It was better than 70 degrees (F) when I stepped out the door on Sunday morning while I was prepping for the Assenmacher 100. In Florida, that’s any day of the week in August, in Michigan… Well, that’s a lot of the days in August too but it was still pretty freakin’ warm and the forecast was for lots of sun and a balmy 91 degrees. With 40 miles on Saturday (24 with my buddy Mike and another 16 with my wife several hours after Mike and I got back) I was feeling odd. Sore isn’t the right word, maybe tight would be better. Definitely not enough to worry about though. I’d ridden my bike 36 straight days without a day off, just to see how long I can go, I was feeling a little lethargic. Not tired, not particularly sore, just not as lively as usual – as one might expect.
I packed my bike and all of my gear with care, making sure I didn’t miss anything. I filled my water bottles and added Perpetuem in one and Heed in another, then did the same for my wife. I did forget to pump up the tires when things started getting hectic, close to our departure time. Mrs. Bgddy was riding to the start and I was driving… For the first time I didn’t need (or want) the extra eleven miles that I’d get by riding there and back. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist of a cyclist to figure out that after 101 miles in temps north of 90 degrees, a little air conditioning on the way home will be awesome.
I paid, got my tee-shirt, went back to the car and got my gear ready and took my bike into the shop to pump my tires up. A few trips to the restroom and some chatting with friends and we were ready to line up:
We rolled out at just after 8 am, Mike and I up front. We were prepared for a rough, fast day but we started out relatively slow, between 18 & 20 mph to allow everyone to form up. After a couple of miles we were jumped by two of the fastest guys in the group and as I fell back I got ready to go… And nothing happened. We went from 20 to 22 mph, and stayed there. I tried not to get too excited, enjoying the morning and reasonable speed but I was certain the pain was coming… The pace was jumped up from time to time but we never broke 24 mph in the first 15 miles. I was a little more than stoked as it appeared the racers decided to save a little for later when the heat cranked up. One thing I really noticed was the lack of depth in the group this year. The Assenmacher 100 is one of the biggest rides of the year in our area and one of the rare opportunities for the big dogs to ride really fast with a lot of help. This year, instead of the normal 30 racers who show up to lead the group, we only had 14-20. This meant that we, the B guys, had to take our turns up front rather than sit back and enjoy the draft. I took every turn I came up for in the first 30 miles and we pulled into the first rest area with a paltry 21.5 mph average. Not bad by any stretch, but two years ago we pulled into the same stop close to 24.
We reloaded the water bottles (I chose Gatorade because I know better than to go for water), took a couple of quick bites to eat and prepared to roll out. The problem we ran into, with a group that big, is getting everyone through the lines and back on the bikes. I think we were stopped for about 15 minutes. Someone yelled out, “Rolling out!” A minute later we were on our way but my Mike, my cycling brother from another mother, wasn’t in the group. He’d left early with one of the tandems, leaving me, Chuck and Phill to fed for ourselves.
We had come up with a game plan to evaluate the ride at that rest stop. If we were all feeling good and the speed was reasonable, we were going to hammer it out with the group till the 57 mile rest stop and then head out in our own little group at a 20 mph pace so we could enjoy the last 43 miles rather than try to hang on with our tongues dangling from our mouths. Both items were checked off for the rest of us so I figured we’d catch Mike and the tandem before the next stop anyway… We rolled out, keeping the subdued pace for the next 27 miles, though we almost made a wrong turn in there somewhere… Half of the group missed it and the rest of us soft pedaled until we thought everyone was on. We missed Dave and his wife coming up a ways back on their tandem. They had to struggle for miles to get back and that effort absolutely cooked Dave. I didn’t find out about the mistake we’d made until after the ride – and even though I was in the middle of that lead group, I felt horrible about the mistake.
Fifty-one miles, just better than halfway in and I was starting to hurt. I had decreased my frequency of taking turns up front by half and when I did take a turn, they were short, maybe a half-mile. I was still exceptionally pleased that I’d made it as far as I had with the group. We rolled into the 57 mile rest stop with that same 21.5 mph average and as we pulled in and propped our bikes against trees or each other, Mike and the tandem were already prepping to roll out. I had to make a decision: Skip a much-needed rest stop and ride with them, or take my time to relieve myself in addition to food and topping off the water bottles. I wasn’t waiting another 18 miles. No way that was going to work. I let them go and refueled.
As we prepped to leave I let Chuck, Chuck and Phill (that is two Chucks, not a typo) know that I was going to beat the big group out and ride back easy. One of the Chuck’s decided to stay with the group to see if he could muscle it out but the other Chuck, Phill and Matt decided to stay with me to enjoy a more reasonable 20-22 mph ride in. Unfortunately Jesse heard us talking and said he’d like to hang with us. He’s a one time racer and has a ridiculous engine but because he’s slowed down a bit since becoming a father… I was afraid that he was the one solid link that would beat the rest of us to a pulp… I was right, and Jesse and I were the only two taking turns up front at first so I got hammered hard. After 20 minutes though, the lead group caught us and many of the guys (Jesse included) took up their pace. Phill and Jesse made it, Matt and Chuck tried and stayed for a while, and I didn’t make a move. I had a plan and I was sticking to it, even if that meant riding in alone. Two guys stuck with me and we caught Matt after a mile and picked up two more after they were spit off the back of the main group. From there on in, it was tough sledding because of the heat and the fact that I had to spend a considerable amount of time up front – and eventually even our meager 20 mph pace was too much for some of the guys in the heat. We ended up whittled down to just me and one other guy for the final 5 mile push into town.
I looked at the clock on my computer with three miles to go, to make sure we’d make it inside of 5 hours, my only real “goal” for the ride and it only took one look to know that we’d be okay. If we kept it at 20, we only needed nine minutes and we were at 4:44. I could darn-near hit that on a BMX bike. We crossed the 100 mile mark at 4:52:52. We sat up and rode in easy for the last mile taking almost five minutes, including the stoplight we got stuck at, to roll into the parking lot. It wasn’t my best century, but as long as I beat five hours (riding time), I’m a happy guy.
To wrap this up, my streak of consecutive cycling days is still going at 36 and 1,204 miles, though it’s not going to last much longer. They’re calling for a good chance of rain for the three of the next four days starting tomorrow afternoon. As I’m sure you can guess, I’m not going to bother riding in the rain after a streak like that. It’s time to let the legs recover for a minute.