In late 2011 I began earnest preparation for a 100 mile ride — on an adult tricycle. Having read a quite a lot about the importance of proper nutrition and hydration on long rides, I took along various snacks and drinks to try during my Sunday morning long rides. I needed to know what tasted good during long rides, and what would work. For example, I quickly discovered that cold weather does not keep chocolate in any form from getting very messy on a sunny day. Some foods became distasteful late in long rides, and some electrolyte drinks tend to taste too strong as the miles rack up. I also needed to scout out places where I could make pit stops, and buy water and snacks if needed.
With the week-to-week increasing mileage I naturally noticed the wind much more, and the constant battle with it was frustrating. In fact, the wind that season seemed to be unusually strong and persistent. Or maybe I just noticed it more than I ever had because of the wind resistance caused by my "ride". I decided I needed some assistance in fighting that wind, especially with a 100-miler coming up.
Early in 2012, I had the trike fitted with a three-speed hub. No gain without sacrifice, as the saying goes; the three-speed meant no longer having a freewheel, but it gave me a lower gear that let me spin at a higher cadence while working against the wind. Although such spinning made me feel out of breath faster, it was easier on my legs. I also had a higher gear that let me push harder and go faster the rare times when it wasn't windy, or when I had a good tailwind. On occasion I'd manage to hit 15 mph!
Several weeks later I was out riding, and it was another breezy day. It took me almost four hours to cover 31.35 miles. I noted that, at that rate, I'd need at least thirteen hours to complete a century. Prophetic words, as it turned out. It was at about the same time that I was introduced to the concept of interval training. I did what I could in the few weeks remaining before the planned century, which unfortunately wasn’t much.
A week before the century I was out for a practice ride, and again battled stiff (and cold) headwinds almost the entire time. A few miles before the end I finally got a tailwind, and could shift to high gear and really get moving: 13 or even 14 mph! Then a glance in my rearview mirror showed a car coming up from behind. On that wide tricycle and in a narrow street, I felt obliged to pull over as soon as possible to let cars get past, despite the aggravation and inconvenience of losing my hard built-up momentum. This vehicle turned out to be a … police car. The cop had his window down and bellowed at me, YOU'RE SPEEDING!!! before he drove off. It’s my funniest memory out of the 11,500+ miles on three wheels.
Sunday, February 19, 2012 was the big day. I set off at the ungodly hour of 4:45 am. I knew I needed an early start, and was hoping to finish by about 5 pm. And then go out for a victory dinner!
Once underway, I immediately notice that it was cold! Yowch!! The wind was stronger than I had expected, too. There was some rain, on and off. But I had started, and I wanted to keep going. I had already delayed the big ride because there had been the possibility of severe weather the day before, and I was afraid of losing too much conditioning if I postponed the ride further.
Excerpts from my ride log:
4:45 am: I'm off!
5:50 am: I’ve covered only 10.3 miles. Inward groan. PLEASE, wind, let up! I've still got ninety miles to go!
8:39 am: only 30.9 miles. After nearly four hours! This is rather discouraging. That headwind is brutal, and a huge drain on my energy. I'm cold, too. Stop in a cafe for a Belgian waffle and a much-needed rest. Afterwards, grit my teeth and keep going.
12:52 pm: Pit stop at home. Stopping at home feels like cheating, but I'm tired of park-shelter restrooms with latch-less doors and no hot water; I'm aching to get out of that wind for a few minutes; and besides all that I need another layer. I've been working like mad all day, but I can't get warm!
2:35: pm: Halt at a convenience store. I need more food. Next time, bring along more.
4:22 pm: STILL not finished! I keep returning to the park like a boomerang for more endless circling on a 1.8-mile long path. It’s been driving me crazy and ruining the sense of adventure. And even here I don’t get much of a break from the wind.
Several hours later: At last, almost 99 miles on the Cateye. I’m at the park AGAIN, but now l can head towards home.
7:54 pm: I FINALLY MADE IT!! 100 miles!! It’s a good thing that home is only a half-mile or so away. My headlight has gotten dim, and my legs have just about had it. I’m cold, more relieved/exhausted than jubilant, and more than ready for a hot shower and bed. But why am I not hungry? I had expected to be voracious enough to eat everything in sight — including the tricycle! [End of log]
Roll time for that ride was over 13 hours; total time 15 hours plus. It was VERY long day, fighting a wind that I later learned had averaged 13 mph. It pushed my average speed down to about 7.4 mph, and more than once I was tempted to call it quits. My stubborn streak came to my rescue, I guess ;) So did the three-speed hub. As a nice bonus, I calculated that I had burned over 4000 calories during the ride. Although I wasn't hungry at the end of the century, the following day I was a bottomless pit!
It wasn't until much later that I learned that a century is considered to be 100 miles within twelve hours; but that's on a lightweight road bike, isn't it? Oh, please, do I still get bragging rights?
About four months after that epic ride, after a tune-up at the bike shop, the fellows warned me that the poor old trike was on its last legs. They said they had never known anybody to wear out an adult tricycle. Or to do a century on one, either. By then I had been able to graduate to two wheels, and now have come full circle – from wondering how anyone could ride 100 miles in one day, to wondering how I managed to ride 100 miles in one day on a tricycle!
Note: this story is a modified form of the article I submitted to Adventure Cyclist magazine in October, 2015.
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