The ride is done and I did it! Tour de Foothills Century completed!

I did it! I completed the entire Tour de Foothills Century 2012!

http://app.strava.com/runs/27459483/embed/b604f3dddceff5211824147d3dc08b73ddbcb077

That’s my Strava post to prove it. I’m sure you, dear reader, believed me instantly. But, just in case someone less trusting is viewing. Plus, I think it’s pretty impressive to look at. One hundred and one miles. Seven thousand plus feet of climbing. Nearly 7 hours in the saddle. That’s a lot of bike riding!

It was a good ride. It was cold. Very very cold. I doubt that it got above 65 degrees all day. In fact, coming down from Glendora Mountain Road into East Fork, I believe it was in the thirties. There was ice on the sides of the road in the shadows! I was entirely grateful to be wearing a good base layer shirt that I bought the night before, and a wind vest, as well.

I like to give props to companies and products that are doing it right. Craft makes the base layer shirt, a long sleeve crew neck “Zero” layer, I think. And Showers Pass makes the wind vest, an excellent product. It blocks the wind on my front torso so that I’m not dealing with freezing sweat after climbing up and then going down a big hill.

Unfortunately, my Oakley Jawbones (Racing Jackets?) did not keep my right eye/contact lens from clouding up. I put in rewetting eye drops several times to no avail. By the time I was in the last five miles it was brutal dealing with poor vision in my right eye. It’s uncomfortable and makes it so much harder to ride. That, fortunately, was one of the only very bad things about the ride.

We began the ride early in Upland, a 7:00 a.m. start. Cold that makes your fingers ache. But, after a mile or so, I started to warm up and I found my friend, Mike. We rode through Claremont, then into Pomona and San Dimas. The first big climb was Via Verde, which, while steep, is short. A fast descent followed, then some flats into Covina and Glendora. We made our way up to Glendora Mountain Road. Mike went his own way to ride the Metric Century. But, I had a date with a mountain.

I had ridden this road many times, at least the way up. So, I knew what to expect. Most of it is about 5% – 6% grade, but there are sections that hit 8% and 9% with slightly steeper road in a couple parts. It’s about 8 or 9 miles of climbing and the grade makes it hurt. At the top was a rest stop where I availed myself of some Fig Newtons, some banana, and refilled my water bottle with an electrolyte beverage. Next was a very cold, fast descent, hitting speeds of 30 miles an hour into East Fork. Then, out San Gabriel Canyon. The wind was blowing into the canyon and I was lucky to find a few guys going my speed to help block the wind and pull me a ways down the road.

We made our way into Glendora again to another rest stop. I found some other people I knew and followed their wheels into Claremont for the next big climb, Mt. Baldy Road. This is some of the steepest road in the area. At one point, my Garmin indicated 13% grade. Ouch. At nearly 80 miles, this is a cruelty that is almost uncalled for. I paused at the foot of the climb because my right calf muscle was threatening to cramp and that was not something I wanted to deal with. I ate some energy gel blocks (Stinger) and took some Enduralytes, just in case, along with several drinks of water. Then, I began my assault on the climb. I put the bike into my lowest “granny gear” and went to work. I passed one guy walking his bike and another vomiting over the guard rail. Nice. My muscles complained but never cramped and I made it up the hill okay. Another rest stop at the top was welcomed. I refilled my bottles again and headed down.

Another fast descent down Mountain Avenue and then Euclid Avenue to 19th. Here began my existential bike ride. For some reason, I had ended up alone. Either I had left behind anyone I knew, or I had been passed by them. In any case, I rode alone down 19th Street through Upland. Yes, there was a bike rider here and there, but no one that stayed with me, or vice versa. I headed down Victoria Loop and to Baseline. The wind blew against me, mostly at about 10 miles an hour, but with gusts that were more fierce. I was riding into the teeth of the West wind and it was not fun. Ninety miles on my legs, vision impaired by a cloudy contact lens, and now, irritable because I hate riding in the wind. It takes your spirit and stomps it. See, you’re putting a lot of effort into the pedals. The wind hits you and you feel as if you should be going 20 mph but you’re only going 10 mph. It makes you feel weak and puny. Wind is a highly underrated weather event.

Finally, with about a mile to go, I found some other riders and we made our way to the finish. Then, to my surprise, my wife and kids were waiting for me, my son handing me my “Finisher” medal. Very cool. I was exhausted. My back hurt, my knee hurt and I was bone tired in almost every muscle in my legs and arms. But, I was happy. I had done it.

As I think about it, I did it as much to lose weight and get in shape, plus enjoy bike riding, as I did it to do something impressive. I wanted to accomplish something. Maybe this is a kind of “mid-life” crisis where I feel like I need something to point to as an accomplishment. I don’t know. I know it makes me happy because my kids are proud of me. My wife is proud of me, too. And, I’m glad because she helped a lot by supporting and encouraging me. Plus, she dropped me off and picked me up that day, too. I did lose weight, about 20 pounds. I have dropped a few percentage points of body fat, too. I learned that I can endure pain and discomfort. And, I made some friends. It’s a pretty good deal, all in all. I’m glad I did it. And, I plan to continue riding. I’d like to do more centuries. Palm Springs has a nice ride, I hear, as does Solvang. One day, I’d like to complete the Death Valley century, too.

And, that’s the end. I guess, if you need a take away, it’s that setting goals can be very useful. I pushed myself to improve over time, and I persevered. I don’t know if riding bikes is for everyone. But, you can do it, if you decide to. I don’t think there’s anything terribly unusual about me versus anyone else. But, if nothing else, choose something you want to accomplish and then lay out an achievable plan to get it done. Thanks for coming along with me. Hope you enjoyed it.

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