Last year, I decided to ride the Horsey Hundred. While I was experienced at endurance sports—having finished several marathons and an ultra-marathon—I hadn’t trained for it. Still, I rode patiently, stayed within my limits, and braved the killer hills of Clifton to finish my first century ride comfortably. It took me just north of nine hours, but I felt pretty good.
I figured having done that last year—along with the Air Force Marathon (for the 4th time)–I’d go for the Kentucky Century Challenge. That requires doing four century (100-mile) bicycle rides: the Redbud Ride, the Horsey Hundred, the Preservation Pedal, and the Hub City Ride, all in the same calendar year. Completion of these carries a reward: a free cycling jersey, along with the bragging rights.
But first, one must complete the Redbud Ride, as that is the first leg of the challenge.
I felt good going into this one. I had doubled down on my fitness and nutrition, losing some of the flab I had accumulated during last year. I also worked harder on core and leg strength, and figured that would help with the hills.
While the weather had precluded me from doing any serious distance riding going into this ride, I was still in much better shape than I was at the Horsey Hundred last year.
The weather forecast was good: the temperature at start time was right at 50 degrees, although the projected high was in the high 70s. I figured this might make for some tough conditions on the back half of the ride. I was correct, but more on that later.
The first leg (18 miles):
The start was brisk. Initially, it was cold, but it warmed up quickly. By mile 10 I was comfortable. I was noticeably stronger on the hills, and was hanging very well with one of the main packs.
Then, at mile 16, things went really bad.
I found myself boxed in. Making matters worse, someone started passing me—close–without warning. Noticing this, I looked over to my left ever so slightly. This caused Newton’s Third Law of Motion–for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction–to kick in, causing my to veer slightly right.
Unfortunately, that was just enough to take me off the road into a very unstable area of branches, bushes, and uneven dirt. Taking this at about 20mph is not a good idea, as Newton’s Laws begin to intersect Murphy’s Laws.
I took a tumble, tried to roll with it using my shoulder. I almost succeeded.
My right shoulder and the right side of my forehead slammed into the dirt, forcing my helmet strap across my face and jarring my neck. When I had come to a rest, I felt around and looked for wounds. I saw scrapes and dings on my arms and legs, but nothing serious. I got up and noticed I was walking just fine. I tried to see if I was feeling “lucid”, as that would be a sign that I needed to go to the hospital. I felt ok, but not lucid. I didn’t feel concussed, but my face felt like it had been scraped pretty good.
The SAG (Stop And Go) personnel were there within 30 seconds after I got up. They looked me over. I had a little blood on my face, but no serious cuts. They helped me with my bike, and we determined that the bike was in good order. That being the case, I said I would like to continue. They said they’d follow me to the Crossroads Fire Department rest stop, which was 2 miles away. I got to the rest stop just fine. Once there, I washed my face and hands—determined that I had a black eye and a cracked helmet—and then downed some Gatorade and a Powerbar.
18 miles done.
Unlike the crash drama of the first stage, the second stage was uneventful. The hills were mild, and the scenery was nice. I found a small group that was going at a good clip, and drafted behind them into the Livingston Rest Stop.
33 miles done. Feeling better.
This was also uneventful. Like that second stage, it was scenic and comfortable. My only gripe: the Rest Stop was really just a SAG stop for bike maintenance. I didn’t see any water or Gatorade. I could have used some water there. That irked me a bit.
44 miles done. So far, so good.
This stage was only 8 miles, but it was a mother. Most of the stage was scenic and enjoyable, but the infamous Tussy Hill—which has a 23% grade—put hair on almost everyone’s chest. That was murder. But right after that was the Letterbox Baptist Church rest stop. These folks were fabulous. There was lots of good food, Gatorade, water, energy bars. A lot of folks were in line for pizza, but I stayed away from that. I went for my water, Gatorade, and some energy bars.
I lost some time at the rest stop because of the long lines for food and restrooms.
52 miles done.
From here, the heat started picking up. The winds—headwinds—also picked up. Because this stage was just south of 24 miles long, I decided that I’d stop at the gas station at mile 61 and buy a Powerade. I lost 10 minutes waiting for the cashier, but it was worth it: I was able to get some fluids and some badly-needed carbs down. This paid off well.
61 miles done.
From there, the remaining 15 miles into the McWhorter Christian Church rest stop were uneventful, except for the noticeable heat and headwind.
The McWhorter Christian Church rest stop was one of the best. They really went the extra ten miles for the cyclists.
76 miles done.
While this one was only ten miles long, it was brutal, as the headwinds and the heat started taking a toll on the riders, including myself. I had gone out of my way to stay hydrated, but my efforts still fell short of the glory. My neck—which I jarred in the crash at mile 16—was starting to hurt. I had energy, but I knew I was getting close to the “wall”, that point in a long-distance event where one’s glycogen runs out. As a marathoner, I know how to deal with that, but it isn’t pleasant.
Pulling into the Long Branch Rest Stop at mile 86, I felt very good and very tired. Some of the folks who had been in the ride with me were joking around with me about my crash at mile 16.
One of the race directors, who had assisted me when I had my crash, told me, “You’ve got one nasty hill left, but it’s pretty mild going into London after that. You’ve got this one.”
86 miles done.
He was right: that last hill was a humdinger. Not quite as bad as Tussy Hill, but close. But after that, the heat and headwind were the only remaining nuisances—aside from 13 miles—that stood between me and the finish. I was tired; my neck was sore; I had clearly hit “the wall.” But I was going to finish well.
To my surprise, I finished this one an hour faster than I finished the Horsey Hundred. All in spite of the crash at mile 16, the nasty heat, the headwinds, and the long food and potty lines at the rest stops. Other than my neck, I felt pretty good.
Overall, this was a nice ride. In future rides, I will stay the heck away from the side of the road, and stay behind large groups.
It’s not only safer, it gives you draft advantage.