February 8, 2010

100 miles

By Anna | 21 Comments »

This weekend I drove down to Destin, Florida for my first 100 mile ride.  I had been practicing my clipless pedal skills on my commute all week, and took the plunge into bike computer world as well.  Who have I turned into?!  I felt like such a tool all kitted out on the ride…

I decided on Florida because my parents live there, and I knew it would be flat.  Elisa intended to join me in this endeavour, but alas work and illness prevented her.  I contemplated putting it off until there was someone else available to go with, but in the end I decided to go ahead and ride solo. I found the following route on Map My Ride, and determined a goal of 15 mph average speed.  After a stop at Homewood Cycles for needed equipment (thanks for all the help Andrew!), I was ready to go!

Destin area century

The weather couldn’t have been better – partly cloudy so I didn’t get blinded by the sun, a cool 50 degrees so I never got too sweaty, and no rain in sight.  Alas, there was wind, and plenty of it (I did not realize this until later).

And so it begins

Bike lanes or wide shoulders the majority of the way made a very comfortable ride safety wise.  The route was pretty unattractive for the first 40 miles – strip malls and the like, with extended periods of nondescript coastal scenery, i.e. flat as hell with skinny pine trees.  I learned after the ride that there was a road that went onto the beachfront that I could have taken, and that sure would have been nice for viewing sake.  My average speed was a little over 20 and I was absolutely blown away; I felt like a speed demon!

Flat as hell with skinny pine trees

It felt like in no time I had arrived in Panama City Beach, and ran across one of those bizzare little township/vacation/shopping places.  It promised coffee, so I decided to take my first break for an espresso. Said espresso was shit, but hey it did the trick. And I got to read about John Mayer’s sex life while drinking, so that was a nice consolation.

Hot Java was not so hot

I got back on the road and shortly there after had my first turn.  Immediately after turning I realized that I had been enjoying the wind at my back, as I was buffeted with a huge gust of wind that knocked my speed down to about 11 mph. This was not good, but I was not discouraged.  Seeing some good ol’ boys getting ready to hunt something made me happy to be in the south.

Aw hell yeah!

Still feeling like I was karate chopping this ride

So…yeah after this I was just riding, fairly mindlessly, no scenery to speak of, while fighting with the wind.  I was debating as to whether the wind would change once I turned back toward home, but I didn’t have much hope.  I came upon my first “climb” at some point, which was up and over a bridge.

Nice to see some water

There was also a fair amount of roadkill on the shoulder, which was unfortunate.  Finally I reached my second turn, and was greeted with a resting place in the form of a motel.  I pulled over and stumbled off my bike onto the grass, not noticing that there was a woman walking out of the office.  I must have looked pretty rough because she asked if I was OK.  I said that I was just really tired.

Resting place for Whitey and me

It was about 12:30 and I realized that it was about time to eat.  Unfortunately there wasn’t anything too appetizing around, so I continued on in hopes that a restaurant would pop up soon.  I had been eating some jelly energy…things, so I wasn’t too worried about immediate loss of power.  I rode a while more, and the wind did not abate.  I was pretty unhappy.  I was running out of water.  No food was appearing.  I began to panic.  Then this little cutie popped up at mile 60.

Bruce would be the name of the town

On the menu was chicken and dumplings, pot roast, and ham.  I had the pot roast.  There were a few toothless old folks in there enjoying lunch.  They were very friendly.

I jumped back on feeling nice and refreshed, then after about 5 minutes of riding I was blasted by a gust of wind that brought me down to 8 mph.  I almost started crying.  If this was going to be my speed for the remaining 40 miles I wasn’t sure I would make it.  I set goals, told myself that I would stop at 10 mile intervals – only 5 more to go, only 3 more, 1 more, then I laid down in the grass at a church.  My back and shoulders were killing me.  I couldn’t see straight, but I continued on.  I saw some cows grazing, chickens hanging out in someone’s driveway, and a fish fry to raise money for Haiti.  I would have liked to stop and take pictures, but I just couldn’t or I would have never made it back.  Every time a gust of wind would slow me down to an excruciating pace, I would let out a little yelp of despair.  It was pretty pathetic.

Around 80 miles I stopped at a little picnic area and laid down on a concrete table.  I called home and told my mom that I didn’t know if I could make it back before dark, and that I knew there was a huge bridge ahead that I would have to climb.  I thought I would have to walk over, which would have taken forever and would have been incredibly unsafe.  I felt absolutely broken.

