Let me first say this: this ride was the most amazing thing I’ve done in a very long time. The route, my newly rebuilt rear wheel (who cares that the front wheel doesn’t match?), the distance, the breaks, and last but not least, my family in tow. The only thing it lacked was a worthy ending. I’ll get to that.
- Start time – 0730
- Temperature – 72ºF
- Humidity – 85%
- Winds – <5 mph
Where is my Mind?
The Pixies definitely rang thru my head at the start of this ride. What was I thinking? I rode 82 miles in a previous ride, but I was a wreck at the end of it. I had my doubts before but they were quickly snuffed out before the day arrived. Now, being in the saddle was a different story. The ride thru The Villages, all I could think of was my potential failure. 100 miles? No way.
In any case, I did actually keep my head straight at the start despite its betrayal. My wife helped me by creeping off to the side of my route as I passed by my parents’ neighborhood. All I can ever do is smile in her presence.
As I exited the retirement compound, my mind and my body went into super-ride mode! I don’t know how it happened but I just had a rush of energy that would keep me going until my first break. Highway 42 is an amazing road to ride, mostly due to it’s abundant foliage and resulting shade. By the time I hit this road, the temperature had already risen, but the humidity was staying strong, so the shade was most welcome. The heat kept rising, but it was still bearable. But, I could feel that it would make itself a force to deal with soon. Then, the family came!
I don’t think there’s anything better than seeing your wife’s vehicle covered in shoe polish-written words of encouragement. After seeing this, I couldn’t help but feel better about this ride. Energy wave #2!
As I pulled into my first break at mile 37, I was feeling great. My pace was above what I had expected to maintain, but I felt much better than expected. Not tired one bit. The constant nibbling on Cliff Bars, a Cliff gel every 45 mins to 1 hour along with a Salt Stick pill helped immensely. So, I enjoyed a refreshing 15 minute break with my wife and my mom, who came along for the ride.
The next portion of the ride would be all uncharted territory for me (on a bike). But, the Ocala National Forest proved to be everything I hoped for in the end. There were nice, clean shoulders to ride on, and very smooth asphalt the entire way thru.
Near the exit of the Forest, I received a nice welcome to my long break at mile 60. Chairs, a small meal (PB sandwich and a banana), and cheers from the family! It was perfect timing too as my rear was starting to get sore. But, I took about 45 minutes here, mostly to allow time for the fuel to hit my body. Then, I headed out once again.
The damnedest thing happened too. I somewhat sensed that I might need some high sugar intake at some point in the near future, so I asked my wife to buy some Coke. Do I drink it?
It wasn’t Part of the Plan!
The East portion of Ocala National Forest is pretty amazing. It’s a different kind of Forest than I’m used to (which consist mostly of pine and aspen trees). There’s broad-leaved trees everywhere…and armadillos. In any case, the other thing it is, is flat and straight. So, I basically zoned out for quite some time, aided by the numbering system spray-painted on the shoulder (I counted from 460 to 783). This was bad. By zoning out I had neglected my nourishment and forgotten to drink and nibble on a Cliff Bar 4 or 5 times as well as forgotten a Salt Stick pill and gel. So, my sugars dropped pretty heavily right around mile 85.
Ashamed, I drank some Coke. There’s nothing like pure sugar to get your sugars back up to normal. It was a well-needed boost and the rest of the Eastbound route flew by.
I could tell the coast was coming by the increasing cars in Ormond Beach, but it seemed like an eternity before the big bridge to the barrier islands came. This climb was enormous for Florida standards (it’s a draw bridge that allows very large ships under it). Unfortunately, I didn’t record it, but oh well. It was a great climb, and considering how tired I felt before it, I flew up it and came down a more healthy, energized man.
Take a Coast up the Coast – The A1A
There’s something amazing about the ocean. Just seeing it made all my fatigue go away. From here on out, it was one hell of a ride. The ocean on my right, my steed below me and nothing but the sound of waves crashing onto the beaches in my ears – that and the 20 mph side-wind.
Despite the winds, the A1A was such a great stretch of road to be on. But, as you can see to the left, clouds were rolling in and the much anticipated torrential downpour of rain was steamrolling its way to the east coast. I was so into the scenery and the fact that I was at mile 90, that I didn’t even realize how little space on which I was riding.
I also didn’t notice how rough the A1A is either. Not until I tried to take a bite to eat and almost dropped my food! I tried several things to get out of the funks that now became apparent to me. First, I slowed the pace, then tried to go to the walking path on the other side (which turned out to be more windy and bumpier). It seemed that I would end on a more difficult note. It still wouldn’t be a bad note, right?
Into Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall
And fall it did. It started slow, slow enough for me to keep going. At mile 98, I felt the urge to scream at the sky for ruining the end to a perfect century ride. Maybe the sky heard me…the rain kept falling, but didn’t really get bad. Mile 99…still going, still semi-blind from the water on my glasses. Mile 100! Get me into a car!
My wife had kept on stopping throughout the ride every 10 miles or so, just to make sure I was still alive, I suppose. She had stopped to take some pictures right around mile 90, when the rain started to make its presence known. So, I figured it wouldn’t be long now.
Well, the universe just worked enough for me that day. Now it was done. Mile 101, the winds picked up and the rain started falling harder. Mile 102, harder. Mile 103, lightning. Mile 104, torrential downpour.
I immediately stopped and frantically tried to use my phone to dial my wife, who was waiting about 2 miles up the road at Varn Park. Turns out, iPhones don’t recognize your freezing, wet hands in the rain. So I’ll try voice activation. All the noise from the wind and rain make it impossible for the phone to recognize anything I say.
Until, I finally get a call from her. We figure out where I am, and she came to pick me up. Ride’s over. I’m sopping wet and freezing cold. The only thing I can think of is how much awesomeness I missed out by actually ending my ride where I planned to do so – Varn Park, with my wife, dog, mom and dad waiting for me.
I guess you can’t have everything, right?
104.5+ miles in one ride. So much fun!
Turns out my wife had banners made up and streamers to throw in my face as well as silly-string to cover me with. What a woman I married – almost as excited as I was to finish.
I know it’s not a word. Neither is stategery, but a president used that word.
I’m starting to really feel like a cyclist these days. All I talk about is cycling (and some video games), all I do is cycling (and play some video games) and all I can think about is cycling. This ride was sort of a testament to that fact. I can’t go a couple minutes without thinking about getting on my bike and it’s starting to show in my rides. Not only is my stamina a hell of a lot better than it was 4 months ago, but my enjoyment level is thru the roof. This ride was no exception. Completing it is the most incredible thing I’ve done…ever.