Finaly rode a full Century with NFBC (long posting)
I started riding regularly back in April of 2007, and by the end of that May had turned into a daily commuter. Last June I did the 33 Mile Ride for Rosewell and found it a revelation. Before the ride I thought 33 miles was very far. After the ride I realized that anything under 40 miles is pretty easy to do. This Spring I added a road bike to my collection and started to enjoy riding longer distances. This past May I rode from my house in East Amherst (NY) to Pittsford roughly following the Erie canal. That ride was 82 miles and my previous longest ride. I knew I was sort of cheating as I rode prtty much with the prevailing winds. I just knew that I had to go and ride a true Centry ride this Summer.
A co-worker told me about the Niagara Frontier Bike Club and their yearly CanAm invitational that would be happening on August 17 of this year. This ride starts at the Buffalo water front, crosses over into Canada, following along till a bit past Niagara Falls and then crosses you back into the USA to finish folowing the Niagara River to lake Ontario. From there you ride back through the country side and back up along the Niagara River on the American side back down to the Buffalo water front.
Yesterday was the day of the event. The weather "gods" were with us. After having nearly daily thunderstorms rolling through our area this entire Summer we finally had a perfect day. The day started early at 5:50 am. A quick shower, my usualy Oatmeal for breakfast along with a tall glass of orange juice. I had areadly loaded the bike and helmet in the station wagon the night before so I couldn't forget the most important things. On the ride to the water front I downed a bottle of Gatorade and ate a cliff bar to make sure I was properly hydrated, and I had some food in my system.
The event started just about on time at 7:05am. The whole group took off accross the Peace Bridge on the way to Canada. The customs agents had already been warned about our arrival and were ready to quickly check our ID and let of proceed with our ride. The air was a nice cool 68F with barely a whisper of wind. I ended up riding with an experience bunch of riders and were moving along at a good clip (about 21 MPH). Our first stop was right before Niagara Falls around the 20 mile mark. At this point I was still feeling excellent. I ride more than 20 miles at least once or more a week so this was just a warm-up.
The next streach of the ride took us past the Fall and over to the Queenston-Lewsiton Bridge. After crossing back into the USA we got to ride down the Niagara escarpment. This was a exiting 650ft drop. I got up to 39 MPH for a short while. We continued to follow the Niagar River all the way to its mouth at Old Fort Niagara and then followed Lake Ontario to Wilson. At the 50 mile mark we had our second stop. At this point most of us were quite happy to be able to get off our bikes for a bit. We ate some more food and filled up on some drinks and repleanished our water bottles. At this time we had average 18.9 MPH, but I knew the wind had picked up a little and we were clearly getting some help from gravity along the way as well.
As we headed out we started to head back South through the Niagara County country side and then back West again to get back to Lewiston. This part of the ride there were luckily some nice strong riders in the group so we could follow them. There was some wind, but it was not too bad yet. I'd have to guess that we have about 15 MPH wind. I got a little achy around 60 miles, but that passed pretty quickly. Around the 72 mile mark we knew we were only 3 miles from our next rest stop, but we had to make it back up the Niagara escarpment. Going down was a blast, going up was definitely hard on the legs and lungs. I live in a pretty flat area, so I don't get to practice going up hills much.
At the 75 Mile mark rest area I was feeling remarkably good. My legs were holding up OK and my wrists, arms, and neck were feeling MUCH better than when I went on my long ride back in May. I guess the core excercises are going their job. At this point we knew the ride would be pretty flat so I was feeling good about the remaining 27 miles ahead. We had about 10 of us heading out at the same time.
On the way we rode along a bike path that follows the Niagara River along the Robert Moses highway. We were again moving at a good clip. We had to be careful as we started to pass the folks who were finishing their 65 Mile ride (they rode nearly the same ride, just leaving off the 35 mile ride to Wilson and back). Around the 85 mile point my left leg started to get a tiny bit sore, but I was able to keep riding hard till we got to the 92 mile rest area. At this time my average speed had dropped to 18.1 MPH, but I was quite pleased with the progress so far.
At this point I had figured that the remaining 8 miles would not be hard. The trail is flat as a pancake, and except for a short section also nice and smooth. I was quite wrong. By now the wind had realy picked up and were around 20 to 30 MPH. We were just getting buffeted by the wind and now that we were along the River heading South, there was no protection. Those last few miles were HARD. My legs were tired and getting to be a little achy, and I was definitely ready to have this be over. I just counted down the miles. I was now slowed down to about 12 to 14 MPH, but at least there was still forward progress. There was a short streach about 3 miles from the end where we moved in from being along the rider and had some large wearhouses to block the wind a bit. That was a huge relief and let me get just a little bit of energy back so that I could ride strongly to the finish for the last mile.
Over all I am very happy with the results. First off I am glad I finished. Over all I am suprised that I was able ride to keep up with some of the more experienced riders. I did it in 5 hours and 56 minutes. A few of us in the group were on our 1st Century ride so it was nice to be able to ride with other that were more experienced. The club had done an excellent job with setting up the route, the queue sheets, the arrows on the road in a few key areas, and marking out bad roots that were causing the pavement to rise on a few sections of the bike paths that were used for the ride. In my group were some folks from Rochester and Syracuse and they all told me that this event was planed and executed better than most of the rides they had experienced.
As long as I don't have an unavoidable scheduling conflict, I'll do the ride again next year. With continued riding/training I will hopefully be an even stronger rider and will be able to do it and finish it with less difficulty those last 8 miles.