June 11, 2011
It started out a beautiful clear sunny day in the low 60's (Fahrenheit!) when Alex, Mark, Will and I set out that morning around 9:30. This was the proposed route:
That's 103.5 miles with a good bit of climbing. I hadn't been on a ride this long in a while. I think my longest ride in the past 2 months hadn't topped 60 miles. Actually I haven't even been riding that much because I've been focused on running more recently. And now I was going out with a bunch of guys from UB cycling club who were probably in peak condition. This would be quite a change of theme from last weekend, and I was fully prepared to be dropped and/or put in my place from the start. But I wanted so badly to get out of the city for some good riding that I was willing to give the attempt. I printed the map and wrote down the directions for the first 30 miles because I knew if I was dropped it would be early on. If I could hang for the first bit, then I knew I'd be good for the rest of the ride.
When the guys first rolled up, I was even more skeptical. Not only was I riding an old kind of shaky aluminum frame borrowed road bike, but I had brought my camelback and had two additional water bottles in my cages. They all had carbon fiber frames and wheels, with a single water bottle in the cage, not carrying anything at all. At one point Mark asked me what was in my pack...umm water, food, money, tubes, patchkit, keys, phone, camera, air pump, multi-tool, base-layer...everything I could think that I might need on a 100+ mile ride through completely unknown territory in the middle of nowhere! Apparently these guys run off of nothing.
We started out at a steady pace with some small rolling hills coming out of town. Will and Alex accelerated into the hills pretty strongly, but we all regrouped shortly after the peaks. The pace and ride seemed pretty relaxed so I stuck with them. Before long we were rolling through the magnificently green countryside and I started feeling like home again.
Story of most of the ride, hahah!
Postcard? or REAL LIFE?!!?
Favorite road of the trip. Flat and farmey:-)
At the start of the ride, Mark had said there were 6 hills on the route. By about mile 35 we had already hit a few of what I would call significant hills. Then one which was particularly long and steep hill and hit me kind of hard. After the ascent, he informed us that we had just finished the first of six. First?? This could turn into a longer ride than I thought.
Survived the "first" hill around mile 35. Later we realized we took this wrong turn that caused us to cut off the second big climb. Darnnnn:-)
Mountain we are about to climb. *Note storm clouds directly above.
Then came the rain. It started off as a cool light drizzle that gave us a little chill, but nothing unbearable. I thought that we were going to ride out of it and be back in the warm sunshine again within the next few miles. After living in England for the past two weeks, I should have known better that this would not be the case. That's about the time when the hail started. Tiny icy pellets shoot in from sideways, stinging my arms, legs and face and bounced up off the road.
Rain onset. Stop to stash away camera and phones.
But the hail was not even what killed us. It was the torrential down-pour that quickly followed. Heavy cold rain whipped in and within seconds we were all saturated. At least the hail just kind of stung and bounced off of you. This heavy rain stings coming in, then cuts right through you and sticks, seeping through your clothes and bringing in a deep chill that's not easily shaken and lingers even after it stops. It didn't take long before I was dreaming about hot showers and warm beds. But the guys ahead of me were still trucking, so I thought I was being a wimp and told myself to tough it out. We were now entering a small town. I questioned whether they had even been phased, until Will turned onto one of the sidestreets through town and asked some bystanders where the nearest coffee shop was so that we could get some shelter for a while. Thank god!
Finally shelter from the downpour.
Ringing out the wet gear.
We stopped for shelter inside a local coffee shop. I think we must have been quite a spectacle for the locals dining inside the small restaurant with cute small wooden tables that was close to the size of my bedroom. After we did our best to dry off we ordered some food and hot drinks to try and warm up and wait to see if the rain would pass. Hot tomato soup with grilled cheese would have tasted like heaven at that moment. Not on the menu. The guys ordered mashed potatos, gravey and sausages closely followed by cakes, but this was not something I could stomach before riding 55 more miles. I settled for PB&J, minus the PB, and downed two pots of tea, doing anything to get warm again.
Guys eyeing the cakes...
While I spent the next hour in front of my new best friend, the mini heater.
While we were inside the rain had cleared up and it was now bright and sunny outside again. Before this time we had been debating calling Xav to come pick us up from that point, but we were now all pretty set on heading out again and finishing up the second half of the ride. Plus, I was nice and dry from all the time I had spent in front of the heater while the guys ate cake.
So after a stop that lasted at least an hour and a half, we were back on the road again. I warmed up faster than I had thought I would when we immediatly started off by climbing up the rest of that mountain. I cant recall ever feeling so grateful for a long climb. Plus it was worth the view from the top.
Early into the ride I realized that my brakes were malfunctioning when I squeezing them as hard as I possibly could going down a hill and still ran into Mark's back tire a few seconds later. Now, as we descended this mountain on the wet pavement, I was really missing them. My hands were soon the most achy thing in my body just from having to maintain the death-grip on the brakes so I could get at much out of them as they would give. It was great fun to just tuck and fly down some of those windey up and down back roads though!
It warmed up and we were smooth riding for another 25 miles. I knew this was too good to be true when we started noticing the cars coming towards us from the opposite direction were covered in rain drops, some still having windsheild wipers on. Then we saw the clouds.
Yep, we're going right into the storm. Again.
So after we stowed away our precious electronics, we braved it and rode out to face the storm again. The second rain was not nearly as bad as the first one. Really, it was more of a heavier drizzle. It lasted for several miles, but was quite bearable and not very cold. Instead of praying for the moment we would finally be out of it, after a while I began to embrace the rain. It was like we were kids again splashing through puddles on our bikes. Despite being wet again, I was actually enjoying it!
I am a little disappointed that you are not really able to see from this photo the SNOW on the side of the road from the second hail storm. Yea, it's mid-June..
Feeling low...Try this carblicious malt loaf(?) Fuel of Euro cyclist champions!
The rest of the ride was relatively flatter than the first part. I felt pretty good and never really bonked out on this one. The only exception was probably during the attempted time-trial to the bike shop to try to reach it before it closed, at the demand which my legs said NO to hammering it at 20mph going into the 90th mile. We dropped back a bit to our steady pace and took it back into the city for the last 8 miles for a successful completion of the 100 mile century. I was still feeling good, and hunger had just set in within the last few miles, just in time. My usual strategy of a continuous gradual energy intake over time (aka slowly eating candy all day) never fails.
We all split up to de-grime and change and then met back up at Xav's house, where he had a home-cooked meal waiting for us ( complete with a vegetarian option!).
Mr Chef and my favorite guy of the day :-) Soooo hungry!
Never thought I would say this, but no ride will ever be complete again without homemade donuts.Not such a big fan of the party beverages from Xav's training product shelf..
My homemade whole-oat honey pistachio trail bars from a new improvised recipe were delicious though!