Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seagull Century, Salisbury, MD

Barb and I traveled up to Salisbury, MD on Friday afternoon to take part in the Seagull Century ride on Saturday. This would be the furthest I'd every ridden, the previous longest trip had been about 20 years ago when I rode 80 miles from London to Brighton in England. So on Friday night we stocked up on our carbs and downed a few beers with a steak dinner.
We woke on Saturday morning at 4:30am and slowly roused ourselves mentally and physically for the day. I'd had every intention of eating a healthy energy packed breakfast but the most I could manage was a half bagel with cream cheese. I watched Barb in admiration as she scoffed her cereal and milk along with a hard boiled egg fueling her body for the miles ahead.
We drove to the parking lot along with hundreds of others, pumped tires and checked emergency repair and food supplies then headed to the start. The start time was between 7:00 - 9:00am and we were there for 7:15. The sun was only just peeking over the horizon and I was glad for my sleeves in the grey chill.
I felt a little apprehensive, was I really up for this? But before I could ponder too long, we were off! It was exhilarating to be part of such a huge moment and I was grinning from ear to ear. A couple in front were arguing furiously because she wasn't wearing her gloves and he was insisting she return to get them. She didn't.
There were no cars on the road and almost immediately we were in the countryside where it felt as though the temperature had dropped further.
I remember I looked at my odometer and thinking 1 mile down, 99 to go but quickly pushed that thought out of my head. I pedaled faster to get into the sunny spots as I was freezing and my fingers kept going numb. Of course, it was only the girls who were audibly complaining about the temperature, the men were just gritting their teeth.
But after an hour or so, we warmed up as the sun rose and before long we were at our first rest stop of 20 miles.
 By now I was ravenous, and woofed down another cream cheese bagel, a banana and a fig newton. I noticed people were stuffing their shirt pockets with supplies so I grabbed a few things too. I met a guy who was also riding a Bianchi and he was amazed that I'd managed to find a helmet the same color as my ride. Duh! I'm female, of course I'm gonna match.
Our view while eating breakfast was spectacular but at 30 minutes, we spent too long at this stop and resolved future stops would only be 10-15 minutes.
So off we went again, but I still kept my sleeves on as the air was still brisk.
I was amazed at how little traffic we came across and the vehicles that did approach were very considerate. Cries of 'Car!' and 'Car Back!' went back and forth to keep everyone alert. Pace lines started picking up speed with groups of cyclists hurtling past and I was itching to join them but being my first long ride, I decided to be cautious. Definitely next year I'll join some of those. Everybody chatted to each other and then I pointed out to Barb some cyclists in front. It was the Calamity Couple from earlier who were now arguing about how their helmets should be worn. I considered staying behind them to enjoy the entertainment but decided I really didn't need to listen to them on such a beautiful morning. We stopped for our 40 mile break but I only ate a banana as I was still full from earlier. After a brief 10 minutes we were off again.
Yay! Abandoned house. I wanted to explore but had to satisfy myself with a photo. I spent the next 20 or so miles chatting to other cyclists. One guy was 70 years old and couldn't remember the exact number of centuries he'd ridden but it was between 50 - 70! Another guy introduced me to a 79 year old who was cycling his first century and had just returned from a vacation in Colorado where he'd been rockclimbing. I was humbled by these seasoned athletes and proud to have met them. I only saw one teenager on the route riding alone, a couple of others were riding tandem with parents. 
A  DeLorean DMC-12 seen on the side of the road, the model used in 'Back to the Future'.
 I rode to the top of the bridge that linked the mainland to Assateague Island, our 63 mile rest stop. Here's Barb approaching...
 ...and me racing down the other side. We saw 2 ponies and a foal who were by the side of the road and that was enough. Before, I'd wanted to check out the island but now I was focused on finishing with no distractions. We fueled up but again I didn't eat much despite being told to eat as much as possible because we would have headwinds all the way back to Salisbury.
