Monday, August 9, 2010

No. 10 (unedited)

I'm getting old.

It's getting harder to convince myself with each passing year that I want to bicycle 100 miles in a day. But on Saturday, Aug. 6, I did it for the 10th time. This year's century ride was the Tour de Tonka, a one-day ride started in 2006.

This was my fourth Tour de Tonka, and it was the first time the tour offered a 100-mile route. If I wasn't going to bicycle 100 miles, my next option was 65 miles. That's a lot in any given day, and a feat I've accomplished twice this summer, on consecutive days in June during the MS150. I'm not exactly pushing myself when it comes to distance rides this summer.

I didn't pre-register for TdT because there was a chance I was going to go out of town for the weekend. Once I realized I wasn't going anywhere this past weekend I started watching the weather forecast. If it was rainy on Saturday, I wasn't going to bother to show up.

The last obstacle to participating in the ride was getting up on a Saturday morning in time to make the 7:30 a.m. shotgun start.

Despite a forecast of passing showers during the day, I got up in time to venture five miles to the starting line.

It was cloudy, and appeared that rain was imminent at the start of the 100-mile ride. I still wasn't convinced I wanted to bike the 100-mile route, but I also knew the odds of me biking a century this year were slim if I didn't do it during TdT.

It started raining by the first rest stop, 15 miles into the ride. The 15-mile mark is also the split for the 65- and 100-mile routes, so if I was going to wimp out, I had to do it then and there. I couldn't pull the trigger. Despite the fact I knew I'd get soaked, I pushed ahead with the 100-mile route, bypassing the first rest stop completely.

I took my first break at rest stop 2, in Delano. It was 30 miles into the ride. It was raining, I was soaked, but it was time to refill my water bottles and enjoy snacks. I was worried the rain was increasing and would force me to wait it out at the rest stop, but any perceived or real increase in precipitation didn't last long.

The remainder of the ride consisted of segments less than 20 miles. I bypassed the first rest stop, but I stopped at the next three, which were 16-19 miles apart.

By the time I hit rest stop 3 my hands were like prunes from being so wet. I noticed two things in the final minutes before that stop. The wind had definitely picked up, and the skies were clearing to the west.

It wasn't long before the sun was shining upon me as I embarked on the second half of the route. The wind was a bit challenging, but it was coming from the south, and the route had plenty of easterly and northerly segments to offset the challenge posted by southerly segments.

The forecast was for a hot afternoon, and the weather terrorists didn't lie. It hit the upper 80s by late afternoon. I wasn't a lobster, but my arms did burn slightly. I would have preferred the rainy weather for the rest of the day.

The final 25-30 miles featured more rolling hills, making the route a bit more challenging. The final rest stop was about 12 miles from the finish, although the route map said it was 14. I struggled to pedal up a few hills, but none were too tough for me to tackle.

My average speed was 14.8 mph. On an ideal day I'm not sure how much better it would have been, but there's no question the rain and then heat slowed me down a bit.

I finished about eight hours after the start of the ride, which is about average for me, including breaks, on a century ride. Unfortunately my bike computer said I was at 97.6 miles at the finish line, and being obsessive about reaching 100 miles, I biked a final 2.4 miles when I got home.

This is the seventh consecutive year I've biked a century. Part of the reason I attempt to complete one each year is to prove that I still can. Physically it's a challenge. I don't treat my body like a temple. I don't worry about analyzing my carbohydrate, electrolyte and dolomite intake to ensure maximum performance on the road each day. I don't spend thousands of dollars on fancy bicycling gear and Spandex.

But more than the physical challenge each year, a century is a mental challenge. I'm not programmed to feed off of the adrenaline rush from extreme feats of endurance. I was never worried I couldn't finish the TdT, I had a hard time convincing myself I wanted to. It's a hurdle I will always struggle to clear.

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