Today was the Capital City Century in Springfield, IL. Well, it started in Springfield, but we spent an awful lot of time in the small (but lovely) town of Auburn. The route was about 20 miles out from the Lake Springfield Beach House (which I meant to get a picture of but didn't) to a park in Auburn. From the park, there were three 20ish mile loops (all meeting back at the park), and then you rode about 20 miles back to the beach house. I really liked the set-up because it allowed me the opportunity every 20 miles or so to punk out.
We spent the night at a Super 8 in Springfield because we wanted to start at 7 and didn't want to leave the house at 4:30. It was no Taj Mahal, to be sure, but it was cheap and the bed was sooooo comfortable. Best pillows ever. And yet, despite being super tired after a 5 mile run and playing 7 hours of mud volleyball on Saturday, I could not fall asleep. I don't like to brag, but I'm a world champion sleeper...a sleep savant, one might say...so this was NOT a welcome turn of events. I eventually fell asleep sometime after 12:30 (2 1/2 hours after turning out the light), saw 3 a.m., and then slept until the alarm went off at 5:15.
Slight technical difficulties getting the bikes out of the van. It's a good thing my aunt is so small.
The temperature in the morning started out around 63. Great for running, but a little chilly (for my wimpy self) on a bike. I had brought a long-sleeved top, so I wore it over my jersey starting out.
My aunt and I before the ride.
The long sleeves lasted for the first 22 miles, and I got rid of them at the first stop at the SAG. I also ended up having to bungee my kickstand up AGAIN. No matter how many times it's tightened (and not by me, by my competent husband. If I was the one tightening it, that would explain plenty), it always comes loose and hangs down below the pedal. I think I'll just take it off.
It was a beautiful morning. Gorgeous. Bright, sunny, and comfortable.
Note the requisite farm field in the background. Yep...we're in Illinois!
Cornfield, like always, but look! The corn is brown instead of green.
Self-portrait 1: "I love this day! I'm so glad I decided to do this! Bike riding is FUN!"
SAG stop. Quality camera work, I know.
The SAG stop had a variety of fruit, trail mix, and lots and lots of cookies. It also had Gatorade, lemonade, water, and plenty of wonderful volunteers. This ride had great support. Multiple SAG vehicles were constantly roving, and a local ham radio (I guess) group was set up all over as contact points for riders as well. The Springfield Bicycle Club really put on a good ride.
The first loop started out great. I even said to my friends, "Wow, the breeze feels great!" "That's because it's a tailwind," replied Sam. Let a girl have her delusions!! "Oh, it'll feel good," I answered, "You know, it'll keep us cool." "It" about knocked me on my ass.
Self portrait 2: "Oh. My. Gosh. I'm dying. If I stop pedalling I'm going to fly backwards. WTF am I doing out here. I haven't ridden my bike in a month. I'm PAYING to do this!"
Finally we turned a corner and the headwind became a crosswind. Difficult, but manageable.
While not as varied as the Ride the Rivers century last year, the Capital City did cover some very pretty territory. As long as you find farms pretty. Luckily, I do.
Scenic barn. Still can't zoom since dropping my camera on the beach during Wisconsin trip #1
Now this corn is not only brown, it's also being cut. Talk about variety!
By our second time back at the SAG stop and 44 miles behind us, my rear was really starting to hurt. Contrast that with last year (when I had actually trained for my century), when I started to get mildly uncomfortable at about mile 80. Yes, folks, time in the saddle is very, very helpful. Unless you have something against sitting comfortably.
We had some lunch.
Now this lunch was fine, but it couldn't possibly compare with the wonderful lunch served last year on the Ride the Rivers century.
Supported the local beggars.
Had a photo op.
Flipped off the photographer for being a pain.
That wasn't for the camera, but I LOVE that he got the shot. It cracks me up.
Set off back to farmland.
While I really liked the loop set up for its aforementioned wimp-out potential, there was one thing I wasn't crazy about. All of the loops took off from and returned on the same roads, so you saw the people returning 20 miles ahead of where you were. It was a bit demoralizing. But only a bit because it's not a competition. Except maybe to see just how long I could make myself stay out there.
A little ways into this leg, I rode up to Sam and suggested that, as I knew he was really wanting to complete the century, he might want to drop Nancy and me and head out. He was riding considerably slower than he can to ride with us, and I wasn't sure how long my legs (or will to keep riding) were going to stay strong. He said, "We'll see," then promptly took off. :)
This leg wasn't as bad as the first, windy loop, but I was still glad to see this sign.
