I am 100k closer to maximizing my 401(k).
On Saturday, I completed my first ever 100k cycling tour. That's 66.2 miles for the folks keeping track at home.
The tour takes place annually, starting in Salisbury, MD and runs down the length of Maryland's eastern shore. Honestly, I would've never thought I could do it, if it hadn't been for the HMF. He did it last year (in the RAIN, no less) and swore it was the best time he'd had on his bike. He brought it up to me about two weeks ago, at which time I quickly nixed that idea of 'weekend fun'.
But somewhere about Wednesday, I had a sudden change of heart. Well, actually, it was my mind. This year has been a year of me tackling athletic activities I previously told myself were out of reach. On Wednesday, I remembered the 5k. How long had I told myself I couldn't do it? And then I did it? Yeah, I was the fat, unathletic kid in grade school (raise your hand if you hated that stupid Presidential Fitness test!) who got attacked during pin battle ball and couldn't even do "the hang". But I'm not that kid anymore. I ran a 5k! Of course 66 miles was the next logical step ;) Plus, I knew the HMF would be shocked (in a good way) and pleased if I did it. We signed up Wednesday night.
Salisbury is about 120 miles away from the DC metro area. To get there by 7am, we got up at 4:30 (that was actually 30 minutes after the alarm) and left the house by 5:15. We arrived at the U of MD Salisbury campus around 7:15, but due to registration snafu (they had my number but not the HMF's), we didn't actually hit the road until 8:25am. Plus, it takes longer than you think to get your gear on, assemble your bike, fill your water bottles, etc. We lucked out with the weather, though. Instead of rain, we had cool fog until about 11:00am and a sunny - but not too hot or humid - day ahead of us. My only complaint would be the slight wind in our faces for the last 20 miles, but but that time, I was complaining of more things than just wind.
And actually, the first 17 miles were awesome. It was early, cool and there were tons of bikers on the road (that is, lots of people to chat with). Every time we got passed by a big speedy group, I squealed "it's a peloton!" and sped up to catch their draft.
You wouldn't believe how much faster one can go when in a peloton! Birds have had it right all along - traveling in a group is the way to go. This was my first experience with drafting - following a large group (or, at mile 52, one person who loves you very much) and having them cut the wind, so you go faster but with less energy. It was awesome! We averaged about 18 mph, and as such, finished the first 17.2 miles in just under an hour.
After the first break, I noticed my right knee starting to complain a bit on the up-push. I was seriously concerned for a few miles, but I stopped using my toe-harnesses, popped some ibuprofen (from a very nice kid and his mom at roadside stand) and let the adrenaline kick in.
At mile 33, I made the HMF and our friend Billy, stop just outside a celtic fair (no we didn't go in). Not only was it the halfway point of the ride, it was also a new mark for me: the longest ride I'd ever done. So, we cheered, stretched, drank a bit of water and then hopped back on the road.
Mile 42.2 was the second (and last pit stop) - down a bumpy dirt road which jarred my teeth loose and emptied out into a big park. This was about 12:30pm, so I was ready for another food break. We'd packed Clif bars and gu, but nothing beats peanut butter and bananas (which are great, but hard to carry in your pack on the road..). Myself, I was hoping for a philly cheesesteak at this point, so I was highly disappointed when all we got was....the exact same bagels and cream cheese as the first stop! Oh well, beggers (bikers?) can't be choosers. But what I was ultimately really baffled about was the pie and ice cream. Really? Pie? Can I just have some peanut butter please?
I left the second rest stop seriously displeased.
By this time, we were no longer seeing large packs of people whizzing by us, so our pace had slowed considerably. Yet, I was still feeling pretty good. We formed our own peloton and averaged about 15 mph. The next ten miles whizzed by in a blur of harvested corn fields, windy back roads and several chicken farms (who knew MD was such a hotbed for Perdu and Tyson?).
Anyway, it was at mile 52 where I bonked. Not only was my right knee killing me, my left knee had joined it. We'd asked for more ibuprofen at the rest stop, but there were OUT (I need to have a serious talk with these organizers). I made the HMF stop at another intersection, where I just panted. According to his odometer (which, by this time, we suspected of being off by a mile or two), we had about 14 miles to go. Another woman at the rest stop said it was 10. Two guys behind us (who also stopped) claimed it was also 10. I decided to go by their count.
But still, it was the longest 10 miles of my life. To his credit, my HMF stayed beside me (or within 20 feet of me) the entire time and cheered me on with promises of chocolate and massages, and how proud he was of me. Even when all I wanted to do was get off my bike and throw it at him. I distinctly remember one mile where I was shooting eye darts into the back of his helmet, or maybe I was getting ready to cry, but I was so miserable. He fell back next to me and I shot to him accusingly, "Do you love me more yet?" He laughed, and of course, said yes. "Then can I get off this bike now!?" But, deep down, I was having fun - and conquering that deep down small voice that always said, when it came to sports, "You can't."
Instead, I asked him to pull in front of me and he drafted (even though this was mile 57 or so and he was also tired). I was amazed at how much easier it was to bike when you've got a tire in front of you to focus on. I tried not to ask, but ever few minutes or so, I'd have to know how far we'd gone. Miles 52-57 were pretty much the worst, as we still had around 10 miles to go. It became a joke - how long to go? 10 miles! (Wait 10 seconds) Ok, how long now? Still 10 miles.
Really, I hope that's the closest to hell I ever come to.
When we finally pulled back in to the University grounds, there was a big finish line and lots of people cheering. I took the HMF's camera out of my pouch and snapped a shot as I reached the finish line. When I crossed the line, I went "Yesss!!" and this woman in the crowd yelled "Congratulations!"
My knees felt like bloated puppies, my arms were sunburnt in nice farmer's tan and my hands swollen - but I was barely winded. We'd done it all (with four stops) in a little less than six hours. The best part was when the HMF looked at his odometer and announced that it was actuall 3.7 miles off - something that would've been helpful to know those last ten miles!
After a quick shower in the public locker room, we shopped for cheap bike gear, mounted the bikes atop the car, and headed back to DC. I had to ride the rest of the way home with my legs straight, but it was totally worth it. We spent most of the ride talking about what kind of food we were going to eat when we got back, but I was so exhausted I couldn't think straight. I ended up falling asleep by 9:30 pm and dreamt about pancakes.
Only 301 k left to go before I can retire,
P.S. And you'll be pleased to know that the HMF stated, if it was possible, he most certainly did love me more now. :)