Tuesday, September 06, 2011

100 Miles of Holy Hell

I completed the Savannah Century on Sunday. For those not familiar with cycling terms, that means a 100-mile organized bike ride. Now, I can't say with any experience how this compares to other similar rides (I was promised free lasagna and barbecue if I signed up for and completed a century in Albany this coming weekend), but I don't have any complaints with the event. The rest stops were well-spaced and ample. Each one had at least cold water and plenty of food options for snacking, ranging from fruit and cookies to salty snacks and pickles. Most stops had watery Gatorade/Powerade as well. The support vehicles cruised by regularly, just as promised, although I was lucky to have no need of their services. I have no complaints with the organizers of this ride.

That being said, the last 20-25 miles were hell.

I got to the ride a little late. The photo above is me heading over to the starting area half a block away. The back pockets of my jersey are stuffed with Larabars and Honey Stinger Waffles and one of the four water bottles actually holds my tire-changing supplies. The Larabars and Honey Stingers are two of the few energy foods I've tried that I don't hate. Both are legitimately tasty on their own. There's also my mp3 player and charger for my phone in case the battery couldn't handle nearly 8 hours of GPS tracking. This photo makes me look a tiny bit chubby, because I actually still am a tiny bit chubby. There's another photo of me standing in my kit that makes me look awesome, but I wanted to be honest here.

But seriously, if you saw my post on Facebook or Twitter of my standing around in my cycling jersey and uniform, I was freaking hot.

By the time I finished getting my stuff together and on the bike, I barely had time to pedal over to the starting area in time to make the police-escorted rolling start over the Talmadge Bridge. The bridge is normally closed to traffic, so the police actually blocked traffic as we had a rolling start up and over the bridge into South Carolina. In South Carolina we were promptly greeted by a decaying discount fireworks store and a strip club. I was kind of surprised at the strip club. Savannah lets people in the historic district buy their beer to go from any of the bars in town and walk around town with an open container, but they don't allow strip clubs? Honestly, I'd rather drink beer while strolling through town than pay to see someone's boobies, but it seems a strange combination of laws. There was not another building except for on the Savannah College of Arts and Design's Equestrian Center for the next 10 miles. These two buildings obviously only existed to service people in Savannah. It was not long after the group passed there that a major wreck up front happened. I caught up to the wreck well after it happened but while it was still being cleaned up. At least one guy had to quit because of a broken collarbone. Oddly, this was a completely flat, completely straight section with no real problems in the road surface. Apparently someone dropped a water bottle and in the swerving to miss the obstacle, people collided and in the tightly packed group it caused at least a dozen people to go down.

I didn't wreck. Not even close, so go back up to the top of this post and take a look at my cycling kit. Notice the fancy logo shorts I'm wearing? They're from Perry Rubber Bike Shop, a local shop in Savannah that I'm willing to fully endorse, although I bought the shorts because they were cheaper than the other bib shorts. If you're not into cycling, you probably have no idea what it means to wear bib shorts. It means that they have built in suspenders that go on under your jersey. They're great for keeping your shorts from migrating, which is especially good for a guy like me with a little bit of a gut. I had a lot less chafing than I have had recently on some of my shorter training rides because the shorts staid up. They were worth the money. The problem comes when you have to pee.

That's right, when I felt the urge to pee just before the first rest stop, I realized that I was going to have to take my shirt off in the portapotty in order to get my pants down enough to take a leak. This is not the easiest of tasks, but I was successful. Didn't even have any of my back-pocket items fall out in the portapotty. It just took a little time. Good thing it wasn't an emergency.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. I spent a lot of it in a pace line with members of the Pecan City Pedalers, a cycling club out of Albany, Ga. Most of them rode at around my pace. I wish I'd found them earlier in the ride and made a conscious effort to stick with them the entire ride. It may have helped. The terrain was touted on the event website as flat to rolling, but they were exaggerating about the rolling terrain. There were a lot of false flats, though, stretches that appear to be flat but drain your legs and soul because they're slightly uphill. One of my two training routes is by far more rolling so the few hills in the middle of the course were nothing. Close in to Savannah, the marshes and ancient-by-American-standards city was interesting to look at. The farther from the city we got the more it just looked like the extremely rural area where I live.

My longest ride until the Savannah Century was 51 miles and it was last week. The weather was warm and humid and I forgot my money before I left so I couldn't eat enough. I struggled with a severe case of nausea for an hour after the ride. I was exhausted. The route for the century was officially 103 miles, although my GPS claimed it was only a little longer than 101 miles. There were 50 miles of this ride that I had no proof I could ride. I just didn't have the time to fully prepare for this. I was happy to discover that I'd actually breezed through the ride well beyond my longest training ride's distance. If I'd stopped at 60 miles I would have been pumped. Drafting in a pace line really does help, as does stopping every 10-15 miles for a short break. It wasn't until around mile 70 that I started wondering if I was going to make it and it wasn't until closer to mile 80 that I couldn't keep up with any of the pace lines I'd been following. My thighs were aching in a way I've never felt them feel before for the last 15 miles and they continued to ache like that for at least 30 minutes after the ride.

By the time I finished, I was crawling. I usually finish a flat mile in the high 2 or low 3 minutes range during a long ride. By the end of the century it was often taking me 5 minutes or more to finish a mile. I just didn't have anything left.

But I finished, and, surprisingly, my legs were fine after that 30 minutes. By the time I finished my meal at The Distillery and got into the car, I was in no pain. I was kind of a dud the rest of the evening from general exhaustion, but I wasn't hurting. I woke up the next morning perfectly refreshed.

I have a renewed admiration for both professional cyclists, who do distances like this daily for weeks at a time during stage races, and Iron Man triathletes. I never would have belittled the amateurs who ended up walking much of the running leg of the Iron Man, but do you realize that in an Iron Man, you ride 100 miles before running a marathon without a break? I couldn't have run 5k after my ride Sunday. It's hard to imagine ever being able to accomplish that feat. It was nice to go out and accomplish something like this that was so far out of my comfort zone, though.

If you're interested in checking out the ride data from the century, check out my RunKeeper page.


Courtney said...

"... drain your legs and soul because they're slightly uphill" --> HA!

Congratulations, though, because that is super impressive. Biking 100 miles is an accomplishment on its own, but especially since you'd only biked half that distance before. Well done.

Julie said...

Congratulations! This is quite an accomplishment.

I wouldn't worry about how you look in the photo. No one looks good while leaning over like that unless you're a girl with big boobs and it's taken from the front so no one can see anything other than your boobs.

I have never done anything similar to a 100 mile bike ride but I think I know the feeling. I remember sitting at Courtney's place after Senior Adventure Challenge and thinking I would not be able to make it home. That was the first time I understood what people meant when they say muscles hurt that they didn't even know they had.

Mickey said...

That's awesome, man.

And it's good to know that your 103 mile ride affected you far less than the 37 miles I did earlier this year. And you did look good in your get-up.