Saturday, August 6, 2011

Race Report - 2011 Summer Sizzler Super Metric Century Bike Ride

Swag included this cool tech shirt, a water bottle and tools.

When I first though about participating in a Century Bike Ride last year, I figured I'd use my recently "restored" 1972 Schwinn Continental road bike (a 10 speed road racer weighing 40 lbs.) as my training bike and that I'd either purchase or borrow a lighter used bike. Fast forward 12 months or so...I was actively training for my third 100 mile ultra marathon attempt and second finish, when I noticed the "Summer Sizzler Super Metric Century Bike Ride" flyer online while browsing for races to use as motivation during my training. Unfortunately, I hadn't spent any time on my road bike in the last year, nor did I ever ride any distance longer than 10 miles and this event was just two weeks away.


Regardless, I decided to just go for it. I had a 20 mile long run scheduled on the day of the event and I figured I could use this as a fun replacement. Obviously, there was no actual time left for real training on my bike. Instead, I went for a quick 11 miler on my vintage bike two days before the Summer Sizzler jsut to be sure nothing was seriously wrong with my bike. After all, I was the one who replaced the cables, tires and tubes just a couple of months ago, and I certainly couldn't be trusted to do it right. I stuck to all original parts or replacement parts for the bike and even used vintage handle bar tape to replace the original foam cover that someone had apparently chewed through over the years. The only non-original part was a Brooks leather saddle I purchased online. While this saddle was not a "Schwinn" OEM part, it was a style and material typical for high end bikes of that time. Obviously, mine wasn't a high end bike, but I certainly wanted the comfort and look and feel of one. Since I only paid a mere 5 bucks for my bike at a yard sale last year, aside from replacement tires, tubes and cables, the saddle was by far the biggest investment. While my training ride didn't expose any serious issues with my "repairs", I did do a shoddy tuning job after all, but more about that later.

I got up at 5:30AM on the day of the race, seemingly with plenty of time to make it to the race start in New Hope, AL by 7AM. I'm still not sure why I didn't arrive in New Hope until just 5 minutes prior to the start. I somehow managed to convince Jay to join in the fun, who in turn convinced Rich to join as well. There was just one problem, none of us had what I would call "appropriate" bikes for this type of event. There was me with my 40 year old 5 dollar, 40 lbs. road bike, Rich with a 20 year old 20 dollar touring bike and Jay with a Target mountain bike with leftover touring tires I had found in my garage. We were what one could call the "three stooges" of the Summer Sizzler Century Ride.

When I arrived at the start, I had just enough time to check in, pick up my raffle ticket for after the race and meet up with Jay and Rich so we could at least start the ride together. When I weas looking around me, all I could see was experienced cyclists and triathletes on what seemed like thousand dollar titanium bikes, at least when compared to my good ol' fashioned Chicago steel frame bike;-) I felt slightly out of place, but only slightly.

Having said that, my feelings were completely unfounded. If anything, every single rider I met during this event was nothing but nice and extremely helpful throughout the day. They might have rightfully questioned my lack of preparedness, but they didn't make any remarks on my bike other than that they hadn't seen a Schwinn like that in quite a while. Before there are any misunderstandings, let me just follow this up by saying that I will definitely be back next year because I had such a great time.

The first few miles went by really fast. The three of us just kept chatting with each other and with other riders. A couple of miles into the ride I finally got to meet Laurie, the wife of a coworker of mine who'd been providing very valuable advice in the days leading up to this event. Laurie, if you or John read this, thanks again for all the information you provided to me. Before I knew it, we had reached the first SAG/aid station of the day and since we were all still feeling kind of fresh and still had plenty of liquids, we cruised right through this one and kept on going.

As we started to encounter a couple of rolling hills, I started to shift through my gears, only to realize that I had already lost half them, because the left shifter would not move the chain to the small front chain ring. Why? Because I did a terrible job replacing the gear cables and housing. I now know why you need to use ferruls with gear cable housing. Luckily, I was able to have one of the bike mechanics that was part of the SAG team fix me up temporarily at the 34 mile aid station just in time before I would hit the big hill on the course at mile 49 or so. Unfortunately, this repair took about 25 minutes or so including the wait, which meant Rich and Jay took off expecting me to catch them once my repairs were done. Once the repairs were complete, I was on my own.  I tried to push but I figured any real attempt in catching up to them was in vain, since I was almost 25 minutes behind them.

