What can I say. The weather was perfect on Monday so I decided to do my original Century plan of the year. In May I set out with the goal of completing one 50 mile ride by October, but I unexpectedly completed that goal in early July. With no more goals to complete, I decided that my new goal for the year was to bike to Rochester, the next major city over from Buffalo, and back by October. When I scoped out the route in my car I got a little fearful of some of the steep grades I was witnessing, so when it came time to try out a 100 mile route, I chickened out and did a flatter century along 50 miles of bike paths. While I was successful, the fact that I switched from my original goal to an easier one nagged at my conscience. So when the weather turned out to be absolutely perfect for Columbus Day Weekend, I said screw it, I'm going to try out my original goal.
Since this was going to be the furthest I've ever been from home on my bike, I decided an extra precaution may be necessary. I took a spare tire with me, in addition to my regular emergency kit (2 tubes, patch kit, pump, 3 CO2 cartridges, 4 bottles of water, food to last 2 days, etc). My tire blowout 2 weeks ago has scared me because up until that point I've been able to handle every incident that has befallen me with no need for external aid. The tire was heavy, but the peace of mind made it worth it.
The morning started off cold. Was around 40 degrees when I left. I didn't wear my long sleeve clothes because I knew it was going to be in the high 70's within a few hours, so rather than take the extra weight, I decided it would be better to simply brave the cold for an hour or so. I regretted this decision all the way to Batavia (hour and a half). Since I was going long distance today I couldn't allow myself to hammer the pedals, lest I be worn out 50 miles away from home and unable to return, so I was actually unable to warm myself up enough to combat the freezing wind. Luckily it got steadily warmer and eventually it stopped annoying me. The first 3 hours were uneventful. Cycling in the morning is always easier than any other time; there's this "morning fog" my brain is in which seems to make time go by much faster than it normally would. Before I knew it, I was already all the way across Genesee County, and into Monroe County.
I had previously scoped out the roads in my car to make sure the shoulders were wide enough and safe enough for a bicycle. I always do this whenever I'm planning a long trip; I like to be safe. Unfortunately what you cannot tell from a fast-moving car is how rough or smooth the actual pavement is. On a car this usually doesn't make much of a difference, but on a bicycle you can definitely tell the difference between a road paved with fine-grained rocks and a road paved with larger rocks. Unfortunately Routes 33a and 252 were paved with larger rocks, which meant for a rougher and slower ride than the better-paved Route 33 I was on for most of the morning. Eventually I reached a really nicely paved patch on Rt 252, and I was relieved for a total of about 2 minutes. Suddenly, I hear a loud "PFFFFFF" sound from my rear tire, and with every rotation of the wheel I feel a large burst of air blowing on my left calf. Dangit.
I ran over some glass, so I ended up changing out my tire. Since it was still early I decided not to waste a CO2 cartridge and simply spent the extra 5 minutes using the hand pump to pump it up. I figured since I still had 56 miles to go, I'd better take the extra time and make certain the tire is properly inflated, rather than hoping the CO2 cartridge pumped it up to the proper pressure. This was at mile 44, so I was roughly 5 miles away from my destination. Since I had another tube and a full patch kit, it didn't make sense to turn back at this point in time. So I kept on trucking, and eventually made it to my goal: the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). This was my very first university. I never graduated from it, but I do remember it fondly. Not for what I learned or how much money I paid, but for the friends and memories I made there. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had graduated from there as planned. Besides my health, my life has worked out pretty well so I can't really say I have any true regrets about dropping out of RIT. However, that school was the beginning of my health issues. I spent all day every day studying and eating, and as a result I easily gained over 100 pounds in the 2 years I was there. It kick-started my adulthood of obesity, so it was somewhat of a triumph to be able to bike the entire way there and back home again. The "theme" of this trip, if you will; confronting the place where I gained a large portion of my weight, letting it know that I'll never let it beat me down again.
As I biked around the campus I began to wonder why I never brought my bicycle with me to the campus when I was schooling there. I felt so confined when I was there, no car and no transportation anywhere. A bicycle would have given me much needed freedom, and at this point I am utterly baffled why it never occurred to me in my youth. Perhaps I had the typical American mindset that bicycles were simply toys and never even thought about it being a primary mode of transportation. I have no idea.
After the trip down memory lane I decided it was time to head back. When I started the trip I had a "bonus" plan of going an additional 7 miles and exploring downtown Rochester on my bike if time allowed for it, unfortunately due to the flat I had beforehand I decided to skip the downtown meandering and simply head back home. If all went well I should be back by 5pm, well before sundown, but still, I don't like cutting it too close.
Sadly, all did not go well. About 66 miles into the trip my rear tire blew out. I was beyond frustrated at this point because I had just run out of water and the next gas station was still 15 miles away, and the temperature was above 90. The thermometer read 98 degrees, but it can read a little higher than the actual temperature if it's directly in the sun. So I start looking at the tire, and there's a gash in the sidewall. I can see the threads. ARGH. I would normally be screaming at this point, but since I decided to be cautious and bring a spare tire, I suddenly felt incredibly smart. Switched out the tire, and went on my way absolutely parched. Miles 60 through 80 were the toughest. At first I felt like I had bonked because my energy seemed to have disappeared. However after the ride, looking at the elevation chart, it's obvious now that I was climbing that whole way. In addition I was going against a headwind, so that didn't help matters.
Whenever I plan a long trip I make sure I make it go along routes that have public parks. When you spend 4+ hours on a bicycle, knowing where you can go pee is a very important logistical concern. So on this trip I made note of the fact that I could stop in a park in Batavia at miles 20 and 80 to go pee. By mile 80, I needed to use the park restroom, so I pull up and... the restrooms are dead-bolted. D'oh. Decided to just hold it, since I only had another 20 miles to go. The last 20 miles were a blur, I hardly remember them. One of the problems of long-distance cycling is that at some point you begin to get delirious after all that time in the saddle. On the other hand, it does seem to make the time go by faster.
Another trick I use on these long trips is to tell myself how long I've got left using multiples and fractions. For example, when you go 20 miles, I say to myself, "ok, now just do that 4 more times". At 33 I say "do that 2 more times". At 50 I say "do that again". Then once you get past 50 you can switch to fractions; at 66 I say "ok now just do half of what you just did". 75 is "do 1/3 of that", 80 is "do 1/4th of that", 88 is "do 1/7th of that", 90 is "do 1/9th of that", and by the time you get to a point where there's 5 miles left, you no longer need to tell yourself anything, you're home free. And such was this trip; as soon as I was under 10 miles left it was just a matter of time before I made the goal.
So that was my second century. Tougher and more demanding than the first. More perilous than the first. Less fun than the first, but only due to the mechanical issues. I can barely walk, but that's fine, the aches are a reminder that I just did something awesome. Burned 5000 calories, finished in a bit more than 8 hours of moving time again. Climbed 4,525 feet, far more than I've ever climbed before. Roughly 3 times more climbing than my previous century.
Feelin' good. I biked to Rochester and back. I still can't believe I did that.