Sometime after my last triathlon (not necessarily last ever, just the last one I did), I decided I wanted to train for and ride the MS150. Then we had the whole Type One diagnosis, life got crazy, and I polled Facebook for some other options. The specific ride wasn’t important; the goal was a century ride: 100 miles on a bike in one day.
The Shiner GASP was the overwhelming winner of reviews, suggestions, and tips. It is known for being hilly and windy, but also for being a great ride. I got serious about training, followed a plan, and got signed up for the ride.
I was a ball of nerves the week before. Mr. Gray suggested he ride with me. My mom suggested she drive as my “posse” (SAG team). I had no idea what to do with the boy. I didn’t do as well on my last long ride (which actually should have been my second to last long ride, but I just plain ran out of training time) as I would have liked. I was trying to figure out how to get everyone everywhere and how I was actually going to finish when I really wasn’t sure about it all. I called my mom and Mr. Gray off. I told them to drop me off in Austin and meet me in Shiner. I decided even if I couldn’t do the whole thing, we’d call that my last long training ride and sign up for another. The knot in my stomach moved to my throat for the last few days. I was ill on the way to packet pick up in Shiner. It seemed like the craziest, and maybe worst, idea ever. Then I talked a little too big on social media:
Not “could be,” or “should be” a century rider, “will be.” Why? Why would I say that when I felt nothing of the sort?
So we left for Austin much later than we intended Friday night. We finally settled in much later than I wanted. Every external battery I own was plugged in and charging. I wanted my phone GPS to track me all 100 miles. I wanted it there where I could go back and look anytime I wanted. I woke up plenty early, knots still in my stomach and throat. I got dressed, my boys got dressed. They dropped me off at the start line. (What? They weren’t staying until the start? That’s what happens when your five year old is growing like a weed. He wakes up starving.)
I got set, adjusted all (alllllllll) my gear, and made small talk with a few folks while waiting to start. It was a different atmosphere than running. Lots of groups of riders who ride together regularly.
Some folks singled out, but still not as much talking and chatting. We started without much fanfare. A quick rendition of the National Anthem, and off we went. No guns, no chip times, just rolling through the banner.
I lagged back a little at the start; I didn’t want to navigate through all the riders on the way out. As soon as I was out of the start line, though, I was off and going. My first hour was the best time I have had since I started riding a few years ago. I was feeling great, I was zipping along, it was all good.
I was feeling fabulous through the “half-way” point in McMahan (it was actually 45 miles, so not quite half). I grabbed my pizza, per tradition, at Whizzerville Hall, downed some more Energize, and headed back out.
Things were still rolling along until about mile 70-something. My back was killing me; I couldn’t feel my left leg; and I was ready to be done. I was planning all my “social media let down posts” in my head: I had made it farther than any of my training rides. I was hurting. I may or may not have been riding on the very edge of the shoulder trying to get a flat–that would make for a great post. After a few miles of that, at mile 76, I called Mr. Gray and told him to come get me. I stretched while we talked, told him I was going to pedal until he got there and hung up.
He got there a mile or so later. I crossed to the driveway he was parked in, threw my bike at him, cried, and headed for the passenger side. He wasn’t having it. I was crying because I wanted to be done. I was crying because I wanted to make it 100 miles. I was so conflicted. He stretched me out, got my leg back in working condition, made me another Energize and told me he’d see me in Flatonia. I reluctantly got back on the bike and started pedaling. I passed my mom just a few minutes later. I thought maybe I could convince her to pick me up.
I crossed I-10, pulled into the outskirts of Flatonia, and couldn’t get either one of them to let me in their vehicle.
We stopped at the aid station in Flatonia, Mr. Gray stretched me out again, I got more water, loaded up and headed out. By then, I was close enough that I had some will power again. Until I pulled out of town to an immediate uphill battle.
I stopped at the bottom and waited for my beloved husband to come up behind me. He did, with the window down, and said, “Go! I’ll see you in Moulton.” I could have cried (again). But I didn’t. I shifted gears and pedaled on about my way. People were walking their bikes, and I was determined not to do that. I stayed on and kept going. We were inside the twenty mile mark.
I had a Chapstick stop between Flatonia and Moulton, and my mom warned me that the course went into town instead of staying on 95 (that was becoming a pattern I was less-than-thrilled with throughout the day). As I turned up the (small) hill in Moulton, I saw my mom, dad, husband, and son all there. They jumped back in their cars, and met me at the next aid station. I ate, drank some more Energize, and hit the road. I was back to my cruising speed and feeling really good again. It was too close to the end not to be.
I have driven those roads from Flatonia to Shiner a million times. It’s never seemed soooooooo far in any of those drives! I had read in a review that once you saw a sign for two miles to Shiner there was one more hill and then home free. I was on the lookout for that sign. I never saw it, but I did see the brewery. It was total body relief when I did. I have NEVER been so overcome with emotion. I lost it. I could barely breathe, barely pedal. I had to get it together. Lots of deep breaths, and I finally did.
I remembered a similar feeling as I turned down the last stretch of my first half marathon. It was much less intense, but the same thing. It took over my entire being. It was so consuming. The relief. The shock. The stress. The culmination of it all. The brewery was in sight, and the next time I saw it, I WOULD be a century rider.
My mom and dad pulled ahead to get to the finish (then she turned around when she realized she could get the shot above). Mr. Gray and the boy were already there. I could see it. I could feel it. It was real.
As I turned into the corral, some bystanders decided to walk through.
That’s them, there, on the left of the frame. I don’t know that I have ever screamed so loud or been so mad at actual people in my whole entire life. I had just ridden a hundred miles, and I couldn’t cross the finish line without people being inconsiderate? Nice.
But then I actually crossed the finish line, and it was glorious, even if my face still doesn’t look like it!
I was so tired, so done, so over it, but I had done it! I finished! Those last twenty-four miles were the hardest fought miles I have ever ridden, but they were so worth it.
I cried (again) when I finished. We waited around for some of the guys who were behind me to finish so I could chat with them. We all agreed: it was the worst idea we had ever had, but it was DONE!
On the way out of town, we stopped and took the picture I had been dreaming of for months:
Then my dad stopped on his way by and handed me my favorite sugar cookies, which I promptly demolished.
When we got home, I made Mr. Gray let me out at the end of the driveway; you see, my phone only had me at 97.39 miles. I paused it when I got off at the brewery and restarted it when he let me out. I threw my helmet back on, jumped back in the saddle, and rode until it crossed the 100 mile mark. I earned every bit of that, and I wanted it to be official. And it is.