Kiwanis Bike Century

October 1, 2000

Goshen, Indiana

62.3 miles

Bicycle:  Cannondale H-300

My wake-up call came at 6 AM. Of course, I was a little sore here and there (after the previous day's Goshen Bike Fest century), but nothing seemed terribly out of whack, so I decided to give it a go. I felt much better than I had the morning after the Tour of the Ozarks. I saw the weather on TV before I left the room: another beautiful day, but with winds out of the south at 15-25 mph. It was going to be a long day.

Through a series of bad ideas and bad luck, I didn't get to the Elkhart County Fairgrounds until 8:10. I got off to a decent start on the counterclockwise hilly route. I was talking myself through it: coast down the hills, go easy up the hills, no rush, just keep rolling, the goal is to finish. I knew I'd have to pace myself to do 100 miles on tired legs. At the rest stop, I ate a little, drank a little and headed out. I wanted to minimize wasted time, and I didn't feel much like talking, so after seven minutes I was back on the road. The course was familiar by now, but Sunday morning had a different feel than Saturday afternoon. I love riding on sunny Sunday mornings. The wind was strong from the south, but I was feeling good, just enjoying the ride.

As I made a left turn, I heard the disconcerting sound of my front tire rubber squishing against the ground--a flat! My 2,020 mile streak with no flats on the original tubes and tires came to an end, just when I was getting into a groove 16 miles into in a century. I had all the equipment to fix it, but I was soooo slow. I always scoffed at writers who suggested that one should practice changing a tire. Heck, I know how to do that... except that the last time I changed a tire, George Bush (the first) was President! It took me half an hour to fix the flat. I tried not to think about how much horse manure I had ridden over (remember, this was Amish country) as I searched the tire for the culprit. I found a tiny sliver of green glass (I hate litterbugs!) in the middle of the tread that lined up with the tiny puncture in my tube. I patched it instead of using my spare tube. The real challenge was pumping the tire up again. My mini-pump fits wonderfully into my saddlebag, but I could not get more than 45 PSI out of that little thing (my tires take 80 PSI) before it became virtually impossible to pump. Finally, I resigned myself to riding on low pressure the rest of the way to the fairgrounds. At least the roads felt smoother!

I stopped at the car and used my floor pump. After a short debate (yes, I do talk to myself regularly and argue, too, but at least we never come to blows), I decided to do the flat route clockwise next. I started out slow and got slower. Although I had successfully fixed my tire, the long break destroyed my rhythm, killed my momentum and ruined my morale, especially as I headed into the wind. This was going to be a very long day. As I had been doing all weekend, I read the names on the mailboxes. Of course, the classic Amish name of Yoder was very popular (for some reason I've always liked that name), while Miller and Schrock were common, also. I was trying not to think about heading south into the wind. I spent a lot of time down on the aerobars, but my Clydesdale body was like a sail. I couldn't even go fast on the downhills. The worst was yet to come. As I headed back north toward the fairgrounds with a tailwind, I bonked big time. I had only gone 48 miles, but I was totally spent. I ate a granola bar, drank some water, walked around a little, then finally climbed back on the bike. I knew at that moment that my quest for two centuries in one weekend was all but finished.

Back at the fairgrounds, I called and left a message for my wife telling her I'd be home to pick her up from work and that I was not going to make it through a century today. I felt like a complete failure. I rode to the rest stop tables and ate. They had submarine sandwiches for lunch, and that really helped. I hated to quit after only 52 miles, so I picked up a map of the 20-mile route. I was curious about what the local rail-trail was like, and I saw that the western half (both halves came back to the fairgrounds for a rest stop) went mostly over roads I hadn't seen yet. I did some math and figured out that my two day total was just a bit more than my previous two-day record of 153 miles. That meant that every mile was a new record, so why not keep going? The short route was pleasant, especially the Pumpkinvine Trail. It was crushed limestone, but I wasn't on it long enough to gum up my drivetrain. At the end of the trail I felt pretty good. I even entertained the thought of sticking it out and finishing the century, but as soon as I headed into the wind again, I lost my motivation. At 60 miles, I returned to  the fairgrounds entrance. I rode another mile down the road, then turned around and came back. When I pulled into the fairgrounds rest stop, I had logged 62.3 miles for the day (4:04, 15.3 mph). The volunteer invited me to eat, but I replied, " I'm done for the day. Done eating, done riding." After eating more-or-less the same stuff for two days, I didn't feel like having any more.

I had managed a metric century, which seemed such a hollow consolation. I still felt like a loser since I hadn't done all that I had planned. I really wanted to end up the year with a double century weekend. Instead, I made a lot of mistakes and came away fairly lucky with a standard and a metric in spite of myself. I need to ride more, eat smarter and develop mental toughness before I'll be ready for serious randonneuring next year. On the bright side, I set a personal best distance for two days (165 miles) and completed my sixth century of the year (not counting three solo rides of 94 to 126 miles). With the limited training that I've been doing on weekdays, I couldn't really expect anything more.

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