I haven’t done much long distance (e.g. over 50 miles/80 km) bicycle riding for the last two decades or so. But since January 2006 I’ve been making a concerted effort to ride my bike as much as possible, for commuting and errands as well as LD riding. I’d ridden in three organized rides already this year, but this past weekend I rode my old Takara Tribute in the Lodi Sunrise Century and completed my first 100-mile bike ride since c. 1986 (20 years ago)!
I arrived at the ride start location at about 05:30, half an hour before registration opened, and finished getting my bike and myself ready to go. I was hoping to ride with some fellow Sacramento Bike Hikers, but the only other person I saw wearing a club jersey hit the road while I was registering. I waited around for a few minutes, then took off on my own at 06:15.
The 100-mile course was broken into four more-or-less equal legs, with a nicely stocked rest stop at the end of each leg. The first leg headed north to Woodbridge then east to Clements. This section was almost completely flat, and most of the roads were in decent shape with light traffic. I caught the end of a fast paceline for about 5 km. It was quite a rush to ride so fast (without going down a hill), but I couldn’t maintain the pace and complete the ride so I dropped off after a few minutes. I spent most of the first leg riding alone, getting passed by the faster riders, but I finally found somebody riding at my pace a few miles before the end of the first leg. The first rest stop was at the Clements fire station, and it was very well done! First and foremost there were sufficient porta-potties for the number of riders, so no huge lines for Nature’s call. (Ride organizers, please take note! I don’t know anybody who wants to spend 5-10 minutes waiting in line to go to the bathroom at the rest stops.) The second best thing about this stop was that the 100 km and 100 mile routes diverged at this point–the different routes were well-marked and it was very obvious which way to go. I think this is probably the best way to handle route divergence. Well done, Lodi Rotarians!
As I was leaving the first rest stop, my co-worker (and fellow Bike Hiker) Audrey was pulling in. She’s faster than me and I should have kept going and let her catch up with me on the second leg, but I was tired of riding alone so I turned around and pulled back into the stop with her, and we spent the rest of the day riding together.
The second time I headed out from the rest stop, I got my first flat of the season. A sag wagon was right behind us, but we waved it on, thinking this was a simple flat tire. Wrong! It turned out that the valve nut was stuck, and neither of us had a pair of pliers to loosen it. After much cursing, wiggling the stem, tearing the tube off the valve, gouging bits out of my fingernails trying to unscrew the nut, another rider pulled over and gave the nut a spin. It came right off for him–I must have loosened it sufficiently that somebody without greasy grimy fingers could get a good hold on it. Then my second problem became apparent. I had recently changed to slightly narrower tires and tubes, but my spare tubes were for my old tires! Fortunately Audrey’s spare tube fit my new tires, and she generously gave up her spare for me. Thanks, Audrey! Lessons learned: Don’t tighten the nut on the valve stem! Remember to get matching spare tube(s) when you change tire sizes. Pliers or a plier-equipped multitool might be handy in your on-bike tool kit.
The second leg continued east, still on the flats initially but we soon started climbing up to Lake Comanche, then further up to Pardee Reservoir. I’m a worthless climber and some of these hills were pretty tough for me. In fact, I had to walk up the steepest grade, but even on foot I was keeping up with most riders who stayed on their bikes. There were some busy roads on this stretch as well. We had to cross one fairly busy highway, as well as riding along another highway for a few miles. There’s a lot of runoff expected in this watershed, so Pardee is releasing a huge amount of water. The ride took us over the dam, and Scott (another Bike Hiker) got a good photo of the spillway:
We had a few more small hills and rollers after leaving Pardee, but we were over the worst of the climbing. We started heading east toward the town of Wallace. As we were approaching the lunch stop at the end of the second leg, my chain started chattering. I looked down to check my derailleurs, when a small rock (or so I thought) slammed into my helmet. I didn’t think anything of it, and we soon arrived at the lunch stop. We spent a few minutes having lunch and met several other Bike Hikers at the stop. Here’s (R-to-L) Audrey, me, and a gentleman whose name I shamefully forgot: (I’m terrible at remembering names, sorry!) One person whose name I did remember is Scott: He was shooting pictures at several points along the ride. He also had a Garmin Edge 305 computer on his bike. I’ve really been meaning to check this model out, but I also wanted to get back on the road. As Audrey and I were getting our gear on, somebody pointed out that I had a huge bee jammed into my helmet: I guess that wasn’t a rock after all! Luckily it didn’t hit me in the face or slip into one of the helmet vents. Scott took a couple more pic’s then I removed the bee and put it out of its misery.
