A metric century is a 100 kilometer (62 mile) bicycle ride. It’s a common goal for cyclists to complete a metric, because it’s a good barometer of where you are in terms of endurance, fitness, and speed.
After I completed a 50-miler, a metric century was a logical next step. Conveniently, one was coming up in five weeks — the “Wurstride,” on the first Saturday in November, 2007. It’s conducted in conjunction with the annual Wurstfest in New Braunfels, Texas (wurst is the German word for sausage, and New Braunfels loves to celebrate its German heritage). The ride starts in Austin, and follows little-used country roads on a roundabout way to New Braunfels, which is only a 40-mile drive by Interstate highway.
Because I had trained for the 50-miler, I felt I was in good shape for 100K. I tried to ride often, and did a 30-miler one Saturday. But an attempt at a 40-miler the weekend before the race was cut off at 17 miles, after my second flat of the day. Now I was concerned that I might not have enough stamina to finish a 62-mile ride.
The ride started in the parking lot of a local utility in Austin. I had a new rear tire and tube, after the flats the week before, but something seemed out of whack. The tube was actually bulging out from the tire! I took it to the SAG tent run by a local bike shop, and a mechanic I’d dealt with before checked the trueness of the wheel, deflated the tube, remounted the tire, pumped it up, and I was ready to go.
But as soon as the ride began, I sensed a problem. The rear tire was bumping on every revolution. I tried to check on it as I rode along, which is a dicey thing to do when surrounded by other bikers. I figured out that the tube was bulging once again, just as it went bang!
Just a mile into a 62-mile ride, and I’m trying to fix a flat along the road. I could see that I was in for a long, lonely day trying to catch the pack, and started wondering if it was in the cards for me to finish. Then one of the SAG wagons came along, driven by the same bike mech who had tended to the tire earlier. He immediately recognized the problem. “I put 100 pounds in your tire,” he said, “but with this wheel, it shouldn’t take more than 70.” He found a new tube, put in 70 pounds, and I was on my way — last in a field of about one thousand riders.
I pulled into the first rest stop, about 10 miles from the start, took only about five minutes to get a sports drink, then set off again. That put me ahead of a couple dozen riders who lingered at the rest stop. Now we were out in the country, southeast of Austin, and I had a lot of easy downhill stretches to make up lost time. I didn’t push it, but a steady pedaling pace sent me past many other cyclists.
The weather was warming up, and at the second rest stop, I pulled off my windbreaker, rolled it up, and stuffed it into the back pocket of my cycling jersey. I planned not to take more than 10 minutes at rest stops, and was soon in the saddle again.
The county roads in Hays and Caldwell counties were chip seal, and rough in some spots. We rode past cotton fields that had just recently been harvested, and clumps of cotton lined the road. By the time I reached the third rest stop, at the halfway mark in Martindale, I knew I would finish the ride.
My cell phone rang as the route headed east of San Marcos. It was my son, calling from Minnesota to wish my wife a happy birthday — he’d hit my number by mistake. When I told him where I was and what I was doing, he was astounded, and got off the phone so I could concentrate on dodging the traffic.
Now, I was feeling the distance. There were hills along the route, nothing long or steep, but enough to make me work hard. I was still riding the steel Raleigh at the time, and it took some strong legs to handle the inclines. A cluster of four riders passed me going up a small rise. On the downhill side, I sailed past them. But at the next upslope, they went by me again. This passing back and forth kept up until the fifth rest stop.
Getting to that stop was a trial. It was along Interstate 35, at the point where the route crossed the highway and continued west and south to New Braunfels. But one of the longer hills of the day led to the rest stop, and by the time I got to the top, I felt like all the starch had been taken out of me. I tried to stick to my 10-minute rule, but in this case, I think I took a few more.
The rest of the trip wasn’t too bad. The ride organizers put the rest stops closer together in the last half of the ride — only about seven miles apart. I had put a new saddle on the bike after the Rip Roarin’ Ride, but hadn’t adjusted to it yet, and my butt complained. Much of this part of the ride found me coasting, with my weight on my feet, so I could just lift off the saddle. That helped.
The ride ended in a large city park in New Braunfels. Riders were treated to free beer and sausages. I was surprised at how good I felt. After a few minutes of walking around, my bottom didn’t bother me at all. Our bikes were loaded onto trucks, and we boarded buses for the return trip to Austin.
I didn’t set the world on fire, finishing 5 hours 26 minutes after starting. But deducting 10 minutes for each of the seven rest stops gave me 4 hours 16 minutes in the saddle, for an average speed of 14.59 miles per hour. I was satisfied with that. I knew it would only get better from here.