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My first century: the solo double granny (long)(8 posts)

My first century: the solo double granny (long)vindicator
May 20, 2003 12:48 PM
Please pardon the long, self congratulatory and self indulgent post. But I had to tell the story to someone who wouldn't answer with "why didn't you just drive?" And, no, the "double granny" doesn't refer to my choice of gearing, read on...

The lure of the century has attracted me like many of you, for a long time. Back when my wife and I both bought hybrids several years ago to do family rides on the local rails-to-trails routes, I thought "wouldn't it be cool to ride 100 miles?" but I never did. Of course, when I got into cycling for real, bought a road bike, and found out that organized "century rides" were an actual thing to do, the deal was sealed. I had to do one. I worked my way up to a half-century last fall, and vowed that after some reduced mileage for the winter, the Spring would see me top 100.

BUT, way back when, I thought the cool 100-miler would be to ride up to my grandma's farm just south of Springfield, IL, and I knew that that just HAD to be my first century. So when I signed up to do a charity century May 31, I knew I had to work a visit to grandma in there somewhere. And, hey, if training by riding the full distance of the event solo is good enough for J, it's good enough for me. With a nervous eye on the weather each day, Sunday May 18 became the day for the "solo double granny."

The route had some fun family connections. In order to avoid the hassle/impossibility of riding over the Mississippi, I decided to start from my other grandmother's house in Dupo, IL. The other cool thing is that Dupo has a street named after my great-grandfather, and there's another street near Springfield named after some other relatives (same last name as that grandmother), so I got to honor both grandmas by including streets carrying their last name on the route.

I was hoping for good temps, no rain, and a southwesterly breeze. Close, but no cigar. Temps were just on the cool side of perfect – and like an idiot I decided to leave my knee warmers in the car. Sky was overcast, which helped keep the sun at bay but brought some showers. I got misted on for an hour or so and lightly rained on for about 20 minutes. I had to stash my cue sheet in my pocket but otherwise the rain was no biggie. The worst weather deal, though, was a rare northeasterly breeze, so I had a direct headwind basically the whole way. Mainly it was in the light breeze category, though, so it wasn't too bad, but a few times it kicked up long enough to cause consternation and cursing.

I was determined to be "mostly" self sufficient knowing that there would be some convenience stores along the way but that at any given time the next one could be 20 miles away, I had two "magnum" water bottles with cytomax spiked with a touch of soy protein, one baggie with enough mix to make another such bottle, another baggie with some ibuprofen and a multivitamin, a 100 oz camelback with water, a banana, two flasks of hammergel, and a few fig newtons. I had a serving of Cytomax "preformance" and three ibuprofen about an hour before I set out. The banana, vitamin, and 3 more ibuprofen were for the 50 mile mark, with everything else to be consumed steadily over the duration.

The route had just about everything (except a mountain pass) – some intentional, some not. Dupo is a good old fashioned blue collar railroad town, and just north are some struggling towns, so I left grandma #1's house a bit before 7:00 a.m. riding alongside the railyard, enjoying a good blast of a train whistle which woke me up the rest of the way. Then across the tracks, past the beautiful scenery of trailer parks, pawn shops and "no credit check" auto dealers, two strip joints and an adjacent "spa" with "female attendants." Then "upscale" to strip mall and fast food city. Ah, the beauty of it all! Once I got out of the urban core, there was nice section where the state highway goes through a pretty stretch with some curves and hills before hitting the
Part 2vindicator
May 20, 2003 12:49 PM
Once I got out of the urban core, there was nice section where the state highway goes through a pretty stretch with some curves and hills before hitting the last of the "suburban St. Louis" towns – and the starting point of J's favorite brevets – Edwardsville, IL. After that, it was rather typical rural state highway – straight and flat (and breezy), connecting the dots of a few good old fashioned small towns (Edwardsville is an interesting combination of being the "last suburb" and the "first small town").

As it turned out, though, there was a stretch where Microsoft Streets and Trips had put me on a little-traveled local road for about 12 miles. Although it had some sketchy pavement, this road was a nice break from "straight and flat" syndrome. Plenty of curves, and even some climbs, descents, and woods! Dogs, too. I got three in succession, each of a different major type – the "stealth" type (a German Shepherd who silently ran alongside me in the field just off the road) – the "forward attacker" coming at me from about a 10 o'clock position heading for the front wheel – and the rear attacker trying to chase me off his property. Fortunately, they all turned out to be harmless.

