I began to ride a road bike in the summer of 2006, and it became a passion immediately after completing my first big ride event, GABRAKY (Grand Autumn Bicycle Ride Across Kentucky). I was instantly referred to as “ate up” by my cycling friends, and I liked it. At that time I was not familiar with “The Horsey Hundred,” a century ride hosted in my hometown every year on Memorial Day weekend by the Bluegrass Cycling Club, but it was the talk of all the local cyclists as the season came to a close that first year. “You should join us for the Horsey next May,” my close friend Ed Stodola and plenty others told me. Like they said, I was ate up, so that’s exactly what I planned to do. Ride my first century in Georgetown, KY in the 2007 Horsey Hundred!
Keep in mind, just because you may be “ate up” about something, doesn’t mean you’re an instant pro. As the weather began to cooperate, I began to ride my bike, every chance I had. However, I truly had no idea how to properly train for a century ride. The longest day of GABRAKY was 89 miles, so I just assumed that I had another 11 in me, surely. Well my journey over those hundred miles, my first century proved to me that those 11 more miles were a full season ago. I was not yet in good riding shape, not like I was at the end of my first season.
A few lessons I learned on my first century ride: once you complete your first, you will have the confidence that anything is possible on your bike; take advantage of the rest stops, they can be the difference between success and failure; the better you train before the ride, the easier it will be on game-day; sometimes you will need to stay with your friends to pull them along, because there will times when you need them to be there for you.
I took off on the century route for the 30th anniversary Horsey Hundred in May 2007 with my good friend Ed, and he told me early, “We’ll follow the century arrows, and when the 3/4 century route splits, we’ll decide how far we’re going.” I thought, “yeah we’re doing the 100 no matter what.” We set out pretty strong and I was on cloud nine as we ruled the rural roads of north central Kentucky, surrounded by tons of cyclists of all shapes and sizes, riding all types of bikes, wearing all colors of spandex. At the first stop, I was ready to keep going, but taking Ed’s advice, we stopped briefly, refueled, and set back out. We actually skipped the second stop, because both of us still had plenty of water and thought we only had about 13 or so miles to the next stop (the official lunch stop). That proved to be a mistake, because the lunch stop was actually about twenty miles away, the heat was starting to set in, and the hills were beginning to take a toll on my legs. Numerous times I would catch Ed looking back to make sure I was still there, and occasionally slowing up to wait on me. As we pulled into the lunch rest stop, I was whipped, and actually thought to myself, I’m not sure I’ll make it. Again, I heeded to my friend’s advice and got some fuel, then he saved my life (well actually he saved my ride), and said “I’m going to lay down in the shade for a minute. If I fall asleep, wake me up when you’re ready to roll.” That half hour nap under a shade tree proved to be my saving grace.
We saddled up and took back off with plenty of others, but shortly after starting back, we were separated from most of the crowd as the majority of riders complete shorter routes. We cruised along at a pretty good pace for the last forty miles across some beautiful scenery with rolling acres of horse fields lined by wood plank fences (a bluegrass region staple). We enjoyed conversation with ourselves, and I had caught my second wind, thanks to a little rest. I have had similar experiences on some century rides since that first one, in fact,I can vividly recall a heck of a challenge it was to complete the “Wheels O’ Fire Century Cycle” ride in Georgia in the early spring in 2010, which happens to be the first century ride that Renaissance Man completed. It all depends on how hard I train leading up to an event. It’s true, every time. The more you suffer before the “big ride,” the easier that ride will be. Promise.
I am doing a little suffering right now, as I’m planning a big year in cycling. First I will ride in the Redbud Century ride in London, which is the first of four centuries I plan to complete in the Kentucky Century Cycling Challenge. Next, I plan to ride in the Assault on Mt. Mitchell in South and North Carolina, then back to where it all started for Horsey Hundred in Georgetown. Into the summer, I have several rides on the agenda. All with the knowledge in the back of mind: either suffer now, or suffer later, but it’s always worth it, if it’s on the bike!