172.6 miles later these are my thoughts:
Immediately after the ride: I’m tired and I want an amazing cheeseburger and a beer!
Now, a few days later: I had a training plan but, like many, life happened and I just wasn’t able to put down the mileage I thought I needed to complete the ride.
Two months before the 170 mile ride I rode 85 miles on my own. I was miserable. I left that ride feeling completely defeated. My training routes had few hills compared to the 170 mile ride. And leading up to the ride, those last two months, I put in a few (less than five!!) fifty mile rides and a handful of 20-30s. Again, I was so nervous and felt so unprepared. Can I admit that within the first 20 miles of the ride I kept wanting to quit? I was so nervous and I felt nearly overwhelmed.
And then the crowds of bikers disappeared.
For the majority of the ride I was on my own. My team consisted of college friends and their coworkers, all guys, but they average 18-19mph on these distance rides and I knew I wouldn’t keep up. And I didn’t. But that turned out to be okay. I trained alone knowing I would ride alone and I am so glad I did that at the very least.
Being alone didn’t matter. The first day, 85 miles, was absolutely amazing once I got past my nerves. Even at the end when it was ALL MAJOR HILLS (!!!!) I absolutely loved it. The second day I was noticeably stiff to start but managed. Since we were returning on the same route the beginning of day 2 had most of the hills. I want to be honest and say there were twenty-thirty miles on day two when I didn’t think I could finish. My legs hurt. I wanted to quit. Each hill felt slower than the previous. They were slower! But something changed and the last 20 felt good/decent again. As good as I could feel with 150-something miles behind me!
I won’t lie. Parts of me hurt. My knees and especially from my saddle.
I think the key to finishing was fueling well during the entire ride (thanks to Matthias who spent countless times explaining the why’s and importance fueling often). That and finding inspiration. Or even just distractions.
For me, it helped to think of it as a bunch of short rides. It was a “bunch of 12 mile rides.” In reality the stations varied by a few miles but on day two that is what kept me going. I kept my stops as brief as possible but I only skipped two stops (one each day). When I felt my worst, because it wasn’t easy, I just had to get started. Once I started heading for the next stop I tried to focus on the people around me and the country side. I yelled out to some cows that I passed. They probably thought I was crazy… if cows think about such things!
I also had to find my inspiration. Visiting Auschwitz before the ride affected me deeply. Those people suffered so much and while I wasn’t riding for them I knew I could survive two days of biking. I also found inspiration in riders around me. One was a 75-year-old, diabetic man and this 170 mile ride was his 10th year completing it! In one of my last training rides I saw a man riding who only had one leg. I know he must have overcome so much and to still ride was amazing.
Here I am… 172.6 miles later (2.6 were from the finish of day 1 to the hotel and back for the start of day 2) and I’m still alive. Feeling not so bad and surprised that I can’t wait to get back on my bike! Work is going to get crazy so I won’t be around much and won’t be riding much either. I will just have to patiently wait through the next 10-12 weeks. I’m hooked.
(Side note: The Tour de Cure was run amazingly well. If you want to ever do a long, supported ride then choose TdC. Not only is it for a great cause but it really is an amazing ride because of the care and attention to detail by its organizers and volunteers. Thank you Tour de Cure Cary, NC!!! This was an amazing ride I will never forget and ALWAYS compare any future rides to.)