Metro Metric

July 30, 2000

Yorkville, Illinois

99 miles

Bicycle:  Cannondale H-300

Ride Info: Elmhurst Bicycle Club

July 30th was the Metro Metric Wizard Ride (formerly the Wizard of " Oz" wego, except this year they moved west on  Route 34 from Oswego to Yorkville). Since I grew up in the area, the route promised to have a sentimental element, plus a nice shower to look forward to at my parents' house afterward. The Elmhurst Bicycle Club put it on, and there were lots of homemade cookies at the rest stops. In a word, this ride was WET. It rained for all but twenty minutes of the eight hours I was on the course (actual riding time was less, but I had some extended rest stops).

I started out pretty well. There was a light rain, but like I always say, once you get wet, it doesn't matter anymore. I went out a little fast as usual, but I had a bit of a tailwind, too.  I stayed a bit too long and  ate a few too many cookies at the first stop at 24 miles. Then I couldn't get back into a rhythm. The course turned north into the wind. For the next ten miles, I kept telling myself I should just call it a day and take the 8-mile shortcut back to the starting point after the second rest stop. My legs felt dead, my mind was thinking about things I really didn't want to think about (long story), my right shoulder was really sore for some reason, and I wasn't relishing the thought of another four hours of riding in the rain. I told myself that I was only doing this for fun, and since I wasn't having any, there was no point in continuing. There was also a geographical-psychological element because the course was laid out to go away from the start, then almost all the way back, then away again. I didn't feel like going away again.

At Silver Springs State Park at 45 miles, I tried to convince myself not to bail out. Fortunately, everyone there was quite cheerful and upbeat. That, along with several delicious brownies, half a dozen cookies and a lot of psyching myself up, was enough to encourage me to soldier on. The sky even brightened as if the sun would come out. That never happened, but the rain stopped for 20 minutes and my morale improved greatly, a good thing since I wasn't even halfway finished  yet. I felt so much better that I was past 60 miles by the time I checked the odometer again (I also noticed that I had put over 1000 total miles on my bike, not bad for riding a couple times a week for three months).

The other long rest stop was in Newark around 70 miles. A few miles from Newark, I saw ominously dark clouds. Soon, the rain was coming down so hard that I could barely see the road through my rain-splattered sunglasses. I couldn't even see the bright yellow signs pointing the way until I was within twenty feet of them. As I guzzled Gatorade and munched some cookies at the rest stop, I decided to wait out the worst of the storm under the canopy with two dozen other riders before continuing. I didn't keep track, but it must have been at least 20 minutes. Finally, I got back on the road. I felt all right, a little wet, but a heck of a lot better than I had felt forty miles earlier. It was a pretty lonely century overall, and over the last thirty miles I saw only seven riders. In the final ten miles, several well-meaning ride volunteers suggested shortcuts to get me back to Yorkville a little faster. There was NO way I was going to cut off an inch at this point. I had gone too far and overcome too much mentally and physically to cheat myself out of the full century. They had even removed the signs for a little loop that added a mile, but I knew where it was, so I followed it.

When I returned to Yorkville, I was surprised to see 6:40 on the odometer again. So far, I had finished every century in the same time, although they were slightly different distances. Several factors equaled out to make me finish in 6:40. For example, I was a stronger rider in my second century than the first, but because the course was hillier and the wind blew harder, I came out the same. At the Wizard Ride, the course wasn't nearly as hilly as the previous two, but the weather combined with a slight dip in my conditioning (two weeks without riding) resulted in 6:40. The course was a mixed bag overall. It was entirely in Kendall County because Kane County hassled the organizers with too many requirements (the EBC newsletter went into more detail about that). On the bright side, they managed to find almost every curvy low-traffic road in the county. On the other hand, Kendall County doesn't have many curvy roads and simply isn't very big, so we had to do a lot of big squares on section roads through the always exciting scenery of corn fields. Oh well, that's the Illinois I grew up in.

Lessons learned and  observations... It can be dangerous to do a ride like this in a familiar area. When I wanted to quit, I knew all too well how to get back to the car. That's also a bad thing about zigzag courses. It's one thing to ride 50 miles out and then 50 miles back, but it's different when you go 20 miles out and 20 miles back, then you have to go 30 miles out and 30 back. Psychologically, facing that 30 miles out is a killer--it's like you haven't gotten anywhere and now you have to do it again. That's another funny thing about doing centuries--you sometimes feel like you've worked so hard just to end up back where you started. I think that's one of the things I like better  about touring--I'm actually going somewhere.

People have compared centuries to marathons or ultramarathons. However, a century is far easier to train for and finish than a marathon, much less an ultra. It's also a lot easier on the body. Monday morning I had slight aches in my left knee and right ankle, but they were gone by noon. However, there is one aspect of century riding that is similar to running ultras (from what I've read, since I never actually got to do an ultra), and that is the mental side. Over the 6-8 hours of time from start to finish, the mind rides a far more harrowing roller coaster than the rolling hills that the bike covers. Variations in blood sugar, boredom and fatigue combine to lead the rider through a broad range of emotions from euphoria and confidence to defeat and despair, then back again. It may be a tad masochistic, but that's one of the things I like the most about it. That's one of the reasons I didn't quit I didn't want to miss whatever was going to happen in my head over the next half century. Though some would argue that I do it for the food, the mental part of century riding is what I find most intriguing.

The Elmhurst Bicycle Club's mascot is a banana slug, shown here on the front of the ride T-shirt.

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