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.
Looking back, it was probably not the wisest move to tackle a ride of that length without some resources for support. An organized ride, like the Udder Century
I’ll be doing on June 2nd
, in Union, IL, has a big pasta dinner to carbo-load you up, rest stops every 25 miles or so with food and drinks, support vehicles in case of breakdowns or injuries, and a whole community of cyclists riding with you who all are asking the same questions of their bodies.
I know. Some of you are asking other questions right now, like:
What do you do while you’re on a bike for almost 8 hours?
How do you go about training for a Century?
What about your butt?
These are excellent questions. I promise to address all these in future posts over the next four weeks. But first, I want to say this: If you asked me ten years ago if I thought it was possible that I’d be biking a Century at the age of 43, I would have thought you were crazy. In the mid 1990’s the only regular activity I got was moving from my couch to the refrigerator and back, and I spent three consecutive falls traveling by train to support three different friends running the Chicago Marathon. Just hauling myself up and down the stairs from train stop to street left me winded and sweating, and I watched in amazement as a sea of different bodies passed me by. My three friends had very different bodies as well—one, tall and lean, a natural “runner’s body”; one petite, small boned and large breasted; one average height and curvaceous. I remember thinking at the time: I am not the type of person who runs a marathon.
But watching the runners, I was confused. I thought I’d see a “type” but all I saw were people—certainly not many as overweight as I, but also no carbon blueprint for what I thought a person who ran marathons should look like. And this realization planted a seed within me: what if I was
the type of person to run a marathon?
And I share this now because I guess I now know: I am the type to run a marathon (or I would, if I didn’t have a bum knee); I am the type to bike a Century. I am the type who hasn’t even figured out all the things she is capable of yet, and I know this: So are you. Maybe you are reading this and thinking that for you, it sounds fantastical, impossible, to ride a hundred miles in a day. Maybe there are those who are thinking it sounds like something they might be ready for soon. Maybe even a few who want to sign up right now (and hey, you can do 35, 50, or 75 miles, if you aren’t feeling the full monty). But if you are thinking about it tomorrow, or next week—even if you know you aren’t biking that much, even if you need to buy a bike, even if you haven’t been on a bike in years—then know this: the only difference between me and you is a matter of time.
Marcia on her bike