As usual, I woke up full of optimism, and feeling good about the day's ride. The ride was going to be about 50 miles of climbing, very little descent, and then a bunch of flats. I was more worried about the second half. I knew I could do the climbing. I was apprehensive about the 50 miles after that.
But I began. I dropped behind Bruce within the first 10 miles. The climb went well, better than I expected. I completely forgot about the difficulty of the last 5 miles of the climb. I was keeping a decent pace. I stopped once, maybe twice to rest in that 5 miles.
The only thing that bothered me was a series of false peaks. I'd hit a peak and start to descend thinking I'd be okay, but wound up with another mile or so of climbing. This happened at least three times.
At the aid station before the summit, I debated eating lunch there, or at the summit. After I ate a bowl of Performance Pasta, hail started coming down. Very quickly, the temperature dove, and the hail turned into rain.
For the next fifteen minutes or so, a bunch of us were huddled under a food vendor's tent. It was great. We were there, and not going anywhere, so we helped with the food prep, passing stuff around, etc. Technically, it was a health-code violation, but who's checking?
When the rain let up, I started off again. The wind was cold, but I was working hard enough to keep warm. After the summit and a short descent, there was a series of rolling hills. That killed me. You could see them for miles ahead. I eventually made it past, but it wore me down. The descent sort of helped me recover.
At the aid station after the descent, I was told, it was downhill and tailwinds all the way into Gunnison. Instead, I got a weird mix of hot and cold crosswinds, that eventually settled into a relentless cold headwind for thirty miles. There were short downhill sections where I had to pedal to maintain 14 mph. After struggling with the wind and the cold, eventually, I was invited to join a short paceline. I kept up with them for about two miles, but they were going a bit too fast, so I dropped behind, and went back to my grind.
The last ten miles, the wind let up, and I got into a decent pace. I was pushing about 16 mph, and when the last 4 miles hit, it was slightly uphill, so I dropped to about 13 mph. I watched the odometer go to 100 miles, which was a big deal to me. It was only two more miles. But by then, it had settled into monotony. Two miles, ten miles, it wouldn't have made a difference.
I finally rolled in at 102 miles, to cheers. It always makes me smile. My legs ached, my butt was sore, and I had a sharp pain in my left thigh. But it was over. And it felt good.
Through the ride, it helped that there were riders that I could pace myself by, just for the company and the psychological support. For the first 30 miles, there was a pair of riders, uncle and nephew who sort of kept me company (they would surge ahead, and stop to rest). Then I kept pace with a father and his 9-year-old daughter on a tandem. They were doing really well and passed me. Then I met up with a rather raucous group, and I picked up several of them at various rest stops as we went our different paces. The times when I didn't have company were the times it sucked the most.
The low points were the rolling hills, the headwind, and the rain that came with it. The good parts were the pacing partners, and the idea of finishing my first century.
I didn't realize how weak my muscles were when I stopped. Then, we went to a Pizza Hut for dinner, and as we came out, there were three steps you had to climb down. I couldn't do it. I had to support myself with my arms on the railing. Thank god tomorrow is a rest day. I need it.