Today, I finished my first century ride! The ride was so scenic, the weather was absolutely perfect, the support from the volunteers was never lacking, and everything went smoothly (no drop chains, mechanical failures, bonking). I would say this was the best ride of my life (so far)!
A view of the Shenandoah River on the way to Berryville, VA
The Back Roads Century is an annual event put on by the Potomac Pedalers, a bike club in the Washington DC area. The century ride starts out at Berryville, VA, and goes through the countryside of Virginia and West Virginia. There are many different ride options suitable for all ability levels. The route was surrounded by mountains, pastures, fields, and forest. The first half wasn't too hilly, and the second half had some rolling hills and a longer climb near mile 85.
I signed up with the B group to be conservative, since I was averaging about 17-18 MPH on my training rides. The B group was supposed to average 14-16 MPH. Supposed to.
Well, that was not the case. We started out pretty fast, and split into smaller groups. We were averaging 17-18 MPH in the beginning. Maybe even nearer to 20 MPH at some point. I was feeling really great, so I just went with it. Riding in a larger group is so different from riding solo, and I definitely benefited from drafting. I had not done any group rides before this century, so I learned a lot really fast!
I really regret this, but I didn't take many pictures along the way. Blogger FAIL :(
There were rest stops at mile 25, 51, 68, 79, and 90. They were well organized with plenty of fuel and liquids, like fruit, PB&J sandwiches, cookies, cereal bars, and bagels. Haha I felt like it was a progressive feast! The stops were frequent enough that I felt like I was just eating all day, with a bit of cycling in between. Although I didn't feel very hungry, I knew I had to refuel, and I think I did pretty well with eating enough throughout the day. I didn't bonk, so win!
Here's a recap of the century ride:
Mile 0-25 - I met up with the "B 100" group at the start, and rolled out around 8:10. I grabbed half a bagel with PB before the start, since I ate breakfast at 5:30 and was getting hungry. I left in a large group, so at first, it was pretty crowded. The 100 mile ride split up with the rest of the riders, and after that, it was a lot less packed. I stuck with a group, and stayed with them at the very back of the pack. I wanted to start conservatively and not waste energy passing people. The route started to get hilly, and a lot of people slowed down, so that's when I started passing people.
Mile 26-51- My group took a 10 minute break at the first rest stop. I drank some water and ate half a PB&J and some fruit. I was feeling really great and was itching to go! We split up into smaller groups, and I ended up riding with someone I met at the start. Legs were still feeling really great, and the weather was cool enough that I barely broke into a sweat. There were some rolling hills, but no big climbs. The halfway point was back at the starting area, and we got there in a little less than 3 hours. I was averaging around 17-18 MPH (guestimation, even though I had the Garmin, I didn't set the auto laps)
Mile 52-64- After fueling up with a cereal bar, hummus sandwich, banana, and water, I was ready to go! Stopping for about 10 minutes was enough for me to cool down and feel a bit chilly, but I warmed up after a few minutes. These miles were pretty speedy! I kept up with the faster group without much difficulty. I was really getting used to the whole riding in the group thing. I think I ride a lot better when I have people to follow than when solo. At mile 79, we stopped at Burwell-Morgan Mill, a picturesque area with stone buildings, a small bridge over a creek, and a picnic area. Earlier in the day, there was even a band playing, but I missed it :( This stop had delicious boiled potatoes with salt and pepper. Who knew something as simple as a potato would taste so good when you've been riding for a few hours. I also grabbed half a banana and refilled on water.
Mile 65-79- After the mill, I found a group and latched on to them. They were riding in a pace line, and I decided to follow them. Although I had never ridden in a pace line before (and it's not recommended to learn during a century), I wanted to stay with the group. We were averaging about 16 MPH, since the roads were getting hillier. After reaching the next rest stop, I introduced myself and asked if I could join them for the rest of the ride. Yay, I made friends :) The rest stop at mile 79 had the famous tomato and cucumber sandwiches. It was very refreshing after an entire morning eating PB&J and other various sweets. I ate a whole sandwich and half a banana. I swear this century ride felt like I was just eating the whole time.
Mile 80-90- There were only 10 miles between the last two rest stops, but there was about a mile of climbing in the middle. Everyone slowed down a lot. This is where I dug deep and attacked those hills. I discovered that I am a decent climber and even after 80 miles, I can still pedal hard. Of course, my legs were burning on the longest climbs, but I was able to keep plowing on. I was motivated by Rita's Italian Ice at the next rest stop... So good! I got guava :P
And my camera decided to focus on the cyclist's shoes instead of the Italian ice.
Mile 91-100- The home stretch! I pedaled hard those last few miles. It was still pretty hilly, but not too bad. Although my legs felt a bit fatigued, I knew I still had some power left in them. The last few miles were through the town of Berryville, which was pretty neat. The town is old-fashioned, and we went down their main street. The finish was a little past the town, and when I saw it, I was grinning ear to ear.
I had finished my first century ride in a little less than 6 hours. And it definitely won't be my last ;) There was a post-ride BBQ and an ice cream sundae bar. Yes and yes.
Freaking AWESOME day