Monday, September 19, 2011


Well, I done did it. I completed the North Shore Century ride yesterday. My first-ever century.

The stats: 108 miles total in 7 hours 43 minutes (yeah, I know, a glacial 14 mph average speed. I'm blaming the headwind on the return route).

The iPhone is hard to use one-handed. My regular
camera died the night before the ride.

This in a light drizzle that ended for a while, returned, then became a steady light rain over the last 30 miles. Air temperature hovered at about 60 degrees. It really was only uncomfortable at the rest stops, when you'd stop working the muscles and the cold could seep in.

(You'll notice there are few pictures with this entry. That's because my Nikon died the night before the ride, and it was raining too hard to risk using my iPhone.)

The event itself, organized the by Evanston Bicycle Club, was well-run. The route meandered through some very interesting  neighborhoods and past dozens of local landmarks -- from the Adlai Stevenson historic home in Lake County to the mesmerizing Baha'i Temple in Wilmette. The route is fairly flat (yay! After my escapade in mountainous southern Ohio just a few days before, I didn't want to see any more hills).

My only complaint would be the roughness of the roads; some of them were chewed to pieces for miles at a stretch. Really hard on the hands and slowed me down.

Never having done this before, I was fascinated by the group dynamics; small bands of 5-15 riders would self-organize by riding speed, and help each other spot hazards (like the incessant potholes) and the spray-painted direction markers on the pavement. If someone took a wrong turn (not hard to to with the rain cascading down your glasses), they would call out or even chase the rider down.

The rest stops had much more than the standard bananas, cut-up Clif bars and water. There were watermelons, grapes, bagels, home-made brownies and other baked goodies, and barrels of sports drink. At the half-way stop in Kenosha, there was hot potato soup. Very much appreciated.

I had not intended to take the scenic route, but herd instinct took over after the Kenosha stop and I followed a group of guys who looked like they knew what they were doing. Ended up at the Washington Park Velodrome, which is a bicycle racing track. It's an oval track with very steeply banked turns at each end. Well, the gate was open. I got on the track, cranked it up and took two turns around, mindful of the wet conditions. It was pretty freaky in the turns, canted over at about a 30-degree angle, with centripetal force sticking me to the pavement.

The downside: the velodrome route was an optional side-trip that added five miles to the total. Urrrgh.
This is what the last third of the ride looked like to me.
It was raining steadily.
I don't remember much of the last 25 miles. I was deep in grim-determination mode. I do remember passing the Glenview Naval Air Station, and a long, wonderful stretch of bicycle path along Sheridan Road (?).

At the 80-mile mark I knew I was going to finish. Despite the rain and the cold and the aching achilles tendons and the fact that I could barely see, I got a burst of energy. Maybe I was just sick of the discomfort and wanted to get it over with. Either way, my speed crept up and I started passing people.

Somewhere in Glencoe, the GPS read 99.8 ... 99.9 ... come on you son of a ... 100! I let out a whoop. Whatever happened, I had completed a century at that point. But there was still another eight miles to go.

I arrived at Dawes Park in Evanston disheveled, cold but oddly perky, which worried me a bit. I picked up my certificate of completion, limped back to my car and cranked up the heat as high as it would go.

I hope the weather's a bit better next year.

dsj 110919

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