Saturday, 09 October, 2004

Debra Does A Century

Six months after the first time she rode more than 10 miles on a bicycle, Debra completed her first 100 mile ride.

Today was the 17th annual Round Rock Outlaw Trail Century bicycle tour.  We started this morning at 8:00 along with 600 other riders who were doing distances from 10 to 100 miles.  The weather was cool, mid 60's, it was cloudy, and the wind was out of the north at about 15 MPH with higher gusts.  Perfect weather except for the wind.  Fortunately the ride headed north first, so we got most of the hard "into the wind" work done at the beginning of the ride.  There were rolling hills throughout most of the course.  At the 40 mile mark we turned south and got a good 10 miles of tail wind, which was especially nice across the Granger Lake dam:  smooth flat road that had us ripping along at 20 MPH almost effortlessly.

Somehow we both missed a turn shortly after the 55 mile mark and ended up going a couple of miles out of the way.  We'd brought the map along, though, so rather than having to turn around and go back, we were able to find a county road that took us back to the route.  Things got a little tough after that, though.  We were the last riders to get to the 65 mile checkpoint and we were pushing the time limit for the 75 mile checkpoint.  At about 85 miles we turned into the wind on an upslope for a couple of miles, and it was tough on Debra--probably the hardest part of the ride.  But she put her head down and just cranked through it with a minimum of complaining: certainly no more than I would have done on my first century.

We finished the ride, 100.75 miles (the official route was 98.3), in eight hours and 52 minutes, with 8 hours of riding time.  That's a moving average of 12.5 MPH, and an overall average including stops of about 11.4 MPH.  Not world record pace by any means, but quite acceptable for a first outing.  Heck, just finishing is quite an accomplishment!

Debra wasn't exactly a couch potatoe before she started riding with me in April, but she'd never been an endurance athlete.  We started out slowly:  30 to 40 minute rides three times per week, with a longer ride on the weekend.  We built up slowly, adding no more than 10 percent to the long ride distance every week.  Her original goal when she started was to be able to ride the last 100 miles of the trip to Harlingen (see my April 1 entry) with me next year.  In August, when I realized how well her training was going, we decided to try her out on the Round Rock ride, which is a bit easier than the Kingsville to Harlingen leg of that trip.  If she wants to continue the training, I think she'll be able to make the full ride (3 days, 350 miles) with me.

Slow and steady progress is the answer.  There's no quick way to get your body into shape for doing these kinds of events.  At least no safe quick way.  By making continual small improvements, you can accomplish great things over time, and do it without injury or burnout.  It's the same with most other things:  weight loss, learning a new skill, etc.  At the end, you find that the challenge is in the training, not in the final result, and the satisfaction of completing the event is greater because you can look back on the entire training and planning process as a huge accomplishment.  To me, it's much more satisfying and less painful than trying to do something that I'm not sure I'm ready for.