At the urging of my spin instructor, I decided to tackle the Kentucky Century Challenge this year. The Kentucky Tourism Cabinet sponsors a challenge involving four century (100-mile) bicycle rides: the Redbud Ride (London, KY) in April, the Horsey Hundred (Georgetown) in May, the Preservation Pedal (this year in Winchester) in June, and the Hub City tour (Elizabethtown) in September. Finishing three of the rides allows you to purchase a commemorative jersey for $30. Finishing all four gets you the free jersey.
After finishing the first three rides, I figured that it would cost me more money to do the Hub City Tour than to just pay $30 for the jersey. My only incentive for doing the Hub City ride was pure bragging rights.
At the end of the day, I decided I needed to finish the job and do that last ride, on 13 September 2014.
The weather was just about perfect: overcast, morning temperature just under 60 degrees, with a projected high temperature approaching 70.
The ride map–with hill profile–showed some menacing hills, with the worst of them between mile 45-78. Total elevation gain was just a bit higher than the Redbud Ride, but not as much as the Preservation Pedal or the Horsey Hundred. But the toughest portions were clearly on the back 50.
My plan was to go out with the early-birds. I enjoyed riding with them at the Preservation Pedal, so I figured this would be a good way to finish. This time around, though, there were only three of us: the leader (Bill), myself, and another rider named Tim. We departed at 7:15.
The first 45 miles were pretty easy. Because the temperature was so mild and conditions were so good, I barely broke a sweat. The hills were relatively mild, there was no storm-related debris (which was a problem at the Preservation Pedal), and the overall number of cyclists was light. The rest stops were well-stocked, although we all had plenty of Sports Beans, water, and Gatorade “just in case”.
After mile 45, the ensuing 33 miles were easily the most difficult of the entire Kentucky Century Challenge.
The hills were steep, but not too steep, and yet there was very little downhill relief. With rolling hills, you can use the downhills to provide power to guide you through the uphills–this worked well for the first 45 miles–but if the relief provided by the downhills is not commensurate with the difficulty of the uphills, you can get knocked out of kilter.
I got knocked out of kilter.
Making matters worse, I started having trouble with my shifters. My first gear wasn’t quite catching, and that made the uphills more difficult than they otherwise were.
On top of that, no matter which way we turned, there always seemed to be a menacing headwind. I remarked, “God has a sense of humor.”
After the rest stop at mile 65, we were all hurting. Not from fatigue–I felt great on that front. But my quads were hurting. Bill was also hurting in the quads. (That was saying something, too, as Bill is a very seasoned rider!) We weren’t looking forward to the nasty hill that was coming up at mile 78.
But something interesting happened. From mile 74-78, we boned up for that hill, and–yes–there was a set of hills that were sort of challenging, but nothing seemed overly nasty. (It didn’t hurt that my shifters started working and I got my first gear back!)
When we got to the rest stop–which was at mile 78.3–I asked, “When are we supposed to get that really bad hill that was on the elevation chart?”
I was told, “That was it. You’ve already done it.”
Me: “Really? That wasn’t that bad.”
All that worrying was for nothing; the nasty hill wasn’t really all that nasty. My quads still hurt, but I knew the worst was over. It was going to be rollers for the next 24 miles in.
At the final rest stop (mile 94), I got some cookies and Gatorade. My quads were sore, but I wasn’t really that bad otherwise. I figured I’d get some extra carbs “just in case”, but I figured I had this one in the bag. Just don’t do anything stupid.
The last 8 miles were relatively easy. Turning onto Ring Road–one of the main loops around Elizabethtown–was good psychologically. I also enjoyed going through the E-Town sports park. I knew we were getting close. When we turned onto Mulberry Street, I felt even better. Then we made it to the intersection of Helm Street, just one left turn and about 100 yards to go.
At the end, my quads were killing me. Most of the pain was from the 33-mile stretch from 45-78. I figured I’d recover pretty quickly, and I was correct: I had no leg soreness in the morning.
Overall, I thought this ride was the toughest of the 4, mostly because of that 33-mile stretch. The weather was perfect, though.
In a sinister way, I like century rides. They are comparable to ultramarathons: you’re guaranteed to have your endurance tested, and there will always be a suck factor. I’ll never be fast, so I might as well just go far.
Now I have a critical decision to make: the Ironman folks have moved the Louisville Ironman triathlon to October starting next year. This is due to the fact that–being in August–the nasty heat has made Louisville a proverbial grave yard for triathletes: they have more dropouts than any other Ironman event.
I’m strongly considering signing up for the Louisville Ironman next year.
After doing the Century Challenge, I have a good idea where I stand and where I need to be for the Ironman. I’ve done marathons, so I know I can handle the distance. I’ve done century rides, so I know what goes into one. I’ve never done a century ride and and marathon on the same day, let alone after a 2.4-mile swim on the same day. It will be a heck of a time–and money–commitment for training, but it’s doable. I have a
psychoticpsychological mindset for a long day of endurance.
But Ironman or no Ironman, I plan on doing the Kentucky Century Challenge again next year.
And my quads will be ready.