June 5, 2015


The first century that I did was in 1991 in Manteca, California.  I found a "Complete" book of cycling, can't remember who by, and decided 100 miles was a challenge.  I followed a plan building up to 30, then 50 and then 75 miles.  All went well until the 75 miler.  Then I struggled.  I had not yet learned about hydration or feeding on the bike, so I would stop at the library that had an outdoor fountain. By mile 60 water never tasted so good.  I don't remember eating anything, though looking back, I must have.  I did not carry anything with me, and if I had it would have been a sandwich.  I don't recall there being GU back then. I also had not learned that there were reasons for wearing cycling kit. I was wearing cutoffs, t-shirt, no helmet, and tennis shoes.


Two weeks following the 75 mile ride, I moved on to the century.  The route I was following was a 4 mile square block.  The plan ( I can't believe it myself now) would be to ride the square 25 times.  Is it possible that I miscounted?  I don't know.  There also were not cyclcomputers at that time either. This brings up an interesting point.  Here I am in the year 2015, having X number of miles, Y number of centuries, and the accuracy over 25 years cannot be 100%.  And it really doesn't matter.  It's not about a number, it's not about personal bests, it's not about whether I won or not.  It's about doing something so many times, for such a long time that it questions our definition of what is possible.  I am 68 years old, and still doing century after century.  In 1991, most people, including exercise physiologists did not believe this to be possible.  And while there is no question that I have slowed down, I am still riding at about the same level as 5 years ago, and at a much higher level than 1991.


I did that 25 times around that square in Manteca.  I remember stopping every four or so loops at the library, sometimes drinking like a dog.  I remember it was hot.  I remember stopping halfway, at home, to stuff myself with two sandwiches.  I remember how tired I was during the last 25 miles.  I remember that some woman almost knocked me down 2 blocks from home on the last lap.  I remember eating a dozen or so plums when I finished.  And I remember lying on the floor, listening to Steely Dan's "Aja," and the Beatles "Let it Be," so high I might just as well have smoked a joint. And finally, I remember losing a water bottle off a grocery cart later at the store, looking at it lying on the floor, and wondering who lost it.  This was the first time I wondered why we do the things we do.

In 2015, the night before the Oregon Gran Fondo, my wife is asking me the same question.  I am giving her the same answer.  "I don't know."








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