For all the races and events I’ve done in the past few years, there’s actually only one that I’ve managed to prioritize enough to not miss every year – the Holland Hundred. It’s not a race, but a casual ride through country roads in Allegan county with several rest stops for food and water and where everyone starts whenever they get to the start. The result is a long parade of riders all going at their own speeds; It’s really just a chance to ride with others for most of a Saturday without having to worry about finding food for yourself.
Riding 100 miles in a day is really not as impressive of a feat as I think a lot of people make it out to be, but it’s not something that’s’ very enjoyable without a little preparation. Three years ago, I was just getting into cycling, and since work sponsors the event and that year it started and ended at the park across the street from where I lived, I took advantage of the free entry and support and gave it my best shot with Abe. Beforehand, our longest ride was in the neighborhood of 45 miles, but we were ambitious, and maybe a little stupid. It rained for roughly the first 4 hours of the ride. When we passed Hutchins Lake, I remember thinking about riding right off the road and into the lake as I was sure I’d be drier that way. I experienced my first bonk, somehow managed to finish upright, and then swore that I’d be better prepared for the next year.
And we were. In a mostly non eventful century ride the next year, Abe and I comfortably finished much faster – and actually enjoyed – the ride.
Year three saw me in the best cycling shape of my life, and I bribed my roommate to join me by saying I’d let him draft off me the whole way. That resulted in a slow ride, which left me with some achy joints by the finish, but again, more enjoyable than not.
This year, with nothing really left to prove, I was debating if I was going to ride the full 100 miles or take the optional 67 mile route. There was no real motivation to ride the entire thing aside from the fact that I really like to ride bikes (and if a 2 hour ride is fun, a 6 hour ride should be 3x as fun, right?). I was feeling confident from my 83 mile ride a few weeks ago, but that was after 2 weeks of recovery from chemo, not one, like I’d have for the Holland Hundred. I let the conditions of the day dictate how far I’d go, and if I wasn’t feeling strong enough, I could take any number of shortcuts on the route and save my body.
I rolled out from the start at the same time as Jim (the guy I bought my bike from) and a few other strong Jade riders, so I decided to suck their wheels and get an easy and fast lift for a long as I could hold on. After 45 miles of hiding in their draft, I was feeling good and ahead of schedule (I think we averaged about 21mph) and the heat of the day hadn’t hit yet, but they were only doing the 67 mile route. So where the routes split, I kept on heading south while they turned north.
I spent the rest of the ride at an easier pace with one other guy and few others who came and went. After the final rest stop, and with only 10 miles to go, the midday heat picked up and the wind got taken out of my sails as fast as it rushed out of my back tire. What should have been a 3 minute tire change took about 10 or 15 minutes due to muscles that were (finally) starting to feel fatigued and a frustratingly tight tire that was difficult to mount back onto the rim.