Saturday morning D-Wayne and I headed over to Tanglewood park to find a misty field waiting for us to park... along with a long line of cars being directed by volunteers. It was an awesome sight to see a line of headlights through the mist but my iPhone just wasn't going to do the scene justice. It wasn't due to a lack of time either - it took us nearly 15 minutes to get parked. Since we were heading out to attempt a century we had an early start time so it was time to hustle to get everything prepped and snag some free breakfast.
Nope. D-Wayne's valve snaps on his front wheel as he's pumping up. I throw him my tube strapped to my seat. No good. He gets my secondary (brand new so it should work) tube and we are back in business. By now breakfast isn't an option - so I eat half a clif bar and we decide that we will just have to pig out at the rest stops. We line up, get quick directions (no cue sheets) and we roll while most riders enjoy breakfast.
D-Wayne and I headed out and let the field stretch out a little bit as some take off hot. We got into a nice groove and found some riders holding on to us. We traded back and forth for a bit and catch a larger train with a team of 5-6 riders carrying the front. I don't have much experience riding in a pace line but I do know that it can be very beneficial - especially on such a long ride. So we settle in and enjoy the ride. Frustration with odd pacing (slowing on the down hills so that entering the next hill is just a total mess) and accept that it is far better to allow those that are doing the work to dictate the pace. They did push hard at times so we were flying along without any rotation - it seemed as if one rider was pulling the whole time! We skipped the first aid station at about 10 miles and D-Wayne and I discussed whether or not to stop at the second. Intelligence would dictate that we should - we hadn't eaten breakfast and it would be important to stay hydrated to keep cramps away. But on the other hand, did we want to give up on these free pulls?? Luckily for us the leading team pulled into the rest stop - decision made.
The weather was absolutely perfect - sunny, mid-70s... just gorgeous! I grab some peanut butter and jelly wedges and fill up a bottle with gatorade. I inquired as to who was pulling the whole time so I could thank him and was informed that it was mostly two of their riders trading pulls. I thanked the team as a whole and we rolled out again together. As we approached rest stop three, and the start of the first extra loop to make the century ride, I figured it would be a mass push forward - it wasn't. Our leading team stopped again (about 10 miles after our last stop) and D-Wayne and I push on alone. A duo coming out of the rest stop jumps on our wheels and we pull them along until the first steep climb of the ride. D-Wayne had pulled off prior to the climb so I took the lead up. Halfway through I decided to pull off to let the fresher riders go on, and on they did. As D-Wayne and I regrouped up at the top of the hill I used the duo as a carrot to get the pace back up and push forward. I comment to D-Wayne how happy I was that we weren't in the train as we hit that hill as it would have been an absolute mess.
The roads on this loop were great (although a bit rough) and I seemed to be able to just push the pace as I slowly started to reel in the duo ahead. I tried to be mindful of the total mileage we were attempting and not put too much into my effort, but there was something about the road that made it seem easy to go fast. There seems to be this magical sweet spot for me where the pitch is just perfect that it makes me just go - almost like I'm on one of those moving walkways in the airport- the ground seems to give me a little extra pull as I crank away. We never did catch the duo - but they provided great motivation.
Police presence was great at major intersections, allowing use to ride right through many of them. We were cruising, looking forward to the next rest stop when the signage got a little confusing. We crossed a main route and were coming up a short little hill where we saw some green arrows pointing to bare to the right. Green was the color of the markers we were following, but our markers were arrows with TTT under them... these arrows had no TTT... we warily made the turn but start to slow as something felt wrong. D-Wayne knew the road these arrows were taking us and noted that they were pretty hilly. As we slowed a team of riders came up behind us. We called out that we weren't sure this was the correct way but they decreed that it was the correct way since there were green arrows.
Something in me told me this was wrong, and my motivation started to wane as we grinded up some hills. D-Wayne and I call BS on this route and pull over to check our phones (as cue sheet would have been MIGHTY handy). WRONG! We headed back and as we were getting back on track we stopped a couple other riders from making the wrong choice. We got to the next stop and boy it was a great one! They had a number of baked good available. I enjoyed some brownies, peanut butter and jelly wedges, trail mix, pickles, and a little more pickle juice for good measure. My legs were starting to feel the ride, but I was good as far as cramps go. I filled up my bottle with gatorade (I had two bottles I was rotating through them) and we hit the road.
It was slow coming out of the rest stop as we had been pretty leisurely and we were not intermixed with some of the shorter route riders. As we were climbing a slight incline I had to duck behind a slower rider as a car was passing. When I went to go around all of a sudden my chain slipped off the front derailleur to the inside - I was able to back pedal and get it back on, but that was weird. Shortly the routes split and it was back on the century loop. As we took the left to leave the masses my chain dropped to the outside. The F? For no reason there was massive chain drag against the front derailleur. We stopped and D-Wayne adjusted a couple things to get it working good enough, with the warning to carefully shift to the big ring to avoid dropping to the outside. At this point we were 46 miles in. The detour and the random shifting issues were dampening the mood of the ride a bit - but we got back to the task at hand.
Ok - so we are only halfway through and this seems to be turning into a novel, so thank you if you've made it this far!! For your sake, and maybe to help fill in those who bailed earlier, I will stop here today and pick up the ride again tomorrow. Hopefully the official ride pictures will be posted online so I can share those in the next couple days as well.