The scenery was nice at least

Getting up, I told myself that I had less than 20 miles to go.  I could do it!

Then I saw the bridge in the distance.  I almost cried again.  It was huge, and I just knew that the wind would be fierce up at the top.  I imagined myself getting blown off into a watery grave.  (Side note: I actually imagined myself getting killed a lot on this ride.  Decapitation mostly.  Every time a truck would drive by with two-by-fours or ladders in the back, I imagined them swinging around in the bed as the truck drove by and hitting me right in the head.  Weird.)

I kept riding.  The sunset was beautiful.  I made my turn and stopped one last time.  Then I noticed that the wind was at my back again!  I couldn’t believe it  (although now it makes sense).  I came up to the bridge and it looked much more manageable up close.  The wind pushed me up to 23 mph, and I made it up and over the bridge with no problem.  It really was amazing guys.  After that it was just about two more miles until I got back to my car.  I set my seat warmers to burning hot, cranked up the heat, and drove back to my parents house.

97 miles total.  Average 15.5 mph.  Can’t believe I did it.  And Whitey didn’t even get a flat!

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  1. On February 8th, 2010 makenzie said:

    AWESOME. I am so impressed! Loved reading about it!

  2. On February 8th, 2010 Steve A said:

    The downwind leg was sure fun though, eh?

  3. On February 8th, 2010 Krista said:

    Wow thankyou for the photos! I lived at Eglin for 5yrs and left in early ’09. I miss that area of Florida. Most of all I miss the riding there and the sun!

  4. On February 8th, 2010 Rob Sayers said:

    Congrats! I used to vacation in that area a good bit, I always thought it would be nice to ride there.

    I know what you mean about feeling like a tool, I’ve recently been riding in a full kit in training for my first brevet (next weekend near new orleans), I’ve become one of “those guys”

    Your ride report is getting my psyched up! good job!

  5. On February 8th, 2010 wle said:

    that was well written
    100 miles is tough even without wind
    i guess they do have ‘prevailing winds’ in florida.. [to make up for the flatnesss :) ]
    or were these atypical somehow?


  6. On February 8th, 2010 Grinner said:


    Sounds absolutely fabulous! Congratulations on the ride and, especially, on getting an experience that will both inspire others and carry you through future tough times. On your next century, when you are starting to feel drained at 62 miles, you’ll be able to recall this ride and say “meh, I’ve seen worse. Bring it, wind!”

    Thanks for the story.

  7. On February 8th, 2010 DC said:

    Thanks for a great recap of a milestone ride!
    Photos were great too!

  8. On February 8th, 2010 Mellow Velo said:

    Way to go! My first century was so rewarding, despite similar mental roller-coaster doubts. Feel proud of yourself! Grinner is so right – you’ll have the lessons of this ride to look back on forever.

  9. On February 8th, 2010 Kristyn said:

    I live not too far from that area and this definitely sounds like something I would like to get out there and try. I don’t have much experience when it comes to riding long distances but this inspires me to start training for it. Awesome good job for sticking to it and finishing!

  10. On February 8th, 2010 PLS said:

    Wow, don’t think I could do it. The wind would do me in I think, as I am all about being a tortoise I guess. I started riding this summer after getting laid off, but at 54 or lets say a typical 54 I was in awful shape. I had just quit smoking, was over weight, sedentary and had begun to notice some cardiac symptoms, so really, the tortoise was the only way to go. I always push a bit, I like to be a little sore at night so I know I am making progress, but I am all about maximizing happy time on the bike. That said, it’s work for me. I have dropped 25 pounds and feel 15 years younger. As it is winter here I have reverted to “spinning” on my indoor bike. I do an hour and a half 3-5 days a week, continuing to lose weight and get stronger. So, my guess is that I would have decided the conditions were too poor, and that I wouldn’t be able ride for two weeks if I persisted. I think I would have decided to quit that day, and to try again when it wasn’t windy.

    I have a question though, I recently bought a vintage road bike that I fell in love with on Craig’s list, and have to replace the saddle. I am used to the pretty big cushy saddle I got for my mountain bike on the one hand, on the other hand I don’t want to look like an idiot on my new road bike. What kind of saddle are you using? Is it typical for road bikes?

  11. On February 9th, 2010 elisa m said:

    You are incredibly incredible! Way to kick some ass. I hope to be able to come next time.

