On August 8, 2020, I did my first century ride! (Well, at least in the sane unit system…) I ended up doing 62.17 miles, which is just a hair above 100 kilometers. I finally decided to splurge a bit on biking equipment; I got a top tube bag (which was really useful, allowing me to grab snacks without having to dismount and also letting me carry an extra water bottle) and padded bike shorts (which didn’t fully remove the soreness, but certainly helped mitigate it). Although I overslept and ended up leaving at around 9:30 am, two hours after I had intended, it was an enjoyable ride overall. Some general thoughts on the ride:
I think my pacing was pretty good. I clocked in at 4:45 total moving time for an average speed of 13.0 miles per hour. I think I’ve finally found a gear/cadence that I’m comfortable with; I was remarkably consistent across my splits, and I didn’t start feeling tired at all until around mile 35—I wasn’t really fatigued until just before mile 50 hit. Granted, the Great Allegheny Passage is quite a flat trail (except for the few parts in the city of Pittsburgh itself), and I purposely pack light when going for distance.
Hydration-wise I probably still didn’t drink enough water, but it wasn’t a very hot day. My top tube bag happened to be big enough to fit an extra water bottle, so I didn’t need to lash third bottle to my basket. Nutrition-wise I paced myself through three Clif bars before feeling a little too bloated to eat a fourth. (I ate half a Clif bar every half hour, starting after the first hour had passed. This not only kept me fueled, but it became a nice way to pass the time as the miles ticked by.) Maybe next time I should take along a greater variety of snacks, like a banana or a sandwich.
I still had problems with cramping, but this time with my right foot rather than the usual spot on my left foot. It flared up relatively early into the ride and threatened to come back a few times throughout the ride (cf. a typical ride, where I usually get cramps toward the end), but it was milder than usual; I was able to ride it off as long as I was careful about how I placed my foot on the pedal.
Interestingly, I had to urinate twice. As I said before, it wasn’t a very hot day, so I guess I didn’t lose as much fluid to sweat, meaning it had to come out through an alternative way.
There was a fair amount of traffic on the trails; naturally, the traffic became worse the closer one got to Pittsburgh. It was interesting seeing the sheer variety of people using the trails, ranging from families with young children ambling along to bicycle clubs riding fast in full kit. I was probably on the faster end of the spectrum of users, although not quite as fast as the club guys. For some unfathomable reason, some driver thought that it’d be a good idea to take a red pickup truck out for a spin on the trail; I heard other bikers complain about all the dust that the truck was kicking up.
A couple of interesting incidents arose during the ride:
At the very beginning (three miles out, just before hitting Hot Metal Bridge and crossing the Monongahela River), I realized that I’d forgotten my debit card, ID, and emergency cash. This is usually not that useful (I’ve never had to pull them out yet), but I decided to turn around and grab them, since they cost almost nothing to carry but could potentially be incredibly useful in the event of an actual emergency. Because of this looping back around, I ended up not getting as far from Pittsburgh as I could have within 100 km; I got to the 121 mile marker at Buena Vista.
As I said before, it was overall a very nice ride, but one thing did spoil it a bit. On the way back to Pittsburgh somewhere on the Great Allegheny Passage (maybe between Boston and Dravo’s Landing), I encountered a man and a woman who had dismounted from their bikes and were staring at a stick on a ground. Shrugging, I rode on between them…it turns out that the “stick” was actually a snake. When I ran over it, the snake moved, which startled me, causing me to crash into the woman at a low speed. I immediately apologized and made sure she was okay before quickly riding off, but I feel kind of bad about the incident. I also should have made sure that her bike was okay.
On the way back where the trail crosses the tracks and goes parallel to it (I think I have a picture of this spot somewhere), there ended up being a buildup of bikers due to a rather long train crossing the tracks. I took the opportunity to redistribute water between my bottles. (There is a detour route to a pedestrian bridge above the tracks just for this situation, but trains are cool, so we all stayed to watch.)