No I didn't ride the "century" (100 miles) but I did for the most part enjoy my first organized ride of the season last weekend (the 17th). This was the Rose Pedal Century. The route I chose was advertised as a 45 mile ride but it was really 48 miles. Unfortunately my body wasn't ready for anything over 40 and I really wish the ride had been about 10 miles shorter. But more on that later.
We started from Creekview High School in Canton, GA shortly after 8 am. The weather was cool but clear. It was cold enough that I questioned my choice of starting with just shorts and a jersey: no undershirt, no jacket, and no leggings. But I figured by 9 am I wouldn't want them. As I was getting ready I struck up a conversation with the woman who parked next to me. She was also doing the 45 as the first ride of her riding season. We decided to ride together to keep each other company. So it was a brisk start as we waited for the 100-milers to clear out, then it was our turn. My new-found friend had met up with some other buddies who were doing the 65-mile route. All 4 of us stuck together for the first leg and passed lots of folks. If I hadn't been trying to keep up I might not have kept that tempo. The first leg was mostly flat and very easy. Very little traffic on the roads and we had police assistance at the larger intersections.
There are some things I really love about organized rides: being with so many other like-minded people (provided I don't run in to them), having police assistance at intersections, having a well-marked course to follow without mapping it out ahead of time, stocked rest stops. We got to the first rest stop sooner than I expected. Normally they are 15 miles apart but this on was at mile 11. My average speed at that point was 16.5. The 4 of us stopped (or so I thought), stretched, got water, and got ready to start up. But where was my lady friend from the parking lot? We couldn't find her or her bike. Did she pass up the stop? Leave without us? After looking around a bit we still saw no trace of her and just pushed on. This next leg I would turn earlier for my course while the other two continued on to do the 100 miles. But this next leg also had things the first one did not: hills. I don't like hills. My legs really don't like hills. I'm terrible at climbing them and I know it. My riding friends soon dwindled in the distance as I could not keep up with them. So it was fun while it lasted but now I was on my own.
I made the second rest stop and my average speed had dropped. But I was still enjoying the ride. I looked over the cue sheet for the next stretch and discovered that the third rest stop was only 8 miles from the end. "Why bother stopping" I figured. I would soon find out. This third leg had the highest grades of the entire ride, and I continued to struggle up them. At one point as I was poking along up a hill a team of 8 riders came blasting by me, clearly well organized and in much better shape than I. This was just another weekend training ride for them. By mile 40 I was approaching the last rest stop and my legs were complaining loudly, so I felt it prudent to give them a bit of a rest. That may not have been the right choice, but it gave me a chance to load up on water and eat some citrus.
The last 8 miles were tough but I was determined to finish. I didn't ride all this way to quit just a few miles from the end. The road that was so easy at 8 am now seemed long and difficult, but I persevered. Pulled in to the high school parking lot just after noon. 47.98 miles of riding in 3:18 (not counting stops) means I averaged only 14.5. Lunch never tasted so good!
So I need to work on leg strength. The good news is I never felt winded during the trip, even while climbing the hills. I feel stronger than I did last year, but I still have a long way to go. Conflicts in May will probably prevent me from doing an organized ride, but I'm looking forward to rides in June and July. Meanwhile, I need more work in the gym and more solo weekend rides.