Yesterday, I completed my first century.
Century meaning - a one hundred mile bike ride. In one day. Actually, in 8.75 hours from start to finish, including (much needed) breaks.
I was not in shape to ride a century. Not one bit. And I can feel every ounce of that non-preparation right now. It's between my legs, which is a nice little spot of concentrated pain, and feels a lot like what that area right between the one pin and three pin must feel like after a week of pro bowling. It's also in my hips. My hips have NEVER EVER hurt from riding a bike. They do now. As does my back.
But my legs feel fine. My legs are ready to ride another hundred miles right now. However, they are severely hampered by the fact that my ass hurts so bad I can barely sit on the bike. In fact, you couldn't pay me money to ride my bike for ten feet. At least not for a few days yet.
This pain in my ass started somewhere around mile fifty-five. At mile forty-something, we stopped for a water/gatorade and a pee break. Right after I peed, three Red Bull-mobiles full of ultra-hot-ass chicks pulled up. And, of course, they were handing out cans of Red Bull. For the next ten miles I was feeling like I really did have wings. I recall passing the 50-mile marker feeling just fine. And then we hit a headwind. On a bumpy country road. And I felt this steady thudding from my back wheel. Thudding which made the seat jounce a little extra every time the wheel went around. I think without this extra thudding, my ass would have been OK.
But when I pulled into Assateague Island for the 62-mile marker rest stop, I found that my back tire was falling apart. I think it's a testament to the quality of the Bontrager Hard Case tire that I made it that far. It's a bigger testament to it when you know I finished on that split-open tire 38 miles later. In fact, it has two big gashes in it where the rubber is completely missing. Ka-thunk. Ka-thunk. Every time the wheel goes around. KA-THUNK. KA-THUNK. In place of the rubber is the kevlar casing. Which is truly bullet-proof. And tack proof, and glass proof and whatever else-proof, even without rubber. I should take some pictures, it's that bad.
My wife made it to the Assateague rest stop a few minutes before I did. She also prepared a whole lot more than I did. She rode two 60+ mile rides this summer as well as a lot of 20- and 30-mile rides.
I rode a few 30+ mile rides early in the summer, a few 15- to 20-milers on some weekends and one 40-mile ride a few weeks ago. And then I didn't really get back on my bike again until yesterday. What a fucking idiot.
So, exactly as was explained to me, the 60-80 mile portion of the ride was the absolute worst. I was ready to quit and go home with my tail between my legs. I might have even done so had the map of the ride route (with the number for the SAG wagon) not been in my wife's saddlebag. When I sat back down on the saddle after that 60 mile rest stop, I nearly fell off the bike. I was barely moving and I had one foot clipped into my pedals. As soon as I hit the seat, it took every ounce of courage in me to hold back the scream. And that was at forty miles to go.
I stayed with my wife for a while, but not long. She got to the 82-mile rest stop about ten minutes before I did. I stopped at one point and loosened the straps on my shoes -- which did alleviate some of the terrible foot numbness, but which I later realized had come at the expense of a hurting ankle.
Dreading the thought of sitting back down on that seat, I set out on the last 18 miles standing up. When I had to sit, I did it very gently, but it still hurt worse than anything I'd ever known. Only because my tire was split did I ask my wife to stay with me for this last part, and she did. She pulled me along in her wake doing between 10 and 12mph most of the way. A few times I found it in me to go a little faster, but then we'd hit one of the bumpy patchy roads and it was back down to the slow grind.
In those last miles, I found myself ticking off the quarter-miles on my computer. I was pretty good at convincing myself that 13.75 was a whole lot closer than 14. I knew that we would retrace some of the outbound route for the return home. The only thing I remembered for certain was a right-hand turn and then an overpass very shortly after we left the start earlier in the morning. As we edged into single digits, and then down to five miles... four miles to go, I started wishing for that overpass, thinking that if I just got that far and managed to stand up on its wimpy incline (really the only speakable hill on the whole 100 mile ride) I would know I could make it. Even if I had to finish at 2mph or pushing the bike, I knew I'd be able to do it if I could just get to the bridge.
And then I saw it. My computer clicked over to 97.someodd miles. The speedometer said I was doing 8 or 9mph. And there was the bridge. Three faster riders shouted, "on your left" as they pedaled past me. I glanced over my shoulder to see if I was clear and there was nobody at all. I stood up and started pedaling. I hit the hill doing nearly 20mph. I came off the other side close to 25. I sat back down and couldn't feel a thing, so I just started hammering. I passed the three people who had passed me only moments before. I kept hammering. I passed people who had passed me minutes before. And I kept hammering. 17, 18, 19 mph. Then someone came around me doing just barely faster than I was. I latched onto his wheel and kept hammering. We made a left turn - just as I knew it would be onto the final stretch. Up ahead I could see the tunnel which led back to the starting line.
The pain was gone, and all I could think was, "We did it."
The concrete tunnel dipped down under the road and then right back up. As we came up the short ramp we could hear people on the outside screaming and cheering. They were cheering for us, and it filled me with the most incredible joy. I was certainly happy that I had finished, but more than anything, I was proud of my wife.
When we started riding bikes a few years ago, she couldn't keep up with me even on short rides. And while we've both continued to ride and post marked improvements, she showed me that she had not only gotten to the point where she could keep up with me, but she had gone past that and done far, far better than I did.
So I'm proud of us. And it was fantastic to both finish at the same time. But she could have beaten me by a whole lot yet she gave that up to stay with me. That means more than I am able to say with any words here.