A century is 100 years in time. A century bike ride is 100 miles. I did my first training century last Saturday – the Ride Around the Buttes. For those of you who know the area, the land is basically flat farmland, ranches and orchards. One hundred miles on flat ground, how hard could that be? Yes it is a lot of time in the saddle, but really, how hard can that be?
It was a beautiful sunny morning when I arrived in Sutter, California around 0700. Sunny, cool, and WINDY!!! VERY WINDY!!!! To a cyclist, wind is not usually a good thing, unless of course it is at your back. In that case, one can cruise along almost effortlessly at a much higher speed than on the same route without the tail wind. However, with a head wind, or a mixed head and cross wind, the going is slowed remarkably!! Wind is NOT a cyclist friend in most cases. For some reason there is this uncanny ability for the wind to be a head wind most of the way. Even though the route does vary directions, the wind seems to be one step ahead, and it changes directions just about the time the route changes directions, so that it is once again, it is a head wind.
Suffice it to say, it was a long day. I was riding with a group of about five others, and somewhere around mile 45-50 we took a wrong turn and went 4 miles the wrong direction before we realized it. How depressing to not only retrace 4 miles, but to do it into the gusty headwind!! Thank goodness for iPhones and GPS, as we were able to get ourselves back on track and make up the distance we lost with our cutoffs and detours, and found the rest stop at mile 71 without much trouble.
Did I mention it was a long day? We were actually some of the last riders in, and nothing is more discouraging than to arrive at a rest stop to find out there is no water. On a long hot ride, having to ration water is not a good idea for one physically or mentally, and I realized at the last rest stop, only 7 miles from the end, that I had not peed since the very first stop about 80 miles before. When we finished the ride, my skin was caked in salt crytals, my lips were dry, my skin was dry and I wanted nothing but a cold wash cloth to wash my face and an ice cold drink to quench my thirst.
I struggled a bit with cramps in my feet during that ride and assume it was from dehydration. As I head out on another century ride this Sunday, I will not make the same mistake and keep myself better hydrated. The ride this weekend is hilly – almost 5500 vertical feet of climbing over the 100 mile route. Terrain is a different kind of challenge than the wind. You can read about that in a prior blogpost titled “Topography Says It All” from April 2012. Temperatures are forcasted to be up around 90 degrees, so I will pedal along, drink lots of water, and as my friend Lynn told me……….”just take it 10 miles at a time.”
The scenery at this time of year here in California is spectacular. Grasses are still mostly green, there are wild flowers, grazing sheep and cattle, and trees have leafed out. What makes the rides for me though are the people I ride with. We are all training for the same 4 day 330 mile ride – the NorCal Aids Cycle, now only 20 days away. It’s been nice to get to know so many different people as I have been riding and training with them since about February. Getting outside, being with other people and exercising has been the best therapy I could have asked for to get me through my long dark days after losing my brother in December.