Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Closed Down Georgia 400!

That is what the t-shirt says, anyway.  In truth, we (Jason, myself, and a ton of other cyclists) only closed down a mile of it for about 30 minutes.  Still.  It is a big highway. 

Jason and I are on a streak.  It is the event-every-weekend-streak.  It started out as an accident, but once I realized what we'd done, I told Jason we should see how long we could hold it.  So he did a little searching online and found an event for us to do.  We entered the Hospitality Highway Century in Roswell, Georgia.  I would be doing the metric and Jason was doing the full 100 mile ride. 

This was kind of big for me since the most I had ridden before the metric was 21 miles.  Jason had never ridden 100 miles in one day, but he had ridden 70 so that was close.  Plus, he rides about 40+ miles 3 times a week.  I currently ride about 12 miles, twice a week.

I was a bit apprehensive, but mostly excited to be going on a new sort of adventure and trying something totally different than anything else I'd ever done. 

Jason got up at 4:00 a.m. (3:00 a.m. our time) and ran 10 miles before the ride.  I got up at 5:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m. our time) and tried to eat a cinnamon roll.  The night before, Jason and I were standing at Panera ordering sandwhiches when I asked him how long he thought it would take me to ride 63 miles.  He said about 4 hours give or take some.  I said, "So it is like running a marathon."  He said, "Yeah, something like that."  I said, "I'm getting a cinnamon roll for breakfast then."  I hadn't thought about just how long I'd be riding and I wasn't sure how 4+ hours on the bike was going to feel.   

When we walked out of our hotel a little before 6:00, it was still dark.  We got our t-shirts, tossed them in our car and joined the masses as we waited for Highway 400 to be clear.   Once it had been cleared, all the riders began to move forward and we were off.  The morning was surprisingly cool and it stayed that way for most of my ride. 

Jason rode with me for the first 28 miles.  At that point the 100 milers would turn off and the 63 milers would go straight.  I told Jason he didn't have to ride with me, that I wanted him to get all he wanted from this event.  I ride a good bit slower than him, and I didn't want to hold him back.  He never acts as if I do, but I still worried about it all the same.  While I enjoyed his company, I was a little relieved when we parted ways.  I wanted to be able to slow down if I got tired and not worry about holding him back. 

We hadn't stopped at the first two rest stops, so I decided when I got to the next one I would stop.  I rode and rode and rode, and there was no rest stop.  I was getting tired and thirsty.  I'd taken sips here and there as we stopped at red lights, but I hadn't really gotten off the bike, and by mile 35 I REALLY wanted to get off the bike. 

I finally took my own short break to drink and give my aching shoulders and numb bum a rest before riding on.  Around mile 40 I finally arrived at a rest stop.  I stopped, refilled one of my water bottles, ate half a banana, and visited the restroom. I was ready for the rest of the ride after that.

There were some tough hills all along the course, but most of them were gradual and not overly long.  Around mile 47 that changed.  I hit a hill so steep that I had to hop off my bike to walk up it.  I didn't feel so bad when all the other cyclists with me did the same.  After that we entered a neighborhood that was insane with hills.  Up and down, up and down.  Flying downhill was fun until it was time to go back up again.  I walked one more hill, and then I was weary of getting on and off my bike.  I decided to hit the next hills hard.  By that point I only had 10 or so miles to go and I figured any energy I had left could be used.

The next hill was a doozie, but I decided I was staying on my bike.  I pumped until I couldn't pump anymore and then I stood up.  There was another guy with me who was zig-zagging up the hill.  He asked me if I had done this ride the previous year.  I let out a very out-of-breath, "No."  He said he had, but that he didn't remember the hills being like this.  I wanted to say, " I AM NOT A CYCLIST AND THIS IS INSANE" but there was not enough breath to be wasted on such.  I just kept pumping.

There were several more hills like that.  I was getting tired, but what else could I do but get over them?  I could tell the other riders around me were getting tired too. Usually, they would get way ahead of me after red lights, but toward the end, they were staying with me. 

At the VERY end of the ride there was a long one.  I heard other cyclists talking about it at the rest stops, but I tuned them out.  I did not want to know about it until I got to it.  But I knew when I saw it that it was "the hill." I powered up like a champ - legs burning, lungs heaving.  I think the true motivation was the fact that I knew I just had to get to the top and turn left and I'd be DONE!  I was exhilarated by the fact that I'd completed 65 miles and I still felt okay!

The ride overall was beautiful.  If we weren't riding through gorgeous neighborhoods with the biggest houses I'd ever seen, we were out in the lush, green countryside.  It smelled so good out there, and despite the heat that showed up later in the day, there was a ton of shade and a few breezes as well. 

There were about 3 or 4 drivers that were really ugly when they passed cyclists.  That shocked and unnerved me even though it probably should not have.  The first was when I was still riding with Jason.  She tapped her horn at our group consistently, and I wasn't sure where she wanted us to go.  We weren't in the middle of the road, and she was able to go by, albeit more slowly than if no cyclists were there.  The second driver passed when I was with other cyclists and we were spread out in a long line.  This driver sat on his horn as he passed all of us and it scared me to death.  I got over as far as I could and prayed that he wasn't going to hit me.  I didn't understand why drivers had to act like that.  As a runner I haven't come across that too often and I imagine cyclists get more used to it since they are usually sharing the road with drivers.  But wow.  A little patience could have gone a long way there.

Still, once my heart stopped racing at the loud horn honking, I was able to get back to my peaceful ride and enjoy my surroundings. 

The ride finish was not like all the race finishes I'd experienced.  There was no finish line, no crowd of athletes, no cheering.  Just a row of tables with some food and water and a few volunteers milling about.  I grabbed a water and a peanut butter and jelly square and went to the hotel.  It was a little anti-climactic.  I laid on the bed for a second, feeling amazed at what I'd just done, then hopped up to change my pants (I had to get out of the sweaty diaper shorts) and grabbed my camera to go wait for Jason to finish.

I called Mom to tell her what I'd done and we talked until I saw Jason make the turn after the long hill.  He looked good and strong as well.  I think we were both a little surprised and pleased to feel so...normal after riding all those miles.

Being clean and showered was heavenly.  We treated ourselves to Olive Garden, which is one of my favorite places, but I only eat there after major, calorie burning events.  According to my little bike computer, I rode 65 miles, with a 13.8 mph average pace, burning 3,481 calories.  I felt like I had earned my salad, bread sticks, and chicken marsala.

I had a great time on the ride, but I still think running is my all time favorite.  Still, I could be talked into another metric.  Maybe sooner rather than later...