Yep, we rode our bikes 100 miles in one day! 15 October 2005

Sea Gull Century at 62 milesSaturday, October 8, 2005 was the 17th annual Sea Gull Century bike ride, one of the most popular in the nation, starting and ending at the University of Salisbury, MD, and yep, we did it! My sister Patricia and I and two great friends, Amy-Marie and Robin, braved the raging remnants of hurricane Tammy, and completed our first “century” ride – 100 miles and nearly 9 hours in the saddle, in the pouring, crashing, trashing rain!

Though I’m not sure any of us would have said so at the time, it was a great adventure, and in the end we had a blast and are simply thrilled that we did it, all 100 miles. (Actually, Robin and I rode about 103-4 miles, but you have to read on to find out why.) And believe it or not, I think the rain, which was like riding through a heavy warm shower, made the day considerably easier for me, because I am very uncomfortable in the humid heat of the DC area. Except for Robin, we were all well-trained and ready for the ride, which made her accomplishment all the more amazing, and to boot, she really seemed less the wear for it.

As the day approached, we knew the weather forecast was not great, but we had been preparing for this ride for so long that we all agreed we would “just go and see what happens”. I had even finally bought a top-rack with two bike mounts that I had wished for for a long time. Inaugural bike rack loadingSo we loaded 4 bikes onto my 1994 Honda Accord – two on top and two on the trunk rack – and drove 3.5 hours to the eastern shore of Maryland on Friday evening in windy rain all the way. We checked into a very nice new inn in town, went over to registration to pick up our ride numbers and wander through the vendor stalls, and went back to the hotel to eat chocolate and watch “Legally Blond??. The next morning at 6am, dark and still raining, we again said let’s “just go and see what happens”, loaded up the bikes again (yes, in the rain), and headed over to the start. How many hot chicks does it take...

Of course, getting that far, and seeing hundreds of other wet and woolly riders milling around and taking off, none of us was prepared to say ‘this is crazy – forget it!”, though I think we were all thinking it. So off we went, still in the semi-dark at 7:15 am, our ride numbers already wet and crumbly and falling off the bikes, heading down through the nifty, dry, and well-lit sidewalk tunnel under the highway to the University.We're off!

At 1 mile out, rain crashing down and the wind trying to blow us over and off the road as we rounded a corner and came out from between the trees into the open fields, Robin and I looked at each other and said “1 mile down, 99 to go…are we NUTS????? (which was repeated SOOoooo often all day as we watched the rain coming at us sideways).

Patricia and Amy-Marie took off, faster than Robin and I, and we despaired a little over our slow speed. We alternated between heavily wooded areas where the rain was a drizzle, and the open fields where it whipped at us. At one point not far along, we were riding through deep woods and were luckily not going very fast (12-14 mph), when two deer suddenly jumped across the road only feet in front of us – you can imagine our relief that we were staying so alert, trying to avoid slipping on the wet pavement!

At one point, we noticed a young woman cyclist ahead of us slowing down when she realized her companions had stopped behind her, and she then slowly fell over to the left when she couldn’t get her bike shoe unclipped! We were chuckling as we passed and she said with a grin “Sorry ladies!??, and we all replied, laughing harder, “BEEN there! DONE that!!??

Sag stop 1 at mile 22 At mile 22 was the first “sag?? stop (juice, fruit, breads), in a lovely state park on a tidal lake, and the rain let up a little bit, to a light drizzle. We enjoyed the break immensely, watching the bikers and the ducks, and were just amazed at the bicycles EVERYWHERE – more than I had ever seen in one place…there were 7,000 riders signed up, but only a mere 3000 braved the storm! As we got back on the road, and the clouds appeared to thin, Patricia says “I think it’s clearing up!!?? Of course, we were hopeful, and cheered. 🙂

Nearly every mile we saw one or two cyclists by the side of the road repairing flat tires or components, and we said silently “poor guys??, never speaking out loud for fear it would be us, but not one of us had any flats or mechanical problems OR FALLS the entire day!

Around 2 pm as we approached the lunch stop on Assateague Island and the one bridge we had to cross, the wind picked up and were nearly riding at a standstill over the bridge into the wind and rain! Then the rain let up all during our lunch, as it did at all but the first sag stop! Eating our lunch, someone said “Want to go see the ocean??? and Amy-Marie says “I’m not moving away from the food!?? But we did, and commandeered a photographer to get this shot of all of us – it was pretty funny, because his reponse was “Yes, but let’s hurry – it is starting to rain and I don’t want to get wet.??!!!! Again, Patricia says “I really think it’s clearing up!?? And as we took off, literally, and approached the bridge to return to the mainland, the rain returned with a vengeance.

At the afternoon sag stop with only 18 miles to go, the PIE and ICE CREAM stop (which NEVER tasted so good!), we were treated to funny and relaxing shoulder rubs by an old support crew member who chatted us up while using a really cool, stiff, rubber-footed back-rub thingy shaped sort of like a hand holding a tennis ball. As we get ready to take off again, Patricia repeats her now-famous and hilarious “I think it’s clearing up!?? line, and we cheerfully agree! (However, the worst was yet to come.)

Around mile 90, ‘surfacing’ from a lengthy conversation whose topic I no longer recall, Robin and I slowly realized there were no other cyclists to be seen ahead or behind of us (Patricia and Amy Marie were far ahead of us), and that we could no longer see the white sea gulls with arrows painted on the road to mark the route. So, figuring that we had missed an intersection, we made a U-turn and headed back, hoping to see riders soon, with no idea how far we had come. But it had been at least 10 minutes or more. Luckily, it was only about 2 miles back, though it was 2 miles we would rather NOT have ridden!

