Saturday, July 03, 2010

The First Century…

So, here I am, awake at nearly four in the morning on the day after my very first century ride.

Yes, you read that right – probably left to right – I completely my first 100 mile cycling trip. I woke up an hour or so ago in just a whole lot of pain and went to take some more advil. I figure my muscles are in shock right about now, screaming, “What have you done to us?!” Silly muscles…

The ride began at 5:15 yesterday morning. My alarm went off and my first thought was, “What are Vicky and I doing to – oh…” And as reality sank in, I knew the day had arrived. I tried to find a way to get off the hook but Vicky (who seems to like watching me put myself in these awkward positions) kept saying, “No, you can do this.” She has so much faith in me… God, I hate her…

Anyway, I got up – put on my gear – loaded my pack full of food for the trip – filled up my water bottles – checked my tires and chain – and completely forgot to take some advil before I left or take any on the trip. You see, taking some advil before leaving on a long ride helps my body cope with the incredible amounts of pain long rides create and taking a bottle meant I could keep the pain at manageable levels… and I forgot both of those things… stooopid…

My butt began hurting as soon as it landed on the seat as I pulled out of my driveway. I rode up my street to the Santa Ana River Trail (“SART” from here on), which is about when my wrists began hurting. You might not expect the wrist pain but, believe me, it is very much part of the process. I am only beginning to learn how to balance my weight with my core muscles and how to utilize my arm muscles to mediate my weight so it’s not all put on my wrists… but mostly I put most of my weight on my wrists. Yep. We’re talking about nearly 250 pounds… on my wrists… surprised they don’t just snap off like twigs, really…

I hit the SART at about 6am and began the ride by cycling up to Imperial Highway and the Yorba Linda border. This way, I could put over 10 miles of the ride behind me before heading to the shore, thus reducing the ride from 100 miles to 90 miles… which is bullshit because 90 miles is still fucking insane… but I digress…

It really is insane, though…

I hit the end of the SART and Huntington Beach by about 8am. A good start. There wasn’t much traffic, which meant I could cycle as fast as I wanted without having to worry about passing anybody. My speeds in this part of the ride were up around 20 MPH… yeah… I’d soon be missing that…

The beach was pretty vacant at 8am. Lots of joggers, people getting a jump on the day. The speed limit when you’re riding on the beach is 10MPH. I rode on the beach because I wanted to keep my speed down; I had to last for many hours, yet.

When the beach trail ended at Warner Avenue (Sunset Beach), I took my first break. I hadn’t checked my odometer yet and did so at this point. I had ridden 34 miles. The route for the ride not being a perfect loop, I knew I’d have to complete the first 54 before turning around. That meant, I still had 20 miles to go. My first thought was, “Shit…” I would also be leaving the safety of riding on the beach to riding along Pacific Coast Highway (or “PCH”) with all the traffic. My second thought was “Shit…” But my speed on PCH was still good. I was up to about 20 MPH all the way up to Seal Beach… when my chain fell off. Yep… right off my bike. But I’d gone too far to turn back – actually, I hadn’t but the pain had dulled my ability to make excuses, I guess. So, I got the chain back on – then, it popped off again – and I got the chain back on again and, though it stayed on, it made some ugly noises for the rest of the ride.

At the Long Beach border, I turned onto the San Gabriel River Trail (or “SGRT”). This would take me up to 54 miles and the turn-around point. The SGRT is narrow and busy and, worse still, VERY poorly maintained for the first few miles. So, my already battered taint got to feel lots and lots of beating from all the holes and bumps… lots of fun… Why did I do this again? For those of you who get that part but don’t understand why “narrow and busy” is bad, imagine a group of 50 cyclists going 25 MPH passing within two inches of your face…

The furthest ride I’d take previous to this had been to El Dorado Regional Park in Los Alamitos. But that had only been a 70 mile ride. Even with the 10 miles cut out at the beginning, this still sucked…

So, what do you do when you’re a really far way away from your goal and you’ve already gone as far as you’ve ever gone before? (And you’re so tired you forget to look at your odometer so you can’t say how much further you had to go at that point?) You fix your eyes forward and you pedal. That’s it. You pedal past Carson and Del Amo and South Street. You pedal past all the equestrian properties in Lakewood. You pedal past the 91. You pedal past Rosecrans. You pedal past the 105, while somehow thinking, “At least, I’m not pedaling past the 105. That’s crazy far!”