I had to get a photo of these two as it's not too likely I'll see people with helmets on playing in the surf in the near future. The water was warm enough to frolic yet I was anxious to leave. I didn't want to start relaxing. We were already seeing SUVs loaded with people and towing trailers laden with bikes. People were dropping out. We rode to the bridge again and immediately noticed the change in the wind, it was against us. I picked a guy in front who was maintaining a steady 14-15 mph and paced him for the next 10 or so miles before he slowed down so I overtook. I'd lost Barb by now but we stayed in touch by texting.
This pretty scenery prompted me to pause momentarily and snap a photo but I'd lost interest in taking pictures now and needed to focus on keeping my pedals rotating at above 10 mph. Occasionally along the route there were small groups of people handing out free water, brownies, bananas or encouragement with ringing cowbells and shouts and placards. At each rest stop, these folk were present again with their cheery chanting as they heralded our approach or sent us on to the next leg. I'm sure these people were aware of how grateful we were, they certainly helped me to keep going. The knowledge of apple pie and ice cream at the last stop kept my legs pumping especially since I'd heard that it would only be there until supplies ran out. But strangely enough once I had the plate clutched in my paw, I didn't want it. I had a few mouthfuls and then chewed on some beef jerky. 
 Me with the Green Genie. After filling both bottles with water I set off again. I'd covered 86 miles and 101 miles was the finish line. A 15 mile ride to me is usually like walking to the mailbox and back but today it seemed like the end of the world. The headwind was still with us and only a mile or so down the road, another SUV and trailer went past filled with those unable to finish. My heart went out to them and I hoped they'd succeed next time. There weren't too many other riders at this stage and the pace lines had long gone. I stuck my head down and pedaled.
My last photo before I finished was this Farmall tricycle tractor, my favorite make. I had passed a father and his small son earlier sitting on a beat up old tractor and had yelled out, "Massey Ferguson?" to him as I passed. He had beamed in acknowledgment and I was well chuffed I'd managed to identify the vehicle successfully.
I watched my odometer as the miles dragged by and refused to let my legs slow down. At the final 3 miles point I began to pick up speed again. I approached a junction with another cyclist and immediately the police officer stopped traffic so we didn't even have to slow down. We called out our thanks and he responded, "Go bikes!". The police were absolutely superb throughout this course helping us through and as we passed through small towns, the locals were happy to stop and let us by. The only wanker I saw was a guy on a motorbike in one of our rest areas who nearly ran a woman over and then yelled at her. She'd done nothing wrong.
As a group of us cycled back into Salisbury, we saw a lady in a wheelchair on the curb smiling at us and waving, and I heard her call us 'incredible'. I was glad to be wearing sunglasses as that selfless comment made me cry.
And then there it was, Salisbury University and the tunnel to the finish line. We crossed the line to cheers, bells and horns and an incredible relief that I could finally separate my posterior from the bike seat. 
 I parked my bike near others that had been abandoned and grabbing a bottle went in search of water. None to be found! Not that I looked very hard as round the corner was the beer tent which was much more appealing. I grabbed a glass then went back to the finish line to await Barb. One guy asked me to take photos of him crossing the line so I obliged and then Barb came through.
He's the one posing in the middle, bless him, nearly stealing Barb's thunder.
Once Barb was done, we didn't hang around. It was back to the hotel to shower and then head out for dinner and beers. Our euphoria didn't last too long though after we'd eaten. Tiredness flooded over us and our heads drooped. We couldn't believe it as we scuttled back to the hotel before 9:00pm. But Barb reckoned our legs had turned around 60,000 revolutions so we didn't feel too guilty. My rolling time had been a modest 7:16 hours, which next year I hope to knock down by at least 30 minutes as I'll be going faster over the whole course. We were very happy bunnies that night and slept like logs. 
I was amazed to find that the next day although my legs felt tired, I didn't have any pain or soreness. And none in later days. We spent the Sunday exploring a little town called Berlin which we'd skirted on our bikes during the course. I had an excellent seafood omelette and 2 mimosas, finally awake enough to celebrate our success. It was two very smug and satisfied ladies who drove home later that afternoon!

1 comment:

Heideldy Deideldy said...

That is the most awesome story Debby! I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished since the days of Connecticut. I love you lots girl!