By Laura Drake
Gary and I had been training for three months, so I had mixed feelings about finally attempting my first organized Century bicycle ride (100 miles in a day.) On one hand, I was looking forward to not having to spend 8-10 hours a week on that darned bike seat, and was getting behind in chores around the house. On the other hand, I was dreading it… I had serious doubts about my ability. How embarrassing would it be not to make it after telling everyone what my goal was? No such fears for Gary, as he could do this with very little sweat.
We decided to spend the night before in Poway, so we would be at the starting line in plenty of time. After a huge Italian dinner (one of the advantages - you can eat whatever you want the day before the ride) and a good night’s sleep, we were up at 4:30. I had planned on a big breakfast, but found that I was too nervous to eat much. When we got to Old Poway Park it was still dark, but the place was soon hopping with 1500 bicyclists. Who knew there were THAT many crazy people in Southern California?
There didn’t seem to be an official start; no gun going off, or cheering….we just inserted ourselves into the huge herd of bikes on the road. Police were directing traffic through town and it sure was nice to have someone to stop cars so we didn’t have to wait at intersections. Within a mile and a half the dreaded “Poway Grade” began. They’d closed off one of the lanes to traffic for the ride. 4 miles of 9% grade…ugh. The good news was that we’d come down the weekend before and I tackled the hill, so at least I knew I could do this part! I hadn’t done it elbow to elbow with 1500 of my closest friends however. It was scary to be clipped into the bike with people either whizzing by me at close proximity or lugging ahead of me slowly. I was so hyper alert that I didn’t even notice that the hill was hard!
On to the next 96 miles. We were lucky with the weather; overcast and a high of 80 degrees. Gary’s dust wasn’t even visible; I wasn’t sure if I’d seen the last of him for the day – I knew he was up testing his testosterone level against a bunch of young riders at the front. As the riders spread out, I had a chance to look around. The land is beautiful: rolling hills, trees overhanging the road, and gated estates. We went by the Wild Animal Park, Legoland, a thoroughbred racetrack, the ocean.
It’s funny, I only remember “snapshots” of most of the ride; I think the rest of it I was concentrating on the road, traffic and my level of energy (or lack thereof). The motorcycling skills paid off going downhill, as I was able to whiz along while others heated up their brakes and slowed down. Saw one wreck along the downhill…a guy had been going too fast to take a turn, and he went off the road - CHP was on the scene. That slowed everyone down!
I caught up with Gary at the rest stops, where he’d waited to be sure I was okay. He was so happy he was giggling, and by the third one I was a little “testy.” Okay, to tell the truth, I was snapping at him like a woman in labor. The last 25 miles were seen through a haze of pain: legs, lungs, and butt. They had advertised the ride as having 4500 feet of climb, and I kept looking down at the ascent display on my bike computer every few minutes, and when we passed 4500 feet, we still had twenty miles to go. I thought to myself, “Oh good, now the rest will be downhill – I can do this!” The the road kept climbing. At 5000 feet, I realized we’d been duped! Then I really got bitter. The route took us along the freeway on a bike trail, with retaining walls on both sides. We were climbing endless hills, and it was HOT! We finally rolled back into Poway and I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the city limits sign. Gary was ahead, but keeping fairly close at that point, and stopped me from taking a shortcut 3 miles from the end. Boy he was lucky he was out of earshot from then on!
To Gary’s chagrin, we finished in the bottom third of the riders (obviously not due to HIS lack of ability!). I was just happy to have finished, and to pull the seat out of my butt. I hobbled to where they were serving food and sat as far from anyone else as I could….I stunk! You can’t imagine how filthy you get – You’re slathered in suntan lotion, which picks up road grime and seven hours worth of sweat. I wanted to burn the clothes I wore, regardless if I was still in them or not.
When I got off the bike, Gary said, “Wasn’t that fun?!” He looked so happy that I didn’t hit him. But I did lay out some ground rules: I didn’t want to hear the word “fun” again, I didn’t want to talk about the ride, or what ride we were doing next, or even LOOK at the bike for at least a week.
By that time I figure the last 25 miles will have faded like the pain of childbirth – or at least that’s my fondest hope. Final mileage: 104. Final total ascent: 5700 feet.
Am I glad I did it? Yeah. Am I going to do it again? Not sure…it hasn’t been a week yet!