map in now, so you can follow along more easily. You can also use the interactive version here.
After I split off on the 100 mile route, shit started hitting the fan. My back started hurting around mile 40, and I was getting chafed on my left ham-ass for some reason. I also realized at this point that I had forgotten sunscreen. Whoops. And, surprisingly, my feet were STILL numb. The rest of me was warm, and I had long since ditched the jacket, but I couldn't feel my toes. Weird. I'm pretty sure my shoes weren't too tight.
The part through Ann Arbor sucked. I had to ride on the two-lane part of Main street to get onto Huron River Drive. At least all the traffic was going the other way. They had to stop to let me cross though, because there was a never going to be a gap in the football traffic for me to get through! And then it was on to old faithful, Huron River Drive. I swear every cyclist and club in Ann Arbor rides that route. I kind of hate it. Maybe because I'm sick of it, or maybe because of the "pothole mile" as you leave down, or maybe because I know where I am and how far I have to go, but I don't like it. I ended up adding a rest stop in this area at Barton Park, to use the porta potty and have a Gu (I was getting hungry for lunch and still had a while to go to get to the lunch stop. BTW, I was smart and ate the Gu BEFORE using the portajohn. Small wins). I also took this opportunity to put some Aquaphor on the chafey spot on my left ham-ass before it got out of hand. At least I remembered to bring that! And then it was back on that damn bike. I passed a few people on Huron Drive, and got passed by some others, but nobody was close enough to my speed for me to ride with.
At mile 51 at Delhi metropark, there was another food stop. I was ready to be done at this point, and kind of in shock that I was only halfway!! I took off my shoes and sat in the sun and tried again to thaw out my feet. This time it mostly worked. It was weird to be sweating on my face and upper body and have icicles for toes.
|It was strange to see so many people at each of the rest stops, while seeing nobody out on the road!|
Eventually I made it to the lunch stop. I think it was in Whitmore Lake. I had a PB&J and some snacks and rolled around on the ground a bit to massage my back. I took my shoes off again but they weren't nearly as cold as before so it probably wasn't necessary. I seriously considered calling either Jeff or the race people for a pickup.
At the lunch stop I changed the angle of my seat and moved it forward a bit. It's not that I thought my seat was in a bad position, but I had to change SOMETHING. I would have rather rode upside down and pedaled with my hands than get back on that bike in the same position as before.
From mile 50 to mile 85 was really miserable. I was in a lot of pain and was still too far from the finish to really play the "almost there" card. Any "mileage math" I did, just made it seem worse. Mile 66: "I only need to do half of what I've already done!"...still seemed really really far. The next rest stop was at mile 80. I got off the bike again to do some "happy baby" on the ground. I was really getting grouchy. "Only 20 miles left" the volunteers said. Yeah, okay. That's like 90 minutes. That's a long time when you're in pain.
But, back on the bike I went. My arms started to get a little tired at this point, but nothing major. And even then, it was just muscle tiredness/soreness. I'm used to that. I really couldn't take the back pain though. And still, my legs felt fine. I realized that my strategy of going slow to save my legs was completely wrong. I should have pedaled hard and fast to get shit over with faster. The time in the saddle and the strain on my back were the limiting factors on this ride; not my legs. After 85 miles, when I was less than hour away, it became less challenging mentally.
I started doing more "interval" style riding, where I would ride pretty hard until I got winded or my legs got tired, and then take it easy for a bit to recover. It helped to break up the monotony a little bit, compared to riding at a steady effort. I also continued with the cat-cow stretching and rhythmic breathing while I was riding to try to vary the pain in my back. I kind of wished there were more hills, because standing up to push over hills also helped a little. I moved my arms a lot, varying my hand position from upright on the straight handlebars, to forward on the horns, to down on the drops. Surprisingly, the drops seemed to be the least painful on my back, which was kind of counterintuitive to me. I occasionally sat up and twisted side to side too. I was glad to be riding alone at this point, because I probably looked like a fool with all my maneuvering.