At mile 39.5 after taking a 1 mile detour, I actually did catch up with them, but only because Jay was dealing with some muscle cramps. As I was pushing my bike up the hill (because I had now lost my lowest gear due to the right shifter not working properly any longer), I was really feeling the effort. My heart rate started to get up there and I had no desire to push up the hill. Instead, I used the time to replenish my fluids as I was pushing the bike ahead while making conversation with other riders choosing to push their bikes as well.

When I finally reached the top of the biggest climb of the day, I saw the next aid station just around the curve. I must have downed three bottles of Gatorade right then and there. As I was getting ready to leave, Rich and Jay arrived for their much deserved break. I decided to join a group of riders just about to leave the aid station. I figured I'd need further assistance down the line to get my gears working again, so any time I could make up now would hopefully place Rich, Jay and I at the finish around the same time.

Boy, was I wrong. Not only do I stink at tuning a bicycle, I am even worse when it comes to navigational skills or any kind of sense of direction. When I reached the second to last aid station on the way back to the finish, I was feeling good. I knew I only had 16 or 17 miles or so left. After refilling my bottles and taking a couple of Endurolytes that I bummed from one of the volunteers, I went back out onto the course. I was feeling great. I decided to push the pace (as much as I could at this stage) all the way to the finish.

As I was following the green arrows spray-painted onto the road, I was wondering why I was following the same course we had followed as we went out earlier in the morning. I dont know why, but my warped mind explained it away by telling myself that the course was overlapping at a couple of sections. While that did make sense in my head, I just don't know why I wasn't surprised that I was not only on the same course, but that I was even going the same direction as I was in the morning. THAT should have been the dead giveaway that something was wrong, bot nooooo...I was so sure I knew what I was doing. After all, I was following the green arrows still...and they kept showing up, too. Of course, why wouldn't they. They marked the outbound course. And when I passed the sign for the Cathedral Caverns, I wondered, but I didn't turn around. And when I passed the Jackson County sign, I wondered. Heck, I convinced myself that it stated: You are leaving Jackson County" even though I knew I read "You are entering Jackson County". It had the same spray-painted "@" I noticed when we headed out this way in the morning, yet I convinced myself that I was just imagining things.

I should have paid attention to the waypoints.
Well, the mind sure is a powerful thing...mine just didn't work for me today. Not until I crossed Highway 72 for the second, third or fourth time today, who can remember, I sure couldn't. All I know is that I finally realized that I was not supposed to cross this road again, especially not since my watch was reading 70.8 miles which meant I was supposed to be crossing the finish line in New Hope right about now. Instead, I looked up and saw the Woodville sign instead. It was at this point that I decided that I had reached my "finish line". I had completed the official distance, albeit at the wrong location. After a quick phone call and a couple of expletive text messages expressing my annoyance with my own stupidity, my fellow riders Jay and Rich picked me up and gave me a ride back to my car at the finish line, where volunteers were busy breaking down the equipment.

By the time I arrived back at the finish line, I had gotten over it and was extremely happy to have finished 71 miles on a bike, regardless of where I ended up. And I still ended up with a cool door prize and a free pizza pie, which means it all worked out perfectly in the end;-)

I'd like to send a big thank you to race director Carrie Wilson and her crew of volunteers for an awesome experience and an expertly run event. I will be back for more next year...hopefully with a better sense of direction.

My unofficial "finish line" at the Log Cabin Store in Woodville, Alabama.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Martin, great job on getting your 70.5 miles. I participated and will be back next year, also. They did a great job choosing the route.

    Lee Foster
    (Played for Digium a few years back)

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  2. Lee, hope you're doing well. The course was absolutely fantastic. I can't wait to do it again.

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