November’s 100 mile ride almost did not happen, but it was not for a lack of trying. I started out before sunrise on Friday November 27th , the day after Thanksgiving, but the temperature was about 33 degrees and I was not quite prepared for that. I needed a face mask, but I could not find mine. I had planned to do a series of out and back routes to keep coming home, but after the first 12 miles Beth was awake and I got an offer I could not refuse. The boys were still asleep and she was downstairs. That’s right! She asked me to stay home and catch up on one of our TV shows that we had been recording since September! Oh well! I thought there would be plenty more days over the long weekend to get a ride in; and the forecast said things were supposed to warm up. I had seen a nice sunrise, it was warmer in the house, and we had a nice day at home eating leftovers. I also had time to search the house and find my facemask.
Saturday we traveled to see relatives and friends, so I missed out on a beautiful day to ride. I could not convince Beth to let me meet them down in Tinley Park. The wind was from the South, so it would have been a tough ride anyway. That left Sunday to ride, and I was mentally psyched to get the century done. I had actually planned a route! That’s a big deal for me and it really played an important factor later when I was finishing. I had not planned every single mile, but I had a good idea that I was going to do 7 legs of approximately 7 miles one way, all leading out from Richmond. I started out at 8:00 AM – late by my standards – and immediately found myself in a pounding rain. My mental energy was still strong. I had wool on. I was warm. I even had a rear fender. I completed the first leg and then went on to the second leg. At mile 17 my back tire felt squishy and then I realized my mistake. I did not have my seat pack with my spare tubes. I had nothing to repair a flat other than a mini pump so I stopped, inflated the tire, went a mile down the road, stopped again, inflated the tire…etc. I had also forgotten my cell phone. Things were not looking good. After the third inflation I made it to Nippersink Golf Club. The workers thought the guys there to play golf were crazy, but then I walked in! I called Beth. I could have asked her to bring me a tube, but I asked for a ride home. My mental energy had waned, my feet were wet and cold, and it was just not a very nice day. I felt that I had given the century a try. I told myself that was what counted. I did have a nagging sense of failure though.
The Ultra Marathon Cycling Association allows rides from up to two months away to count in the Year-Rounder riding challenge. I told myself I could just do two centuries in December. Maybe I would do them on back-to-back days as a make up challenge. I was rationalizing. I still felt a little dejected, but I felt like I had given the goal a real attempt and I could still be eligible for the Year-Rounder award. The bright side was that I got to spend the day at home with the family.
When I went to school on Monday I was trying not to dwell on my failure of a century ride in each month, but the thought going through my mind was that we were now in December and the chance was gone. I am not sure at what part of the day I realized that Monday was November 30th, but I got an e-mail from a friend that lives in Connecticut at about 3:00PM.
I had sent her an e-mail earlier in the day to thank her for a donation she had made for a Special Olympics fundraiser I had participated in over the weekend. I had not only participated in the event, but I was also the organizer for kids from my school. In her reply she wrote:
“I have always admired your passions. You’re so good at really finding things you love and committing to the hard work to get to your goals. Kudos for doing so again.”
My friend’s name is Judy and I knew she was talking about doing good for others, but it struck a chord in me as I realized that I was passionate about cycling and accomplishing my goals. Realizing that it was still November, I e-mailed Beth and said, “ I am seriously thinking about going for a bike ride tonight.” Beth is a great wife. She replied saying that it would be ok and that she would be home after running to the store with Flynn. I got home and helped Reed and Will with some homework. I fixed the flat tire on the bike from the day before, and got the bike ready to go for a long ride. I had to replace batteries in my lights. I got spare tubes. I had warm clothes. I put on everything reflective that I had. It had been a nice day. Temperatures were in the 40’s and the skies were clear. Beth got home at about 5:15 and I said I was thinking about doing a long ride.
She said “I thought you were already going to be gone.” I told her that I wanted to wait for her to get home. She still had not grasped what I was planning.
I set off at 5:30 PM and rode the same first leg that I did on Friday and Sunday. The wind was strong from the Southwest. I stopped in after the first leg and said to Beth tentatively, “I’m feeling really good. I am going to keep riding. OK?” “OK.” She said.
The second leg started out going with the wind and that was really nice. When I came back to the house a second time it was about 7:00 PM and I had ridden 32 miles. I said to Beth again, “It is a nice night for riding. I think I am going to keep going. Is that OK?”
“You’re crazy!” she said. She had finally figured it out. Reed said to go for it. I explained that I had realized that it was still November and that I had to do this.
I was now fully committed, with approval, and that gave me a nice boost of energy. The rest of the night was just riding along underneath the stars and a nearly full moon. Cars, for the most part, had no trouble seeing me. I had three taillights, three headlights, a headlamp to read my computer, a reflective vest, a reflective sash, and reflective ankle straps. All that was left to do was ride 68 more miles.
I set off and rode my planned route. The out-and-backs with stops at home were a good idea, because I did not have legs of the route that were in the same direction for too long. The winds shifted to the west and to the south and stayed strong through the night. I was hoping to finish before midnight, but my pace after 50 miles made it look like I was going to finish closer to 1:00 AM. I really thought I was going to finish 90 miles in 6 hours of riding, but I just missed that mark. As the night went by mile after mile, I was having fun, but it was getting late.
The UMCA rules state that a century ride is any distance between 90 and 149 miles. I was really tempted to be done at 90 miles. I had ridden 110 miles for my July century, so rationalizations started popping up in my brain again. Darn those rules and the temptations they bring! I did finish 100 miles, but it was a strange reason that kept me going. The thing that pushed me to get past the rationalization was the route I had set up. I was trying to “draw” a picture on the map that would show up on my GPS computer. I needed to complete the right arm of a stick figure man that ended up having an enormous triangular head. (No art critics please. You try drawing a picture with a bicycle over a canvas of close to 50 square miles. )
So that was what kept me going. I had to finish the arm! The one on the left. (Which would be his right.)
My total ride time was 7 hours 30 minutes. My time on the bike was 6 hours 43 minutes. I made stops at the house a total of 4 times. My average speed was 14.9 mph, which is pretty slow, but the wind and the dark slowed things down. I felt really good at the end. I suppose a real stickler for the rules would say I did not get all of the miles done in November, and I would agree. But I say I started the ride in November and rode 87 miles before midnight, so that is one rationalization I will hold on to.