Then, just past the 50 mile mark, came my next adventure and my Museeuw impression. I get to the end of the long local road, and I'm supposed to go 2 miles on another one into town before picking up another state highway. Right after I get on that road, though, the signs inform me that it's under construction. What that really means, I soon discover, is that the surface has been completely destroyed and they haven't repaved anything yet. I mean, we're talking a surface that you wouldn't want to drive on in a Hummer. And there's no other way into town that I can figure out, so it's 2 miles of riding on the moon at 10-11 mph, often standing to let my legs take the bumps instead of my butt. And, to continue the Paris-Roubaix theme, at the end of this simulated pave, what do I find but that Main Street in Carlinville, IL is the real thing! A genuine brick-paved street, but plenty smooth and very well maintained, leading into and around a very attractive town square. Here, I made my one and only supply stop, taking on 2L of water.

Then 30 more miles of "straight flat and windy" before I take the other "named" road of the trip. After a couple of miles, I caught sight of the old farm my late great uncle used to farm, now farmed by his son and another cousin (and where I spent every Easter Sunday growing up at the big family Easter egg hunt), I got my final adrenaline boost to carry me the last 10 miles or so, and I finished strong and feeling good.

Now, my grandma and I are huge Cardinals fans, and I'm about the only one left in the family she can talk baseball with (neither my Mom nor my uncle are sports fans). So I just laid down on the floor, put my feet up, and I watched the Cardinals beat the Cubs with my 93 year old grandma (and we were soon joined by my wife and daughters who drove up to join us and to bring me home). How can you beat that? I knew I was missing that day's Giro stage (and as it turns out, Cipo tying Binda's record), but so what. And I happened to have worn my "illegal" world champion's rainbow jersey for the ride, so at least I was with Cipo in that sense on the day he tied the record.

My goals were: a) to finish; b) to finish strong; c) to get to 100 miles in under 6 hours pedaling time; and d) to do the second 50 faster than the first. Missions accomplished!

50 miles – 2:55:?? (pedaling time)
100 miles – 5:48:?? (pedaling time)
last 6 miles at 18-19+ mph
total distance 106.3 miles
total pedaling time 6:09:18
total elapsed time approx. 6:35
Finished with about 32 oz of water and 2-3 servings of hammergel to spare

There were a couple of short stretches where my legs felt shot (or like they were "about" to be shot), my rear end hurt, and the wind was getting to me, but
Brief conclusionvindicator
May 20, 2003 12:50 PM
There were a couple of short stretches where my legs felt shot (or like they were "about" to be shot), my rear end hurt, and the wind was getting to me, but mostly I felt pretty good the whole way and I really did feel great the last few miles and at the end.

Looking ahead, I'm looking forward to the organized century on the 31st, but can't say I have the urge to do any doubles or even metric doubles. I'm also wondering mightily about the wisdom of the MS150 in September. While I wasn't as dead as I thought I'd be yesterday, I can't say I woke up feeling like riding another 75-100 miles having just done 106 on Sunday. Hmmm.....
Brief conclusionRich_Racer
May 20, 2003 2:17 PM
Congrats. Sounds good. Generally the first century is always a bit of a mixed experience. If you keep with the training though you'll find it easier and you'll want to do more.
good jobbianchi boy
May 20, 2003 3:15 PM
You made pretty good time for your first century, particularly since it was solo. The best part about centuries, to me, is they make all of your regular 40, 50 and 60 mile rides seem like a piece of cake. I've been waiting for the right day to tackle a solo century myself. I've ridden a number of centuries with just one other rider, but not solo.
Nice writing. I enjoyed reading it very much nmContinental
May 20, 2003 6:53 PM
Brief conclusionavitar1
May 21, 2003 4:23 AM
Great story. I enjoyed reading it. I look forward to my first century (group) ride this summer.
headwinds, bad roads, dogs, non-sceneryJS Haiku Shop
May 21, 2003 5:29 AM
F#$% ILLINOIS!

very nice report, sounds like a good ride, and reads like you spent not too much time off the bike--awesome!

my grandmother remarried and moved to southern illinois when i was a little one. in my pre-teen years i spent many a summer with them, including a drive about 300 miles north from memphis. they'd drive down, collect me, and drive back to IL. not such a bad trip, until you consider my (step) grandfather driving along non-highways at around 35 mph the entire way, stopping frequently. oh, and they were both deaf. they both passed in the last 18 months.

i'll "enjoy" the penultimate 2003 dose of Illinois this weekend, a final (bad) taste of long, straight, flat roads into constant nagging winds. the south part of our route is supposed to be "scenic", so at least there will be some variety this time. weather looks to be nice. one more trip later this year for the MV24.

keep up the good riding! there's no better reason to complete long rides than a love for, and to honor, your grandmother. i've been doing it since february.

-J