I stared at the challenge. I hemmed and hawed. It’s early in the year. I’m riding, but not as consistently as in the summer. I haven’t been “training.” But I’ve done a couple of centuries before and I’m pretty sure I can do it again. I finally took the plunge and clicked “join” … and then reached out to my cycling friends who might be crazy enough to think riding 100 miles in February is an awesome idea. My caveat was “Weather Permitting.” I’ve had enough fish sticks for toes this off-season, thank you very much.
One friend took me up on the offer. Not surprisingly, he’s also the one who rode over 11 thousand miles last year (yes, you read that correctly). He asks where I want to go. I suggest Saint Peter’s Village – an out-and-back but very hilly. He suggests we head down to the Shore – an out and FLAT. And we take the train home. I like that idea much better. We decide Sunday is the best day to ride.
The whole day before I check the weather report and it’s going to be acceptable: high of 45, partly sunny/cloudy, and more importantly, no rain. I’ve got Dead Milkmen‘s “Bitchin Camaro” stuck in my head all day.
Waking up the day of, I am a wreck. Like straight up a wreck. I start to panic. I can barely eat my breakfast. I think I’m going to throw up. I packed a backpack of gear and nutrition and laid out my attire the night before … but now I’m thinking I am going to somehow bonk in the middle of New Jersey or get run over by some Jersey Bro with a vendetta against cyclists. Oh and yeah – this will be my first ride on the new saddle.
None of this is true (except the saddle part – that’s totally legit) – it’s just my brain going batshit crazy. Even as I roll up to my friend’s house I am in full-on panic mode. This is a terrible idea. What the heck was I thinking?
And so, under partly cloudy skies we set out to see if we could get to the Shore.
It was a great day on the bike! I’m so glad I did it and didn’t let my brain get in my way of achieving – a century! Unsupported! In February! I can’t even begin to describe the sense of accomplishment I have.
Highlights of the day included:
- Gliding over the trail and hammering up the hills in upper Pennypack Park
- Admiring the beautiful bridges we were passing under
- Slogging through thick mud and glass in lower Pennypack Park, passing the prison
- riding in the middle of State Rd in the “scenic” waterfront district
- flaunting the law by NOT walking our bicycles across the bridge to New Jersey
- Starbucks break at mile 27 (I was so freaked out I forgot to enjoy the cup of Off The Chain coffee by our friends at Sip, Clip, and Go! Coffee for Cyclists I had brewed at home)
- Riding on the wide shoulder of US-206 and feeling very unsafe
- Lunch at mile 55 in Hammonton. Feeling shredded.
- The miracle of ibuprofen. Feeling like a superhero.
- Being ogled by the teens working the cafe where we stopped for a bathroom break as I nonchalantly suck down a goo
- Riding on the quiet side streets next to the river/watershed, admiring the houses
- Riding through quaint farms with horses, goats, and blueberry fields
- Contemplating the state of disrepair of the houses and open space as we got closer to the Shore
- Riding the bridges into Ocean City
- CROSSWINDS (20+ mph)
- Getting lost in Ocean City
- MORE CROSSWINDS (WTF)
- Fighting to stay upright on the bridge to Longport … and then being prevented from benefiting from the descent
- Cycling past the ocean, watching as the waves crash on the beach
- Why yes, it can take almost an hour to go five miles!
- Getting to the train station in Atlantic City with only ten minutes to spare
Things I learned:
- Worry is useless. Take it one mile at a time.
- Lunch break after the half-way point is brilliant.
- Plan to get to the next rest break. It’s only (15/20) miles away.
- Do not under any circumstance think you can break in a new saddle on a 100mi ride.
- I can do an unsupported century with a friend and have a truly amazing day on my bike.
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Click Here to see the route and my stats on Strava