WE DID IT!! I have had a century ride on my bucket list for a little while, so I’m glad I was able to experience it…even if it wasn’t as enjoyable as I had hoped. For those of you who have never heard of the term ‘century ride’, it’s a 100 mile bike ride. The Holland 100 event offered a few shorter distances as well: 67, 36, and an 18 miler.
We did packet pick-up for the Holland 100 on Friday night after dropping our daughter off at her grandparents for her sleepover. There wasn’t much in the bag, but we got a tech t-shirt (not gender specific, so it’s going in my t-shirt quilt pile), and a wristband to notify the on course bike mechanics that we are part of the ride if we happen to have issues.After picking up our packets I gathered up my ride-day needs, so I wouldn’t forget anything. I used my Nathan hydration pack as a backpack without the bladder/hose to store my food for the day. The ride did have food at scheduled stops, but a lot of it had gluten so I planned accordingly. I packed a peanut butter & honey sandwich on my GF bread, and some other snacks for along the way like organic pitted dates, almonds, The Gluten Free Bar (GFB) bars, and some GF crackers. I didn’t eat all of it since I had some fruit at the stops too, but I was still glad I had plenty with me.
We arrived at the Herman Miller Greenhouse at about 6:15am. This gave us enough time to get a parking spot, go inside and use the bathrooms, and get our bikes off the rack…and shake out some nerves ;).We started maybe a few minutes past 7am, which was the suggested start time. You had the option to leave before that, but the SAG support / bike mechanics and scheduled food/water/bathroom stops might not be ready for you.
The course & Ride:
Most of the course was on country roads, which was great! Almost zero traffic which made me feel very safe, especially after we lost our pack of riders between the first and second stop and were basically riding solo for the rest of it. Most of the time we could always see other riders, but we weren’t riding in a pack with them. There were some scary sections on the course though that had us crossing very busy roads, although we were warned about this before (and I don’t know how it could have really been avoided). It was terrifying though for someone who basically just rides the trail system! I really liked the views in Saugatuck though going around Lake Hutchins. So pretty! I was in a crappy mood when we got there though, so I didn’t stop to take pictures of anything.The first stop was after only about 11 miles, and those first few miles were amazing! I LOVED this little section. The roads were flat and smooth and we had a great group we were riding with that made going faster speeds so much easier and more fun. After this first stop is where things changed (lost our pack at a stop and course got tough).
I did not anticipate the crazy hills we would have to climb. I have some big legs and thought I was decently strong. This was a reality check. Mile 11 – 43 is where I realized this was going to be a rough day. The hills started in this section of the course, but they just kept coming after the break at mile 43. I started to get emotional because I’d look down at my bike computer and see my speed and get disappointed because I was giving it everything I had and I didn’t feel like it was good enough. There were so many hills that were so steep. I was literally going up them at 5-7mph in my lowest possible gear. It was so slow that I thought I was going to tip my bike right over. I honestly had the thought that I should unclip and get off my bike and walk it up the hill because it might be faster. I didn’t, but that’s just how frustrated I was. I got in a very negative head space and thought I’d feel better after we got closer to the finish, but I just wanted to give up. The only problem was, I couldn’t. The SAG support would not pick up “tired riders.”
When we hit the Fenn Valley Winery rest stop, my husband got a text from his sister that her and her friend (who did one of the other distances) had driven to this stop to check out the winery. Such great timing! She was able to stop out and say hi before we hit the road again.
Most of the course was marked well, but there were a few spots that I probably would have completely missed had Scott not been there with me. There was one really weird section that you go down this hill and there is a sign that says “dead end”. And then you ride into this park and across this wooden bridge. It was just strange! I know this tripped up some riders. The only reason Scott knew it was right was because he heard someone talking about it at a prior stop. We were riding on the MUP (mixed use path) in Saugatuck, but the map didn’t warn you that you had to get off the path at a certain point because it splits from the road. So we ended up having to turn around and go back out to the road, which added some distance of course.
