Posted by: forgingahead | July 16, 2009

Cycling a Century and Living Strong

As I mentioned earlier, Team Fat Cyclist raised the most money at the San Jose LiveStrong Challenge. Go Team!

Totally awesome, right?

Well, you may want to sit down for this next bit. As the top fundraising team, we got to Start. At. The. Front. All by ourselves. Protected from the 700+ other cyclists chomping at the bit.

Oh yes, and there was a police escort for the first 9 miles! How cool is that? Super cool, that’s what I say.

The Team Fatty plan was to hang with the police escort as long as possible. Of course the escort was going to be moving at a 20mph pace and you better believe I had my doubts about being able to keep that pace.


The 100 mile route is the black line that snakes all the way down into the lower right hand corner of this map:

Miles 1 to 29

Having never ridden in a peloton I didn’t fully appreciate how it can truly just carry you along. Because this one did and I was loving it!

Yes, my legs were complaining a bit about quick start but I kept reminding myself that I could drop back to my pokey pace when the police escort ended. And sure enough, the escort turned off and the group took off and that was the last I would see of those riders.

Now began the cat and mouse game of Bert drafting another rider, me trying to hang on, eventually dropping off his wheel, Bert looking back and taking pity on me, dropping his drafting opportunity and coming back to get me. We did this. A. Lot. Thank you Bert!

Our plan was to push through to the third rest stop at mile 29. We wanted to do this for a few reasons:
1. If you didn’t make mile 32.2 by 11am they you didn’t get to the do the century.
2. Coach Sage and my friend Erin (another sun sensitive redhead) both suggested getting through the early part of the day as fast as possible.
3. The first couple of stops were pretty packed.

I was feeling strong so we did it and in really good time too! I think it was under 2 hours. And I was so jazzed that I practically ran through the pit stop and nearly forgot to eat anything. Talk about adrenaline rush.

Miles 29 to 40

Back on the bike and we were riding in a nice paceline when nearly everyone in our group hung a left hand turn onto the 65 mile course. Suddenly the road in front of us looked very empty. And long. A guy cycling by said “well, there’s no turning back now.”

In my overamped state at the rest stop I’d nearly dropped by bike and in the process I grabbed the gear shift cable. Didn’t think anything of it until I tried to shift my front gear and the derailleur protested. Uh oh. I couldn’t get into my big gear at all.

The next rest stop was just 11 miles down the road so we decided to stop there and take a look. The bad news is we lost half an hour at the stop. But the good news completely swamped that little setback.

First of all, there was this woman wearing a Fat Cyclist tshirt and purple mardi gras beads who greeted me with the biggest warmest smile and offered to hold my bike. She just made my day. Followed closely by another volunteer who offered to fill my water bottles.

And then there were my personal heroes, the guys from the Trek Bicycle Store – San Jose Trek who nursed my trusty Trek back to health and allowed me to finish the ride. Thank you!!

Miles 40 to 56

Back on the bikes and we grabbed onto one of the many informal pacelines we’d join throughout the day. I have to say, riding with such a large group in a well mapped out course with lots of signs and police protection at dangerous intersections, wonderfully encouraging volunteers around nearly every turn and well stocked and staffed rest stops is definitely the way to go. LiveStrong put on a top notch ride!

Miles 40 to 56 passed in a blur. My body was feeling good. Drinking fluids. Munching on my goodies in the bento box. Trying to hang onto Bert’s wheel as much as possible. When we pulled into rest stop 5 I was thrilled to see mom and Tony cheering us in! What a lift to see their smiling faces.

I had a bit of a headache at this point but I didn’t want to stop to talk to the medics. In hindsight, I should have listened to my body. But I swear I was still hopping around like a kid. Literally jogging over to the toilets then back to my mom. Then over to the food, then back to my mom. What a goofball!

Having driven most of the course a few weeks ago I knew what was in store. A bit of a climb through a shady road, then a big drop, then a LONG flat section. And the THE HILL. I really just wanted to get Metcalf road done with so we jumped back on the bikes.

Miles 56 to 68

I enjoyed the shade of Willow Springs Road and we literally flew down the backside hard on the heels of a group of Harley riders. We had to brake to stay back a bit. A Highway Patrol waved us through the intersection at the bottom of the hill and then we were on the long flat section.

And it was WINDY. Ugh. Pacelines formed in an effort to keep us all from dying. And it was one of those stretches that seemed to last f.o.r.e.v.e.r. I was SO happy to see the Bailey Road sign. Even though it signaled the beginning of a climb.

Because yes folks, there is a *small* climb before you even get to Metcalf. Talk about taking the wind out of your sails. I just put it in the easiest gear and, head hanging low, I pedaled. We finally reached a row of port-a-pottys at the base of Metcalf and stopped to regroup and psych ourselves up.

Bert and I both thought the next rest stop was at the TOP of the hill so we jumped back on the bikes, rounded the corner at speed taking advantage of the slight downhill. And flew by Mom and Tony! And a rest stop! Oh dear.

I was so ready to get this hill done with that I couldn’t bring myself to stop and turn around. Mentally, I was all about getting it done. So we kept going. Sorry Mom!

Miles 68 to 71

Metcalf Road was made to torture cyclists. Bert and I had ridden up it two times in a row as a training exercise in early June so we knew exactly what to expect.

