Monday, August 7, 2017

My first century ride

A couple weeks ago I achieved a goal that had been in my mind prominently since this past April, which was to do my first century ride, or 100 miles, on the bike. You may recall back in April when I threw a little fit to my coach about wanting to ride 100 miles at the Tony Serrano ride. I was interested in doing it then for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time, however, I settled on knowing that I wanted to do one this year. I knew it would be a cool accomplishment and give me confidence to know I had done one this year (as I think ahead to NEXT year where I would like to do a full Ironman.)

I had started scoping out rides and also looked at some dates with my friend Lauren, who I knew still had some long bike rides ahead of her for the year as her first Ironman is in September! We decided to do one together because we've become really compatible riding partners and I just have a lot of fun with her. I knew it would mean a lot to do my first 100 mile ride with her and was really excited when we settled on the Covington Century ride at the end of July. I had the full support of my coach as well :)

The week of the ride, I was up in New Hampshire with my family and was not on my bike for 2 weeks before doing the ride. This made me feel a bit anxious - especially as the last bike ride that I had been on had turned into a bit of a cluster when I had my first, and second, flat tires while riding.  The Saturday before heading out on vacation, I had a two hour bike ride that ended up being pretty stressful. About an hour in, I got my first flat and changed it with the help of a fellow member of the ITL group. However, after having that first flat, I was way behind the overall group and therefore when I got my second flat, nobody was around. Plus, I had used all of my spare repair kit items the first time!

Luckily, two of my friends had realized I wasn't behind them fairly quickly and turned back for me. However, none of us had experience changing a flat and were about to do our best to have at it when (luckily) two men from Atlanta Triathlon Club came upon us and (thankfully) stopped to help. They identified the culprit - a piece of glass deep in my tire that we hadn't noticed before - and helped to repair the flat.

I was pretty nervous the rest of the day thinking it was going to happen again and I didn't feel relaxed on the bike the rest of that day. Thinking ahead knowing that the next ride I would have outdoors would be the century, I stopped on my way home from that bike ride at my beloved Atlanta Cycling to have them check out the tire. I was assured by the techs that the second repair looked good, my bike was fine, and I restocked my spare tire repair kit (as well buying replacements for my friend whose I had used the second time!) The next day I rode my bike on the trainer at home and all was fine. I left for vacation with my bike still on the trainer, back wheel suspended in the air.

Fast forward to the day I return home, which is also the night before the Covington Century. As I worked to get all my gear together the night before and took my bike off the trainer, I realized that my back tire was dead flat. It hadn't even been sitting with any pressure on it, and it had somehow over the week and a half had gotten down to about 20 psi (whereas I usually ride at 100.) I know that tire pressure can drop when sitting over time, but the front wheel was only down to about 60 so the big drop for the back tire - the same one that had just flat-ed twice - was really concerning to me and tipped me over the edge with nerves.

I started to full on panic, which I know was a result of my feelings for the whole next day but I was so scared that my bike ride was going to turn into another day like the one I had on my last ride. I was worried I would be getting flat after flat, not have enough supplies to change it multiple times, would struggle doing it by myself, and worse that I would hold up Lauren and ruin her day as well, which was also a training day for her. I didn't want to have to deal with that when I would need my energy to get through the day. That evening I was crying and texting my coach, but afraid to text Lauren as I didn't want to worry her about it. I was assured over and over that it - and the ride - would be fine, and I put air in the tire the night before with the plan to check it in the morning.

When I tell you - as soon as my alarm went off the next morning, I jumped out of bed to run and feel my back tire air pressure. Luckily, it was fine. So I hoped it would remain that way throughout the day.

In addition to my issue with the bike tire, the week before while I was away, my TomTom Multisport watch that I had been wearing for about 2 years mysteriously went haywire on me. I had gone for an open water swim in the lake and when I returned to the shore and went to turn off my watch, it simply would not turn off. Eventually I was able to get the activity to end, but it wasn't really anything I did. The watch just started to freak out and do whatever it wanted. A factory reset and all the online help tutorials later, it was still making its own decisions and somehow had turned its default language into Polish, which limited my ability to even troubleshoot. This wasn't the first time I had problems with a TomTom watch malfunctioning and it was the motivation I needed to start to consider more seriously an investment into a new watch. That being said, I wasn't ready to purchase right away, despite two trips to REI on the day I returned to Atlanta. The thought of being watch-less for 100 miles made me really nervous!

Before heading to Covington, three friends met at my apartment and we drove together, and I was graciously able to borrow a spare watch from a friend - which was a huge comfort for me. With a watch and a tire with air, I felt somewhat ready to go, although a bit nervous about the feeling of my gear all seemingly failing on me.

As soon as we started riding, I began to feel better and the nerves slipped away and my confidence grew. My bike was having no issues and the watch was working. I was having fun and we were on our way!

I am not going to break the ride down mile by mile or anything like that. But overall, moral of the story... I had such a fun experience and such a good day doing this ride.

We started as a group with a lot of the ITL people all starting off a few minutes before the mass start to avoid any craziness with large peloton groups at the beginning causing accidents. It was a fun decision as there were quite a few riders from our group there, so we were able to all chat a little bit as we made our way out of town and onto the main portion of the ride as a group.

