Before tackling my first Tour of the Unknown Coast in 2007, I trained extensively. In the months before I rode numerous 50 to 60 mile rides. One day I even pedalled from McKinleyville to Wlllow Creek and back, which is more than 80 miles and includes two mountain passes.
On the day of the 2007 tour, I felt strong and was confident that I’d finish. I completed the 100-mile course in just under 11 hours. Considering that six months prior I was in terrible shape and considered a 20-mile ride to be almost beyond my ability, I was pleased with my performance.
The next year I planned to train even more, but those plans fell through due to the demands of the business, which increased due to a number of interesting personal problems at home.
Fortunately, I was racking up lots of commuter miles and taking short evening rides. Despite a lack of distance training, I felt excellent during the 2008 tour. I was making good time and even passed a few riders going up Panther Gap. Then, halfway through at Honeydew, my rear wheel fell apart, and the race was over.
This year I didn’t train at all, unless you consider operating a martini shaker exercise.
I rode to Kneeland on Jan. 1 and Feb. 18. After those rides, I only did a couple flat 10 milers and some 17 milers.
This photo pretty much sums up my pre-tour training.
Other than having a bicycle in good working order, I felt completely unprepared for Saturday’s ride. I assumed I’d limit myself to the 100K race, but spent the extra $5 for the 100-miler just in case I changed my mind. I would assess the condition of my legs part way through the race and make a decision.
At mile 20, the prognosis wasn’t good. My legs were sore and I was tired. Clearly I wasn’t ready for the 100 miler.
As I got closer to the 100K turnaround point, I noticed cyclists heading back to Ferndale. That was probably a good idea, but I wasn’t going to have much of a sense of accomplishment if I did less than 100 miles.
The decision was irrational and ego-based, but it had to be done. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could complete the tour, regardless of my training. Male macho bullshit? Perhaps.
So at mile 30 I kept going, and soon after I was climbing Panther Gap in the blazing sun. It was slow going and I stopped often to drink water. About six or seven miles later, I was at the top with an aching arse.
Everything about my bike is great, except for the seat.
The ride down to Honeydew was full of potholes, and I saw lots of riders pull over with flat tires, probably “pinch flats” caused by skinny tires hitting potholes.
I was glad to have my big, fat 34s( See above), even though they slow me down.
I was tired. My legs were sore. My arse hurt. My hands hurt. I was halfway done.
Another 10 miles away lunch awaited me. It seemed like I’d never get there, but I did. I ate some soup and a sandwich. I felt a little queasy, but continued on.
The hills between the lunch site and the beach should have been the easy ones, but they were painful. I stopped often and began to think about the sag wagon.
“I’d much rather be spending time with Kim,” I thought to myself. “What am I doing out here?”
I tried to erase such thoughts from my head and repeated to myself “Failure is not an option.”
Ahead I rolled.
The headwind at the beach was brutal. If I used the same pedalling energy on a windless day, I probably would have moved down the road at 14 mph. But instead I was hovering around 7 mph.
People were passing me. They were smiling and looked refreshed.
Then again, sag wagons full of bicyclists began passing me up too. I could have been worse off.
It was tempting to jump onboard, but I had already gone more than 75 miles. How hard would it be to just keep going?
I found out it was hard, really hard.
The Wall, with a 10 percent grade, was difficult, but not nearly as bad as what’s called the Endless Hills. You climb and climb. Then, just when you think you’re near the summit, you climb some more.
Not only are you going up hill, but there’s a strong headwind.
I was in pain. I was tired and cranky. The landscape ceased to be pretty to me. It was just a hellish torture machine. “Damn, if only I had trained,” I thought to myself.
I chanted to myself “Keep going forward. Keep going forward.” I slogged my way over the course.
There weren’t any bursts of speed. I crawled along at 4 mph. The fog was rolling in and the wind was persistent.
Eleven hours and 54 minutes after I had started, I crossed the finish line. Sitting near the clock was a pile of finisher patches – the trophy one gets for the 100-mile challenge.
I grabbed a patch, put it in my pocket and smiled.
Damn, that was actually lots of fun, in an odd kind of way.
When I arrived at Kim’s, she gave me the royal treatment.