No major issues on the ride that required on course mechanics. My chain fell off around mile 85 though. So I had to get off and fix that before we moved on. I’m really not surprised that happened though considering all the shifting I had to do with the elevation changes. I definitely wasn’t the only one that happened to, as I saw a few others along the course putting chains back on. No falls though, so that’s a good thing! I did panic when we were in the turn lane and had to cross a really busy road though. I was half clipped in and almost fell over when I started to go. I also had to go in the gravel to get around a huge truck at one point and almost tipped my bike over, but miraculously saved it.
The Organized Rest Stops:
There was 5 stops (technically 4 locations, but you do a loop after the first one and hit one twice). The organized stops were great! They had a lot of fresh fruit (bananas, oranges, watermelon, grapes) which I was able to enjoy, as well as turkey/cheese roll-ups, pb&j sandwiches, granola/apple breakfast wraps, pickles (at the last 2 stops), and probably more I’m forgetting. There was a big pancake breakfast at about mile 60, so I was glad I had my sandwich there. They had those large gatorade jugs filled with water for everyone to refill their water bottles (a few did have gatorade too, but I of course used my Nuun tabs for my electrolyte replenishment).
The finish was terribly anti-climactic. You just ride through some cones to get back into the parking lot. This was nothing like finishing a running race, or triathlon. I love running races because the finish is so incredibly exciting and I always get such a huge rush of endorphins. This was completely opposite! There wasn’t a “finish chute” that was lined with cheering supporters, there wasn’t a finish banner or arch to ride through — nothing! It was like, “Hey. We did it. Time to go put the bikes back on the car rack.” The finish of a running race is a huge reason why I race! There is nothing like that feeling! I just didn’t have that feeling with this ride. I was definitely relieved to be done, but I didn’t have any endorphins. It was a bit of a bummer!
It would have made the finish better if there was a beer/wine tent. Then family & friends could enjoy a beverage and support their rider, and riders who finish could get a drink and cheer on the others coming in. Our Brewing Co. and Fenn Valley Winery were event sponsors, so it was kind of surprising that didn’t happen. But, who knows, maybe the city of Holland wouldn’t approve that.
I know bike events generally don’t have a lot of “swag” included in the registration fee, but I’m a girl who loves her medal collection. It would have been pretty neat to have a medal for this accomplishment, but at least we got a shirt out of the registration for swag.
My bike computer said 102.6 miles total and 6:52:10 for time (the computer stops at rest stops). I think that’s about a 14.8mph pace for moving average. Not thrilled with that, but considering our training was all flat this was ok. I didn’t train on the roads because I didn’t feel comfortable riding solo or even with just Scott. It’s so much better for visibility when you’re in a large group, and I didn’t have a huge group of cyclists that I could join for training.
This was definitely the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever done! I think back to how tough the Nashville Marathon was and how I felt during this ride, and the bike ride was harder for me. I had a lot of the same thoughts out there though…just pure frustration and dread of what was still ahead. What a day!
Because this ride really sucked all the fun out of biking, I thought a lot about if I really want to do a half-iron next June. I’m not convinced I’d enjoy it after this ride. I realize the bike portion is shorter for the half-iron, and only about half as hilly as the first 56 miles of the Holland 100. It’s something I’ll have to really ponder over the next few months before I’d have to start seriously training. Part of me thinks I should do the Olympic and see if I like that first. And part of me thinks I should just stick with using my bike on the trainer or up to 30 miles on the trails for cross-training (which I enjoy!) and focus on what I know I love — RUNNING! Skipping out on tri’s would save a lot of money too as I wouldn’t have to get a membership to a gym with a pool for swim practice. However, I did enjoy my lap swim time when training for my first tri last year. If I decide I really want to do another tri (of any distance), I have no problem spending the money on what I’d need to get to the finish line. But, I just have to determine how bad do I really want it? Or do I at all?
Anyone else do a century ride? What was your experience like? I have no clue how anyone could possibly finish a full Ironman, or even a half, after doing this haha! There are some pretty incredible athletes out there! 🙂