  12. On February 9th, 2010 Grinner said:


    I know i’m not a Bike Skirt, but i have found the advice from Jonathan Vaughters (Garmin-Transitions’ team manager) invaluable:

    Invest the saving in good-quality bike shorts with a firm, thick pad and a price tag north of $75.

    (The savings he references are from buying a $1500 bike for racing, rather than an $8000 bike.) Following this advice has let me do a lot of riding on a seat that doesn’t take up a lot of space between my legs, which means a lot less chafing. I do buy seats with the “anatomically correct” cut-out, because numbness is terribly unpleasant.

    The drawback of this advice is that you are taking a step towards riding in full-kit. Most of the time i make up for that by wearing a kilt over the shorts (which has the added advantages of 1) keeping road grime off the shorts, and 2) providing a portable changing room. :-)

    My two bits, which should probably be ignored.

  13. On February 9th, 2010 Ghost Rider said:

    Aw, don’t be dissin’ on the full-kit folks. Roadies are people too! I actually look forward to getting all kitted up…because this means I’m not headed to work; rather, I’m out for an adventure.

    Great writeup, Anna — that area is really nice for cycling, especially when the wind behaves. And, you hit a NICE milestone! Bravo!!

  14. On February 10th, 2010 Joan said:

    Question: do you ever feel unsafe riding alone? Has anything scary ever happened to you?

  15. On February 10th, 2010 Anna said:

    Thanks everyone! I’m so glad that I have this venue to share stories with you all, and in turn hear about all of your adventures. Here’s to many more rides. If anyone is interested in riding with us around Birmingham or somewhere close, we’d love to hear from you!

    @Kristyn I’ve ridden a few longish rides – my first was the Cheif Ladiga trail that goes from Anniston to the Georgia state line, there and back was 66 miles. I also did a pretty intense 50 mile ride around Birmingham. Those are really the only two long distance rides I’ve done, so although I was a little prepared, it’s not like I was training every weekend or anything. You just gotta do it!

    @PLS I have a saddle that came with my bike, which is def. road bike style. I agree with Grinner that padded shorts do help for long rides, but are not necessary for casual rides. I’m looking at saddles from velo orange for my new around town bike, they are designed for practicality as well as style. Really depends on how you’re planning to use the bike!

    @Joan thankfully nothing too scary has ever happened to me while riding solo, but I certainly worry about it. If I was smart I would have waited to ride with a partner, but I was just too stubborn! Also, I don’t want my life to be controlled by fear – there’s a fine line between being overly cautious and overly reckless, and I’m still working that one out.

  16. On February 11th, 2010 David said:

    I loved this epic tale of adventure, danger and exhaustion on the open road! Great writing…
    Coincidentally (Not funnily) after having read your story I was on my way home from work and a utility 4×4, just like the one the hunters are sporting in your photo, passed very close by me after turning a corner and the ladder did slide across the tray toward me! Not Funny at all, but I got a few laughs out of your story.

  17. On February 13th, 2010 Logan said:

    Great Story Anna! I’m glad it had a happy ending. :)

    When I read your story I remembered a concept bike a saw once on ecovelo designed for a long distance commute. The fellow used a lightweight fairing (windshield) to block the wind. It looks like he got the idea from motorcycles and recumbent bikes. Apparently, the fairing also works like a sail when he has a tail wind. If the wind every frustrates you again you may consider installing one of these. I’ve been considering it myself. It may look silly, but the utility is remarkable.



  18. On February 17th, 2010 Auntie Poo said:

    I am impressed niecey!! We are completely nuts in this family glad to see it continues into the next generation :)

    Don’t forget to write the book of your escapades and adventures – we all have at least one book sitting on a closet shelf never to be published.

    I found your travelogue to be inspiring, articulate and humourous.

    Love Auntie Becky

  19. On February 17th, 2010 Auntie Poo said:

    PS loved the photos – maybe you can become the travelogue queen for bike riders. Send that in to Travel & Leisure – is that the right name of that magazine???

  20. On February 17th, 2010 Dotte said:

    Great story and very inspiring!

  21. On January 1st, 2011 matt said:

    I am heading out to Utah for the FrontRunner Century bicycle ride and I am looking to see if anyone has ever used Map My Ride for the FrontRunner Century Bicycle Ride. I have heard that people have used it for LOTOJA classic and for the Ulcer Ride as well as the Salt Lake City Century. If anyone has info for the FrontRunner Century they could give to me I would be happy. Check out the http://www.frontrunnercentury.com and please let me know.

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