100 Miles, Either Way.

It took me six years of pounding pavement to work up the courage and training to do a 100 mile run. Last weekend, after six weeks of mostly dedicated riding, I completed my first 100 mile ride.

That's not to say it was easy. Moreover, fitness is cumulative so all of those years of running helped build the fitness before I started riding.

And finally - and perhaps most important - the ride wasn't a race, but a "ride." No timers. No results. Heck, no t-shirt since I didn't register in advance.

As recently as two weeks ago, I wasn't sure I'd do the century ride. My training rides hadn't gotten any longer than 64 miles, and my knee continues to tweak around 45 miles (ironic, since so many runners become cyclists because of knee problems). But truth is, when I thought about the fact that I was considering not doing an event that wasn't even being timed, well, I questioned my own courage. What, in fact, did I have to lose? Absolutely nothing.

To avoid my Type-A tendencies, I made it a point NOT to show up when the main pack rolled out at 7am. Knowing I was undertrained, I knew the best way to have a good ride would be to do my own thing. I started about 20 minutes later with a bunch of other tricklers.

Throughout the first few miles, I took things very easy. I knew the difficult hills would start around the 45 mile mark, so my plan was to really be comfy until that point. I passed a bunch of other riders and was nearing a large pack of about 20, but at that point the 100km and 100mile routes split and the entire pack chose the shorter route. After only about 40 minutes, I was on my own.

My insulin and fueling strategy were nearly identical to what I would do for an ultra run; about 40g per hour with a 15% reduction in basal rates. I settled into a comfy pace and kept the pedals turning. As far as what that pace was, though, don't ask. I'm still relatively old-schooling this cycling thing. The entire ride was being recorded on my Strava app, but I don't even have a computer on my bike.

About five miles prior to the first aid station at 25 miles, I passed the first rider I'd seen since the 100km split, and he remarked that I, too, was the first he'd seen, but when I rolled into the first stop, 2 other guys were leaving. I was momentarily relieved to see I wasn't one of only two riders.

Throughout the miles, the experience was much of the same; rolling beautiful PA farmland. Me passing other cyclists and not getting passed. Despite this being a non-competitive event, those were the things I thought about, and each time I passed another rider, I considered it a small victory (in an event with no winners).

Like an ultra-run, there were awesome miles and there were not-so-awesome miles. In cycling, the differences are more dramatic, of course. Tailwinds and downhills can make a person feel quite powerful, whereas uphills can make the whole day seem a bit silly.

Around mile 60, my glycogen stores must've became depleted because very quickly I needed to increase my carbs per hour. Though I prefer solid carbs where I can keep the count in my head, I swapped my water for gatorade at the aid stations and drank it heavily for the last two hours of the ride. That ended up being a wise decision, as I was 88 at the end. (This was after not paying attention and having to slug down quite a bit when I tested at 57 around mile 70.)

The last aid station was around mile 93. Though I had adequate fuel, I still stopped just to stretch my back, which was probably what gave me the most fits throughout the ride. As I prepared to leave the aid station, another rider, who I hadn't seen all day rolled in. Taking one look at him told me all I needed to know: if I wanted to keep with my plan of not getting caught all day, I'd have to work.

I pushed the pace as much as I could throughout the last seven miles, though the wind from an expected front had now arrived, and my results definitely weren't reflected in the effort. I looked over my shoulder frequently and he was nowhere to be found. And then, with only a mile left, I checked again and there he was, and closing fast. Though I tried to push it, there was no denying it: this guy had likely started way after me and was by far a superior rider. He caught me just before the last traffic light, where we both stopped and had a nice conversation. And after that, the ride was over.

Not being a race, there were no crowds. Heck, I didn't even technically roll through the finish line (where nobody was anyway). I pulled into the parking lot and loaded up my bike, and, after some post-ride food and a massage, that was that; my first century ride in the books.

Unlike my 100 mile run, I was sore, but not "uh oh somebody better drive me" sore. Over the next few hours - not unlike some ultra events for me - my blood sugars actually ran a little high (160), likely due to the cortisone released by my body to heal itself. And now, 2 days later, I feel about 85% better.

All in all, I liked it. I liked it a lot. Clearly, given my comments about catching people and not getting caught, I'm still adjusting to the non-competitive nature of these rides. But then again, I don't even have a computer, so you could say I'm mellowing. Or maybe I'm just cheap. This cycling is an expensive hobby.





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