Cycling Milestone: First Century Ride

Cycling has been a journey for me since I started a little over a year ago, after I moved to Boston. My Aussie friend Luke got me into cycling, and I don’t even remember how I decided to buy my first bike – Trek Checkpoint SL5. It’s a decent bike for someone’s first – Carbon frame, Shimano 11 speed GRX groupset, 700×40 Tubeless. It’s a “Gravel Bike“, which is suitable for more surface types than a road bike. And I’ve had a lot of fun riding it for my commute and also weekend longer rides.

I also don’t remember how the idea of “Century Ride” got into my mind. But I know it has been my goal for a very long time – I even set up a reward for myself to finish it as the motivation: I’ll buy myself a proper road bike. Because I know road bikes can be much faster than gravel bikes.

A century ride is 100 miles ride within one day. When I just started cycling, I was really happy with my 10 miles ride on Deer Island with beautiful ocean views. 100 miles just seemed crazy. But I got stronger and stronger and started doing longer and longer rides – Boston to Salem round trip in 90 degree summer day; Boston to Concord round trip along Minuteman, I decided I would do a “Metric Century” in 2022 – 100 km from Kingston / Plymouth to Eastham. Longer rides come with their own challenges. The most difficult one is the support: food, hydration, bathrooms, and of course, emotional support. It is a blessing that Josh supports me 100% for my cycling. On my metric century ride, he spent the whole day and stopped at 3 different places just waiting for me to arrive. I’d chat with him, eat snacks and fruits he brought in the cooler, and drank Gatorade. I can’t thank him more for the support.

In 2023 I am determined to do a full imperial century. There’re several organized rides from Boston to Provincetown: Outriders (June 17th), and Harbor to the Bay (September 23rd). I signed up for both. And I convinced my coworker, who’s an avid cyclist, to sign up for Outriders too. So we started training. I suddenly came up with an idea of riding a full imperial century before Outriders, and I picked the route strategically: Hyannis <-> Provincetown roundtrip.

Half of the course is on Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT), which is fairly flat. The steepest part is between South Wellfleet to North Truro, which is in the middle of the course, so we don’t have to deal with hills and climbing when we are exhausted. I thought it was a genius idea.

Apparently Mark thought so too, so he’d like to join me. It’ll be also his first Century. Again I’m so lucky to have Josh support us. He’d drop us off at the trail head in Hyannis, and meet us in Provincetown, and pick us up in Hyannis again.

Century Ride Day

May 27th, 2023, a Saturday, is our Century Ride day. It was Memorial Day Weekend, and beautiful weather – not too hot, not too cold. I decided on Saturday because it was not windy (as the weather forecast said) compared with Sunday.

We decided we’d leave Hyannis trail head around 9 am. It takes about 1.5 hours to drive there from Boston. So Mark would meet me at South End at 7:30 am.

I woke up at 6 am, which is much earlier than usual. I made latte, and Josh cooked breakfast for me. Then Mark texted me that he has arrived. I went outside on the street and found him on the other side of Worcester Sq. So I told him to just park on my side briefly and unmount the bike. While I was walking on the sidewalk, I was tripped on something on the ground, and broke the skin of my right big toe. I couldn’t care less though it hurt a bit and got blood on the Crocs.

I jumped into Mark’s car and told him to park at our rented parking spot, and I pulled out my truck. Josh helped put on the bike mount. I changed into cycling kit and got everything in the bag. Our dog Shabu the Corgi tagged along Josh.

It was an uneventful drive to Hyannis. Traffic was light on Saturday morning. We put everything necessary onto our bikes: Garmin Bike Computer, saddle bag with emergency flat repair kit, a few KIND bars, heart rate monitor, water bottles, and of course, cycling shoes. It was very exciting to finally start this challenge. We were in very high spirit.

The first section of the trail is narrow, but still paved. And we were strong with fresh legs. We easily rolled the first 27 miles to PB Boulangerie Bistro, a French bakery at the end of CCRT. Of course we stopped for some delicious pastries and filled up our water bottles. Josh showed up unexpectedly, he just wanted to check in with us to make sure everything was OK. We were still very energetic and couldn’t wait to conquer the whole thing. So shortly we were on our way into the hills of Wellfleet and Truro.

