Last year, I had training partners to head out on a century every time I did, I had wheels to suck and others that would want to stop to pee and add to my feet-on-the-ground time. Last year, I had others to plan out the route, others that would pick the pace. Others that would share their food if I bonked or suggest stopping for a Coke at mile 50.
Sunday, I did my first century by myself. I rode solo, for nearly 100 miles, and it was the hardest ride I’ve ever done. I don’t think it would have been any less hard had there been others riding with me; I probably would not have focused as much on the paincave I was entering if someone else was riding with me though. No, riding by myself was a learning experience. I had a mechanical and had to fix it myself. I ran out of water and had to get more from the bars along the way. I had the bar stool tempting me to sit and have a margarita every time I needed another 20ounces of water, but I didn’t sit. Sometimes I didn’t even take off my helmet. I was on a mission.
I started by heading out to Lake Linden, one of the more-sketchy routes in the Keweenaw. At least, the road between Hancock and Dollar Bay is bad, as the shoulder is non-existent and the traffic is fast. I quickly got to Lake Linden and headed out towarded Dreamland. There’s just something really cool about the names of towns in the Keweenaw…
I realized about five miles past Mud Lake Road that Bootjack Road wasn’t the best road to ride a century on. I couldn’t do it anyway, since the road is only about ten miles long, but the false flat and bubbly pavement made me feel like I was riding through sludge. I had to stop and check my tires to make sure I wasn’t riding flats, because I felt like I was.
Rice Lake Road was of even less caliber quality. I made it up the first hill and quickly decided to turn back and reroute my remaining 70 miles.
The Dreamland Bar was my first aid station. I was out of EFS and Nuun already (seriously, 50ounces in 30 miles? … ) so I headed inside for a can of Coke. I needed something, because I felt dizzy, anxious, and tired. It was a little later of a start than I wanted (I left my house at 10am) so I was getting close to my normal lunch time, and I downed to packs of Justin’s honey almond butter to hold me over.
I felt better once I got on better roads. Trap Rock Valley Road is one of my favorites, but I wasn’t on it too long before I made the turn toward Gay. Unfortunately, all the work I put in trying to get up the steep hill was lost when I dropped my chain at the top. and by dropped, I mean: Slammed it between my small ring and the frame. And it was stuck. I didn’t want to yank to hard for fear of dinging up my frame or -worse- breaking my chain, and when I thought it was back on I was fooled. It fell off again, and I felt the anxiety come back. But, I finally got it back on, it stayed on, and I happily cruised all the way into Gay.
I was a little embarrassed to walk into the Gay Bar (yes, it really is called that) and be dripping with sweat, but I was out of fluid, thirsty, tired, hot, and thirsty. I was really thirsty too. I bought a large coke and grabbed the same sized cup of water, and had enough change left over for a Snickers (the original energy bar). The ice was nice, and it made my water bottle nice and cold for about five miles. By the time I got to Dollar Bay I was dry again, so I stole some water from a hose at a church (I am probably going to hell, but not for that).
I made it almost home, practically crying as I weaved through the rough streets and fast traffic of Ripley. Nothing is more nerve wrecking than a grandma that won’t budge over the dashed yellow line (or in my case, when she does budge, but only to drift to the right of the white line). I was beat. I took the bike path home to avoid any more motorized vehicles, and when I got home I took a cold shower and drank a cold glass of milk. And I got it done.