If you want to ride a century ride, do it right. Do not do it as I did. I have plenty of miles in the saddle this year. Lots of time on the bike. However, practically none of my rides really prepared me for this past weekend. I feel like I survived the 2017 National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Finger Lakes Challenge. It should be that I had a blast riding the Finger Lakes Challenge (I did!) but I should feel a whole lot better after I finished than I do. Short rides, no matter how many, are not sufficient for training for a century.
I ride about 17 miles each ride. When I commute, that is 34 miles a day. In the chart above, you can see that I am pretty consistent with my distances. There is a spike in June for the Tour de Cure and a spike in July for the Finger Lakes Challenge.
The Tour de Cure wasn’t bad; nice weather and a flat route. The Finger Lakes Challenge on the other hand… Well the weather was nice; nice and windy! That wind kicked my butt on Saturday. It was a stiff headwind most of the time and it was combined with some steep hill climbing. I saw signs for 10% and 14% gradient hills. Gradient is another name for slope. If you recall from high school math class, slope is determined by rise over run. That is, how many feet up divided by how many feet forward. (times 100 to get the percent). That means the 10% gradient hill was approximately ten feet up for every one hundred feet forward. The fourteen percent gradient was fourteen feet up for every one hundred feet forward. Those are steep hills to climb! They are equally steep to descend, too. One of these hills at least, was a winding, steep, gravel covered road that I had never been on before.
Fortunately, for me, there was no on-coming traffic when I was descending. I could not see any on-coming traffic due to the winding curves. Additionally, I didn’t know what was at the bottom of the hill. Squealing brakes all the way down…. What was at the bottom? A bridge and then a steep climb up the other side!
The weather was great. It had rained overnight but cleared by morning. However, when I got to rest area number two (the first one I stopped at) nobody was allowed to leave due to a thunder storm alert. I gained some notoriety because I didn’t get the message that we couldn’t leave and left. There was a lot of screaming and radio contact, but in the end they let me go and everyone else followed. We did not hit any bad weather. Clear skies and sunshine.
I was in the lead! It is not a race, but it is competitive, no matter what they say. After five or so miles I was overtaken and passed and in the number two position. A little later, there was another rest stop. I skipped this since it was so soon and I did not want to be stopped again. On this ride, you have to leave the lunch stop by 1:00 or they take you off the route. That happened to me last year and I did not want it to happen again this year. So I went past the rest stop and back into the number one position. I was in the lead, again.
I stopped at the next rest stop which again was not very far. Of course I was the first person to stop there – I was the lead person on the ride. Nobody else stopped at this rest stop. I never saw the leaders again. Good thing this is not a race and is non competitive.
The rest of the day I continued to fight the wind and climb the hills. I was being whupped! There was a little rain from miles 49 to 51 and then it cleared up again. Around mile 58 we had our lunch stop. When I left this rest stop I was riding with two other people, one of them an angel from Buffalo. She was one of the sweepers for the ride. She stayed with me until the end of the ride. By the end of the ride I was completely bushed. My butt felt like a baboon’s looks.
Although the general topology of the route was upwards for the first half of the ride and downwards for the second half, the wind was such that it felt like uphill 90% of the time. There were only a few times when a turn in the road really made it feel like a tail wind. I wish there were a way to see the wind pattern on a map at the same time as seeing the route (I mean aside from doing something manually) We did get to do the 10% and 14% gradient hills again as well. The second time was better than the first, even though I was exhausted. At least I knew what was at the bottom and the loose gravel was on the uphill side this time.
You can check out the actual route by going to https://ridewithgps.com/routes/19841814 . Sunday’s route was much flatter. You can see it at https://ridewithgps.com/routes/19690832 . The only real highlight of Sunday’s route will not show up on the map.
The Geneva police escorted us through Geneva at the beginning of the ride. We did not have to stop for any intersections. Plus, it was early in the morning so there really wasn’t much traffic. It was one of those times like from a movie when the sound of the bicycles was the loudest noise. Very cool!
You can also check the ride out on strava.com. Many riders have recorded their ride on this site, me included. My un-official time for Saturday were: 7:49:25, average speed was 12.5 MPH, and a maximum speed of 37.7 MPH. Sunday was 4:06:32, 13.6 MPH and 35 MPH.
If you have never done a Bike MS ride, you should really consider it. It is a tremendous amount of fun, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and really helps those who have MS. There are tons of volunteer opportunities as well. For instance, there were masseuses at one of the rest stops where you could get a five-minute chair massage. There was also a masseuse at the end of the ride. I took advantage of both.
You can still support my efforts financially until mid August. Just go to http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/Simmons and pledge some money.
As a little aside, I usually camp out at these events. Its cheaper (yes that is my main motivator) its fun, and I get to use my camping gear. This year we had to camp indoors! Talk about roughing it. But you know what? It was still cheap, fun, and I still used my camping gear.
The campus and facilities of Hobart William Smith college are really nice. It was another great place to host the Finger Lakes Challenge. Other places it has been held are Keuka College, New York Chiropractic College, Swain Ski Resort, and Keuka State Park.
Do you think you would like to ride a hundred miles on a bike? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.
Don’t forget, you can support me financially at no cost to yourself by clicking through www.bicyclingiswork.com/blog/amazon. If you make a purchase after clicking through, I will receive a tiny referral fee – again, at no additional cost to you. Please do it. Please do it often, and please tell your friends too.