I completed the Marin Century ride (106 miles) in 7:30, or an average of 14.4 miles per hour. I climbed 6,250 feet of elevation. (For reference: The STP ride is said to be 1,900 over 200 miles. The "hilly" 100 Flying Wheels Century event is 2,960. The "High Pass Challenge" is 7,500 feet.)
I got up around 6AM and left at 6:25. It was still cold and I thought about bringing my jacket to the ride, but I knew it would be useless in a few hours. At 6:40, I head out with a pack of riders. The first part of the ride is flat, followed by a steep climb over a pass. So far so good, but my knees start to hurt. My legs were cold and still pretty stiff. I should buy leg warmers, I have had this problem on many morning rides.
The second steep climb is thankfully short, though I start to feel the lower body tension building. I could just pull over and stretch, but there's no shoulder. Just a ditch, then a barbed wire fence with cattle feeding on hay.
A descent precedes the rest stop. I do what I can to stretch. Squats seemed to stretch the right parts. It was still cold, and waves of fog were sweeping over the hills. There's something weird about being warm above with cold legs. They're the parts that are working hard, so what's the deal?
The next climb was the highest: The Marshall Wall. Thankfully, the fog kept me cool and the climb was steady. Post-climb, my legs loosen up finally, and I ironically felt like 100% again. The fog was thick at the pass and I had to take off my sunglasses to see more than 100 feet. For the descent, I was a little concerned about going much past 30/mph, especially with the occasional diesel pickup passing or coming up. These cattle ranchers sure had large trucks, and they weren't too keen on bicycles on the road, I could tell.
The most scenic part was Tomales Bay, and unfortunately this stretch went by fairly quickly. For a coastal highway, traffic was light and the speed limits were low (mostly 35mph). Across the bay were occasional islands that reminded me of the San Juans, the opposite shore looked like a mirror-image on the side we were on: Hilly, grassy, and lined with trees. It seemed to be fairly calm and relatively protected, and I was told a good place to sea kayak.
Passing along a river, the route turned flat, and the wind was finally from behind. Flat became again steep rolling hills, on and on. A small town (a rancher community?) was the second rest-stop. The food was much better than I was expecting: Fresh fruit, including peaches, watermelon, cherries, along with the ubiquitous bananas and oranges; some fresh baked goods, cookies; Doritos and pretzels, pre-made sandwiches on white or wheat bread, energy drinks and bars were in abundance. The STP food stops were parsimonious in comparison. Though for $70, I expected a step up from the usual fare.
But with all the nice food out, a swarm a yellow jackets tormented the place. I hope nobody got stung.
And at around 11AM, it was sunny and hot. I followed various pace-lines, which got me a little more speed, but eventually I got more and more tired, and I got dropped. I was surreptitiously checking my odometer; I considered the distance much more than should have, the scenery was nice, if not a little monotonous. At around 70 miles, I met another solo bicyclist who was having a hard time and he followed behind me for about 20-30 minutes. He and I had been constantly passing each other by, but not cooperating. Somehow him behind my wheel put me in a better mood.
In Petaluma, the scenery went from cows on hills, to houses, and col-de-sacs. The next rest stop was a park. I was hungry and this time ate pasta, more fruit, and plenty of snackies. I sat under an awning with some middle-aged foreigners (Germans?) and it turned out to be the property of the AIDS Ride crew. A women wearing bike shorts and a grass skirt, leis, and a straw hat came in and gave a little introduction to us all. She advertised that every night of the ride, there was a different sort of theme, and usually a dance, such as Hawaiian night. And that this year (or last year?) she did her hula-dance without the bike shorts on. (Without any shorts?) And that one of the stops last year was the Playboy Mansion. I asked her how all this fit into the AIDS awareness mission, but was ignored.
One of the funny things, is these people call these events Ride for AIDS, Ride for Leukemia, Ride for Cancer, etc. and I want to point out, these events sound like they're for these deadly diseases. They ask: "Would you like to join us on the Ride for AIDS?" And how might I answer that question?
I took great pleasure in all that food, but then starting on some more climbs in the sun, turned my stomach. I did not want to start throwing up, so I kept looking ahead and had my computer hide the distance so I wouldn't be checking it.
The remaining part of the ride took me back to where I had been earlier: it was just a matter of climbing back the opposite way. Hills were either too hot and steep, or gradual and hot, both which I didn't like. But on the flats with the (now afternoon) tail wind, I could crank it up to 22-24/mph, so I was eating away the distance quite well.
The last descent became too fast and since I was tired, I had to brake. Braking is basically wasting energy, what a nuisance! People started passing me, and one person who passed me, ended up hitting a pothole or grate, and when I went by him, he obviously had crashed. Luckily he landed in patch of straw, rather than slamming in the rocky wall to the right. I was a bit concerned, but he stood up and didn't look bloody, just wobbly.
An older women, who like me was concerned wondered if he was okay. There was a truck on the road, had he any mechanical issue. Talking, she and I took an even pace back together. She was from Sacramento, and I explained I came from Seattle. I could tell she had more bicycling than she wanted, I helpfully explained it was much harder than I had expected.
Back at the school where I started, I realized I needed a shower. I could at least wash up. So I then turn around, head to the hotel, shower, change and return. The food line's full of hungry people and I pick up my roast chicken, pizza, lasagna, salad, and various other sides. I sit quietly alone and eat.