I did my first century a couple weekends ago. The Zion Country Century in St George is something I’ve had my eye on since the weather started changing last fall. Instead of riding on an indoor trainer, I got some good cold weather gear and rode outside all winter long. That was a ton of fun training for this ride. Obviously a few winter rides couldn’t prepare me for such a long ride so early in the season, but a little training was better than none. One of the draws of this ride was to get out of the winter cold in Salt Lake and enjoying the warmth down south. Some terrible twist of bad luck brought the wet and cold weather down for the day of our ride (but of course the day before and after were beautiful). It still felt warm for us, but the riders from Vegas were dying!
Starting out was fun. Lots of people were there, our best guess was 650-700 riders, from all over on all kinds of bikes. The first few miles were on a winding bike path right next to the river. They provide four distance options from 25 to 100 miles. This ride had a number of great rest stops with encouragement and restrooms, but most importantly water, fruit, granola bars, and Subway sandwiches.
I was under the impression (not that it would have swayed me to not go) that there was not much climbing involved. Now I don’t mind climbing, but often less is more. The hills ended up being pretty big and long and frequent, but the hills were a breeze compared to the headwind (no pun intended)! The last 20 miles before the turnaround were so painful with the wind. I couldn’t hardly stay above 10 miles per hour on flat ground! Like everyone, I ran out of energy, and would get a second wind, then run out, third wind, repeat… I found new meaning to feel the burn.
After lunch at the turnaround, that headwind became a tailwind and hallelujah! We regrouped and flew back on that awful flat between 26 and 29 miles per hour without too much difficulty. Then a couple more hills, more suffering, then it started to rain. I’ve ridden in the rain and snow all winter so in anticipation I had all the right clothing on so I was good to go (minus my non-covered shoes). I also thought (mostly hoped) we were almost done, one last hill. A couple we passed coming up said, “This is the last hill, boys, good job. You’re almost done!” Yahoo! That felt good to hear… until getting to the top and it was a dirty, ugly lie. There were many more hills and a little over 20 miles to go, in the dumping down rain. I should not have let Senior Optimist get into my head and trusted my Garmin 705 GPS to which I installed the course map for reference.
The last few miles were on long muddy, rural roads, still dumping down rain. We had to ride side-by-side to keep from getting mud spray in the face. At the end, I had broken through all walls of cold, wet, tired, sore, hungry, and mental issues. I finished with 98.09 miles on the clock. I felt like I could have gone another 20 or so, but I sure didn’t give it a try!
I could not have done it without my friends, my new Oakley Jawbones (I’ve ridden without glasses for the last two years), and my Zipp wheels. In retrospect, it was a ton of fun. I will probably do another century or two this year, and they will likely be easier mentally and physically. A week and a half later, feeling has returned to my hands, and I can sit on hard chairs again. The day after the ride, my body felt pretty good with the exception of some saddle sore.
Here are a few pictures to enjoy. Don’t mind the belly, I lost the ability to suck in my gut for photos at the end! Bike was super filthy. When I flipped over the stripped down frame a couple of days later, a half cup of water dumped out from the frame! I tore it down to the last bolt and nut. Now it is good as new.