It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …
No, it wasn’t Charles Dickens “Tale of Two Cities”, but it was Holly and Teresa’s “tale of 100 miles’ so sit back and enjoy the ride, pun intended, and I’ll tell you all about it!
After too much talk and not enough action regarding tackling a Century ride, Holly and I finally nailed down a date and said “let’s do this!” The plan was for me to drive to her house, get pedicures, then dinner for some carb loading …yes, cycling requires lots and lots of carbs too. So, I loaded Lexi up and we hit the road!
As my luck would have it, after 80 miles on the road, my tire pressure light came on. sigh Why do I have such bad luck with tires? Since I still had close to 200 miles to go and someone in our neighborhood was having a new roof put on, Major Hubs had me stop and get it checked. Roofing tack, perhaps? Well …actually, it was not a tack, but rather a knot on the rear tire where I had curbed it. I’ll admit, I’m the best driver in the world. So, 45 minutes and a new tire later, I was back on the road to HoHo’s house. Needless to say, I didn’t make it in time for a pedicure but I did make it time for PoPo to take us out for a delicious pizza dinner and we spent the rest of the evening in Holly’s ‘happy place’ with my favorite adult beverage. All was well once again!
Five a.m. came early and we were ready to roll!
Holly had been tipped off by her local bike shop that there was another century ride happening the same day which was not only closer to her house but also had a longer course limit which we felt we would need ..especially with the forecast predicting temps in the 90s. We knew since it was only in its 2nd year that it would be low-key, have no finisher medals and have a small number of participants. Again, we felt this would be perfect for our first century ride. Heck, this would be the first organized ride of any distance for either of us rookies!
We arrived at registration and starting line a little later than we wanted and by the time we registered and got our bikes unloaded, the rest of the riders had already left. No problem, we had all day!
The first 5 miles or so were navigating stop signs, traffic lights and quite a bit of traffic for such a small little town. However, before we knew it, we were rolling down the back roads of Alabama taking in all the sights, sounds and smells that can only be found in the countryside and we were feeling good!
After about 25 miles and one rest stop, the course route had us loop back into town for those who were riding the shorter distance. As is the case with so many small rural towns, the road we were traveling coming back into town had a series of bumps or ‘buckles’, if you will. As we were picking up speed on a downhill, traffic whizzing beside us and hitting these teeth jarring bumps, all of a sudden I see something black flying right toward my face! I leaned to the left a little to keep from being pelted by it and realized that it was Holly’s top tube bag in which she had stashed some ‘necessities’. She did loop back to salvage the bag, however the goldfish crackers and salt caps had been crushed by the motorists of the big metropolis of Tallassee. All was not lost as I had salt chews on me and the rest stops had pickle juice. We pressed on.
We left this stop feeling strong. The temperature was perfect and the course had been shady. We had crossed the dam twice and saw a beautiful Kiwi farm …who knew kiwi grew on vines? If we hadn’t been told they were kiwi, I would’ve sworn they were grapevines …for the love of wine!
The next 15 miles were tough ….it was getting hot and there were a few killer hills around miles 30 to 35. We knew that the first half would be hilly and then it would flatten out the second half. I thought to myself …that’s great! We’ll get the hills over with while our legs are fresh and then we’ll have a fast second half!
Well, as we quickly realized, the heat can wear you down quickly, the hill climbs can take a toll on your legs and without any downhills to recover …just like with running, flat means constant work, hard work. Where is that dang rest stop?? When you’re looking for one, 5 miles seems like an eternity.
Back on the road, we went through a toll bridge and wondered if we had to stop and pay. We saw more road kill than I can count and we tried to identify them all ….hey, you have to find ways to entertain yourself when you’re on a bike all day! We rode alongside a beautiful double railroad track for several miles before crossing it and we passed a prison that had a watermelon patch (dang, watermelon would’ve hit the spot at that moment). As we passed sprawling cotton fields covered with their white bolls, we’d sing “Dixie” to the top of our lungs …”oh, I wish I were in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten, look away, look away, look away Dixie land!” Obviously, the heat was really bearing down on us by this point, causing a little delirium perhaps.
By this point in the ride, we were the last riders on the road. This was due to several reasons …one being that we started later than the others, two being that there were only about 12 who chose the full distance, three being that a few of those cut it short due to the heat and four being that we are ….well, slow. I tell you this to say that due to this fact, we had our own personal escort from this point on following us to the finish and he will prove to come in very handy down the road! Aren’t we special …our own personal escort for our first century ride!
It was during this leg of the course, around mile 57ish that we had to make our decision to either continue straight and head back to town completing the metric distance or turn right for the full century. We pressed on …you knew we would, didn’t you? I joked with Holly after we made that right turn that our escort behind us probably said …’dangit, I sure was hoping those two crazy women would give up and take the 65 mile route, now I have to follow them around for another 45 miles!’
Making that right turn was a big deal to me. It meant that we were committed and there was no turning back. It meant that in a couple of more hours, we were about to complete a century ride ….barring any unforeseen incidents.
We passed more cotton fields and road kill, were passed by irritated motorists and a motorcycle gang and we continued to sing … a lot. We sang Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, inspired by the burning feeling in our feet and butts, we sang Garth Brook’s “Two Pina Coladas”, inspired by our day dreaming about the giant margaritas with an extra shot of numbing tequila we would bask in once we finished and Holly even serenaded me with Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” …because at this point we seriously thought we were crazy for doing this! We pressed on though ….but where is that next rest stop, Holly???
