The sounds are unmistakable, the ticking of a free wheel coasting by, the clacking of bike cleats on concrete, the chains shifting gears. There are the sounds of laugher and excitement in the early morning that are replaced by quiet determination by later afternoon. Once on the road there are the bits of conversations being had by large cycling groups who are very used to riding together and know how to draft and maintain high speeds, as well as the quiet peaceful isolation of being alone for miles on end.
There is the pain and suffering of fighting a head wind while battling a never ending incline, as well as the rush and exhilaration of flying downhill or on a nice straightaway with a tailwind. I don’t know exactly what it is about cycling…but I know I love it!
I blame my uncle for my love of cycling; he put me on my first bike as a little kid (which he taught me to ride without training wheels in a day). He put me on my first rode bike as a teenager (a bike I still have) I saw all kinds of little towns up the coast of Lake Michigan when we did a month long ride from Southern Indiana up to the U.P. of Michigan and back down part of the East Coast when I was 16. I still enjoy going for a ride with him when we visit him and my aunt in FL.
A month ago AK and I did the first day of the MS150, a 75 mile ride. While it didn’t go as planned, the ride felt really good. About a week after that I got a thing in the mail about the Hancock Horizontal Hundred. I read the information and immediately signed up. The event was this past weekend. Because it’s a 3 hour drive away, I went over Saturday night. I had a nice dinner, nothing too crazy, at the advice of KB, no dairy and the advice of MK, nothing spicy! I was out like a light about 9:00 and up about 5:30 on Sunday.
The event hosted a pancake breakfast which I took part in, but I wasn’t overly hungry, this very well may have been mistake #1. It was pretty cold with temps in the low 50s, but I have a nice cycling jacket, which I threw over my cotton t-shirt (I'm still way too self conscious about my weight to wear a cycling jersey), mistake #2. The ride officially opened at 7:30, but most riders were headed out about 7:00, I was one of them. Side note, I did a pre-ride check of my bike, which included putting air in my tires! The first 25 miles was pretty fast, but extremely cold! My left hamstring was less than happy about the morning’s events. By the time I hit the first rest area at mile 25 the sun was up and it had warmed up, in fact I had soaked though my t-shirt and riding jacket. I have this thing about stopping between rest stops, mistake #3.
After a quick water bottle refill I was back on the road. No potty break and my stomach was not interested in any of the food they had out, mistakes #4 and #5. About mile 46 my quads decided they didn’t want to play anymore. While an occasional ache in my hamstrings is not uncommon, having pain in the front of my quads is new. And I’m not talking a little soreness, I’m talking about a non-stop Charlie-horse that made me grit my teeth and try not to scream and or cry! Somehow I managed to make the 50 mile lunch stop and started an almost immediate online chat with KB. I gave her run down on what was happening and she gave me a game plan of what to do. I needed food, I hadn’t fueled properly of an event like this and I was paying for it. I also needed fluids, the fact that I hadn’t needed a rest room since 6am was a good indicator that I wasn’t drinking nearly enough.
I ate as much as I could force down, my stomach was not on board for this little adventure almost from the word go. I chugged two 24oz water bottles and I enjoyed a few Swedish fish and some trail mix. I stretched and continued to chat with KB and MK who joined in the conversation. The best part was they made me laugh. The conversation was full of jokes, encouragement and good advice. Once my legs decided they no longer hated me I got back on the bike.
While fighting with my legs at the lunch stop I met a gentleman who would become my riding buddy on and off for the next 50 miles. We would pass each other and ride together on and off all afternoon. I found out that he had to be pulled from the ride at mile 90 last year because of severe leg cramps. He has done marathons and a couple Olympic distance triathlons. He was born and raised in the south, but now lives in Pittsburg. That is one great thing about these kinds of events; you come across some really neat people. I cannot tell you how many people you ride by that say “good morning” or “you’re doing great”…I think that’s what makes it so much fun.
Anyway, from mile 50 to 75 I had a pretty good ride, we had some really nice, long, fast stretches and while we picked up a little bit of a breeze, it was mostly a tail wind or a cross wind. From mile 75 to the last rest stop at mile 92 was a challenge. I was ready to be off the bike. My legs we’re tired, my elbows hurt and I was suffering from J.P.F.R.O.G. syndrome (Just Plain Flipping Running Outta Gas) I rode into the last rest stop with my ridding buddy and we sat in the shade with a group of other exhausted riders laughing about the day. That was the last time I saw my buddy as I headed out before him.
The leg cramps made a return visit about mile 96, but at that point there was no stopping me, while my pace had slowed I was determined to see this through. The mental conversation went something like this “are you kidding me?! Seriously?! You have been on this bike for over 7 hours, gone over 90 miles!! Cramps or no cramps you’re finishing this! Suck it up cupcake!” Around mile 98 was when the reality set in that I was going to complete a 100 mile ride in one day. I didn’t realize there had been any real self-doubt until that moment.
I crossed the finish line, loaded my bike, got my finishers certificate and completely avoided the ice cream social. The emotions were a mix a pride and joy that were overshadowed by pain and exhaustion; I just wanted to go home. KB told me to get some protein in my system, but my stomach wasn’t having it. I made myself drink some chocolate milk and that actually helped. I think the worst part of it was the 3 hour drive home. I stopped several times, once to take a nap and few times just to get out of the Jeep and make my legs move. I talked with my mom, KB and MK. I think KB was more excited than I was.
I remember after I registered for the event thinking “What if I can’t do this?” Then I asked the more important question “what if I can?” I “tri’ed” and I succeeded! I was on the road alone, but I had my family and friends with me. The chat I had with MK and KB at lunch and all the text messages and Facebook posts made all the difference. Now it’s time to recover, (God love rest days!!) and prepare for the next challenge which is only a week away!