However. Tackling the hill after 68 miles of cycling is an entirely different experience. And doing it at high noon on a hot day with the sun beating down on the back of my black jersey. Um yeah, not so much.

I pushed. I tried to stand up in my pedals on the wickedly steep corner and my quads trembled and said “No Way.” So I sat back down and pushed some more. It’s kind of amazing how slow one can go and not fall over.

At about the halfway point I noticed a lot of people walking their bikes. I joined them. Trudge trudge trudge. I did this for about 10 minutes with my head hanging low.

And then I got back on. Focus on my pedals. Don’t grip the handlebars. Drink some water. Just keep going. Hours later I made it to the top. Ok, so it wasn’t hours. But it felt like it.

I took off my helmet and sat down on the road in the shade. My headache had gone from annoying to really annoying. And there was no rest stop. I was sad.

After a nice rest where many SAG wagons asked if I was ok (I smiled big to convince them I was fine) and I watched other cyclists conquer the hill we hit the downhill. I tell you what, a downhill breeze never felt so good. And like a mirage another rest stop appeared at the bottom. Oh, that’s where they put it. I’ll learn to read my map better next time.

We stopped again and this time I did check in with the medics who diagnosed dehydration. They dumped a bag of ice water on my head (and had quite a bit of fun doing it too!) and scolded me for not drinking enough. They soaked my hat in ice water too and sent me on my way.

Miles 71 to 85

Everyone is so focused on the Metcalf climb that we all sort of conveniently forgot about the next *little* hill that lay ahead. I tell you what though, getting rid of that headache helped me a lot! And knowing that once we reached the top of this hill it was nearly ALL downhill was a huge motivator for me. So I sucked it up and climbed. Slowly. But steadily up the last 300 feet.

The downhill on the other side was so awesome. No traffic, a bit of shade and we just flew down. These next 16 miles were pretty uneventful. Much fewer riders on the course so no pacelines to latch onto. Though a guy did latch onto us for a while.

I was keeping an eagle eye out for the next (and last) rest stop because I’d been drinking so much water that it was nearly gone and I needed a refill. I heard the cheering women who were waving us into the rest stop before I saw them. Such spirit!

This time I was not messing about with my nutrition. Fill both water bottles. Drink a glass of gatorade. Eat two PBJ sandwich pieces. A banana. Dump some trailmix into my bento box.

And most importantly. Dunk my hat in the ice water and then wrap ice in my bandana and tie it around my neck. This was another Erin suggestion and I’m kicking myself for not doing it earlier. But I swear I didn’t *feel* hot. Apparently that was another sign of the dehydration.

Miles 85-100

The last 15 miles were a bit of blur. We rode in a small pack and decided to enjoy the red lights we hit as a way to rest up – better than whining about them. As the miles ticked off and we got back into town my heart got lighter and lighter.

As Bert and I approached the finish line together I had the biggest grin on my face. Mom, Tony and my dad Ken were there to greet us and we shared hugs all around. I posted a montage of photos from the day yesterday.

I have some final thoughts and ideas of what worked, what didn’t that I want to capture in the next day or so. But the bottom line is this ride was a total success.

We finished in 8 hours. Our actual ride time was 6.5 hours and our average speed was 14.5mph. That’s about 2-3mph than our usual pace and I attribute that to LiveStrong and Fat Cyclist.

The volunteers were amazing. People cheered us on at the most random corners. Little groups. Big groups. A few were just standing there quietly watching us go by. I heard “go Fat Cyclist” hundreds of times and almost every one said “thank you for riding for us.”

Each time I was moved to tears I pedaled harder.

We’ve picked a fight all right. Watch out cancer.

WIN Susan!



  1. A great effort by your team and a wonderful tale of camaraderie and perseverance. Congratulations!

  2. You’re still my idol.

    I want to see pics of the shoes. In my mind I see you in the Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz dress, but instead of the ruby slippers you have your new Sidi shoes on. I can see you, half way up Metcalf clicking away saying, “Shit, I got the broken ones” 🙂

    Tell Bert Hi. I will email you copies of my pics. The photo of you and Bert came out great.

  3. Holy crap. How awesome are you?!

  4. Ah darn derailleur cable! That’s why I didn’t see you guys again after the stop. Glad you had fun and congrate’s on finishing in good time and spirits. I’m assuming of course that you’re already signed up another… maybe a double century? You know you want to…

  5. Very nice to have you break it down by the mileage; so interesting what you experienced both physically and psychologically. I thinks it’s great! You deserve a huge pat on the back, hug, and a you-go-gurl!


  6. That is just so awesome!!!

  7. Way to go! That was quite a ride. It was great to meet you and the other Fatties. I can’t wait to do it again next year. I hope you enjoy the Sidi’s. Take my advice and get the MTB ones so you can walk in them. I hope to see you out on the bike!
    You have my email if you ever want to ride in the South/East Bay.
    Mike Jones in Fremont

  8. I always say the same things to you but you are just so amazing and inspiring!

  9. Awesome! Awesome! Job!! What an accomplishment…it will be so much easier the next time too. 🙂

    WIN Susan!

  10. Wow!!! What an achievement! You two are an awesome inspiration. What will be the next goal???

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