Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"I want to ride a Century"

I decided that again yesterday after reading a few back issues of Bicycling magazine borrowed from the library. Riding a Century was a pre-children goal of mine and one that I had only made it halfway to.

Cycling saved my sanity post-divorce and I've decided that it's probably going to be the best way to stay sane with the 5 M's. In addition to sanity - Bicycling had an article proclaiming that the secret to staying fit and slim was one hour minimum of cycling 4-6 days a week and eating a healthy diet. A nice benefit to spending an hour on a bike!

Reactions were mixed: Allan (having done a number of Centuries in a former life) just laughed and said "It's not THAT big a deal - it's just 5 or 6 hours of riding." At the other end of the scale was my mom, "You are insane!"

I figured there was no better time to start riding than the present - so after Melissa and Grandpa left. I loaded up the library books and set off on my bike. My plan was to go into Langley and back and hit the library on the return trip. That's not what happened.

Going up the "big hill" - I had a rough time with the gears. I couldn't get the bike to shift down to the small chain-ring so I ground up the big hill on the middle ring. The smaller gears weren't that much more co-operative - jumping suddenly and unexpected down and up with seemingly no rhyme or reason; whether by preschool interference, user error, or sheer bicycle malevolence!

Determination won out. I made it up the hill still ON the bike but almost blacked out, seeing stars, and gasping for air. At the top - I took a right turn onto a side street and took sidestreets back towards the library. Only I got a little turned around and ended up on Hwy 10. No bike lanes .. traffic .. major trucking route .. pedal as fast as I can with legs that already feel like jelly ..

Finally at the library I managed to lock the bike, glance at the clock (that was only 30 minutes??) and make it into the bathroom before losing my supper. "Only 5 hours of riding," he says. HA! I have a LONG way to go!

The next 20 minutes were spent at the library. I love the library - I ended up checking out twice as many items as I had returned. They almost didn't fit into my backpack.

Getting on the bicycle again to head home - it was dark! All right!! A chance to try out my new lights! Taillamp clipped stragetically to my backpack and headlamp on handlebars - I headed out into the night. I had forgotton how much I LIKE night riding. It's quieter. Less traffic, less people, it's dark - so not as much visual distractions. Very peaceful. I couldn't possibly go straight home.

Instead I headed back to "the hill"; determined to try again now that the gears seemed to have sorted themselves out. Going back up the hill I was amazed at how much easier it was in the lower gears!

Yes! I finished in my granny gear and turned around to head back home - having completed a total of 1 hour on the bike for the evening.

I'm happy having a bicycle again after a number of bike-less years after consigning my Softride for some cash we needed desperately at the time. I plan to drop Curves in favour of the bicycle when my 1 year contract is over next March. I WILL ride a Century too - maybe not this year or next or the next - but I WILL do it.

1 comment:

Allan said...

Absolutely you can do it!

It is amazing what you can do when you don't know that there are any limits. Richard and I knew that we put a lot of miles on our bikes just riding for the fun of it around the Fraser Valley and into Washington. But it was only afterwards, when Richard was sick, that we looked back and figured out that we had done metric and full century rides without any fancy gear or knowledge that what we had achieved was notable in any way.

My intent is not to minimize the feat or the effort that it will take for you or anyone to complete a century. I simply want to point that a century is a goal that is closer than most people think.

Riding at a sustained average 15 mph (~24 kmh), it takes just over 6 1/2 hours to ride 100 miles. To put that into context:

Olympic and Tour De France pace is a sustained average 25 mph (40 kmh). Tour riders train daily on 4 or 5 hour rides.

By contrast a recreational rider with panniers can ride comfortably at somewhere between 10-12 mph (16-19 kmh).

So stretching to a sustained 15 mph (and not 25!) is within reason. The next step after that is to increase your time from 1/2 hour to an hour, and then beyond.