August 4, 2012.
Well, I had a bike, and was trying to figure it out. I was terrified to ride on the roads. I found some maps for some bike trails, but the ones I checked out were awful. The bike shop pointed me towards Elm Creek recreational park and some regional trails. These were amazing! Great paved multiuser trails mostly used for cycling. Some were better then others, some were still being planned. And some older trails were not well marked (a trail would end, and pick up again 3 blocks away with no signs pointing you in the right direction). So, one beautiful day, I decided to go for a long unhurried ride. I would explore as much of the trail system that I could and hope to map out areas I could get in some future training. The plan was simple…ride until my legs fell off.
It was a great day, many (not all) of the trails were great. Eventually, the 15 mile Elm Creak loop would become my usual stomping grounds. The 15 mile out and back to the Coon Rapids dam would be the add on for longer rides. Other trails were rougher and much less enjoyable.
By the time my legs were about to fall off, I had reached mile 85. I had heard of the “century ride” that many cyclist strive to complete at some point. I had been riding a month or so, and I was 15 miles away from this milestone. I had good weather and daylight to spare. Why not? I kept riding.
Damn, that hurt. I was in Elk Creak and there are a bunch of trails, all with poor directional signage. I got lost and it was getting dark. Not good! Eventually found my way back and clocked 104 miles! My first solo century!
Of course, I wanted to follow this up with a “real” century ride (i.e.: an organized century ride). Did some research and found Tour de Tonka.
It was another beautiful day. Over 2000 riders showed up for courses ranging from 16 miles to 101 miles. I lined up in the 100 mile pen and quickly felt out of place. I was the only one with a hybrid instead of a road or tri bike. I also had platform pedals and didn’t have a cycling jersey. Yes, I got a few odd looks.
The ride was beautiful. The course was very hilly. The aid stations were rocking with lots of food and entertainment. Bike tech support was always available. My legs were dying by mile 75. The last 4.5 miles were the worst hills of the course (how evil!). But I finished, and had done something that many cyclists have never accomplished. I still didn’t feel like a cyclist, but I was a little closer.
The walk to the car afterwards was almost impossible. Running after this seemed impossible. It still does. But, that day, I had completed something I never thought possible. I had been doing that a lot, and it was kindof fun…