The last 7 or 8 miles the rain actually got worse and worse, so bad that the photo I had hoped to take all day from under a tree – of riders passing by, water flying from their tires and arcing from under their wheels, rain pouring off of helmets – was not to be; my camera was barely surviving in its baggie. We made one last stop across from the airport to stretch, exhausted – there was no cover in sight so we were fully exposed to the rain sheeting down, just taking it on, almost in defiance now. With only about 4 miles to go, around 4:30 pm, we crossed several intersections in about 15 inches of water. At one, traffic police dressed in full length rain coats and hats were using flashlights to stop traffic and wave us through. As we passed, we shouted thanks, and then commented on how crazy they must think this bunch is!

The finish was anticlimactic, but such a relief… back down through the cool sidewalk tunnel, all around a university building near the start to ensure we had 100 miles on our tires, and we were done! Tired, but not trashed, and ***very*** pleased with ourselves – these 30- and 50-something chicks. 🙂

When we got back to the car and headed back to the inn, we very gently pulled out our soggy, disintegrating meal tickets, being careful not to rip them further to shreds, and we laid them on the back of the car seats to dry, Patricia said to Robin, “Don’t mess with my meal ticket!??.
Wet stuffAt the university center, when we handed what was left of the tickets over to the elderly ticket collector lady with flaming red hair, she raised an eyebrow and gave us a strange look and said “I guess these will work??! All-You-Can-Eat cafeteria food never tasted so good!

There are many photos I wish I had taken… of the hundreds of cyclists on the road – of every age, in every physical shape, on every type of bike imaginable, serious, or contemplative, or grinning, crazy like us riding through the slanted rain; the traffic cops at flooded intersections waving us through; the well-lit start/finish sidewalk tunnel; a cyclist taking a break and stretching on a lonely curve of road, lying on his back with his legs straight up in the air, ankles crossed, the bikes and his mates nearby; the gal slowly toppling over, laughing. After chatting with one fellow older rider on a cushy recumbent (this was his 10th Sea Gull Century), I have vowed to ride my next century giving my bum a break on one of those funky things in a three-wheel model!!

Here are some of the most memorable images and phrases from the day that we took note of over our celebration dinner:
* “This is nuts!??
* “This is totally bonkers!!!??
* “I think it is going to clear up!??
* “We’re riding through shit!??
* Images unfortunately not captured on film at every sag stop: Hundreds of bicycles laying EVERYWHERE, on the ground, against trees, against fences, against walls, against each other – just happily tossed aside without locks.

* When we stopped for lunch at Assateague: “Let’s go see the ocean.??
“…I’m not moving away from the food.??

* “Don’t mess with my meal ticket.??
* “Do you want to split a piece of cake??? “No, I don’t think I need to split.??
* Just after our lunch stop at mile 62: “Assateague pony on the left! We can go home now!??
* “Is riding 10 hours in the driving rain fun? True or False???
* “How many hours until our fingertips aren’t wrinkled any more???
* “My face seems a bit wind burned.?? – AMB.
“You were going faster than we were; maybe that’s why you ran into more wind!?? – RA

* “Our hair is going to be really soft!??

Ride route

Our cycling adventures began about 2 ½ years ago, in August 2003, when Patricia convinced me to go bike riding with her around the Capitol Mall (the grounds between the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Monument). Patricia had just moved up here and brought her bike (won by her son from Wal*Mart, which she swapped him for her old Honda Accord!). I started riding on my sister-in-law Abby’s 15-year-old 10-speed (great bike!), and our first ride together was about 5 miles, up and down the Mall from Pat’s house on Capitol Hill. From there, we rode farther and farther each week, and by Christmas 2003, we were riding over 60 miles per month, and rode over 120 (including a 27-mile ride) in October.

By December, Abby was ready to get her bike back, and under our brother Jim’s (alias “Jimbo??) tutelage (our cycling coach, living close by in… SERBIA), I completed an exhaustive, obsessive, 3-month search for the perfect bike, and after driving everyone crazy with my indecision, I finally purchased a very cool Marin hybrid. Patricia continued to cheerfully ride her purple, el-cheapo mountain bike. We began collecting all the proper cycling gear (even heart rate monitors, which Jimbo claims is essential to building fitness), and we rode through the winter in temps as low at 28 degrees F! (yes, completely smitten, addicted to riding), though never in the rain or snow, as Jim said it was too dangerous/slick. I had my first crash in September 2003 – a slide down on a curve due to wet leaves on the Rock Creek Park Trail. Patricia’s first crash was much more spectacular – and dumb… in May at mile 18, again on the Rock Creek Trail, but this time up near Needwood Lake. She had thrown her jacket over her handlebars, and it slipped down and stopped her front tire cold, and she went over the top. Luckily, she remembered Jim’s coaching to tuck and roll, and was more or less ‘okay’ – she rode all the way back, though in considerable pain from a bruised rib.

In the summer of 2004 we picked up another cycling buddy, Amy-Marie, and increased our mileage weekly, reaching a peak single-day ride of 70+ miles (from Falls Church to Purcelville) on the W&OD Trail in August. Even though we rode that 100 miles in October, August 2004 is still our highest mileage to date in one month, with a total of 308 miles!

We are currently planning our next great cycling adventure, to ride the southeast coast of Australia (the Great Ocean Road) from Melbourne to Adelaide with our coach/brother Jim and his wife Irena, while our Mom Helen drives the Sag Wagon… nearly 1500 kilometers… in March of 2007. 🙂