It’s hard to write a short post about a such a long ride….
My Tri2One coach told me not to do it but I can be stubborn at times, and went right ahead and did it anyways. I rode my first century ride – not the metric 62 miles (100 km) but the 100 miles (160 kms). I have had many issues with cycling so I’ve been confined to riding my long rides on a 3.5 mile loop. Seventy miles going round and round in 3.5 mile loops can get quite tedious. I console myself that I will be mentally tough, but when I heard the Everglades Bicycle Club was having their Homestead Speedway Bicycle Festival I was all over it.
It’s three weeks before my half ironman race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13 mile run) so my coach said that riding 100 miles was not necessary and might be a toll on my body. But here I was having an opportunity to do something I love – riding – in a safe, somewhat controlled environment with awesomely stocked rest stations.
“I’ll stick to 62 miles” I thought. “No, I should go for the hundred,” I contradicted myself. “No, 62. No, 100.” You get the picture. Joe, my husband, told me “just do the hundred and get over it.” He made the whole thing easier as I didn’t have to feel guilty about leaving him and the boys alone all Sunday. But I had never done one of these, I wasn’t sure about logistics, cut off times and etc, so I left a note by the coffee pot. Plan A was what to do if I decided to do 62 miles. Plan B were clear instructions if I decided to do 100. I would text him whenever I made my decision.
I rode with my teammate Cynthia to Homestead, about 45 minutes away. She had done the ride before and was giving me the details. I never rode in a group, no one is crazy enough to stick with me on my loops so I tend to ride alone. She gave me the etiquette rules and bolstered my spirit so I texted Joe “going for 100.” Cynthia and I met up with some of our teammates and off we were, heading into a tunnel to emerge on the actual speedway. I found myself sideways, up the curve and getting a little freaked out. Fortunately I wasn’t the only one as slowly the majority of cyclists inched their way back to ground level.
The ride was not a race. It started with one loop on the Homestead Speedway and then took off around Homestead and into the Everglades. We passed right next to the alligator farm Joe would be taking the boys so I thought if I changed back to 62 I could always ride there and meet up with them.
We rode in groups and you try to draft as much as possible. Things are chaotic at first and then sort themselves out by speed. Everyone was friendly, chatty and welcoming. The first twenty miles were easy and fun Cynthia was a great mentor always checking in on me. At some point, she got “stuck” in the middle of a pack, and I stayed back with another teammate, Gene, until the Everglades rest stop on mile 37ish when we met again (I lost the map that would give me these important mileage details).
Cynthia, Gene and I rode most of the next twenty something miles together. It was an easy pace, we chatted up a storm and I was super comfortable barring some minor technical issues. At this point, I figured I’d stick to these guys who were doing the 62 miles. The ride is not “closed” and you end up in very lonely roads through the Everglades. I did not want to do the remaining forty-three miles by myself around there, and I had talked myself out of it.
Until we got to the rest stop on mile 57. This was the splitting point where those that were going to do 62 headed back to the Speedway, and those doing 100 did another thirty mile loop. Gene, Cynthia and I got to that rest stop and met up with a group of Aliens. Not real aliens of course but a group called Alien Endurance to whom I was introduced by Cynthia and Gene. They were going for the hundred, and their pace was 17/18mph which I could hold. I had to make a final decision. I tend to be shy and insecure with things like this but I knew I could hold that pace, this was my chance and it was now or never.
There were seven of us and we headed out. About two miles in, one of the girls in the group said she was feeling dizzy and thought it was best not to continue. The group decided to ride back with her the two miles and then continue on. I was just tagging along and would do whatever they wanted, but thought it was so generous of them to ride back with their teammate. It was comforting to think that I would be riding my first hundred with a group that was so kind to each other.
We rode with some minor bumps and technical issues back to the Everglades rest stop. About three miles to the stop, I hit a wall and felt tired. I needed some fuel and began to struggle: it was windy and we were on an empty road in the middle of the Everglades. I began to fall behind a bit but Domingo, one of the Aliens, realized it and stayed back. He rode in front of me so that I could draft and not to have to work so hard. I will be forever grateful because he pulled me through those miles. We did make it to the rest stop and I downed PB&J sandwiches. Life began to return to my legs and to my head.
I called Joe from the rest stop as it was getting late on our timeline. Instead of finishing at the speedway, he would meet me at the rest stop on mile 57 which would be mile 97 on this second loop. I had twenty something miles to go.
The wind picked up and I don’t know if the Aliens slowed their pace or the PB&J kicked in but the miles seemed easier. We rode single file and pretty quietly. I had no idea where we were and just followed the wheel in front of me. I knew we were getting close to the rest stop where I would meet Joe. There are several turns there and I tend to lose momentum on them. After each, I thought I would see Joe but was disappointed several times. By then I wanted it to be done. I wasn’t necessarily hurting but I felt like I had done enough … certainly more than I had ever done before.
The thought that in the IronMan I would have more to ride and then run a marathon is humbling, but I pushed that thought aside and felt instead that I could conquer the world. I was exstatic and I was so incredibly grateful for the Alien group who rode with me. I don’t know how they felt, but I felt like we went through something big together. Most of us had never had such a long ride, so conquering it together, in a line, pushing and pulling each other created at least in my mind, a connection, one I hope to keep.
I got home, found the Aliens on Facebook and told them “thank you again.” I then posted I rode 100 miles (yes, rounding up 97). My Coach immediately wrote back … “ai Cris.” I called him and talked. I felt so great that even he said it was fine to have been stubborn that day, and that rounding up three miles would be totally okay. This time I listened.