A Do-It-Yourself Century

July 29, 2001

Chicago, Illinois

104 miles

Bicycle: Bike Friday New World Tourist


Sunday morning was the Elmhurst Bicycle Club's Metro Metric in Yorkville, which I rode last year. However, this year I decided not to go. Although my home county of Kendall has nice, low-traffic roads, there would be no adventure in riding another century there.

Instead, I created my own century. I planned it to be fairly brutal, and it exceeded my expectations. First, I started out around 8:00 AM. Sure I could have started at 6:00 and covered 30 miles before 8:00, but then I would have missed out on the full glory of the blazing sun. I chose my Bike Friday since I haven't ridden it much in the past couple weeks. Actually, I haven't ridden anything much in the past few weeks--only one day a week for  50-65 miles. I've been doing a fair amount of walking to cross-train (10-12 miles per week), but of course it's nothing like being on a bike. With an exciting century ride coming up in Peoria on August 11 (the Interplanetary Ride, traveling through the world's largest scale model of the solar system!), it's time to toughen up again.

I rode north from home since that is the quickest way out of town. The first few hours went smoothly as expected. The great thing about out-and-back routes is that they keep you honest. You never feel like turning around early because you're only halfway done and aren't tired yet. To do a century with ten-mile laps and rest stops at home, that would require some powerful dedication indeed! Anyway, I was just out cruising without too much effort, trying to pace myself. Aside from Lake Bluff's annoying no-bikes-on-the-street law, it was a pleasant trip. I even discovered an expressway that I did not know of before, the Amstutz Expressway in Waukegan. I didn't ride on that, of course, as Sheridan Road was much more hospitable (though not ideal). I continued through Beach Park, Zion and Winthrop Harbor. Up ahead, the state line beckoned, and I crossed into Wisconsin as the odometer hit 44. At one time last week I thought up a weekend tour that would include 80-100 miles on Saturday, an overnight in Racine or Kenosha and a 55-70 mile ride home on Sunday. As it turned out, I rode to Kenosha on Sunday to make sure I did at least 50 miles before turning around.

It was around that time that I looked down and noticed that my rear wheel was in bad need of truing. I mean, I didn't know a wheel that far out of whack could still roll. My first thought was of Weebils. Remember, " Weebils wobble but they don't fall down!" I don't know if it was like that when I started, but I had a suspicion that one of a few nasty bumps along the way had thrown it out of whack. Naturally, upon closer inspection I determined that my brakes had been rubbing the wobbling rim for some time. I just loosened them up a bit and continued. I thought about finding a bike shop that was open (I'd seen one back in Zion), but I didn't want  to beg, plead and ultimately wait around to get the wheel trued. It was time to head homeward anyway, so I hoped I could wobble for at least another 50 miles.

Since my CBF map ended just north of the border, I had to guess my way back to Illinois. I made a lucky choice of Springbrook Road, which took me southwest to what became Kilbourne Road in IL, and wouldn't you know, that was the road I'd been planning to take home. It was on Kilbourne around noon that I realized just how hot the day was. There were no trees for cover, and each hill was a little harder to get over than the last. At Wadsworth Road I cut over to Delany, which ran all the way down to Gurnee. Around this time I could have really used a decent meal to supplement the bagel and Gatorades that had been just barely keeping me above the bonk line, but nothing caught my fancy. Maybe next time I'll ignore my fancy and just stuff anything into my mouth. I made a brief jog west on Old Grand Ave (as opposed to the new four-lane that serves Great America and Gurnee Mills) to O'Plaine, which took me to the outskirts of Libertyville. I cut over to St. Mary's Road and bypassed the village on the east side. This road passed by the forest preserves along the Des Plaines River. Last year, I spent several afternoons running and biking along the Des Plaines River Trail, but I haven't been back. I guess I've become more of a road rider. St. Mary's turned east at Wright Woods. I cut over to Riverwoods Road and headed south again through Riverwoods and Lincolnshire. There was one error in my route--I hadn't seen a gas station or a convenience store in many miles. I stopped under a tree and drank the last of my water. Studying the map, I saw some intersections with busy roads coming up and hoped for the best.

A couple miles later, I came to an oasis, a Mobil station at Deerfield Road. I bought a Gatorade, an orange juice and a water. After I set my things on the counter, I was drawn to the nearby cooler for an ice cream sandwich. I suppose that wasn't the ideal food, but there wasn't much that I felt like eating, so I went with my instincts. Outside, I swigged some water, ate my ice cream sandwich (heavenly!), guzzled my OJ, poured the rest of the water into my bottle and put the Gatorade in the other bottle cage. I'd like to say that this rest stop gave me the energy to power through the remaining 20-25 miles, but my euphoria didn't last long enough. I took more and more breaks, but I was just beat. I took Techny Road east to Pfingsten south. Somehow I missed the road I was supposed to take (turns out that it's named Ewen to the east (and on the map) but W Lake Ave where I was) and ended up on the E Lake Ave superspeedway. I bailed out of that at Greenwood Road, which I took south to Glenview Road east.

In downtown Glenview, I collapsed on a park bench. With 92 miles down, I was sure to get my century and then some. I wasn't too enthusiastic about the " then some." If my wife hadn't been working, I might have called her as soon as the odometer hit 100 to come pick me up. It would have been a shameful end perhaps (like getting into the team car before the finish line), but a welcome one. I got back on the bike and rode to Crawford Ave south. The miles seemed to last forever, and I missed every green light. I even started thinking about how nice it would be to get an IV drip! Now I was desperate to get home and get this ride finished. In the past, I've used the finish line as motivation, but this time I just didn't have it in me. I turned left on Lincoln to cut a bit of distance, then went south on Kimball. Since I was so tired and I realized that I wasn't thinking really clearly, I became totally paranoid about parked cars (either opening doors or pulling away from the curb). I knew that this was just the time when stupid accidents could happen. I kept enough focus to get to Wilson Avenue. This is a narrow street, but the cycling gods were smiling on me as no one was driving the same direction I was for the entire mile I was on it.

I pulled up to the house with 104 miles behind me. I took the bike in, forced myself to drink the remaining Gatorade and water out of my bottles, took off my soaked clothes and collapsed on the bed. I know that isn't what any coach would  recommend for recovery, but I was absolutely exhausted. I have never been so tired after a ride. It usually hits me about 20 minutes down the road as I drive home, but never as soon as (or even before) I get off the bike. Anyway, I awoke two hours later, staggered upstairs for a shower and drank like a fish. My ego got a nice boost when my wife  got home--I told her I'd ridden to Kenosha and back, and she couldn't believe I had really gone that far!

Although I was still tired, dehydrated and feeling a little weak on Monday, I was shocked to have no muscle soreness. This was especially good news because my ankle had been sore after other recent long rides. Although Sunday's ride wasn't exactly an unqualified success, I feel much more confident about completing my trip from Jupiter to Pluto and back on August 11.

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