Sunday, September 22, 2013

My First Century

by Meghann on September 22, 2013

It took us way longer than expected (we missed the cut-off by an hour!) and we got a little lost along the way (and ended up riding on a very busy road by ourselves – whoops!), but we did it. We finished our first century ride and we had a blast!

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And, oddly enough, my legs feel great! woo hoo!

The morning started early. My alarm was set for 4:00am with the goal of getting on the road at 4:30. My sister Kelly and I had registered for the Ride4Ronald 100-mile route, which had a 7:00am start time in Lake Nona. We picked this event because it was the perfect middle ground for both of us (an hour drive for Kelly and a little less than an hour and a half for me). We both arrived around 6:00, collected our packets, and got ready for our long day.

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This was our first cycling event and neither of us knew what to expect. It wasn’t a timed race, but there was a cut-off of 7 hours for the 100-mile route. I figured as long as we averaged 15 mph on the bike that we would be fine. What I didn’t take into account were the multiple rest stops and the amazing volunteers who encourage you to relax, chat, and eat at each stop (p.s. this event had AWESOME volunteers!). The “race” definitely had a laid back feel to it and reminded me of a relaxed trail run. Personally, I loved it. We didn’t hit any of our timed goals, but we made new friends and loved every minute of it (well, I didn’t like getting lost so much).

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Ride4Ronald had 10 mile, 30 mile, 60 mile, and 100 mile distant options. The 100 mile group started first (at 7:00), with each distance departing every 10 minutes after.

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At 7:05 (there was a delayed start), it was go time. We positioned ourselves in the middle and took off with the 100 milers. I would guess there were about 75 cyclists going the 100 mile distance?

As predicted, everyone took off and Kelly and I were left in their dust. We were averaging 16.5ish and they still flew by. Whomp. Whomp. We decided at the beginning not to let the groups passing to bother us, we were going to finish this 100 miles in our own time.

The first 28 miles were amazing. Eventually the 60 milers caught up to us (as we knew they would) and started passing us as if it was nothing. However, we both felt great. We were still averaging 16.5 and going strong.

We skipped the first rest stop at mile 14, but did make a pit stop at 28. I was still concerned about making our time cut-off at this point and got nervous as we wasted time waiting in line for the porta potties and taking our time filling up our water bottles and grabbing food. We lost 10 minutes at that first stop.

It wasn’t long after we left the first rest stop that we dropped the 60 milers. They made a right around mile 30, while we went straight.

I really enjoyed the route for this ride. It took us all over Orlando, including areas that Kelly and I were very familiar with. It was like taking a fun ride down memory lane.

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It also helped both of us overcome our fears of riding on the road. Actually, it wasn’t that bad to ride with the morning traffic. We stuck to our shoulder (and obeyed traffic laws) and never felt unsafe out there. I enjoyed it sooooo much more than my normal trail rides. So. Much. More. 🙂

We were on our own after the 60 milers left us. After not seeing ANYONE for 20 miles, we were pretty convinced we were the last 100 milers still out there. We were still doing good on pace at that point and made it to the 50 mile rest stop at about 3:12 on the clock. Not bad. Not bad.

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It wasn’t long after we pulled up that a group of guys turned in too, then a couple of other cyclists slowly trickled in. Oh, hey, we’re not last. Woot! Woot!

We said hello to the other cyclists and made friends. Turns out they were from the same town on the east coast that Kelly recently moved to – small world!

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p.s. these rest stops were STOCKED with food. Apple pie? Chocolate chip cookies? Coke? Powerade? Fruit? Peanut Butter sandwich? What-ever you want, it’s yours!

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I actually became a little piggy at each stop. It’s so hard to say no when they have a cyclist’s buffet in front of you!

Kelly and I left at the same time as our new friends, but we lost them pretty early. Kelly and I were on our own again and starting to slow down. The rest stop had cost us another 10 minutes and we were now facing a nasty headwind.

The course was well marked with bright orange arrows that had been spray painted the night before guiding the way. There were arrows (whether telling you to turn or go straight) at every intersection. On top of the arrows, we also carried maps in our back pockets and had our phones on us just in case we needed them.

We knew something was wrong when we got to a very busy intersection (Tuskawilla and Red Bug Lake Road) and were no arrows. I checked my map and it looked like we were supposed to go straight through Red Bug Leg (but what I missed was that we weren’t supposed to be on Tuskawilla when we went straight). It took a dead end intersection arrows with no arrows to confirm we were definitely lost. However, the busy road with no shoulder should have been our first clue. :/

We pulled over, got the maps out, and consulted our phones to realize we had missed a right turn a couple of miles back and accidentally cut 2 miles off of the course. Darn it! Luckily, we could make a left and be back on the course immediately. We decided to continue with the course and try to make up the distance later.

We turned into the next rest stop (mile 68) and met back up with our new friends we had made at our last stop.

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We joked about getting lost with them and they joked about us not letting them know about the short cut in advance. I had a cookie and refilled my water bottle.

We ended up leaving at the same time as the group again, but this time we somehow got in the middle of their line and kind of stayed there. They were going the same pace we were and having fun – why no try to hang on? New friends rock!

We stopped at the rest stops at mile 75 and mile 83 (spending about 10 minutes at each of them). At this point I knew we weren’t going to make our original 7 hour goal, but I didn’t care. Everyone was just so laid back and just enjoying the day, their attitudes totally rubbed off on me.

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Oh, and the ice cold wet towels at the final rest stop were probably the best part of the ride.

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o.m.g. amazing.

Unfortunately, just as we pulled out of the last rest stop, on of our new friends for a flat tire. Oh, no!

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We had been riding on roads with a lot of gravel and glass and a piece of glass got stuck in the tire and popped the tube. We waited as he changed the flat.

The final stretch was along the airport road, which is a popular bike route in Orlando I’ve heard of, but never been on. I didn’t like the headwind going out, but the tailwind coming back in was awesome.

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The last 15 miles felt like the longest 15 miles of my life. I had been on my bike for 7 hours and was just ready to be done. We picked up the pace for the last bit and the guys were great by helping Kelly and I add 2 miles to the route to get back to where we needed to be to hit 100 miles at the finish.

We headed into the finish chute and about half a dozen volunteers were out there cheering us on. I couldn’t believe they were still out there an HOUR after the course was supposed to close. How bad ass is that?! I’m telling you, these volunteers rule!

We came to a stop and more volunteers swarmed us, offering us pizza, water, soda, and anything else we could possible want. Again, volunteers rock!

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And, there it was, 100 miles! Whoa.

Am I nervous were didn’t finish anywhere close to the cut off time? Nope. Because I know that the Ironman will be different. For one, we won’t be taking several 10-20 minute long rest stops along the way. Also, our attitudes will be a lot different – definitely no laid back feeling on race day, complete focus only.

However, I’ll admit this ride was very humbling. I was legitimately scared they were going to start packing up the last rest stops before we got there, or the finish line was going to be gone before we finished. I’ve been very lucky as a runner to always come in well before the cut-off times, but I’m not as lucky of a cyclist. I’m slow and I may finish last, but I will finish. I’ll have 8.5ish hours (HOPEFULLY!) to finish 112 miles at IM Florida. It’s going to be a push, but I know I can do it (just need to keep those stop to a minimum!).

Kelly and I have one more 100 mile training ride in two weeks. We’re going to have less stops and spend the ride side-by-side (no drafting allowed!). It’ll be our final long ride before taper time. It’s getting close!!!

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