The weather apps sent our gang into tizzy Saturday night. My messaging service blew up. Mostly my buddy, Chuck. I would post the im’s here, but it boils down to every variant of WTF that you can think of. Everyone but Dark Sky called for a 50/50 chance of a washout. Dark Sky forecast a 4% chance…
I put the good wheels on the Trek and dialed in the rear derailleur.
By the time I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, I was expecting to be bummed. I was happily mistaken. The Weather Channel had dropped all expectations of rain till after 2pm. Dark Sky stood firm where they’d been the night before, Accuweather said we were good till 2 and the local aviation weather said we were 12% till after 4pm. I’m a weather junky, what can I say?
Tires pumped, water bottles filled, kit laid out. I ate some breakfast and rinsed it down with copious amounts of coffee. Then the fog rolled in. Dammit.
I readied, loaded the truck and rolled for the start line. The fog was only an issue for the first mile or two… when we were trying to work our way through the slower starters at 22-mph.
Photos from last year’s A-100. Too fast for photos this year.
With the crowd fading in the rearview, we put the hammer down and never looked back. We picked up a couple of groups, including some strong cyclists from the Hope Water Project. We remained up front doing much of the work for almost fifty miles but their stronger people contributed well to the effort. I overheard a few wondering aloud if we were going to pull the whole way – it felt good.
I was, along with many of my friends, in my Affable Hammers’ jersey and one of the HWP guys rode up alongside me and said, “Man, you guys really live up to that jersey.” I felt pride for our group. We were crushing it, holding a solid 23 – 24-mph, but living in the shadow of our 25-mph A group, it’s sometimes easy to discount how far we’ve come.
We rolled into the lunch stop, 54-ish miles in, with a 21-1/2-mph average – an amazing effort by the B Group. We’ve only been that fast once before, but we had a train of sixteen A guys to pull us down the road. We ate quick and readied to roll out but the Hope Water group wanted to wait for someone who’d just come in. We rolled on without them – a decision I didn’t feel great about, but I wasn’t staying back in protest, either.
We ended up meeting at the 72 mile rest stop, and this time we waited for them to get fed and watered before rolling. They were about two or three minutes back of us when they rolled in but we figured “bigger group, less work”. From that rest stop on, things got tough. I’d spent the first half of the ride up front every chance I got and I was paying for it. Fortunately, some of the Hope Water folks were legit (I mean that they were more legit than us) and they’d started taking big turns up front way back 40 miles ago. We’d lost a couple, but there was one fella in particular, a racer, who really stepped up. Dude was freaking amazing. He’d take four-mile long turns at the front, into the wind, at 24-mph. The rest of us struggled to get a mile up front in those conditions.
I’d staked out a position pretty far back, so I only got to the front a couple of times. I could feel my legs wanting to cramp up – you know that point where your legs are just on the verge of a cramp, but not quite there yet? As if your body is saying, “Hey there, bucko… you’d better knock that $#!+ off or I’m gonna hurt you”. Yeah, that was me.
I pushed through it, though, getting out of the saddle every chance I got.
We passed up the last rest area at pace, something like fifteen short miles from home. We hadn’t seen a cloud that even gave the hint of precipitation all morning long, and while the wind was picking up a bit, it was obvious we were going to make it. Chuck deemed the Hope Water guy our MVA – Most Valuable Animal, and he earned that title on the way back. We had one issue three miles from base, the youngest member of our group, a fourteen year-old boy, was trying his hardest not to puke on his top tube, so we slowed it down once he caught his breath at a busy intersection.
We pulled into the parking lot, 100.8 official miles, in 4:46:44 ride time. A 21-mph average, on the nose. For our rabble, the effort was Herculean. We’re only 1/2 to 1-mph faster on our 30 mile Tuesday night ride. Folks, our tongues were dangling down by our spokes much of the last 30 miles, but it was all laughs, hi-fives, and pats on the back in the parking lot. And we didn’t get hit with even a drop of rain. The weather held for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. We were on our way home from packing up at 6:20 when it finally drizzled a little bit.
One last note. There are a few in our club that read this blog, I’ve known about that for some time, and let me tell you friends, the thought is nerve-wracking. As I was making my way to the car, to head home to shower, a fella I’d never seen before approached and said, “Hey, you’re the guy that writes that blog!” My jaw didn’t literally hit the grass, but it was close. He went on to say that he enjoyed reading and that he didn’t know if I was paid to write, but I should be (you hear that Specialized?), and that he really enjoyed reading my posts, that it was neat to find someone with such a passion for cycling. Friends, I can’t put it into words.
To you, my friend, please don’t forget that I had “100 miles-at-21-mph-brain”, I was cooked. And I completely messed up, because I was so taken aback. I didn’t even catch your name, where you ride out of, or whether or not you want to ride with us in the future. Brother, I am truly, deeply sorry for not being a better host. I’ve never had that happen to me before, and I was a little dumbfounded. If you’re interested, we’ll be at the Lennon Wesleyan Church Tuesday evenings at 6 (though tomorrow looks to be a washout and I won’t show if it’s gnarly… I need the rest more than the miles this week). You already know, wherever you fit in the food chain, we’ve got a group for you to ride with. If you can’t make it, and should I not see you until next year’s A-100, thanks for making writing worth it. Thank you. Ride hard, my friend.