We celebrated any sign that we were getting close to Auburn again, since that meant that we were that much closer to being finished. My aunt was already making noises about us making a decision about quitting or keeping on, and she wasn't saying anything I hadn't been thinking for about 30 miles.
So yes, we were happy to be returning to Auburn...until the route took us onto this little stretch of joy.
Seriously? After riding 60-some miles, you're going to make me drag my already raw ass over a brick road? And please look carefully. This is no smooth brick road. What masochist planned out this route? Wherever the side was safe, I rode over there. Unfortunately, it didn't extend over the whole road.
We pulled back into the SAG again, grabbed a snack and a drink, and kind of looked at each other. We could either ride one more 20 mile loop, then ride the 20 back to Springfield; wait at the SAG for Sam to come through and ride on in together; or just ride back to Springfield and wait for Sam while stuffing our faces with free food. That last choice was looking pretty appealing, and I think Nancy was all for it, but I hated to think of getting back and knowing I was only 20 miles away from another century. So...off we went again.
You never see a cow on a bike. Lucky cows.
I was dreading this loop, but it wasn't bad at all. There was one pretty windy stretch, but the remainder wasn't directly into the wind and went pretty quickly. The road, however, had its own hazards.
The combine (?) pulled over any time a cyclist rode by, but when it wasn't pulled over to the side, it took up the whole road. A little intimidating to see heading straight at you.
We escaped harm from the combine and got back to the SAG in relatively short order. Once again, we grabbed snacks. The watermelon was tasting sooo good. I was pretty sure that I knew where to go, but I wanted to check with the map/information lady. "Is that the way home?" I asked, pointing.
"Here, let me show you on the map."
"I'm not so good with the maps," I replied, "I just want to know if that's the way I go. I can follow the road markings."
"Well, come over here and let me tell you, then." So she proceeded to tell me the way, turn by turn, which I promptly forgot. Then, she showed me the map. It was a very nice map. I had a smaller one in my bike bag. I didn't look at it, either. "It's marked on the road, right?" I confirmed. Yes it was, so off I went.
The first part of the way home led through a residential area, where I saw this sign in a yard.
Whoever Brady is, he's raising the bar a bit for homecoming invitations.
The next part of the way back was on the Interurban Trail, a nice break from the road.
This should've been the easiest part of the ride. I was practically finished. I was so close.
I was in pain.
At this point, I was riding with Dave, a guy I started talking to back on the brick section (not to be confused with "Dave" from the Katy Trail ride, this guy's name actually is Dave, though he looks more like an Eric to me). My bike computer was taking the day off, which is kind of nice on a long ride like this so I can't obsess over how far, how fast, how much farther. Dave/Eric, however, did have a bike computer, and I started feeling like the kid in the backseat ("Are we there yet?"). I limited myself to only asking a couple of times, and then he volunteered that we only had 2 miles left. Hallelujah!!
Around this time, I started dragging, and he headed off to finish. I took out my phone and saw on facebook that Sam had finished. Yea, for him...he did it! I thought at first. Then, I realized what his status update said: "Official distance: 104.75 miles."
Gah! I wasn't 2 miles from the end. I was nearly SEVEN miles from the end. I wanted to cry. What kind of bait and switch BS was this? I signed on for 100 miles, not 105. Let me tell you, it was some slow going from there on. And the darn lake was playing hide and seek. One minute, I was riding near it and thinking I was almost there.
And the next minute the route twisted and turned away. Sigh.
The whole ride, even when I was wiped out, I'd wave and smile at whomever I saw. Around here, though, I was starting to feel really sorry for myself. A car drove by and the people waved and said, "Way to go!" and all I could muster was a very glum-like "Thanks." A few more people came by and waved and cheered, though (all people finished riding, eating, and on their way home), and I started to perk up a little.
The road wove back near the lake, I crossed a bridge (very pretty, but very rough!)...
...and there, on the other side of the bridge, was the road to the beach house. I'm not sure if I was more happy or more relieved. There was a couple sitting on the tailgate of a truck in the parking lot, and they cheered for me and did the wave (well, a two-person wave) as I rode in. It was really nice. I remember finishing last year's century and feeling like I had accomplished this HUGE thing...and riding into a basically empty parking lot. It was a great feeling to have someone celebrate with me...even if it probably WAS mostly their beers cheering. :)
I sent Jeff a text to tell him I'd finished, and he texted back, "I'm proud of you. Did you have fun?" And, while parts of it were fun, the fun for me is really in pushing myself and accomplishing the goal. It hurt. And I hurt. And I'm going to hurt more tomorrow. But I'll be smiling while I limp.
And if you know where I can get a cheap donut cushion, let me know. :)