Up until this point, we were really trying to limit our rest stops to no more than 10 minutes. Early on, we did the math …6 rest stops at 10 minutes each …”DANG! that’s an extra hour of time out there! We need to keep them as short as possible!” Yeah well, that all sounds great until you’re 70 miles in, it’s 90 something degrees, your feet are burning and cramping and your a$$ feels like a baboons backside looks! Yep, we took our sweet time at this rest stop …..it was air-conditioned and had really nice bathrooms. Thank you Fitzpatrick United Methodist Church!
I’ll be honest, I really hated to get back on my bike. My neck and shoulders had been hurting for miles even though it wasn’t getting any worse, I was just getting tired in general so every discomfort seemed to be magnified. I will say that I applied Biofreeze twice and Tiger Balm once (thanks Stridebox for the sample) and the Tiger Balm worked much better. Also, Holly and I both had only brought one extra packet of Tailwind aside from the bottle we mixed before leaving the house and we were regretting that choice. Another bottle of Tailwind would’ve been great about now but we had to settle for the Gatorade from the rest stop. However, grateful for what we had and knowing we only had 30 more miles to go, we chatted and sang and pressed on.
Oh my gosh! Best rest stop ever! Sick and tired of electrolytes and H20, I was craving a throat burning, sugar enriched carbonated beverage and man did it ever hit the spot! Holly was a little hesitant at first but after I told her we could have a belching contest once we were back ont he road, she agreed. (Mom’s of boys …what can I say) We both popped a top on a Dr. Pepper and threw one back. They also had grapes on ice which I couldn’t seem to get enough of ….signs of dehydration, perhaps?
It didn’t take long for the sugar and caffeine to kick in and we were ready to finish this thing and finish it strong! We had only 15 miles and one big hill to go and no mechanical problems, no flat tires, no major cramping or injuries …what could possibly happen over the next 15 miles? Never ask that question, never even have that thought. Because as sure as you do, the clouds will get really dark, the wind will pick up and the sky will open up and pour down buckets and buckets of rain on you.
Remember our own personal escort? Well, this is where he came in handy! He had stayed back at the rest stop for a bit after we left, so he wasn’t behind us when the downpour started, but fortunately by the time it was thundering and so windy that we could hardly stay on our bikes, he pulled up and we hopped in his car to wait it out. Oh, no way were we quitting at this point. If that storm had lasted an hour, we would’ve waited it out right there in his car. Yep, we were going to finish this Dam Century Ride!
Fortunately, it was short-lived and we were back out on the road and headed back into town. Soaking wet and a little cold, but I think I felt better these last few miles than I did at any other point in the ride. That sweet smell of freshness after a rain filled the air, the mist from the steam hovered just above the asphalt, the cotton fields looked even more beautiful soaked in rain and a deer ran across the road just a few yards in front of us. It was a welcome assault on the senses. I couldn’t help but think about how grateful I am to have the health to be able to complete such a feat. While the rain slowed us down, it was just what I needed to revive me and push me to the finish ….a good old-fashioned ‘soul’ cleansing rain!
Holly and I had one last hill to tackle before reaching the finish …we geared down, dug in and pushed our way up. With only a couple of turns and red lights to go, as we made our final turn, we rode side by side and gave each other a couple of high-fives. We did it!
I will admit that going into this ride, I was a little nervous …afraid even, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to complete it. I’m so glad that I didn’t let the fear of failure keep me from reaching my goal ….because you know the saying, “If your dreams don’t scare you then you’re not dreaming big enough!” I’m also glad that I chose a friend who dreams as big as I do for this journey! We can do hard things …even in our 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. As our friend Wendy says …we’re perennials, we may be dormant during some seasons, but we’ll always come back even stronger and more beautiful!
I apologize for such a lengthy post but you know ….a century is a #hollottamiles and can’t be covered in just a few short paragraphs. If you’re still reading, stay with me because I’m talking to you directly now! I can’t end this post without a few ‘Thank You’s”….
Always first on my mind and in my heart is my hubby! I couldn’t be more thankful and feel more blessed to have a husband who not only supports and encourages me to dream big, but more often than not he’s right there beside me as we take on those dreams together. But since he is not a fan of riding a bike long enough to get a ‘baboon butt’, I knew this would be a goal I’d have to tackle without him. Regardless, he encouraged me to sign up and go on the spur of the moment, in the middle of a move and sent motivational text messages throughout the day while I was riding. If you’re reading this Major Hubs …..you’re simply the best, I love you!
Holly …Wow! What can I say, If you’ve ever had the privilege of being one of Holly’s house guests then you know what I mean when I say that she is the epitome of southern hospitality. You didn’t just offer me a bed for the weekend, you made me a part of your family and I couldn’t be more honored. Though we’ve only met one another in person one other time, I felt as if we’d known each other for years and spending 8 hours on a bike together, signing out of tune and talking the hours away only reinforced that friendship! I really do think we were sisters separated at birth!
Thank you to all of you who texted us throughout the day with encouraging words and to all of you who commented on social media with words of praise and congratulations. It is amazing to me that so many women, from all walks of life all over the country, brought together through social media over a love and desire to be active and live active can be so genuinely interested in one another’s endeavors. We’re all on different journeys with different goals and different struggles, yet we all have one thing in common ….a desire to support one another. What a blessing!
Have you ever completed a century ride? Is it a goal of yours? What’s the biggest goal you’ve accomplished? What’s next on your bucket list?
Finding “Fabulous” at Fifty, one dream at a time!
I’m linking up with Tricia and Holly for the Weekly Wrap. Be sure to visit their blogs and as many others as you can ….there are some amazing women out there doing hard things and encouraging one another in the process!