A guy wrote to the me list saying he was giving up on riding long distance. Lets call him TOC, for “tired of centuries”. Hed ridden two 100 mile rides, finishing one in 8 hours and the other in 7:30. After each he was really tired.

Ahem. I wonder what it is like to ride that fast? I remembered my first century ride, the Salem Bicycle Clubs Watermelon Ride. It took 13 hours. That time did include a wrong turn for some bonus miles over a hill and into a headwind, running out of water with miles left before the final rest stop and then spending over an hour there. That was followed by eight miles or so straight into a 20mph headwind that had arrived in the afternoon. There was also more time spent lying on the grass in a city park, getting up the wherewithal to keep going. After that ride I was really tired. I was also happy that I hadnt taken a short cut to the end of the ride. Id gone the distance.

My initial response to TOC was to point out how quickly he’d ridden. Extremely fast for a first time century rider. Today I sent him another email. This one included more reasons for continuing with long rides.

A bit more on centuries. I rode 128.7 miles yesterday. It took 11:40 ride time and 13:19 wall time. Today Im disinclined to move. Maybe it was the 1000 foot climb from the Columbia Gorge to the plateau over the river. Maybe it was the additional 3000 feet needed to climb up to the unnamed summit on USFS road 23. Maybe it was the 600 foot climb out of the Lewis river. Probably not. I think the tiredness comes from the final climb, 1500 feet starting with over three miles at 7.5%.

Not much can compare to a well earned 26 mile 2780 foot descent.

The views of Mounts Adams, Hood and St. Helens were stunning. The wildflowers were beautiful. Riding in the shade of tall pines and firs refreshing.

None of this would have been possible had I given up after that first 13 hour century ride.

There was 7970 feet of elevation gain on that route. While climbing the last one, the 7.5% one, I contemplated which of my systems was giving out. The legs? The lungs? The will to push them to more discomforting efforts? That contemplation became moot when I crested the summit and started downhill. Frequent pulses of the brakes kept my speed down in the comfort zone for the initial switchback descent. Not fun to throw away the gained energy. Then I hit the straight stretches with very mild downgrade and kept the bike moving along at a brisk pace. This was much more to my liking. In retrospect the worst part of the final climb was thinking about its difficulty while doing it. Well, that and dropping my bike one of the times when I got off to walk.

As I wrote to TOC, none of this would have happened had I given up.