My first Century
Here is my report from my first Century ride - the Ture De Cure in Napa on May 6th, just under a year after joining this forum and getting serious about riding for the health and fitness benefits we all enjoy. I hope you are encouraged by this in some way, since so many of you have been a great encouragement to me. I was joined on the ride by my son-in-law and it was great to have a "team" for this day.
We arrived at the starting location in Napa about 6:30 am to make final preparations for the "launch". Starting temperature was in the low 50s, so there was no need for a jacket.
There were about 50 "anxious" cyclists for the start of the 100 mile ride, so we let them sprint at the start at 6:45 sharp. We started in the more casual "pack" about 90 seconds later.
We found a comfortable pace (about 15 MPH) quite early, falling behind a small group of 4 riders who provided a nice wind block for the gentle headwind to the first rest stop, about 10 miles out. They had nice snacks (bananas, oranges, energy bars, etc) and plenty of water to keep us hydrated.
The next 25 miles took us over some small rolling hills, past lots of vineyards and wineries on HWY 29, and up our first climb to the Sonoma county line. It was a beautiful setting with excellent weather conditions and we were pretty much maintaining our 15 MPH pace, which was a bit faster than we had planned, but felt comfortable. After the county line, we descended the hill and after about 8 more miles, rolled into rest stop 2 at Fieldstone Vineyards. They had a tents and a great spread set our right next to the grape vines, so we lingered for just a few minutes, filled up on fluids and snacks, re-applied the sun screen, then returned to the road for the north-most loop of the route. More rolling hills, more vineyards and wineries, a couple of rough patches on the roads (very bumpy and in need of repair), and after 20 miles we were back at the FieldStone rest stop for a short break. My son-in-law and I had a fellow cyclist snap our picture at this wonderful setting, refueled and celebrated the fact that we had completed 55 miles and it was only 10:45 am.
Refreshed again, we headed south on HWY 29 back towards Napa. On the way we saw our wives and kids on the side of the road, taking pictures as we went by and holding up a sign of encouragement. That was a real pick-me-up, and we needed it too, as the climb back up to the county line was just ahead. Gladly, the wind was now at our backs, making the ascent a little easier, which I appreciated since my legs were not as fresh now that we were 65 miles out. We descended into Calistoga (quaint little town), survived the bouncing of a few very rough patches of road, and turned east on the way to rest stop 4 at Sterling Vineyards. It was now 12:30, the sun was out in full force, and it was just about 80 degrees. More sun screen, lots more water, and a bit more energy food for the last 30 miles. There was a real sense of comraderie at these rest stops and the strong support of the volunteers and other riders generates confidence and a real sense of community (despite the persperation).
At this point, both Tyler and I were beyond the distance we have ever riden before, but were feeling fine and confident we could make it to the finish. We continued east to Silverado Trail, then turned south along side more vineyards and wineries. The wind had picked up (10 - 12 MPH) but was at our back and the midday traffic on the road was pretty busy, but the bike lane was wide and the views more than compensated for the uphill side of the rolling terrain. The last few miles before rest stop 5, I realized that I was doing fine turning my pedals, but that I didn't have much strength left to power up the hills. So, we just kep going at a comfortable pace and cruised into the rest stop for one last refill of the water bottles and energy bars. We had now completed 86 miles and were just about 1 hour from finishing the ride. We probably took an extra 2 minutes in this rest stop since by now I was getting really tired. I didn't doubt that I would finish, but I knew I was going to have to manage my pace and take an occasional break in order to conserve energy and avoid potential leg cramps.
We continued south on Silverado for 5 more miles, then turned west and immediately noticed the strong cross wind (from the north). It had been helping us the past couple hours, and now was becoming a nuisance. More vineyards for the next 2 miles and we spotted a huge bird (hawk I think) hunting in one of them. I was now stopping every 3 or 4 miles to drink some water and catch my breath. We arrived at HWY 29 and turned north into the face of the wind. We only had 5.5 miles to go, but it was a real effort. The fatigue was setting in and the wind was pushing against me and I needed another drink/break after only 3 miles. We pushed on last 3 miles to the the last turn, then up a small rise to the finish line. There we were greeted by Carol, Michelle and the kids, and also Vickie and Nicki! There were kisses and pictures, smiles and sweaty hugs...and a real sense of accomplishment. The organizers had a lunch set up for the riders and we relaxed at picnic tables in the shade for a nice meal with our family.
The final statistics were 100.5 miles at 15.3 MPH, completed in just under 8 hours of elapsed time and about 6,000 calories burned.
Thanks again for your support and encouragement over the past few months.
I think I will look for another "century ride" before the year is over.