Sunday, March 01, 2009

February 2009 Century

As mentioned earlier, one of my goals for 2009 is to complete at least one century ride every calendar month. My first century for the year was on Saturday, January 31. Four weeks later, I completed another century, again on the last day of the month.

I'm not trying to do these on the last day of the month -- in fact, there are many reasons to NOT do it on the last day. The weather can suck, I can feel down or otherwise unprepared for a century, etc. However, when the last day of the month rolls around and I haven't done a century yet, I have no choice but HTFU and get it done.

Yesterday's February Century was a mixed bag. It was much more enjoyable than the January Century because Kasia rode the entire distance with me. Yes, she did it! I'm very proud of her.

Many other aspects of the ride sucked. I had been rather busy at work the previous week, and I was still feeling a little stressed out. Although I got a solid 8 hours of sleep the night before the ride, the night before that I got only 3. I was just not in the mood for a big ride, but since it was 02/28, I had no choice.

We planned to leave our house at 8:00am. We actually hit the road about 8:45 -- not too bad for us.

Kasia looking very fresh at the start of the day.

Me, looking (and feeling) a little less fresh.

A cycling friend recently suggested we join UMCA, the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association. In an act of purest optimism, we joined, although I don't how "ultra" we'll be.

Among the many on-going programs, competitions, and challenges endorsed by the UMCA is one we found particularly interesting. The Year-Rounder Challenge is, as the name suggests, is for cyclists that ride year-round. From the description on the UMCA website:
The Year-Rounder (Y-R) provides a structure to motivate you throughout the season and to recognize your personal achievements. The Y-R is designed to showcase consistent performance in cycling throughout the year.
Participants in the Year-Rounder Challenge who complete one Y-R event (such as a century ride) every calendar month receive the Larry Schwartz award. Since we're planning to ride a century every month anyway, we signed-up for the Y-R Challenge. Maybe we'll have a small award at the end of the year to show for all of our time, pain, and suffering.

There are specific documentation requirements for "personal centuries", and unfortunately I failed to do this for the January Century. Luckily, the UMCA allows up to two "make up" rides, so I can do two centuries some month later this year and still qualify for the Y-R. Even more luckily, Kasia wants to do the Y-R Challenge, too!

One way to document a ride for the UMCA is to provide store receipts from towns along the route of the ride. We took this to heart, and stopped in a number of places we may not have otherwise stopped. Having this "forcing function" was actually quite pleasant. We met several very nice people when we stopped.

Our first stop was at the Shell in Duvall to buy batteries for my GPS. We then rode a loop connecting Cherry Valley Road, Kelly Road, Big Rock Road, and Highway 203. Back in Duvall, we stopped at Duvall Family Drugs for a sugar fix.

Snacks in Duvall.

From Duvall, we crossed the valley on Woodinville-Duvall Road, then headed north on West Snoqualmie Valley Road. Just after crossing Highway 522, Kasia's front tire went flat. Luckily (or maybe not) I've had a lot of practice changing flats lately, so it was quickly reparied and we continued on our way.

Rest stop at Bob Heirman Wildlife Park near Snohomish.

Cruising on Springhetti Road down to the valley floor, we spotted this sign -- "SLOW DOWN, ENJOY THE MOO". Not much "moo" around, but the views of the Cascades were lovely.

Two random unknown cyclists near Snohomish.

At Snohomish, we stopped at the Snohomish Bakery for lunch -- BLT sandwiches, Russian tea cakes, vanilla & chocolate "pots", and coffee. Yummy.

No, I didn't eat it all, Kasia helped!

From Snohomish, we rode up the Centennial Trail to Arlington, where we bought another couple of coffees (with recipts, of course!) and started the long ride back home via Snohomish and Monroe.

The combination of a) later than expected start, and b) slower than expected pace meant we arrived in Monroe just as the sun set. By the time we got to Tualco Road, it was seriously dark. We were very happy we had our Light & Motion Vega lights. When I packed them that morning, I remember thinking "we should be back long before dark, we probably don't need these, but just in case..."

The final challenge was climbing Woodinvile-Duvall Road from the valley floor up to Redmond Ridge. The odometer showed about 97 miles at this point, and my legs were "done". I put the bike into the granny gear, and we slowly crawled our way up the hill.

The final total: 104.26 miles, 8:27:09 time, average 12.33. Not the fastest century we've ever ridden, but not the slowest either.

We seem to learn more every time we attempt a long ride. This ride was no exception, but the lessons somehow were more concrete.

The most important lesson: we need more carbs in the morning. Before the ride, we ate our usual pre-ride breakfast -- scrambled eggs and toast, and coffee. This has served us well over the years, but not this time. By the time we made it to Duvall the second time (after the Cherry Valley/Kelly Road/Big Rock Road loop) we were winding down and our energy was gone. I suspected we needed more sugar, so we bought Snickers at the drug store. Man, what a difference that made! Next time, we'll definitely eat more carbs with breakfast. Waffles, perhaps?

The other lessons are mostly related to the UMCA documentation requirements for Year-Rounder rides. These lessons include:
  • At every lengthy (more than a few minutes) stop, take a photograph, record the time and distance, and (if carrying a GPS) make a GPS waypoint.
  • Don't trust the date/time on cash register receipts. We found at least one that was wildly inaccurate.
  • Pay attention to the UMCA rules for verifiction points (within 10 miles of start and finish, every 50 miles, etc).
All in all, I can't say we enjoyed every minute of the ride, but the sense of accomplishment is amazing.


Evan said...

A great goal and I'm glad to see you're sticking with it. I'll make sure to check next month.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Keith on your February Century. I am leading a group here in Oakland, CA, who've signed up for the Year-Rounder. Yesterday we did our March Century, and we, too, didn't get back until it was "seriously dark," even tho we had started at 7:10 am. A combination of flat tires, mechanical problems and some confusion about one of the turns on the route delayed us longer than we expected.
Keep up the good work.
Howard Neal @

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