The Foxy’s Fall Classic was my first and only 100-miler of the year. Initially I thought it would be a walk in the park considering I have already done three 200-milers in 1997. But I was looking forward to the ride as it would allow me to visit a friend in Davis and ride with my traditional cycling partner, Ken Loo.
Before this ride I actually sleep a few hours, and it wasn’t even in the MGB. In fact, I sleep in Ken’s frat room while he snoozes in the fire department, where he works. I am also feeling well prepared for the ride for once. Although the last substantial ride I did was the Grand Tour after graduation in June, I’ve been diligently riding hills to work via mountain bike nearly every day and taking out my race bike for more hills in the weekend. I am strong, confident, and in the best shape of my life.
The Start to Mile 25
Ken and I leave Oak High School promptly at 7:20 a.m. We ride together for about a block until I realize my heart rate monitor is not registering any heart beats. It was not exactly an auspicious start. Its battery must be dead, I figure. Either that or I was. I finally decide that I am very much alive despite the zero heart rate reading and that I should just take off the hear rate transmitter. It wasn’t gonna help me this time.
“Ken, I’m gonna take off my heart rate monitor strap and stash it in my car,” I yell. “Go on without me… I’ll catch up.”
“Ok,” he replies, “or else I’ll see you at the first rest stop.”
So I go back to the car, and lose about 5 minutes on him. That’s like 1.3 miles. Ah, well. I guess that just means that it’s time for time trial mode.
So, like a testosterone-crazed guy without a heart-rate monitor to beep out “slow down, stupid,” I was soon going over 25 mph and passing everybody. This included not just leisurely individual riders but entire seven-rider pacelines. Funny how confidence can so quickly turn into cockiness. Hey, this is only a 100-mile ride.
But just as quickly as I whiz by another paceline, its riders soon decide “let’s latch onto this hotshot” and soon I find myself pulling an entire train. Finally, but only after another 10 minutes of this, I begin to realize that really don’t need to be doing all of the work and I finally pull off and let others do the leading.
We are still going 21-24 mph, but where is Ken? 20 minutes pass, then 30 minutes, then 40, and finally… there he is on his Cannondale. He would later say he was surprised I caught him at all, but I was surprised it took so long. We were jamming. Ken briefly joins our paceline but drops off I-don’t-know-when. By the time I get to the first rest stop (25 miles from the start), my speedometer reads an average speed of 21.5 mph. This includes the “walking pace” time spent around the high school. Phew.
Ken arrives about 10 minutes later. He said, “When my speedometer read 26 miles per hour in that paceline, I thought, ‘Forget it. I’m reserving my energy for the later parts of the ride.'” Always a good pacer, he would later prove the wisdom of such thoughts.
We are finally rolling again 20 minutes after I first arrived at the rest stop. My legs are really tight due to the long rest stop; during double centuries I almost never stopped more than five minutes. But the soreness would go away, I think. Ken and I ride for a few miles together until at one point he tells me to “go on ahead.” We aren’t exactly going slow (16 mph), but compared to what I was riding in the first 25 mph, it seems a little sluggish. So I do go on ahead.
My early form never returns, however. I am out of Ken’s sight pretty quickly, but almost just as immediately my speed falls back down to 16 mph. Should have stayed with the guy, I think. I’m feeling pretty lethargic.
But the next rest stop comes at 45 miles. Couldn’t have come at a much better time, I am pretty hungry. Ken arrives a mere 5-10 minutes afterwards. He has a great story to tell.
“You wouldn’t believe what happened to my pump,” he says. He shows me his pump, and the handle is missing. “It just came off when I stopped to help a guy with a flat,” he says. Oof.
I then notice a problem of my own. The rear brake is rubbing against the rear wheel such that it won’t even spin one complete revolution freely. Doh. I wonder how long this had been occurring. At least it’s easily fixable.
We hang around for a little bit and leave after a toilet stop. This is when I realize I haven’t been drinking nearly enough, especially during the first 25 miles when I was concentrating on keeping up my speed. “That’s not good,” Ken says, “you should be drinking a water bottle an hour.” I know this, but today I seem to have forgotten all of my cycling knowledge and had a cavalier attitude about these things.
