One month from today I’ll be undertaking my first Century. For those not in the know, that’s riding a bicycle 100 miles in a day. I realize a lot of folks wonder why the hell someone would decide to do this. I suppose for the same reason people run marathons, do triathlons, or participate in hot-dog eating contests: there comes a point in your relationship with your body where you start to wonder exactly what it can do—how far, how fast, how long, how hard, how much. For me, that journey started when I lost 92 pounds between 2006 and 2007. Somehow, between then and now, I’ve become a full-time cycling commuter, racking up about fifty miles a week in winter and around 100 miles a week in summer.
Last August I undertook an 82-mile ride by myself in a day. I put a brewery smack damn in the middle of my ride figuring a Rueben sandwich and a couple beers would be a good incentive to get to that halfway point: it worked, although the real inspiration was two cyclists who fell in with me about ten miles out on the trail and stayed with me through the first twenty. Before they came along, I’d felt anxious. What if I get a flat? What if something happens and I need to call 911? What if I’m too tired to get back?
But those two friendly strangers, who pulled alongside me and said, “You’ve got a nice pace going; mind if we join you?” kept me out of my head, and kept my legs pumping so that when they stopped at mile twenty to turn around, I knew I could do the next twenty alone. And when I pulled back into my starting location later that evening, tired, salty, and ecstatic, I thought one thing: I could do another 20 miles if I had to, and I knew I was ready to try a Century.