In the wake of being forced to give up, or rather put my goal of running an ultra on hold – I’ll write a post about that
another time (and it’s not because of physical ability, difficulty, desire, or motiviation), I still had it in my blood to
do something crazy. That’s when I remembered that when I was browsing the web looking for milages on the Longleaf Trace, a
41 mile paved bike path not terribly far from where I live, I saw that there was going to be a century ride on the trace
the next weekend. Initally, I had written it off because there would be no way to do it since it was on a long run day.
Though, now, with my schedule free I wondered if I shouldn’t give it a go.
The events that day were a 30 mile, a 60 mile and a 100 mile ride. This was not a race, but it was a paid event with the
proceeds going to support the Longleaf Trace, a trail my family uses often. I did some research to see how running milage
relates to cycling milage. I figured since I can run 17 miles, I should be able to bike pretty far. I decided I wasn’t
ready for 100 miles just yet, and instead opted for the 60 miler.
If this was a running race, my wife and I would have had everything squared away the night before – mostly because she’s a
big planner, and I’m more spontaneous and last minute. However since i was going this one alone, my procrastination almost
ended in disaster. My loose plan was this: Get up, shower, eat breakfast, get dressed, load up bike, go to wal-mart and get
a bottle cage for my bike, go by work and get my Brooks running shoes (left them at work, and I AM NOT going to ride in my
Hokas), then head to Hattiesburg. Well, I got done at wal Mart and realised that I left my office keys at home – 11 miles
in the opposite direction of where I needed to be headed. Convinced that I wouldn’t make it, I tried anyway. I went home,
got my keys, went to work, got my shoes on, and managed to install my bottle cage and make it to Hattiesburg with time to
spare. Whew! The lesson here – prepare the night before!
If there is one word to describe how I felt when I approached the starting line to the ride, it would be “poor”. All of the
cyclists there had very expensive bikes complete with all the biking gadgets one could ask for. Even though I’ve put
considerable effort into customizing my ride, I felt almost embarrassed. Granted, nobody there actually made me feel that
way – in fact, everyone was pretty cool. One guy with a big tire pump even helped me out when he saw me trying to get my
tires up to 85 PSI with my little portable pump. Still, I remember tweeting something like, “I must be the only one here
with a tricked out Wal Mart Single Speed bike”. As a matter of fact, I’m quite sure nobody else was riding a single speed.
Whatever. I love my bike, and I was ready for the challenge.
It had just rained and there were little thorns from the trees along the trace all over the path that day. The talk all day
at all of the aid stations and bathroom stops was of flat tires. I couldn’t help but grin a little on the inside when in
the first three miles I saw five people replacing tubes under their expensive bontrager tires while I rolled merily along
on my el-cheapo Nashbar 9 dollar tires. Of course they were all riding on true road tires. Mine are “city tires”, and are
tough and knobby.
At the restrooms at Sumrall station, as I was about to continue my ride, an older gentleman rode up and said, “three flats,
and I give up.” He was about to install the last of three tubes he brought along, and was out of CO2. I stuck around so he
could use my pump. He aired up his tire, but when he pulled the pump off of the valve stem, it ripped the little valve
right off. As all the air came wooshing out, the guy said, “well, it wasn’t meant to be.” I felt horrible for him. He jsut
got robbed of his chance to ride his hundred miler. I was mortified at the thought that my pump did that, but was somewhat
relieved when he said that it had happened to him before.
The 60 mile ride was from USM in Hattiesburg to Bassfield and back. I’ve run on the trace many times. I’ve even ridden on
it, but always with my family so it’s always been at a slow pace. I’ve never ridden anywhere near the distance I was
attempting that day. The ride was pleasant and the weather was excellent – nice and cool. Running the trace, I never got a
feel for the inclines and descents. Riding it is a whole different story. In particular, from Sumrall to Bassfield it seems
like it is all up hill. I figured I would catch a break coming back, but surprisingly, there are a number of uphill
stretches on the way back. These are not steep grades, as this was once a train track, but instead, the inclines are all
gradual, sometimes lasting miles. This is no trouble for the folks with their umpteen geared road bikes, but for me and my
single speed it can be treacherous at times. Regardless, I made it to the finish just fine.
At the end of the ride, I looked at Map My Ride to see the statistics of my ride that day. I was astonished to find that I
burned 4135 calories – that’s almost twice as much as I’d burn at a half-marathon. The ride was about two hours longer than my
previous half marathon, but I felt immeasurably less beat up afterwards. After my long runs, I feel drained, hurt, and
beat-down. I get cold, even on hot days. I feel like eating a house, and I’m definitely not doing a single thing for at
least a day. Not so with this bike ride. Sure, I felt tired and hungry, but not anything like after a long run. I’m
starting to like this bike thing more and more.
I love race-day vibe. The social aspect of events like these is what really makes the whole thing worth-while. Still, at a
race, often times people are focused on accomplishing their goals for the day and are therefore not terribly talkative. I
don’t know if this was because the bike scene is different from the running scene or simply because it wasn’t a race, but
the people seemed more talkative. I was alone for a good bit of the ride mostly because I couldn’t keep up – these guys can
go 20+ MPH on their multi-speed bikes whereas I have to work hard to get 17-18 MPH. However, at the rest stops and aid
stations I managed to talk to someone every time.
The guy at the first aid station I came to said he liked my single-speed and hoped to build one soon. We spoke breifly
about gearing and such. Then there was the aforementioned guy with the tire tragedy. There were two older gentlemen (when I
say older, I mean definitely old enough to be my dad – not as an insult) that I talked to at every rest stop. One finally
noticed on the way back that I was riding single speed, and was impressed that I was making it okay. After the ride, the
race people served pizza, and these two guys sat and talked with me for a while. I discovered one of them lives in Columbia
very near where I ride at lunch every day. They told me about a monthly ride that the coast bike club does that I might get
into since I’ll be down there for a couple of weeks next monts. Overall, I found bike people to be very enthusiastic and
What started as a desire to do something ambitious has sparked a love affair with cycling. I feel like I’m cheating on my
girlfriend (her name is Endurance Running). I’m hooked.