It wasn't too long into the ride that Lauren and I were on our own riding together but I seriously had such a great time with her. She had done her first century ride the weekend before and gave me such helpful advice from the beginning like an old pro ("Don't count!") and cheered me on through the whole thing -- despite the fact that this was probably harder on her, doing back to back weekends of century rides!! We caught up about what had been going on in our lives. We stopped at every rest stop. We snacked. We laughed. We made friends with random drivers who stopped to shout at (encourage?) us. We pushed ourselves. We enjoyed the scenery. And we just kept on damn pedaling.

I was really, really thankful to have her with me and it made the whole experience such a great one. My only goal for the day was to finish. I didn't care about speed or time or anything like that but just wanted to see 100. Lauren shared her goal with me and although it scared me a bit, I wanted to help her realize that so took it on myself to try and help get her there the best I could. We've I think both gotten good at knowing when the other one needs a push so I did my best to keep motivating her too at some of her tougher points in the ride.

One of the things that surprised me was that I honestly felt good throughout the whole thing. I did have some hip pain that made me feel a bit uneasy throughout the ride, but I never vocalized it or tried to think about it much because it wasn't going to stop me or change the effort I was putting into the day. And towards the end the balls of my feet starting to really bother me as well. It felt almost as if it were that weird feeling before you get a charley horse, but it never came. I think it was just the nonstop push-pull for hours that was bothering me. My seat bones got sore and I was of course tired at the end, but physically, besides those things, I felt good! There were no major issues and I didn't crash or feel overwhelmingly fatigued during the ride. And mentally - I was with it the whole thing.

Afterwards thinking about it, I feel like I was mentally "in it" and positive the whole time because this event, this day, this moment - this was my goal! Before we started the ride a number of people asked the question around "What are you training for?" or essentially... "What is this century ride a stepping stone for you for?"  For most triathletes, these events are part of a training program. But for me, this was it. This was the ride and the day I had been continuing to bike for throughout the summer. I felt determined and happy and grateful to be able to be there and enjoying it with good friends. Aside from riding with Lauren, we ran into others with the group at the various check points and a few times on the course and it was always fun to catch up with them.

There were definitely points that were harder than others as well. And one of the things I said to Lauren when it got a bit hard was "Focus and find the place where you feel strong."

I don't know where that came from, but as I said it aloud to her, I was saying it to myself as well (which is often what I do when I am cheering on others in an event I am doing myself.) For some reason I liked that and I want to remember it for the future. A lot of times in the middle of an event when things get tough or aren't going our way you can start to doubt yourself and question "Can I do this?" or worse you talk yourself out of it "I'm never going to hit my goal - I should just back off."

However, I want to remember that piece of advice for Berlin Marathon and my own races to find the place where I feel strong when those thoughts come. Push them away by channeling memories and emotions and mantras that remind myself how strong I am. Remember the times I pushed through something tough, channel that, and find my strong. Find the mental place where I feel strong and stay there.

I finished the ride at 102 miles and 6 hours and 5 minutes. I hit 100 miles on the watch just seconds under 6 hours for an average speed throughout the ride of about 16.7 mph. I was really, really proud of that and proud of how I did mentally and physically throughout the day. There was definitely a bit of a "woohoo!" that occurred when I hit 100 and also a feeling of "Okay I'm done" and was ready to be off the bike, ha. It had gotten hot and was feeling a bit clammy in my biking gear. I had gone through a ton of liquids that day and still couldn't get enough in me. I never went to the bathroom and think I definitely needed salt as well.

Luckily, the ride had a catered meal afterwards so after a change of clothes we head over for plates of food. But not before a photo shoot! I was so thrilled to have hit this milestone and to have had such wonderful, supportive friends by my side. From having Lauren to encourage me and cheer me on and hang out with all day, to Jaclyn for loaning me her watch, and Whitney for carpooling, and everyone else who was a part of the day. It really meant a lot to me and was a big milestone for me. I am looking forward to riding more centuries in the future and grow in experience and strength - as well as grow in memories and fun throughout the journey.

One thing I will say is that at the end of this day, I was DEAD. I was so tired, ha. I came home and spent the rest of the day exactly where I wanted to be... which was in the t-shirt they had given me from the ride and on the couch!

In true awkwardness though, I did waddle over to Krog Street Market which is near where I live (okay I drove there, even though it is just a couple blocks away) to pick up dinner (and a bottle of wine.) I was in the race t-shirt, flip flops, with air dried hair after having taken a shower earlier, and no makeup... and OF COURSE I run into people that I know there! Not only did I run into someone I know, but someone who had also done the century ride that morning. She'd done the same ride yet had managed to put herself together looking so cute, out with friends, socializing as if she'd done nothing strenuous the morning earlier. I was a mess and ready for bed and not in a state to socialize or be seen in public. So yeah. Gotta love it!

Hopefully this is similar to me in my journey with running. I remember vividly the day I ran 10 miles for the first stop and spent the rest of the day laying on the floor. Now I go about normal business after doing that distance. Maybe someday I'll get there with these long bike rides.

This was also a new thing for me to have a goal that was not a race. It was just something that I did because I wanted to do it to feel strong. A milestone that meant a lot to me. I'm happy I did this when I did and proud to have a century ride under my belt in 2017!

P.S. Holding that bike up is tiring after 100 miles!!!

1 comment:

  1. This is so exciting!! Congrats! :) I love this post so much...especially "Focus and find the place where you feel strong"
    - solid, brilliant advice.

    I sooooo wanted to do a century this summer...but obviously that plan changed ;) It's still on my radar though and I can't wait until I have the chance. Well done!