The metric century, 100 kilometers, that’s 62.14 miles for the metrically challenged, of open road cycling. Señor J and myself put ourselves to the test this afternoon, as a tuneup ride for next weeks Walk, Wheel, & Wobble Charity event for Ataxia. We were both exploring new distance limits, as my longest rides have been half centuries (50 mile), and Señor J’s was a 40 mile ride just three weeks ago.
We headed out early in the morning, as soon as there was enough light. The planned route was to head southward down Tree Line Avenue to Three Oaks Parkway, continuing through the Estero “country club trifecta”, then down Imperial Parkway and Livingston Road, ultimately reaching the half way point at North Collier Regional Park, approximately 30 miles south of our starting point, and then backtrack the route to hit the planned 100 kilometer mark.
The temperature was in the mid 70’s, with a gentle southwesterly breeze, without a raincloud in sight…perfect cycling weather. Being that we would be spending close to four hours in the saddle and burning well over 3,000 calories, we both carried extra food and sports drink mix to keep us fueled for the ride.
We headed out casually towards Tree Line Ave, enjoying a spectacular Florida sunrise ahead of us. Once on Tree Line, we slowly ramped up the speed. I reminded Señor J that this was not a race but an endurance challenge, where smart riding and conservation of energy were key to a successful ride. Of course both of us being overly competitive pretty much tossed that reasoning to the wayside, and maintained speeds above our original game plan, but it was no foul no harm as the wind was in our favor.
Curiously, we were actually riding at a higher pace than when on our normal 30 mile routes, without splitting the load in a pace line. Instead, we road side by side, chit chatting our way down the wide, pretty much traffic free boulevard. We quickly passed GCTC and FGCU. We chose not to use the overpass to cross I75 (funny how we became energy conservative when it came to a small climb) choosing instead to cross under it on Corkscrew Road. Some uneven sidewalk riding eventually got us onto Three Oaks Parkway (curious that such a highly trafficked cycling route does not have a bike lane, forcing you to either battle crazy motorists in narrow lanes, or ride up on the bumpy sidewalk), and the halfway point of the first leg of our metric century.
Seventeen miles in, we were passing through the Estero “country club trifecta”. We were now starting to see a good number of cyclists, all unfortunately heading the opposite direction we were. The wind started picking up a bit, but it still favored us a bit as we maintained an 18 to 19 MPH clip. This would soon change once Three Oaks nestles along side I75 as it’s wide open vistas provide no protection from the wind.
Once past Terry Street we caught up to a lone female cyclist who promptly hoped on our back wheel forming a three person peloton. We continued to see a great number of cyclists in tight pace lines again all heading the opposite way we were. Our three person group stayed together at a 19-20 MPH clip to Immokalee Road, where our unknown friend eventually turned off to continue her own cycling quest.
The half way point was in sight now, just a mile or so down the road. We turned into the North Collier Regional Park complex low on water and looking forward to a little refueling break. We headed straight to the soccer complex where nice shaded benches, cold water and bathrooms awaited us. Quite a few children’s soccer matches were going on as we arrived. It’s always great to see active kids playing team sports with their families present, cheering them on.
We stopped under a big shaded canopy, took badly needed nature breaks (there are no besoin naturel when riding down public streets), refilled our water bottles and snacked on some energy bars and fruit. The wind had picked up substantially as we approached our mid point. We were very much aware the return ride was going to be harder, as we would be fighting a headwind the entire way home. So, we decided extend our little break a bit, enjoying both the shade as well as all the soccer matches going on about us. The refueling and break from the sun brought our energy levels back up, so we packed up, hopped back onto our bikes and stared our return leg back home…against the dreaded wind.
As we casually headed out of the sports complex, I looked down at my cycling computer and noted that instead of showing we were 30 miles in we were actually just shy of 29 miles…so much for Google maps accuracy. Using the same return route would have left us a few miles short of a full metric century. This was not acceptable to either of us. We knew we’d have to tack on a few additional miles somewhere along the way back home.
Back out on the main road we immediately felt the impact of the headwind, so no more two abreast riding, it was time to form a two man pace line all the way home. As I mentioned in a previous post, drafting behind another cyclists lets you conserve 25% of your energy. With the increasing heat and wind, not to mention another 30+ miles of cycling, a pace line was going to be essential. I set our speed cap at 17 MPH, took the lead and fought the wind for the next 10 miles.
As we approached the “country club trifecta” I suggested to Señor J that we swing through Coconut Point to make up the additional mileage we needed to complete the metric century. Since we were going to be about 4 miles short, a loop down Coconut Way through Coconut Point then back across via Williams road and back onto Three Oaks (basically the start and end route of our Trek group rides) would easily make up for the missing mileage, plus, and mind you this was a huge plus, we could stop at Planet Smoothie for an ice cold Twig & Berries smoothie break (strawberries, bananas and yogurt blended to a creamy perfection). Just the thing needed to give us that last boost of energy to complete the ride. Refueled again, we made a quick stop at the Trek store to top off our water (always fun to vist them, especially when on a ride) and then continued on our quest for 100 K.
Now back on familiar ground, we maintained our 17 MPH cap into the wind, over the I75 overpass (I’m always amazed how big that climb feels after a hard ride) and back onto Tree Line. We fought our way past the airport and onto the home stretch. Our metric century was quickly coming to an end. Señor J took the final lead, pulling me home at a near 20 MPH clip. I guess the smoothies revitalized him. I was quite content to ride in his draft. We eventually pulled into our neighborhood and watched our cycling computers tick over the targeted 62 mile mark. We both had tired legs but great big smiles on our faces as we had successfully completed our metric century challenge!
So congratulations are in order for Señor J for fighting his way through his longest ride to date. I’m hoping he has something left for tomorrow’s group ride with our friends from Trek. Something tells me it is going to be a bit brutal, especially once all those A riders hit the airport sprint. As for me, the ride was very enjoyable, even if it got a little hot by rides end. I think with a few more metric centuries under my belt, my personal goal of completing a century ride (100 miles) is easily within reach.
The ride data is going to look a bit odd as I forgot to switch Cyclemeter back on after the smoothie break, missing out on about 4 miles of data. I’ve supplemented the ride data with the data from my CatEye computer. A great ride overall, with both of us setting new personal distance records. Not a bad way to spend the morning, as well as burning through over 3,300 calories!
**UPDATE** I received a call last night from Señor J around 8:00PM saying he was too beat up to even attempt the trek ride tomorrow. Completely understandable as that was his biggest ride to date.
**UPDATE 2** I woke up feeling fine this morning, with just slightly heavy legs. I checked the weather report for today’s Trek ride and saw we’d be battling 15 MPH winds. Knowing all too well that the bonsai A group would not back down, I decided to take a rest day myself.
Route: Metric Century
Started: Sep 17, 2011 7:33:22 AM
Ride Time: 3:54:21
Stopped Time: 1:44:18
Distance: 62.50 miles
Average Speed: 16.00 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 23.2 miles/h
Ascent: 285 feet
Descent: 234 feet