My mother-in-law emailed me to find out why I hadn’t updated this blog recently. In the past few weeks, I have been working at a record pace to meet work deadlines, ridden 100+ miles on my commuter during my Sister-in-law’s first century, learned that I am very allergic to yellow jackets, and I finally shook off a cold that started plaguing me in mid-July.
So, just to appease Mary…
Several months ago, I saw an advertisement for the most ridiculous century ever. It included an official ice cream stop and hot tub access. I jokingly asked Facebook who was going to ride with me. My sister-in-law, Jen, was the only one to reply. She also meant it. This is a really big deal, because she didn’t even have a road bike at the time. So, she made the decision, bought a new bike, registered for the event, and got a plane ticket to Boston — all before having any idea what riding a century is like.
Because she lives several hundred miles away, Dan and I couldn’t help much.
This what we could do:
- Dan sent her advice on which bicycles to consider buying
- I sent her advice on buying bike clothes, as she really didn’t have any suited for endurance riding.
- Dan told her not to crash
- I sent her links to local group rides in her area and real-world definitions for all those pesky letter designations they use.
- Dan told her to eat more on the bike, stop going to the gym, and ride more.
- I believe I may have also told her to ride more.
We visited her a few weeks before the Big Day, and we went for a 40-mile ride together in oppressive heat. Before this, Dan adjusted the handlebars on her new bike, which had been installed rotated down into a weird configuration, and then adjusted both the front and rear brakes, which had been set up with zero play. I was kind of appalled that this was the condition that a local-bike-shop assembled brand-name bike of the entry-level aluminum variety was given to a known new rider. It is no wonder there are all kinds of people who try to ride road bikes and immediately quit.
She arrived in Boston the day before the big event, and Dan did his best to set up my road bike to the fit of hers, switched out the saddle, and put some SPD pedals on it, to match her cleats. My commuter got a mini-makeover by putting my Speedplays in place of SPD/platform pedals, and we raised the saddle a bit to compensate… otherwise, it was still the same heavy fenders, rack, and steel mixte it always is. We used some kind of miracle to load three bicycles and then drove to the quieter side of the state where the century started.
It was epic! 50 miles into the century, the rain began. “Scattered Showers” had been in the forecast, but we got intense thunderstorms with lightning bolts just a few miles away, flash floods, and crazy domino-style bike crashes (in which the three of us did not participate). The ride had been billed as flat, but by the fourth notable hill, I came to the conclusion that it was a lie. The temperature had been predicted to be 86°F, but the storm chilled things down considerably, especially on the descents on the not-supposed-to-be-there hills. Dan gave me a welcome gift of a plastic bread bag to keep the chill off my chest. We were actually wearing a matching pair for the last 30 miles.
Jen did awesome. At one point, the clearest path through the road was through 5 inches of water, and at another, there was no road – a construction zone where all the asphalt had been removed and car-swallowing potholes were filled with mud. There was one descent where I had removed my glasses so that I could actually see the road through the rain, and I was squinting and cursing and she was right behind me the whole time.
But we finished, and there was food, and we took hot showers and found dry clothes, and everything was okay.
After we finished, Jen did some math and calculated that in the month leading up to the century, she had ridden her bicycle four times.
4 times! Each ride was less than 40 miles. In fact, her longest ride from purchase-of-bike time to century-ride time was 40 miles.
There are two options for how this can be interpreted:
a) Jen is superhuman
b) Determination and time management are huge factors in success when completing a century.
I’m voting for a little bit of both on this one. Luckily, Jen is an unstoppable force, but I think it helped that Dan was leading the way through the worst of the roads, and force feeding Jen against her will, and we were all watching the clock anytime we had to stop.
The next day, we drove back to Boston, dropped Jen at the airport, and went home to clean the bikes. It took four hours to dissemble, clean, reassemble, and re-lube everything. The total damage was: two flat tires; one broken spoke; and a fried GPS battery pack.
Jen has already started to talk about her next century. I’m happy to ride with her, but next time she gets to clean the bikes