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On Saturday I rode in the Capital-to-Capital Century ride, the first organized bicycle ride I've entered. The ride raises money and awareness for the still under construction Virginia Captial Trail connecting Jamestown and Richmond.<br><br>
Ever since my dad and I impulsively rode 50 miles together two years ago in northern MN I've been wanting to get into cycle touring, but marathon training has been the priority. Being on the DL from running and a lot of cross-training time brought me back into bike mode, so when another spinning instructor told me about this ride I signed right up, along with my SO. We both recently bought new bikes and were excited to take them on their first significant ride.<br><br>
The big question was, could we go 100 miles with little preparation on the road? I was nervous because I just made the change from hybrid to road bike and still am not used to the clipless pedal system as well as the lighter, responsive ride.<br><br>
We got to the start in Jamestown, looked over the cue sheets, and rolled out at 8 a.m. It was cloudy with temperatures in the upper 50s. Rain was forecasted for later in the afternoon, after the time we expected to finish. The route could be ridden as an out and back 50 mile, point to point 50 mile, or out and back 100 mile.<br><br>
The first leg was on the finished portion of trail. After that we were on a fairly busy two-lane highway before turning off to a quiet country road. As the slower, less-skilled rider, I led so my SO would not completely leave me in the dust. The first hour I kept a very easy pace, around 15 mph. We refilled bottles at the first rest stop and kept going. On this less trafficked road my confidence soared and we picked up speed. I was having a blast re-discovering the feeling of freedom you can get on a bicycle, enjoying the pretty countryside, and smelling the fragrant trees and spring blossoms. I was also thrilled to be doing something I'd wanted to do for such a long time.<br><br>
Mile 26 was the mid-point stop, where we again refilled and I had a Clif bar. It was strange to travel marathon distance and feel completely fresh. We continued on quiet country roads until the next stop at mile 38. I was feeling the tiniest bit fatigued here, and had half a bagel with peanut butter. There wasn't an ultramarathon-style buffet spread, but the rest stops allowed riders to fuel with granola bars, fruit, bagels, Gatorade and water. There was also a full lunch at the mid-point stop: BBQ or veggie burger, beans, cole slaw, chips, cookies, and plenty to drink. I didn't eat because the thought of riding on a full stomach seemed unappealing. Still, alll this plus a T-shirt for a $25 entry fee -- running race directors, take note!<br><br>
We were excited that the next stop would already be the mid-point, and no rain in sight. I was relieved to have NO pain in my butt at all, only the slightest fatigue in my legs on the few rolling uphills as well as tingling and stiffness in my hands from how I was holding the bars. I had quickly discovered that riding down the rollers frightens me, and I was gripping the brakes and tensing up on every downhill. This was the #1 skill I made a mental note to work on.<br><br>
Speaking of downhills, the ride started to go that way -- not so much literally as it was gently rolling throughout, but weather-wise. It was a good 4-5 hours before the rain was expected, but drizzling started as we neared Richmond and soon was a cold, steady shower. This would be a good time to note our complete and utter lack of rain gear. We were back on the busier two-lane highway getting close to the city, and traffic picked up. My SO was making me laugh because every time a huge pick-up sped past, he'd yell "******* Alert!" Humor aside, I was starting to seriously question my judgment in entering the event: a new road cyclist on wet, busy roads with next to no shoulder. Was I nuts? I was officially scared, but knew to relax because being frightened would only make me unsafe. I slowed the pace a bit and relied on deep breathing to stay calm.<br><br>
The worst point came trying to cross a busy highway. We made a false start, seeing a speeding car coming on after we had begun crossing. In a near panic, I barely got my foot clicked out and stopped safely in time to catch myself. That was a little too "thrilling" for me, and I had to take a few minutes to calm down. I felt like crying and my nerves felt completely shot. I told myself I had no business being out on the road like that without enough experience or skill level.<br><br>
Four more slow rainy miles and we were shivering under the 51-mile rest stop shelter area. Both of us were soaked and chilled; my usually hot-natured SO's teeth were chattering. I still felt no real fatigue physically, but with no weather-appropriate gear and rain predicted the rest of the day we opted for the SAG ride back. I also had some concerns about being too inexperienced and therefore unsafe on the route back, which was mainly on the busy two-lane highway with no real shoulder.<br><br>
It wasn't too disappointing to stop at that point, because the conditions had become so miserable. Going 51 miles out showed me without a doubt that I can do 100 and fully expect to the next time I enter a century on a day with good conditions and a bit more riding experience. Covering that distance at a comfortably brisk pace was infinitely easier than, say, racing a half marathon. It was encouraging to feel fresh and have no stiffness, chafing, or soreness except in my hands. My bike's saddle is a good fit indeed.<br><br>
Along the way, I was also able to identify half a dozen cycling skills to work on: the downhills, hugging the right better (I get a weird vertigo feeling when I ride close to the line like I'll fall into the ditch), riding one-handed to signal and drink, riding relaxed in traffic, and standing to climb -- this is no sweat on the hybrid but I can't find the right balance yet on the road bike. Until I feel more secure in my skills, it's probably better to stay on bike paths or multi-use trails, too.<br><br>
I plan to keep doing century rides as a low-pressure fitness activity and a very fun way to spend time with people and explore new places. I would do this ride again as it is now with more road experience and miles under my thin tires, and would sign up without thinking twice in 2010 when it will be entirely on the completed trail.
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