I didn't do 100 miles. I did something like 55. As you can imagine, I reek of disappointment. The stench of it is probably seeping through your computer screen.
The ride was very, very hard, and about midway through, I broke a spoke. Actually, two spokes. So I had to be driven the 15 or so miles to the next rest stop where there was a mechanic. He didn't have extra spokes, so he rearranged the existing to better distribute the weight/bear the load, and thought it would be fine for the remaining 30 miles. But then he got a good look at the wheel and said that actually, the wheel was much weaker than he thought and had been bent (twice, because remember it was bent in shipping). After I pressed him (I could see how reluctant he was to say it was totally safe or not), he told me that if another spoke went, it would happen on the upcoming 8-mile steep descent from Spooner Junction, and the wheel would bend and I would hear/feel it hit against the frame, and that would be the end of that. Not catastrophic failure, but failure - and he couldn't say the likelihood of it actually happening. Except I could see in his face that he fully expected it to happen on that descent.
That descent was all I'd been thinking of for hours. Because as you know, I just love downhills. But it's a busy road with cars whizzing past. And I'd have cyclists in front of me and back of me and probably passing me. And if my wheel gave out going that fast with cars and cyclists zooming down the hill all around me? It wasn't so much the idea that I might get hurt as it was the idea that I could get hurt AND cause a horrible pile up, hurting lots of other people. Coach Anne was with me and gave me the choice of going on or stopping. Since there was a part of me that was not enjoying this ride (which I'll tell you more about the actual ride later, hopefully after I'm a bit less emotional) and I wondered if I was just looking for an excuse to quit, I did a quick mental check: Coach Anne would be with me, so I wouldn't have to worry about the lonely despair I'd been suffering in the 10 or so miles before the spokes broke. My legs felt absolutely fine and I knew I could ride for hours more.
So maybe I wasn't thrilled about going on, but I could. So, I thought - shouldn't I? And then I imagined getting on the bike, sitting on that back wheel, and going down an 8-mile, 700-foot descent on a non-deserted road. And I realized for the first time ever, I was afraid of actually riding my bike. I've been afraid before, but not of my bike. In my gut, it just felt like a bad thing to get on that bike. So I didn't.
And I cried a lot and felt like shit (and I shouldn't really be using the past tense for those activities), but really I am sure it was the right decision. It just sucks that it wasn't my own failing that stopped me. My legs didn't cramp, no horrid aches in my thighs, no full-body exhaustion. I could have kept going. Except I couldn't.
I suppose the very bright side of this is that I did 55 miles and still felt fresh as a daisy. And really, I can see now that there's no way I would have been able to finish this course in the time allotted. Really, I'm just not a strong enough, fast enough rider. But I had wanted to keep going until I couldn't go anymore.
And the other bright side is that with one other exception, my whole team finished the ride. I got back on the bike 2 miles from the finish line and got to ride in with lots of teammates, a few of whom had never done a century ride before. So it was quite a triumphant moment for them and I was glad to be able to cheer them on in real time.
Anyway, that's my tale. I still haven't gone 100 miles, which means I have to still keep trying. I did have ice cream, though. I only ate half.