A sign at the rest stop says, “Warning: the next 20 miles ahead are very hilly.” It’s Cardiac Hill. I make a joke about it to Ken. Hey, this is Davis, I say, it can’t be so hard. “No, I did it last Sunday and it’s definitely not easy,” he says.
We start off together, really conservatively. Remembering miles 25-45, I resolve to stay with Ken, while at the same time not using my granny chainring. But, this means spinning at an obscenely low pedal cadence, since we are going pretty conservatively. My gearing is much too high for this speed.
So again Ken urges me to go ahead and, wanting to spin a lot faster, I do. So far nothing looks really steep. Up one hill. Then two, and three. There’s lots of flats sections to rest. So far, so good. But suddenly, I feel a sharp pain in the side of my knees, and I realize just how dry my mouth is. Dehydration sets in.
I snatch my water bottles, and within two minutes I use up almost all of my water. There’s still 15 miles to the next rest stop, too. I knew I hadn’t been drinking enough but it wasn’t until now that I am fully aware that dehydration is a real phenomenon, not just something every cyclist warns each other about but never experiences. Suddenly, my cockiness suddenly turns into apprehension. Here’s a real problem.
“Felix, try to hang on to this paceline,” I hear Ken yell. He has caught up to me by now. I am on for about 10 minutes but there is really nothing in me that could get me up another hill with any speed. And here comes another one…
“I’m really feeling unwell,” I tell Ken. “Use your granny,” he advises. Apparently, he has noticed my prejudice against such low gearing today. I finally concede and drop the chain to the third chain ring. But it’s way too late at this point.
Now, everyone is dropping me and, before Ken takes off on his own, he gives one piece of advice: “Remember to pull up and back on the pedals.” Actually, that’s virtually all I concentrate on while climbing, but right now there’s nothing in my hamstrings or quads. Heck, I can’t even push down. I am probably going about three mph, and even riders on pondorous mountain bikes are whizzing past me now.
The next 15 miles is a struggle. My water is all gone, and I am hardly able to stay upright on my bike. Fortunately, towards the end of these miles are slightly downhill. And at last, the rest stop is here.
“I’ve been waiting here for 15 minutes,” Ken says. He is pleased that he actually felt very good on the hills. But all I can do is go to the nearest water outlet, and quickly chuck down two 27-ounce water bottles of water. Relief.
He then proceeds propound the benefits of using the granny gear and how I should have used it. I try to explain that even in the hills around Berkeley a granny gear isn’t necessary, and that the hills we just did really were gentle grades, but I know, he has a point about “making the most of your equipment.” Funny how during the entire ride I “forgot” all of the cycling knowledge I had accummulated over the years: pacing, drinking before you’re thirsty, using higher cadences, etc. I think I know what I’ll be doing over winter—it’s back to the basics for me.
The Last 25 Miles
Within ten minutes I am feeling like a new man. It’s amazing what three pounds of water can do so quickly. Astonished by how miraculously I recovered, I am now able to ride the rest of the ride with Ken and others.
We are riding in an efficient paceline, going about 17 mph. Making the last miles of the ride totally uneventful. Which leads Ken to reflect on one unique aspect of this particular ride together.
“You know, this is the first century we had no mechanical problems,” Well, not quite. His pump broke, and during the entire ride my rear derailleur/chain were making squeamish noises in some gears. My front derailleur completely derailled twice. Not to mention my rear brake was dragging along my rim during the first half of the ride. Well, at least it was a nice thought, and something to aim for in our next adventure.
- Miles: 100
- Average speed: First 25 miles: 21.5 mph; Last 75 miles: 14.0 mph; Overall: 16.0 mph
- Ride Time: 6.25 hrs
- Overall Time: 7.83 hrs (7:20 – 15:10)
- Max Speed: 40.5 mph
(1=ho hum; 5=best)
- Scenery: 3
- Rest stops: 4
- Support: 4
- Difficulty: 2-