Century

n.

  1. 100 years
  2. An elaborate ritual practiced by a secretive cult, in which members devote themselves to extended periods of self-flagellation on their elaborate instruments. The group has an elaborate caste system, where members advance by demonstrating their ability to absorb punishment on a daily basis and their willingness to devote time and money to their obsession.
  3. The subjective amount of time that it takes to ride a bicycle 100 miles.

I was feeling good. After a short lunch break (3:28, 56 miles), I had hooked up with a few riders and made good time from Monroe back towards the mid-point food stop. On the way I decided to make a pit stop at one of the rest stops. Clipped out of my left pedal, pulled into the gravel, stopped.  Went to clip out of my right pedal, overbalanced, fell over into the gravel. Unclipped, laughed, and thanked the other riders who came over to see if I was all right.

 

So, I was a little more tired than I thought. But I'm getting ahead of myself now.

 

Late last summer, my wife and daughter and I rode in the Headwaters Century, put on by the Tacoma Wheelman’s club. I did the 66 mile route, while my wife pulled my daughter on her trailercycle for 45 miles (a bigger accomplishment than what I did, actually).

 

I had a lot of fun on that ride, and decided to set my sights higher. The traditional progression for riders in the Seattle area is to do some sort of century, then do the Seattle to Portland (STP) ride in two days, one of the biggest organized rides in the country (they may sell out at 8000 riders this year). Then, if you want a much harder challenge, you can do STP in one day, or RAMROD (154 miles, around 8500 feet of elevation gain), or even the RAPSody (150 miles, 9400 feet of gain). Or, if you're more serious, you could do a 1000 KM Brevet (though to be fair, that's over 3 days).

 

After consulting with a few experienced experts, I decided to make my goal for this year to ride RSVP (Ride Seattle to Vancouver and Party), a two-day ride from Seattle to Vancouver BC. This ride got started the year that Mount St. Helens erupted, and STP couldn’t be held.  It’s much smaller than STP (900 riders max), and purported to be much prettier. It’s also a bit shorter, at 183 miles to STPs 200 miles.

 

To ride that distance, I needed an intermediate goal, so I chose the “Flying Wheels Summer Century”(“Screaming Thighs” is perhaps a better name), one of the toughest centuries in this area, because of the hills.  I’ve been pre-riding parts of the course for a few weeks now, and was pretty confident that I could finish the ride.

 

 

The ride itself was great. The one section that I hadn’t ridden turned out to hillier than I expected, but all else was what I expected. Pre-riding it was a very good thing to do.

 

I rode most of the first two thirds of the ride by myself. I hooked up with groups for a while, but their pace was just a bit too high for me to be comfortable. After the 66 mile stop, I hooked up with a guy who was riding the same speed, and we rode the rest of the ride together (misery loves company). That makes the ride much more enjoyable, and you have the opportunity to draft on each other, which gets you any where from 10% to 30% less effort.

 

A few statistics:

 

Slowest speed: 6.5 MPH, riding up the first big hill (12% grade).

Fastest speed: 43 MPH, screaming down a hill at 90 miles into the ride. I got passed

Calories Expended:  3000-4000

Water: Around a gallon

Food:

            24 ounces of gatorade

            8 fig newtons

            2 Balance Gold bars (Chocolate Mint, yum yum)

            1 banana

            1 package beef jerky (about a gram of sodium, very important)

            2 Carb-boom gel packs (Apple Cinnamon). Pure glucose gel

            ½ bagel

            4 bunches of grapes

            2 handfulls of pretzels

Distance: 101.75 miles

Time: 6:49:22

Average Speed: 14.9 MPH

Elevation Gain: 2900 feet

 

 

My goal was to finish 100 miles in less than 7 hours, which requires an average of 14.3 MPH, and I’m very happy to have finished earlier than that. Though I could have ridden more, I definitely didn’t want to ride any more at that point.