‘Joining the Century Club’ – The Event, by Aaron Madrid
Here is part 3 of Aaron Madrid’s ‘Century’ series. You can check out the first installment here and the second ‘training’ article here. Today @AaronMadrid talks about ensuring you have everything ready before the big day and his experiences of his own first 100 mile event.
Joining the Century Club – Part 3
Now your event is just a week away. You’ve trained for a while and you are confident that you can do 100 miles. It’s time to think about the details. 100 miles is not only hard on you, but it’s hard on your bike. Make sure that your tires and tubes are good to go. Personally I bought some new tires and tubes to make sure I didn’t have to worry about anything. Check your chain to make sure it’s not stretched…there is a cheap tool you can use to do this or you can just take it to your local bike shop. Lastly clean up your cranks and your cassette and apply some new lube to make sure that baby is smooth sailing. If you are comfortable with it, make any needed adjustments to your derailleur. I’m a decent enough mechanic to make small adjustments and repairs, but I went ahead and just had my local bike shop do a full tune up on my bike. If you go the route of the bike shop make sure you give them a couple weeks to get it done just in case. Fortunately my bike shop is awesome and they did it all in just a weekend. I went out a few times before the big ride for some short 20 mile rides, but the day before the big event I stayed off the bike.
Naturally, as a child of the night, I found myself unable to sleep and decided to do a little bike tinkering before bed. When I finally layed down to try to get some rest, my nerves kicked in. What if I’m in a big group and someone wrecks? What if I didn’t put those new tubes and tires on right and I blow a flat in the middle of a steep turn? What if my chain explodes and cut’s someone next to me open? What if I rip a hole in my bibs? What if I just…can’t do it?
When I woke up…I was ready. The fear was gone, replaced only with focus. For breakfast I had an 8oz glass of juice, a 12oz iced coffee (Starbucks Vita ftw), and a banana with honey drizzled on top.
We loaded the cars and set off to conquer the day. Over the couple years since I started riding I had managed to convince a few friends that also happen to work with me to join me in my hobby. On this particular day 5 friends set out to join me on this quest for greatness, including the founders of the company I work for. Only two of my friends planned on riding the full century with me, but it was pretty awesome to have all my friends next to me at the start. Once we got to the event I grabbed a half a bagel and a little single serving peanut butter as well. I didn’t want to over-eat, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of calories to get me through the first leg.
Our Tour de Cure event took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. We were to ride our 100 miles around the massive track. This was great because it promised no hills, outside of the steep banked turns. The plan was to stop no more than every 25 miles. We didn’t want to just finish, we wanted to destroy. We took the track shortly after the 500 or so riders were given the flag to start riding. Unfortunately we were a little late for the gun, but not by much.
We rode one lap together as a team to warm up, and then the three of us aiming for the century headed up to the top of the track, where the faster riders were supposed to stay. Then we kicked it up a notch. For the past month the three of us had been practicing riding a pace line together on our training rides, and now our training paid off as we fell in to step together and began to mash. We didn’t push too hard because we knew we had a long day in the saddle ahead of us. Halfway around our second lap you could probably see the smiles on our faces from a mile away. We were making good time at around 20 miles per hour and feeling strong.
Then we heard it…at first I thought it was then wind whistling through my ears, then it began to sound more like a swarm of locusts, and suddenly it changed to the thunder of a train as a line of probably 200 riders passed us on our left. None of us had ever ridden with a group larger than 4 or 5, and this first pass nearly took my breath away. We all reacted at the same time, as the end of the line came around we all three rose from the saddle and latched on to the big group. If we weren’t smiling before, we certainly were now. Shoulder to shoulder with our brothers, we accelerated to 25, gliding along with ease as the draft swallowed us whole.
I had read enough articles to know the majority of the do’s and don’ts of pack riding, but I never imagined what it would feel like to ride in a group like that day. You can feel the power and energy of the group as you ride together. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that once you are in the group it becomes a little intimidating to think about dropping out. At that point in time I felt like I could keep riding forever with that group, but as I looked around I noticed I had managed to drop my teammates.
As soon as I began to think about dropping out to look for my friends, the guy in front of me moved up and I had to accelerate to close the gap. I rode up to fill the slot and just kept on mashing. Before I knew it we had already ridden the first 25 miles and I decided to pull out to stop at once of the rest areas to meet up with my team as planned. I grabbed a banana and filled my water bottles, one with water and one with Powerade (something I learned a little later would be critical). The rest stops also were stocking Cliff Blocks, so I grabbed a couple packs of those and tossed them in my jersey pockets for later on.
