It's fun to look back at this ride. Yes, I was pushed beyond my limits, and it was painful, but it made me a better cyclist. Or at least a more determined one.
My friend "freemti" from Bike Forums and I drove down together to the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia's Scenic Schuylkill Century on Saturday, September 8. At 8:00 AM the peleton of several hundred cyclists left Lloyd Hall in Fairmount Park, rounded the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and headed west along Kelly Drive to the suburbs. The century route ran into the farm country of Montgomery and Chester County, not far from my home, and back through Valley Forge National Park onto the Schuylkill River Trail, ending at Lloyd Hall.
Through the BCP email list I arranged to have an informal escort for the ride. Phil is a seasoned bike commuter, and, by his own admission, "can pedal all day at 10MPH." So we left together as "freemti" 'dropped' us - by design, since he's a much faster rider and I'd never ask him to stay with me. I was wearing a hydration pack I'd just purchased, testing it prior to my MS ride at the end of the month.
I had no difficulty with the flat course along the river, and even the hills in Manayunk weren't a problem, although they weren't pleasant, and I did walk one of them. However, once we left the river and began to enter Montgomery county, the climbs became more and more bothersome. My ambition and determination kept bumping into the fact that I am a novice rider with scoliosis and seriously knocked knees. I was fine at the Cedar Grove rest stop (15 or so miles). However, I decided to bail on the 106 mile century route by the Evansburg Park rest stop (36 miles), and rode the metric century alternate instead. I was hot, tired from riding as long and as hard as I had ever ridden, and my back was beginning to bother me. The metric route cut 40 miles of mostly climbing from the ride, although it did send us up the 9 percent quarter mile grade in Mill Grove. Yes, I did walk this hill, one of only three I walked on the route.
My back pain was so severe by the time I reached Betzwood (48 miles) I had to spend a few minutes lying on the ground to 'realign' - it's amazing how much better I feel once my structure has had a couple of minutes without bearing weight. I few miles past Betzwood I asked Phil to carry my hydration pack. I had to lie down again to 'realign' past Spring Mill. By now I was stopping every few miles on the Schuylkill River Trail to get off the bike, so that Betzwood to the finish for Phil and I was nearly 2.5 hours, an hour longer than normal. It took me nearly nine hours to slog through the metric. Fortunately Phil and I reached the finish just in time to join in the traditional pizza party finish.
This ride was a mixed result for me. I didn't ride a century, but I rode a metric that was far hillier than any long ride I'd done before. However, I may need to rethink my crazy desire to ride 100 miles, and indeed endurance riding in general. I might have hit my physical limits. Being stubborn, I might need more convincing.
The back pain was partly due to my using a 2 liter hydration backpack. It was my first time with it, and it probably wasn't the best choice of hydration for me. I still don't know how much of the back pain was the hydration pack, the scoliosis, or my inexperience - this was my third metric ever, and only my fifth ride of more than 50 miles.