The course heads onto Ocean View Dr, which has great ocean view (just as the name says) and little hills. Then it turns into Long Pond road, which passes by a little pond (just as the name says, again). It’s mostly covered with dense forest, providing excellent shade on the road. The course passes through Wellfleet downtown, and heads into long rolling hills on the way to Truro.

I’m very familiar with the terrain, as I just rode over 50 miles of that part of course a few weeks ago, from Provincetown to Nauset Lighthouse. I knew what to expect. I am stronger and younger, and faster than Mark, so every now and then, I’d drop him on the climbing, and I’d wait for him riding slowly for a while. It’s great to have someone riding with me, as I don’t go on group rides at all. Most of the time I’m a solo rider. Mark taught me a lot about group riding manners, as well as the hand signals.

One difference of this ride from my previous ones is that we’d take the exit from US Route 6 to Highland Rd, instead of turning left into Truro center from the highway. This is the Outriders route too. I used to turn left directly to Truro center, and I got honked by a couple of mean lesbians when I did have enough room to get onto left lane. But this time, we stayed on the highway a little longer, but it’s much safer to take the exit on the right.

When we arrived in Provincetown, we still had a lot of fuel left (at least that’s how I felt). It was a beautiful day in Provincetown, and of course it was packed. Even Bratford street was packed with cars. I’ve never seen such bad traffic in Ptown on Bratford. I made the decision to avoid Commercial St, as it’d be impossible to move forward with cars and pedestrians all over the street. We met Josh and Shabu in front of the causeway. We chatted, ate fruits, drank water and Gatorade, and stretched our legs. At this point, we were 50 miles in, and I was very confident we could finish our goal comfortably.

We decided we could take a 4 miles detour along the National Seashore, to use the bathroom there, also for some beautiful views. Mark booked a hotel on the border of Truro and Ptown for Outriders, so we stopped by and he took pictures, also the sign of “Enter Provincetown” with his bike.

We stopped by Wellfleet downtown to refill water.

It was tiring to climb those hills again, but it’s not exhausting. I was in very good mood and still energetic when we arrived PB again, so I decided to not stop there, just going directly on the trail. I figured the trail is so flat that we could finish the last 27 miles pretty easily. And I was so wrong.

About 5-7 miles into the trail, I started feeling a bit hungry. At that point, I didn’t know how bad it could be. Am I going to bonk? How far can I still ride? I got a bit worried. At the same time, my left shoulder got very sore, I had to move it around every few minutes; my right hand got numb every few minutes; my butt hurt too; and I felt very exhausted – I was surprised how quicky my body changed. Mark said he’d be OK if I wanted to take a break. I said I’d find a place where we could sit. So we kept on riding. At some point, Mark thought I gave up on the idea of having a break.

That happened around 80-91 miles, and that was very mental. I couldn’t push much harder with my legs. I was pushing forward with my mentality and will till I could find a good place to rest.

Finally I saw a parking lot next to the trail with some picnic tables. That was in Brewster. And there happened to be a hotdog food truck in the parking lot. While we were pulling over, Mark said:” I don’t think I want a hotdog right now”.

While he was on the phone talking with his wife and parents, I told him I was gonna get a hotdog. So I did, and with a glass of iced lemonade. He said he forgot to ask me to buy him some drinks. So he went to the food truck to do so. But, he had a hot dog with him when he returned. 🙂 That was the most delicious hot dog I’ve ever had in my whole life!

The most delicious hotdog I’ve ever had

At that point, we only had 15 miles left. With the help of the hot dog and iced lemonade, the last 15 miles felt so easy. MUCH easier than the 10 miles before that. It was a bit late around 5:30pm, and the trail was quiet. Only two cyclists who were fully committed to their goals.

Unsurprisingly, Josh and Shabu was waiting for us at the end of the trail. Josh took many pictures of us arriving on the bike.

That moment was very emotional. I finally accomplished my goal of Century Ride. I reached a milestone of my cycling journey. I also truly appreciate the support and love from Josh. I couldn’t finish this ride without him.

Century ride is monumental for every cyclist. A new era has begun.

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