Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dennis' and I's 1st Century Bike Ride

The day was finally here where Dennis, our friend Chris, and I were going to be putting our mental and physical abilities to the test.  Ride our Bikes for 100 miles.  

Doing a Century Bike ride was always something Dennis and I toyed with doing but the stars had never aligned.  But this was the year and ready or not it was time.  

The bike race started in Palmyra NJ and ended at Ocean City NJ so since we live in Virginia, we had to figure out the logistics of this whole trip.  We were able to find a babysitter (thanks Brenda!) who would take Shane for the weekend and once we dropped him off, we headed to our hotel 8 miles from the start line. 

The first wave of bikers were to start at 6:30am, which is the wave that we wanted to be in.  The reason?  The direct route to Ocean City was actually 80 miles but in order to reach 100 miles there was a 20 mile loop that the Century bikers take to gain the 20 remaining miles.  The catch?  You had to enter the loop by 11am or else you are forced to only do the 80 mile route.  So we figured if we started at 6:30am, we would have plenty of time to bike 46 miles and stop at the 3 rest stops (including lunch) and make the loop.  

Well, unfortunately it didn't pan out that way......

The 8 mile drive took way longer than expected.  Traffic was horrible getting to the start line.  Every other biker had the same idea as us apparently.   We pulled into the parking lot just as the 6:30 wave was released and we had to wait until our corral was opened.  This immediately added to my anxiety of the entire ride.  So there we were just waiting, and waiting to start.

Dennis was not happy!

So finally at about 7:10am we were off which gave us just under 4 hours to get to the loop.  A lofty goal, but nothing out of our reach. 

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I was going to do the full 100 miles, so if we didn't make the loop, I personally wouldn't have been as upset as Dennis and Chris would have been.  

Going into the ride we all decided that we had to go faster than 10 miles per hour to finish the ride before the 5pm deadline, and that anything between 12-14 miles per hour would be comfortable.  

I'm not exactly sure what happened on the first half of the ride, but we were booking it.  It possibly had to do with the time restriction we had, but for some parts of the ride we were going more than 17 miles per hour, which was super fast for me.  We quickly stopped at the first rest stop to use the bathrooms and regrouped.

Back on our bikes, and the next stop was lunch.  I use the word lunch lightly because it wasn't even 9:30am when we got to the lunch stop.  Now granted we were up at 4:30 in the morning, but still, nothing like chicken sandwiches and chips at 9:30 in the morning.  We quickly ate and headed back, knowing our window to make the loop was closing quickly.  At this point we were literally within minutes of the cut off.  We decided to skip the next rest stop and it's a good thing we did.  With only 10 minutes to spare, we made the loop!  The only issue was that we were now going on 20+ miles without a stop.  

Finally there was a rest stop at mile 55 and I was just about toast by that time.  I think it was mostly because we had to go so fast the first 40 miles to make the loop, it was seriously daunting to know we still had 45 miles left on this ride.  But there was nothing else to do but to refill our water bottles, eat some snacks and keep moving.  
We Made It!
Now that the pressure was off, we slowed down our pace quite a bit.  By the end of the trip our average pace was just over 13 miles per hour which is what we hoped it would be before we began.  

At this point my wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, back, and legs were screaming at me and I was in a great amount of pain.  I would do whatever I could to ease it, adjust my peddling, adjust my grip on the handle bars, but when it seemed as if when I relieved one pain, a new one would occur.  The 2nd half of this ride was going to be a real challenge.  

At our next rest stop, for whatever reason, I just went to down on all the snacks I could.  Goldfish, chips, nutri-grain bars, whatever was in front of me, I was devouring.  This did give me some power for the next 12+ miles,  but again, I was so grateful to have these rest stops to just get off the  bike and shake it out and stretch my body.  

When we reached mile 80, I had my predicted mental break down.  I knew we had over an hour more or biking, my body was in such pain, and I literally couldn't keep up with my thirst.  I asked Dennis to ride next to me and I lost it.  I was crying and begging to stop.  I felt like 20 miles was asking too much of me, but Dennis assured me that I had it in me and that I just needed to keep pushing for a little longer.  

I snapped out of my mental block and (well with no real choice) I kept peddling.  When we finally neared the beach, I was so happy.  Until i saw what was ahead of us.  

Two freaking HUGE bridges that we had to bike over to get to the finish.  

I was completely defeated.  No hills on the whole route until mile 95?  Are you freaking kidding me?!?!?!  My feelings were clearly shared as 90% of people got off their bike and were walking the first bridge.  I was so angry about this that I refused to get off my bike.  I've let myself down before by walking during a Half Marathon and I was simply refusing to walk any part of this bike ride.    

So slow and steady I peddled as hard as I could to get over this first bridge.  It was pure torture.  At this point my entire body was in pain, my lips were sunburned, I was thirsty, and I just wanted to be done.    I "enjoyed" the  brief ride down, and then braced myself for the next bridge.  More people walking, but again I refused.  I caught up with Chris and Dennis and I was basically just on a hunt for the finish line. 

The last few miles felt like forever and when we crossed the finish line I was already in tears.  Tears of pain, of accomplishment (but mostly pain) and all I wanted to do was sit down and stretch my poor aching legs.

The biking part took us 7.5 hours along (not including stops) and I'm so so so so so so so mad that my phone died around mile 60, along with my tracker.  

After we parked our bikes and regrouped, we walked around the vendor tents where we got a ton of free food and freebies.  

Originally we wanted to walk to boardwalk, but moving was a challenge and we decided to just catch the bus back to the start line.  I think I was sitting on the  bus for about 10 minutes before I was passed out asleep.  I was spent.  

After all that was said and done I have a few helpful hints and tips for anybody considering doing a Century Bike Ride:

1.  Train.  This is not a joke, Dennis and I semi-trained for this event,  but we should have trained more.  I think it would have better conditioned our bodies for the length in which we would be on our bikes. 

2.  Get there earlier!  I really wish that we had make the 6:30am start  because we really had to hustle to make the loop.  I wonder if I would have been so tired the 2nd half if we had kept a slower pace in the beginning.  

3.  Drink lots of liquids.  I usually NEVER hydrate while biking (or during any exercise for that matter) but I must have drank 2 gallons of Powerade during the ride and I was still unable to quench my thirst 2 days later.  

4.  Stop at all the rest stops to just get off the bike.  I would argue that skipping the 1st rest stop is OK, but any other ones I would not.  I think there were 7 stops in total and they literally come at the right times.  It feels good to just get off the bike for a few minutes, eat something, drink something and sit.  

5.  Bring a phone battery extender and/or separate camera.  Like I said before I was heartbroken that my phone died for multiple reasons.  It was keeping track of my ride statistics and was also my camera.  :(

6.  Wear sunscreen (at the very least on your lips).  Dennis has some killer Bike Jersey Tan lines right now on his arms and my lips and nose are currently peeling from the sun abuse they got on Saturday.  

7.  Enjoy the ride!  It was a really nice course and it was well staffed and very organized (minus the beginning).  The rest stops were very well stocked and the volunteers were awesome!

So with all of that said, Dennis and I have ALREADY committed to doing this ride again in 2015!  Hopefully I will take my own advice and improve on this already great experience!