When I was riding with a cycling club in London we usually hit the century mark in April or May. Often I’d peak mid summer with an imperial century. Most summer weekends involved at least one 100 km + ride.
Later when I was going on more distance charity rides, such as the MS Bike Tour and the Friends for Life Bike Rally, there were training plans and check off lists that included riding 100 km.
This year? Things are different these days. There’s a global pandemic happening and it’s changed my cycling habits. All of my charity rides are solo, or virtual, efforts. It’s mid-August and my longest ride of the year is 50 km or so. I find when I’m riding outside I just don’t feel like going that far from home even now that there are places to stop and eat.
I’ll ride 56 km for my 56th birthday. And who knows, maybe this fall a century ride will beckon. But I’m not feeling pressured. It’s okay that this year is different. These are remarkable times.
Oddly, I’m on track to ride more than 5000 km this year which is more than usual. That’s due to the weekday Zwifting which usually adds up to more than 100 km a week. That’s way above normal for me in the off season.
I do see people riding 100 km and even 100 miles on Zwift but I don’t think that’s for me. I need beautiful scenery and real life companions, I think. Also, my butt gets sore on the trainer. There’s not enough moving around.
For most cyclists 100 is a significant number, whether it’s 100 kilometers or 100 miles.
Last year our first metric century wasn’t until late July. But this year I’m part of a group that’s been training for a late June cycling holiday in Newfoundland. It’s been a rotten spring and I haven’t been out of the bike as much as I’d like. We’ve all been feeling the need to get some distance in.
So at the last minute Sarah, David, and I decided to ride 100 km as part of the Tour de Guelph, a local charity ride for the Guelph hospital.
How’d it go?
It was the best of times. It was also the worst of times
We loved the country roads, so many horses and buggies, the Kissing Bridge (the last covered bridge in Ontario), the gorgeous weather, being directed through for way stops as traffic lights by the police, and the wonderful company.
We did not love Sarah’s flat tire, getting lost, busy roads with fast moving cars, getting super hungry and expecting food at the rest stops and only finding bananas, water, and orange slices. The thing I did not love the most was seeing the truck that was picking up the signs at the end of the event but that’s what happens when you get lost and get a flat.
In the end we made our own way into town and we were never so happy to find a Tim Hortons. Iced Cappuccino and toasted bagel please.
But as a result we didn’t quite make 100 km. See below.
It didn’t kill us to come 2 km short. I checked. None of us are completists.
For years road cyclists have complained that we don’t have mass participation events like the sort that are enjoyed by the running community, events that have something for both the competors and the completors. Marathons are tough but they’ve grown in popularity with many people now running them to complete the distance, not to win the race.
Why not something similar in cycling? Then the Gran Fondo movement got going with the motto, “let the racers race, let the riders ride.”
I was super happy to see last year that Mountain Equipment Co-op was starting to organize local century events. I did the first local one in October 2014 with my friends Dave and David. For that story, see here. They’re terrific community events, reasonably priced, and a lot of fun. There’s still some tension between the language, is it a race or a ride? , but really the MEC centuries seem to have something for everyone. See MEC Century ride hits London.
This time I rode with my partner Jeff, and friends Eaton, and David. Natalie rode with her partner Michel. And there were two other local fitness bloggers there, Cheryl of Happy is the New Healthy and Zig of Three Zigs and a Dog.
Zig even blogged about the event right away. She wrote, “Today I did my first 100 km century ride at an event organized by MEC London. I had been eyeing the event for some time, but was worried about my ability to complete that distance, and do so in a decent amount of time. After chatting with the staff in the store, I decided to give it whirl.
Well, I did it….and lived to tell the tale. It was a terrific event that had a big impact on me (a full recap/review to come in a couple of days). As a bit of a newbie road rider, I have been nervous to ride distances on open roads. Today, I got a lot of practice that left me feeling more confident in my riding abilities. And tonight, I am celebrating my thick thighs, instead of cursing them. They carried me far, and in better time than I thought. Tomorrow, I might be back to cursing them when I can’t walk, but tonight I will sleep well with this new adventure under my belt.”
My gang had a fun ride, we rode for three hours and fifty minutes (moving time) plus a couple of short pit stops. My favorite bit was the lap of the Delaware Speedway. I wish we could race bikes there. I also really liked that the organizers separated out the 60 km and the 100 km starts. For the 100 km pretty much everyone had a road bike and seemed comfortable with the mass start. No crashes or low speed collisions. The atmosphere near the front was happy, calm, and controlled. My least favorite bit was getting out of the city on the multiuse pathway. (I’ve written about my woes riding on the multiuse pathway here.) Too many people going too fast, amid geese, skateboarders, runners with ipods, and casual cyclists, for my taste. But I’m not a fan of riding on the path at the best of times.
Beautiful roads and great people out there. We all suffered a bit in the heat (my suffering was “extreme” according to Strava’s heart rate analysis, see below) and with managing to eat enough while riding. That’s hard too in the heat. The last 10 km were tough and we all appreciated the lemonade and frozen yogurt at the finish. I skipped the bar where the event ended as I don’t drink but it looked like people were having a lot of fun on the patio.
Instead, I opted for a soak in the hot tub and time on my back deck with Nat, Michel, David, and our friend Rob who helped make the day possible by driving teen athlete son to Waterloo for rugby practise.
I’m hoping this is the start of a more participatory bike culture with racing and riding at all levels. Lovely to see so many people out there. Let’s do it again MEC London!