There was another stop at mile 90. I took every chance I got to get off the bike and roll my back out on the ground. One of the staff people borrowed my wrench and adjusted bikes for 3 people, so this stop was pretty long. Fine by me. I was talking to a guy about the course and realized that the 100 mile course was actually only 97.1 miles. I knew there was no way I was going to add on another minute more than I had to, so I was bummed that I wasn't going to actually do a full "century". Oh well.
From mile 90 on I was counting down the miles (not that I wasn't before, but it was less discouraging now!). I rode by what I thought was the name of the road that went to the finish, but there were no arrows painted on the road telling me to turn, so I assumed they were bringing us around to the rear entrance. (Either that or I was thinking of the wrong road altogether). Turns out that probably was the right road, but by the time I realized it I figured this was the perfect opportunity to add on the 1.5 mile out and 1.5 mile back to make it an actual 100 miles. Thank god for bad course markings. I wouldn't have intentionally rode past the finish!
I ended up rolling in at 100.1 miles! The finish was extremely anti-climactic. It was like 4:40 pm and there were no cheering spectators. No medals. No time clock. I just rolled up and hopped off the bike. Okay. I'm spoiled by the energy and environment at a big running race! Considering that this was probably more challenging than any marathon I've done, I felt like I could've used some fanfare!! I did get some chocolate ice cream from the pavilion. :)
The 6:55:39 time on the watch is moving time only. I was actually "out" for over 8 hours, but I stopped my watch when I was off the bike at the rest stops. If I ever do this again, I will definitely go faster.
I can't decide how I feel about long biking. On the one hand, it was much harder than I thought it would be. I figured I'd just be sitting down all day, how hard could it be?? ;) While that was sort of true, in the sense that I never felt particularly "athletically" challenged (Although maybe I would have noticed my legs and lungs if my back hadn't been screaming so loudly?), I overall found this to be more difficult than 2 of my 3 marathons. Phoenix marathon 2009 and this event might be tied in their terribleness. It's the pain that's the problem. Phoenix 2009 I ran on a knee injury and took over 6 hours to complete, also in a lot of pain for the back half of the race, plus in 80+ degree heat with little to no shade. Same with this ride. My back was hurting SO BAD. It was miserable. I can handle being tired, and I can handle muscle fatigue, but this was a whole different ball game. I'm hoping that with proper training I can acclimate to the position and this won't be a problem in the future. I used to get back pain like that at the end of 20 to 30 mile rides, and I don't get that any more, so that's encouraging.
I also really underestimated how far 100 miles is! Looking at the map, it is really far! I have even more respect for all the ultramarathoners and Ironmen out there now. And yes, I'm still planning to do an Ironman. I've "sort-of" done all the pieces now, individually. Now I "just" need to do them sequentially, and in less than 17 hours. I've done a 2.4 mile swim, though it was in the pool, which is easier than open water, and I've done full marathons before; now, I can say I've biked 100 miles (though an Ironman is a 112 mile ride, what's 12 miles among friends??) . If I give myself 8 hrs for the bike, and 6 hrs for the marathon, that leaves 3 hours for the swim, which is totally do-able. I got this.
So, do I regret doing this? Sort of. It hurt. Bad. But I like doing things when I'm unprepared. It's exciting. More exciting than doing something that you know you can do because you've planned for and trained for it and are ready for it. (Training properly is certainly harder, and more admirable, but that start line feeling of uncertainty from being unprepared is pretty cool, especially when you end up finishing the event!) My first full marathon was a similar story to this, though it ended up going much more smoothly (it was awesome, actually) than this century did. (I registered for it on Friday, with the race on Saturday or Sunday, having never run more than 14 miles in my life, and that being over a month prior to the race). Maybe I should do the Ironman without training too?? (KIDDING) I will say, there is apparently no such thing as a "biker's high", or if there is, it comes either sometime after 100 miles, or doesn't come when you're in pain.