My friends wheeled up still smiling and feeling strong. They refueled and then we headed out to the track for the next 25 miles. As we came back out to the track and took up our pace line once more, it didn’t take long before the big group was passing us again. I couldn’t stop myself, as they passed me I had to accelerate to join them. I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to race in the near future, and this seemed to only solidify in my mind, just how much I wanted to. I felt like I was riding the Tour de France with the pro peloton.
There is truly no feeling I have ever felt in my life that I could compare those moments with the group to. It was exhilarating. Now the group had stepped it up to an average of 30 miles per hour, and I was mashing pretty good to keep up. I didn’t feel like I was exerting too much energy, but I was certainly having to work to keep it going. The next 25 miles flew by even faster than the first. I didn’t stay with the big group the entire time, because eventually they all pulled into a SAG before I was ready. I pulled back and reformed the team.
One of the greatest moments of the day came after mile 50 when we had headed back to the route. Our team was still feeling strong so we naturally hopped back into our pace line. After a couple laps I glanced back to notice we had picked up some other riders. Our line was now probably around 30 people long and we were doing all the pulling. It feels amazing to be a part of one of those groups, but it is something all together different to be on the front and realize you are pulling all those riders along.
Unfortunately, around mile 60 the wind began to pick up half the track ended up dropping us right into a nasty headwind. Our line began to dwindle as we continuously fought the headwind. We were all clearly starting to tire. Another note, by mile 65 I was really starting to grow tired of the gel blocks that were keeping me going. Fortunately the SAGs were also stocking bananas, so I made sure to try to keep a good mix.
The final 25 miles was harder than the first 75 combined. By then the big group had finished their century already and the track had begun to clear. I managed to find a few other small lines still mashing hard to finish and took advantage of the group dynamic to ease my burden. With 15 miles left my legs were beginning to really tire. I had ridden 85-90 miles a couple times before, but never at a sustained effort like this. My legs felt like they were on fire. Standing in the saddle was barely possible, but I was driven on by pure determination.
I think it was at this point that I finally understood what “shut up legs” really meant. It was all mental power from mile 90 on in. Then on my last lap, disaster struck…I was on the back of the track in a straight away and my left hamstring locked. It was the most painful cramp I have ever had in my life. I had to stop pedaling…I couldn’t even un-clip to stretch my leg.
For a minute I thought I was going to just fall over…I felt true panic for about 1 solid minute. I breathed deeply and reached down to try to massage the cramp out. The pain subsided just enough for me to pedal my way into the SAG stop. I really didn’t want to have to stop, but at this point I didn’t feel I had a choice.
Since I began riding hard one of the most amazing things I discovered was the way that you can feel your body using the fuel you are giving it. When you bonk, you know it’s coming because you feel physically empty right before it happens. I wasn’t bonked…I still had plenty of energy and determination to carry me to the finish. However, my body clearly was missing something.
As best I can tell, the heat had increased considerably for the last 25-30 miles of the ride and I think I had allowed myself to dehydrate just enough to cramp. My bottles were empty when I pulled in, but I had told myself I could still finish without another stop. Obviously I was wrong. I gingerly hopped of the bike and hobbled up to the table. I grabbed one more banana half and refilled my water bottle. As soon as I took a few good drinks and ate the banana, I felt the pain subside and my hamstring release its death grip. It’s an unbelievable feeling to feel your body work like that. I walked back to my bike and headed back to finish the ride.
I raised my arms and let out a yell of triumph as I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t believe what I had accomplished. At that very moment I felt excited enough to try for another 100 miles right then. Then my stomach growled and I realized that as much fun as that was, it wouldn’t be near as fun as the meal I was going to go have. I rode back to the starting line to be greeted by my wife and my baby girl. As if the moment could not have been any sweeter… I held my daughter in my arms and at that very moment felt like I could do anything. My training and hard work had paid off.
A year and a half, 85 pounds, and a lot of miles later, I had done it. The feelings I felt that day will be with me for the rest of my life. Weather your goal is 20, 50, 100, or 200 miles, know that you can do it. I hope my experiences will be a benefit for you as you plan your goals.
Thanks to Aaron for a set of great articles. Having done a few, a 100 mile event is a superb achievement and getting that first one under your belt just makes you want more! Keep your eye’s peeled for more from Aaron here at LovingTheBike.com.