Tuesday, March 31, 2009
day 24-The longest day
Everyone was up early, and was nervous about our 111 mile day. Many of us had never done a century and this was 11 miles more than that!!!! We got going at the crack of dawn, and headed down Route 90. The first twenty miles were wonderful. The birds were singing and the wind was mild. The sun came up and the world was perfect. We made great time. After the first SAG stop, the wind began to pick up. It pressed against us, but was still tolerable, but the ride was getting harder. We had another SAG stop at mile forty, and then had a lunch stop, where Linda, our chef would be waiting with good nutritious and filling food for us. Those next twenty miles consisted of the same rolling hills we had had the first forty miles, but the wind continued to pick up. It was now shoving us back, slowing us down. The road was cut through some of the hills and there was a swirling and whirling around us. As we moved onto the open road, we got a cross gust from the east an the the west.
The road surface of the shoulder was rough chip seal. The traffic was usually considerate, but occasionally heedless, and so most of us stayed on the shoulder. As we moved forward the wind whistled and howled so that communication was impossible, and you couldn't even hear trucks from behind. Of course being on the shoulder, which was very wide, kept us safe. I ended up singing songs to myself to keep my cadence and spirits up. In spite of the wind, I liked the scenery, when I braved looking around. I finally came to lunch. The food was great, but the thought of 51 more miles into the wind was intimidating. Now, you may ask just how strong the wind was, and I can only guess. One of the women, who routinely rides in twenty mph winds was estimating that it was thirty with stronger gusts. I can tell you that on the downhills we had, you had to continue to pedal hard to keep moving. Uphill, in the lee ofthe wind was actually almost easier. The next eighty miles went by, pedal stroke, by pedal stroke. It seemed endless. Hands vibrating, howling wind, feet vibrating, seat jostling in the road surface. Hill after hill, climbing pedaling down to keep going, then up again, cross winds pushing you one way then the other and toward the road.
After eighty the SAG was there every five miles. A lot of the women called it quits at sixty, and believe me they had already had a very, very hard ride. I was with a group determined to complete the ride, but my personal goal was to get to a century...my first.
We kept going those last twenty miles. I realized, that in spite of drinking lots and lots of water (well over eighty ounces) plus a waterbottle of gatorade, I was very dry. I was unbelievably tired.
Finally, I hit the hundred mile point. I cheered the others on and collapsed into the SAG wagon, exhausted. My first century at half a century old, was a tough one. Later at dinner, several seasoned cyclist told me that that would be the hardest century I would ever do....and it was more like one and a half or two centuries. I don't know about that, but it was an accomplishment that I am proud of. I wish I had had the fortitude to continue...I was SO proud of those who did all 111 miles. Six of the twenty one women made that distance.