When my odometer hit 50 miles, I past beneath Imperial Highway. I figured that would be a good place to stop for a break. After all, I’d ridden from Imperial Highway by Yorba Linda to Imperial Highway by Downey. Fuck. So, I had a bite to eat and drank from my diminishing water supplies. (Actually, what they don’t tell you about riding a century is what I like to call “water management.” You spend most of your time looking for places to find water and, um, get rid of… um, water…) Then, I started again. After all, I had to ride 54 miles before I could turn around. So, I rode past Firestone and Florence. I rode past the fucking 5 freeway! I rode past Telegraph Road and – at 54 miles – rode beneath… oh, shit. The street had no sign. Turns out, it was Slauson Avenue and I was in or around Pico Rivera… a very far way from home.

I turned around and hit smack in the face by the terrible reality of weather. You see, one of the reasons I left so early in the morning was so I could avoid being hit by the on-shore breeze that kicked up more as the day went on. Well, now it was about 11am or so… and the breeze was kicking. I threw my bike down into a much lower gear – fixed my eyes forward – and rode 16 miles through a constant wind right in my face. But I got back to PCH, if you can believe it. For that alone, I was proud of myself. Oh, and one more thing, I had now ridden 69 miles. No joke – and just one mile below my longest ride to date.

Another rider took a break where I was eating my snack and I struck up a conversation. Now, this guy was the picture of health and certainly looked like a hardcore rider. I figured he was probably on a long-distance ride of his own. So, I asked, “How long you riding today?” “Just to here,” he replied. No kidding. Well, after we clarified things, I found out he was riding 17 miles that day and he had never even considered riding a century, though he was interested in hearing about mine. My point in telling you this is you never know about a person by looking. More importantly, though, never think you aren’t capable just because you don’t look the part. I do NOT look like someone capable of riding a century – but I was the one putting myself through it.

And put myself I did… or something… Back down the coast, I coasted. Once back at Sunset Beach, enough beachgoers had arrived to make riding at the beach the pleasure you know it can be. By this, of course, I mean lots of underaged chicks with hardly any clothes on. Yes, I’m a perv but I was a perv on a mission… no, I mean the ride… no, I mean the bike ride…

I got back to the SART at about 1pm with 82 miles on the bike. Now, here’s the thing. Home is 17 miles up the SART and I needed 18. I was going to come in about a mile short. Fuck it – I wanted to go home.

With the wind at my back, I pedaled a respectable (for my weight and out-of-shapity, at least) 14 MPH. Sure enough, I pulled into my neighborhood – What? I was tired. Those last 17 miles were hell. You hear back talk about “hitting a wall”? Well, I hit a wall every mile. It was agony. All I can tell you is that I learned your body can only be in so much pain at one time before it says, “You just don’t care, do you?” – Anyway, I pulled into my neighborhood a mile short but that didn’t seem to matter. Suddenly, that last mile, I felt invincible! All the pain melted away and I rode around a couple of blocks like a 14 year old and not a 44 year old! (And looking kinda like an ass, too, I imagine.) When I pulled up to my driveway, I had 99.87 miles. I was going to stop there and let “rounding” do the rest of my word for me but I could hear Vicky’s voice say, “Don’t you want to see that turn over to 100?” She later assured me that was not her but my own neurosis. Okay, so my neurosis sounds like Vicky. I did two laps in my driveway – it’s a long driveway – and turned the odometer to 100.01 miles.

Sweaty, stinky, and in a fuckload of pain… I had done it.