On Sunday, 5 June, I rode my first 100 miler! It was actually more like 106 miles including getting to and from the train station in London. This was my goal for the whole summer so I am excited to have completed it so early on. I'm not sure what caused me to ask Alberto if we could plan a century ride for this weekend, but I felt ready for the challenge, as long as the route was relatively flat!
We got a late start (as always) and missed the first train to Cambridge, so we only got started on our route at 9:30am. I was feeling quite good at the beginning of the ride, and as we got out of Cambridge and into the countryside I felt like we were flying along at a much faster pace than normal. It helped that Alberto was leading and I was finally figuring out how to stick to his back wheel. We had talked about the fact that we would need an okay pace in order to finish the ride at a reasonable time, and I think I spent much of the early part of the day focusing on keeping my speed up... glancing at my speedometer marveling at its high numbers, chasing Alberto's back wheel, and enjoying the smooth road surface, good visibility, and wide roads of East Anglia which allowed me to gain good speed on the downhills without worrying too much. We were averaging 22 kph (14 mph) at this point, whereas for instance on our way to Brighton we only averaged 17 (11 mph).
The thatched cottages and cathedrals in the villages of Suffolk were really pleasant. An early highlight of the day was cycling through Hartest, a village near Bury St Edmunds where some friends of my parents have a house. We were cycling along and suddenly passed their house, which we had visited last year! They weren't in, but we snapped a picture to show them later and continued on our way, past Lavenham which we were also familiar with from our trip to Bury last summer.
The terrain got a little bit hillier after that, which may have been the beginning of my struggles. I remember feeling that I couldn't quite keep up the pace we had set earlier on. A little while later, we stopped because Alberto was feeling quite tired and wanted to make sure he ate a fair amount of food to avoid bonking. I think it was shortly after this that I started to feel quite rough and for a little while I needed to go quite slowly. We still had about 50 km to go at that point and I had surpassed my longest difference ever so far. My back and neck were sore, my butt was starting to get uncomfortable, and my hands were experiencing a numbing sensation every now and again. I just kept looking at the cycle computer and feeling bad that I wasn't going faster.
I never really doubted that I would finish, but I did doubt whether I'd be limping to the station or finishing strong. After a struggling for about 20 km, Alberto gave me a lecture about not obsessing about my speed all the time and just riding at a comfortable pace. We adopted a strategy of constant chit chat, which did help to take my mind off the ride and the next kilometers passed much more quickly. I was uncomfortable, but by the time we got on to the main road leading back into Cambridge my legs were feeling quite good again.
We always seem to get lost looking for Cambridge's train station and this time was no exception. We turned down a 'road' which turned out to be pretty much a parking lot, and as we were turning around to head back out I somehow managed to fall over! I tried to change direction too quickly while going quite slowly, and suddenly found myself losing balance. I didn't have time to unclip so I fell over instead! This is the first time I have properly fallen over as a result of the clipless pedals. It was only slightly physically painful, but quite a bit more demoralising, coming at the end of such a long ride. I just wanted to get to the train station and be able to say that the ride was complete! I picked myself up and got back on the bike, and soon after we found the train station and made it safely on board with some snacks for the return journey. I was wiped out but happy. It feels so good to rise to a challenge and accomplish a major goal.
My only problem now is that a century was my goal for the year. Now I need to set a new one!