Another week, another race/organized ride supported by the cycling club at work. What can I say...they like us to be healthy employees ;) This time, it was the Reston Century. Though I hadn't trained for it per se, I was convinced that I had enough fitness to get through the ride. With a handful of long rides out at Skyline, and a bunch of other rides topping out at around 80 miles, I figured I'd be alright. I should also note that this ride marked the culmination of my peak training for Patriots Half, so I had already generated a good bit of fatigue from the previous weeks and the 10 mile run I had done the day before. I was interested to see how my body handled everything.
Sunday morning came around bright (err...it was still dark) and early. I woke up, heated up some of the gluten free blueberry pancakes that I made on Saturday morning, topped them with some peanut butter and syrup for a tasty race ready breakfast of champions, and we out the door within 30 minutes. I then took the short and sweet ride of 8 miles to Reston Town Center where I appeared to be the first person. Seriously. My work had planned to take a team picture for those of us riding the century at 6:30 (others who weren't going as long had until 10 am to start the course, so they could show up later), so I wanted to show up the ride with plenty of time to get things in order. When I pulled up, I had to do a lap around the area, because I saw no signs that the ride was going on. I started wondering whether or not the ride was on Saturday. That would have been a bummer. I finally made it back to one of the parking lots, where I started getting my gear in order. Shortly after, a few other people with bikes showed up so I knew I was in the right place.
After meeting up with some coworkers and taking our group picture we just kind of headed out. The thing about these rides is that there is no "official" start. You show up, meet your buds, and then go. So we started out as a group of 3, but in a larger pack of about 15 that all seemed to be starting together. I rode with my coworker, who is a member of the Reston Bicycle Club, and he introduced me to his friend - a 63 year old beast, who does nothing else in life but ride his bike. You think I'm kidding. He's retired and all he does is ride his bike. So I wasn't surprised when after hitting open pavement that he shot ahead, expecting us to follow at 23 mph. Now on a normal ride, I'd have no objections than going a bit hard from the get go, but this is a century - something I haven't done, nor am I in the shape to hammer it for that long. I may be crazy, but I ain't that crazy. Oh yea, and the main miles of the ride are very hilly (see ride file at the bottom). No need to burn off my legs so early. So when he realized that we wouldn't go that fast, we settled on 21 mph (still faster than I wanted to go) as a compromise.
About 10 miles in, my coworker was leading with me following, and the 63 year old machine behind me. We approached an intersection, and my coworker yells "clear", but also sees a car off to the far right and decides to put the brakes on, thinking that our group wouldn't be able to make it across in time. Fortunately, I reacted in time to skid off to the right. The 63 year old ran straight into me, barely slowing down, slamming his front tire into my leg. It all happened so fast, but somehow I didn't go down. I did get a terrible hip flexor cramp though from clenching from the impact, which must have been what saved me from falling. He, unfortunately fell over. The good news was that he got up and his body was good to go, minus a few scrapes. The bad news was that one of his rear wheel spokes had broken and his brake caliper was bent. After attempting to remedy the situation, he decided to walk back to the closest rest station and see what, if anything, they could do. With nothing else to do from our end, we pressed on.
At mile 26, we had made it to the central rest stop, which is the key link between the two hilly loops. A quick top off of water, and we headed off. This loop, the hardest of the two, was one I rode a little while back on my 80 miler. It is basically a series of rollers and 2 longer, very steep climbs. The steepest of the 2 climbs is about 1.5 miles long, with a section that peaks out at 18% grade (see 1st of 2 back to back steep dips around mile 40). I was glad to have already done this loop prior, because I knew not to tire myself out on the rollers leading up to the climb. I simply spun away until we finally got to the climb. And then I spun some more. Only a lot slower. After that was an extended down hill and then the 2nd climb, which was a little longer and a challenge, because the legs were spent from the climb a few miles back. The rest of the loop was more rollers, but we also got a surprise. We spotted the 63 year old guy heading out on the loop! We found out later that they were able to replace the spoke and adjust the caliper, so he was good to go for the rest of the ride.
We finally found ourselves back at the rest stop again having gone about 54 miles total. This time was actually the first time I wanted to stop. I needed more sports drink, so I topped off a bottle to take with me. And then I headed over to the feed area and spotted a tasty treat - PB&J. But this wasn't an ordinary PB&J - it was a Great Harvest Bread Co PB&J, which meant that each slice was a solid 2 inches think. There were also some awesome oatmeal raisin cookies, which I had to sample. It was sweetness!
Then we headed out for the 2nd loop, which I was told was all rollers. This was true, but there were also some extended hills that you still had to grind up in your easiest gear. About half way through the loop, around mile 70, my legs didn't want to climb anymore. I felt fine, but I had no pull on the back side of my stroke anymore. When we were on a flat, I could hold 20+ easy. But the second we hit a hill, I'd drop back from my group. It was kind of demoralizing, because I knew I had it in me to ride with them, but I just couldn't.
Eventually, with a total of 77 miles done, we got back to the rest stop for the final time. We pressed on toward Ashburn, where the final rest stop was, and where it was rumored that they had ice cream. Most of this part of the course was either on or off to the side of the W&OD trail, which meant that it was mostly flat (thank goodness!). We finally pulled into the Ashburn rest stop with the intent of picking up some ice cream (it was only 9 miles to the finish). But there was no ice cream! Boo. So we left empty handed for the last 9 miles. Although I was feeling weak, I also wanted to finish strong, so I broke away from the group (of course they both quickly jumped to follow on my wheel) and pulled them for the next 5 miles at between 22 and 23 mph. I was pretty happy to be able to keep that pace after 90+ miles, but lost steam as we encountered the last couple of miles which were gradual uphills.
The last notable thing that happened was about 2 miles from the finish. I was eagerly anticipating my watch to show 100 miles. Sadly, it had other plans. The memory filled up at 99.4 miles! You could have felt the air as it was sucked out of me. So sad. But oh well...whatcha gonna go. I did the distance, put in some solid time on the saddle, ate some good food, and had fun. Below is my file from the ride (click to expand):
Distance: 102 miles
Elevation: 5875 ft
Speed: 17.5 mph
Average HR: 132