We started out on the third, supposedly downhill, leg of the ride. There were actually a lot of rollers on the first part of this leg, and most of the roads on this stretch were poorly maintained. We finally got out of the hills and onto a looong straight smooth piece of road running due south, which felt an awful lot like I-5 but without the traffic. It was out on this lonely stretch that I got my second flat. (One thing that disturbed me about the back half of this ride was the dearth of sag support. I only recall seeing a sag vehicle maybe half a dozen times over the last 50 miles of the ride.) Neither I nor Audrey had any more spare tubes so I tried patching it, but for some reason the patches weren’t sealing properly. (This was a brand new patch kit. Perhaps the vulcanizing fluid was defective? Lesson learned: Make sure the patch kit is good before the ride! Patch a tube at home, then take the known working patch kit on your ride.) After four patch attempts, I finally realized that I still had my spare tubes for my previous tires, which were a bit larger than my current 700c x 23. In desperation, I went ahead and mounted the slightly oversized tube, and it seemed okay. This flat took a long time to repair, but we finally got back on the road. After we turned off of “rural I-5″ we meandered through some very pleasant orchards (walnut?) for a few miles and soon made it in to the third rest stop in Linden. By now we were some of the last riders on the 100-mile course. We didn’t take long here before we headed out for the “home stretch”.
The fourth leg was very difficult for me, especially the final 15-20 miles. All my “contact points” (feet, hands, and seat) were extremely sore. The wind was picking up a bit, and of course it was blowing straight at us (or seemed like it anyway). I felt like I was limping along and holding Audrey to a much slower pace than she would have kept without me. It was much more mentally challenging than physically–my legs were certainly tired, but the biggest obstacle was overcoming the pain and discomfort and ignoring the siren song of sagging in. I think I wasn’t the greatest company at this point, since I was almost totally focused on counting down the miles: “12 more miles…” pedal, pedal, pedal “11 more…” pedal, pedal, pedal “10…” Finally we started getting close to Woodbridge, and as I hit familiar territory it was as if a veil was lifted. I was really getting sore now, but there was no way I was going to sag in at this point!
We finally finished the ride at almost exactly 17:00 (5:00 pm), 10 hours 45 minutes after I started. There were still 3 other people (all Bike Hikers) out on the course, and they all made it in within about 15 minutes of us. My total riding time was just over 8:00 hours, so I spent 2:45 hours fixing flats (at least an hour, probably less than 90 minutes) and at food, water and rest stops. The 1 water stop and 2 rest breaks were pretty short, probably under 5 minutes each, which means I must have spent between 1-1.5 hours at the 3 food stops. Lesson learned: I need to spend less time at the stops. Perhaps even more importantly, I need to keep track of how long I’m stopping.
After the ride, Scott uploaded his computer’s recording of the ride. The first thing I noticed was lots more climbing than the organizer’s web site indicated for the ride–the recording showed 4,115 feet of climbing, while the website claimed approximately 2,000 feet. (No wonder I was so whipped…) I’ve got a serious hardware crush on Scott’s computer! Not only does it map the route, it also shows climbing/grade, heart rate, weather conditions, and probably some other stuff. (I wonder if it can wash my riding togs when I get home…) The only drawback that I notice is that the MotionBased website seems a bit sluggish. I’m hopeful that the “real” user interface is a bit zippier than this web-based version.
So… I’ve completed my first century ride since half a lifetime ago! The next organized ride that I’m considering is the Healdsburg Harvest Century in mid-July. I’m going to spend the next two months training for this ride, so hopefully I’ll be a bit better prepared!