Starting a New Year, I’m not one of those people that set resolutions. However, seeing in the start of 2022, my focus was very much on improving what I had achieved in my cycling adventures from the previous year. I realised that I managed to complete a couple of 100k routes and naturally I thought it would be great if I could achieve my first century for 2022.
As I set my goal and realised that much planning needed to happen prior to cycling this distance, I thought that it would be the latter half of this year that I would achieve this. It didn’t happen that way and now, I have achieved it! Like so many blogs and Vlogs surrounding this achievement, they mostly focus on the training leading up to the day and how to plan your century ride. This blog is not so much about the training and planning, even though I will touch on this, it will mostly surround what I felt on the day, the ups and downs, and the feelings once I completed the challenge.
The Lead up to the Big Day
I was searching online at what Sportives were available in which I could participate while looking I noticed a sportive called the Flat 100. This piqued my interest and looked at routes that covered the three distances, 34 miles (54.72km), 61 miles (98.17km), and 101 miles (162.5km). The route profile and with a total elevation of 1332 feet (406 meters) over the duration of the 101-mile route. The date of the big day was 11 June 2022 and I decided to apply on 13 May 2022. Now I had a definite date, I had to now ramp up my training and be more focused. Part of this would include hill repeats, knowing that I would not have time to increase my cycling distance with work. My thought process was surrounding the understanding that the power and effort would naturally be increased and it would feel like I had cycled a great distance.
I began my hill repeats but a couple of days prior had to take antibiotics as some bites from a previous walk in the woods became infected. I was pleased with the hill repeats where the hill maxed out at 20%. The next day, however, I felt lethargic and as the day wore on, I began to feel unusually tired. This feeling lasted the entire week which impacted my training. My condition lasted through the entirety of the prescription and beyond until I was cleansed of the antibiotics. At this point, I only had 6 days until the event. Feeling concerned and nervous, I suppose was an understatement but for some reason, I didn’t want to give in even though I could have easily canceled. I managed a few short hilly rides before the event and felt as strong as I could have, some of the nerves had now turned into excitement.
The Event and My Experiences
The weather had improved, there were very few clouds in the sky and the sun’s heat was much welcomed. I approached the start line located in the car park of a sports center local to the community. I found myself among a group of other cyclists who were either riding the long or medium route. One of the organizers started talking over the tannoy system covering all the expectations that the event organising group, Sportive HQ required of the riders. Once they had finished we were set to go.
Within the first 40 miles, I was experiencing a different challenge in climbing hills, the wind was very strong. I felt as though I was putting a lot of power through the pedals but when I looked down at my bike computer it was only showing that I was moving slowly. I felt frustrated and my annoyance was building. The landscape was open and at this point, I was cycling alongside the river that leads into the Humber and then the North Sea. The open landscape provided no shield from the wind and as I progressed my energy was waning. For most of the route, the landscape was open as far as you could see with fields on both sides of the road. The wind swirled around me with such velocity that it was wearing me down. My resolve began to form cracks between 60 and 70 miles, I was beginning to feel that I had enough, and the urge to get off the bike and call it a day was becoming increasingly strong. I was now, what I usually call, entering unknown territory, by this I mean that I was cycling beyond what I am familiar with or what I am used to. This for me was a defining moment, there are moments in cycling where it defines who you are as a person, and I was determined not to give up. My goal was to complete a 100-mile route and I was beginning to dig deep to make this a reality. The last feed station was approaching at 72 miles and it could not come soon enough, it was such a relief when I reached this point.
Previously, I suffered from a partial slipped disc in the lower part of my spine. It rested on a nerve that affected the back of my leg on the left side. I was recently experiencing discomfort there and something was resting on my nerve. My left leg was beginning to tingle, like pins and needles as I was riding, this caused my foot to start feeling numb. a chance to stop peddling and recover was much welcomed.
Once I had felt that I was recovered sufficiently to continue I cycled on with now just over 30 miles to complete. I felt I had a second wind, my rolling speed had picked up and I felt I was flying, I forgot what it was like riding between 17 and 22 miles per hour. My ailments, for the time being, had subsided but made a reappearance towards the end of the ride.
I crossed the finish line and collected a medal, I then cycled to the car park. I sat in the car for a short period digesting what I had just done, I couldn’t believe that I had just completed a century. The feeling and sense of achievement that I have is overwhelming and two days later I feel just as overwhelmed as I did as soon as I completed it. I can see now that an achievement like this will stay with me for a long time and I have found a new insatiable need to continue riding my bike, wondering what else I will be to conquer.
What I have realised when preparing for an event like this is that there are most probably unaccounted-for situations such as the weather as the strength of the wind was something I did not consider and I wished I had. This changed my goal as I wanted to achieve this century, hopefully in a good time. The exertion required for me to keep moving forward was demanding and this had an impact on the rest of the ride. My goal at that point was to be able to successfully complete the task at hand.
The sense of achievement of completing my first century far exceeded what I thought I would feel and because of this, it has left me more inspired and excited for my next goal/adventure.