The alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. Do you know how early that is? It's early and clearly a time that is more suited for going to bed, than for getting out of bed. James was just getting home from work, so I talked with him as I got ready and double, triple and quadruple checked that I actually had two cycling shoes packed in my bag. I'm not sure why I focused on that one thing, but it certainly would have sucked to arrive at the start and realize that I had only one shoe, so I went with it. I ate my typical pre-ride meal of oatmeal, strawberry-banana whey protein powder and frozen strawberries and had a quick cup of coffee before packing the car and pulling out of here around 3:20 a.m. I made my way to the house of one of my riding friends (also named James, but not to be confused with my husband...lol) and shortly after I arrived, another riding friend Voltaire arrived. James loaded our bikes up and we were on our way by 4:00 a.m.
This was a first century for both Voltaire and myself, so I'd be lying if I said that we weren't nervous at all. The ride to Ventura went by quickly and we arrived before the registration tables were ready for us. As I wandered around the room nervous and excited, I saw a guy that looked familiar. Not like the *I know you personally* familiar, more like the *HEY...you're famous but I have no clue who you are* familiar. I finally asked Voltaire and he immediately told me that it was David James Elliot, the star of JAG. After the celebrity sighting the registration tables opened up and I was given my number. I think that this is the first time that I've ever had a number. My very own number...how exciting and official! <~~~~see...it doesn't take much to amuse me!
After saying hello to several friends in the parking lot, we made our way to the start line and we were on our way. The course started out on a bike path and we were soon riding along with the Pacific Ocean on our left and the trains on our right. We made our way to the other side of the highway and before we knew it we were on Highway 101, riding just feet away from semi-trucks and speeding traffic. Heavy, fast traffic tends to get my adrenaline pumping and my one goal quickly becomes...ride fast and get the fuck off of the highway! After the stretch of highway riding, we found ourselves at rest stop one. We hit the porta-potties then we made our way to the snack tables. I was starving by this point, my last meal was just before 3:00 a.m. and I had been too nervous to eat just before the start of the ride, so I enjoyed bagels, bananas and a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie at this rest stop. We took a few pictures, including one of the guys stripping their clothes off despite the sign...
After the first rest stop the climbing began and I found myself falling to the back of our group. I was having some gearing/shifting issues and my chain was rubbing in all but two gears. This is incredibly annoying when you're climbing and all you can hear is the sound of your heavy breathing with a side of chain rub. James came back down to pace my up the final stretch of the hill and I mentioned to him that I was having issues back there. He offered to check it out but oddly enough...they didn't happen when I stuck with him. See...my bike only cooperates when my ride partners stay with me!
We arrived at a very busy rest stop two and stood in line for a few minutes to use the bathroom. I was thrilled to find lemonade at this rest stop and I filled one of my bottles up with it before we left. I grabbed another bagel...this one was a delicious cheese bagel and this time a chocolate chip cookie found it's way into my mouth...oops! At this point we were unsure of what was ahead of us because it seemed like we did a good deal of climbing between rest stops one and two. I vaguely remembered someone telling me that most of the climbing was between rest stops two and three and it just didn't seem to be adding up that this ride would only be 3500 feet of climbing if that was the case. We took off and soon found ourselves climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing. Everytime we would come up onto another turn, I would have bet my life that we would start descending but I was wrong...just more climbing! At one point during this leg, we heard sirens off in the distance that seemed to be growing closer and closer and eventually an ambulanced passed us and the sirens stopped shortly thereafter. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but it looked as if one of the riders went down on one of the turns...he was on my mind for the rest of the day and I'm hoping that he is okay. When we finally started descending, I realized that I need to work on my skills. I love the fast, straight downhills, but descending curvy mountain roads requires more skill than I posess at this point, so I rejoined the WKDC...that's the White Knuckle Descending Club. I made it down in one piece and then it was on to the next rest stop which would put us at the halfway point!
We found spots among the trees for our bikes to rest and off to the lunch spread we went. Sandwich fixins were on the menu and everything looked so tasty. I debated putting the yummy looking red onions on my sandwich and then for the sake of my group, decided to pass on them...another chocolate chip cookie did hop onto my plate though! We sat down at the picnic tables and it was really neat to look around and see all of the cyclists there. I spent some time lusting over pretty bikes, mainly impressed with their color schemes more than their components. I'm such a girl! I made one more potty stop...this time in a REAL bathroom, and then filled my bottles up with lemonade again and we were on our way.
For some reason, when I looked at the elevation profile for this ride, my eyes saw the big bumps before the lunch stop and neglected to register all of the little bumps after that stop. Caught off guard, I may or may not have started whining just a little. Okay...you all know my better than that. I think it went something like "FUCK THIS SHIT!" The only comfort was that we were now riding along the coast and the weather and views were both unbelievable. As we approached Shoreline Park in Santa Barbara I asked the group to pull off for a minute. As we were approaching the very cypress tree that James and I were married under almost nine years ago, Matt rides up and says "Hey...that's where Melissa and I had our first kiss!" Kind of cool and I had to take a picture there, of course.
Riding on, we made it to rest stop number four and gobbled down some more food. At this point I just wanted to be done and I knew that we still had 25+ miles ahead, so the best thing to do was to get out of there as soon as possible. My toughest leg of the ride was between rest stops four and five, I think that being so close, but just not there yet was draining on me. I passed the time by talking to every cyclist that looked as though they were hurting as much or more than I was and it motivated me to keep going. As we got closer to rest stop five I looked at Voltaire and said "I'm going to be pissed if they serve us Otter Pops...I want something yummy...like a Big Stick!" Sure enough, we arrived at the final rest stop and the century known for it's popsicles delivered...BIG STICKS! We sat and enjoyed them in the shade and got ready for the home stretch.
Popsicle powered and ready to roll, James looked at his cycle computer and told me that we could make it back in under 6:55 ride time. I asked how fast we'd have to ride and Matt replied somewhere around 18 mph. I told him I didn't think that would happen, but that I'd give it a shot so let's go! The last leg of the ride starts off on Highway 101 and somehow riding on busy fast freeways gives me an adrenaline rush and makes me want to go FAST so I can just get off ASAP. I looked down and we were holding steady at 18-20 mph...he kept looking back and I was right there on his wheel the whole time. I took a turn pulling and my burst of energy took us up to 22 mph and I thought at that point that we might actually make it. After getting off of the freeway we hit a bike path, so obviously our speeds slowed, but we were able to maintain 16-17 mph the rest of the way back. I was so happy to see our time!!!!
After changing clothes we headed in for the post ride meal. Several of our Bike Forums friends were arriving, so it was nice to sit together for dinner and swap ride stories. I went up to get my Cool Breeze patch and they rang a bell for me since it was my first century, which was really cool! It was nice to do this century with a group of fun and supportive riders...I can't wait for the next one!