Ride the Rogue was almost three weeks ago, but I just found the time to sit down and write about it.
I’ve been wanting to ride a century since 2006, if not before. 2006 is at least the first instance I can find where I put that desire into writing. My mom and I completed our own bicycling tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, and we had just flown back to the East Coast. Like any athlete at the end of the event, I was left contemplating, “What’s next?”
Finishing the first 10 miles (one-tenth done!) of Ride the Rogue, I thought back to that moment. You know that feeling when you’re actually, finally, embarking on final stages of your goal?! The training is done, the build up has passed, and you’re just there and doing it. THAT feeling. I couldn’t stop grinning and laughing to myself. I had no concept in 2006 of what a century really meant or would feel like – I had never even ridden a road bike! But here I was, six years later, and doing this thing that to me had always been a life goal.
The miles passed. The first rest stop at mile 23 had amazing snacks – bananas cut in half, boiled potatoes, peaches, muffins – and it took everything in me to not stuff myself. More miles. A dog waited for cyclists as they passed, and the dog managed to leap up and suck on my finger before getting called inside by its owner.
Lunch felt early at mile 42. We’d just flown down a hill and pushed through a gently sloping downwards flat, when suddenly, another rest stop!
Then the going started getting rough. It was around noon and finally starting to heat up. Old Stage Road took us into Jacksonville and then up the steepest hill of the day, on 238 toward the Applegate. Normally that hill wouldn’t be so bad – a pain, to be sure, but manageable – but hitting it on mile 55 or so was a different story. I slogged onward, determined to keep an eye on the cyclist in front of me but without passing him to pace myself. The traffic, which had seemed fairly kind and sparse so far, started getting more aggressive and annoyed with the number of cyclists on the road. The hill crested around mile 60, starting what was essentially the 40 mile and mostly downhill push to the finish.
The rest stop at mile 65 was the first one I actively needed. I needed water, my knees had started to hurt, I was hungry. Those who know me well know that I’m less than pleasant when I’m hungry. Luckily, cheese and triscuits and some version of Thin Mints were waiting for me at Fiasco Winery.
A sudden and strange energy propelled me towards the last rest stop. Although the 5 mile stretches between each road change seemed absolutely endless, I found some source of energy and felt like I was pedaling faster than before. I was passing other cyclists, so something was happening. One man, the one I’d paced up the hill in Jacksonville, laughed and greeted me as I passed him. (Remember, this wasn’t a race – there was no official start, just a suggestion, and no official timing.) But I had the energy, somehow, and I decided to use it, figuring that my shoulders at least would appreciate the shorter ride time.
At first I was a little doubtful of a rest stop at mile 90 – I mean, really? Wouldn’t you want to just push through? – but it was such a relief. Knowing that I only had 10 miles to go but could refill on water and snacks was such a good feeling. Those last 10 miles though – I was so exhausted. I never want to ride on that road again. It sloped downhill, so it was pretty easy, but the physical fatigue of the 90 miles prior made it feel endless.
And suddenly, I was back in Rogue River! I began noticing more and more houses, passed the water treatment facility, and then riding underneath I-5 towards Palmerton Park. I almost missed the turn in my fatigue.
The euphoria of finishing this life goal intact, happy, and in less time than I’d hoped could only be overshadowed by one thing – the promised salmon and steak tri-tip dinner! Delicious!