My First Century

A big day for me: I rode in — and finished — the Outlaw Trail 100 in Round Rock, Texas. Finally, I have a century ride under my belt. And as it turned out, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

I thought I was pretty organized. I did most of the work the previous night, loading the car, laying out my clothes. But when I got to the starting area in Round Rock, I found that I had forgotten something — my floor pump. So I figured I’d use the new frame mounted mini-pump to top off the tires. Uh, the pump is broken. It’s missing a piece where the pump attaches to the presta valve. It’s useless.

My blogging friend Jared found me, and I rushed to get myself together to go meet our other blogging buddy, Mike. In my haste, I left the route map in the car. It would have come in handy later. While they caught up on their biking exploits, I borrowed a floor pump from the bike shop sponsors and topped off my tires.

Jared (left) and Mike both showed up in their new Fat Cyclist jerseys. They’re in the starting area with the other 100-mile riders.

Then, we were ready for the race. I cut a most un-athletic figure while waiting at the line.

I’ll try to remember always to face the camera when posing in a cycling jersey (!).

It took about two miles before Jared and Mike were out of my sight. No matter. I had planned to ride at an easy pace throughout the ride. I could see quickly that my easy pace and the rest of the riders’ paces were in two different leagues. Up until the second rest stop, riders continually passed me. Although I was tempted to grab the wheel of more than one rider, I remembered to keep my eye on the prize — and finish, not race.

The ride traveled county roads through eastern Williamson County, Texas. It’s a farming area, known as “Blackland Prairie.” The harvest is in, and the fields are tilled. And the soil is black.

A typical view along the route.

I hadn’t been through here before, so I was interested to see what it looked like. In addition to mostly flat farm fields, we did go through a few small towns. Walburg has some old buildings that harken back to its beginnings as a mostly German settlement.

Doering’s general store dates back to 1881.

The biggest town we went through was Bartlett, the route running right through its business district. On a quiet Saturday morning, there wasn’t much activity.

Bartlett used to be a major cotton shipping point — but cotton declined in the 1930’s, and so did Bartlett. Note the street paved with bricks.

Several miles past Bartlett, I came across the most notable incident of the day. A biker riding the Granger Dam road “caught on something” and went down. A trailing rider crashed into him, leaving the first rider with a broken collarbone. How the accident happened on the straightest stretch of road on the ride, with everyone moving at roughly the same speed and in the same direction, is a mystery.

Emergency vehicles at the accident on Granger Dam Road. That’s Granger Lake on the left.

The rest stop at the far end of the Granger Dam marked the 55-mile point in the ride, and I was starting to feel the miles. My seat had the comfort of a hatchet blade. My foot was singing its usual song. I started to wonder if I would be able to finish.

The advice given about riding a century is to break it up into parts. Ride four 25-mile rides. Or five 20-milers. Since the rest stops were roughly 12 miles apart, I decided to break the remaining ride up into four 12-mile parts. I figured even I could do 12 miles. Then do it again. And again.

That was a bit of a challenge, because as the day wore on, the wind from the northeast picked up. Although the route was generally clockwise, and the wind would be at our backs for much of the second half of the ride, the ride organizers managed to incorporate a surprising number of jogs that took us into the wind. I got onto my small chain ring and just spun and spun.

Riders I had passed miles ago now passed me. With just a few miles to the finish, I was all alone on the road. I turned into the large park where the ride began, and picked up the pace as the finish line approached.

I gotta tell ya, it was a bit of an anticlimax. The announcers were still at their post at the start-finish line. When they saw me coming, they started yelling encouragement on the PA. The theme from “Car Wash” blared. I zig-zagged to the music, and they got a kick out of that. Then, across the line — and no one around to watch.

There were maybe a dozen vehicles left in the parking lot. I couldn’t even find someone to take my picture next to the finish line. But I do have a record that the century is in the books: A shot of my cyclocomputer. The tale of the tape: 101.39 miles at an average speed of 15.47 miles per hour. Six hours, 33 minutes, and 14 seconds on-bike time. Not bad for a Bike Noob. I had expected to finish somewhere between 3 and 3:30 p.m., and I crossed the line at 3:15.

The only place I felt the ride was in my thighs. They were sore, but even that was to diminish within a couple of hours. For once, I hydrated correctly during the ride. I stopped at every rest stop but the first, and mixed up my food choices from stop to stop: banana here, orange wedge there, pickle at this place. And I, who likes long breaks during long rides, managed to keep my time at the stops to about five minutes. All in all, a very satisfying day.

Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll be riding long distances in April in the MS 150, but getting out and doing one of these again isn’t tripping my trigger right now. I guess we’ll just have to see. After all, there is the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred next summer, and I’ve always had an idea that riding in that one would be fun.


  1. says

    Congratulations! As I commented before — there are no easy centuries. You should be proud of your accomplishment. And I think it’s a very respectable time for your first century, especially since it sounds like you didn’t really draft the entire ride. Good stuff…

  2. says

    Congratulations! I would just have to disagree with 331miles. It’s only easier after the first one if only mentally and that makes a big difference. But I agree that is a great time for a first century also. Especially considering that you pretty much did it alone and apparently took a fair number of pictures.

  3. says

    Congratulations. I have been meaning to do a century for some time now and just haven’t done it. Kudos for taking the initiative and doing it. Awesome.

  4. Tony Plutino says

    Hi Noob,

    I was looking around on the internet to see if anyone had commented on the bike crash that happened on Granger Dam. And I’ll be darned, there’s your blog.

    I was involved in that crash, unfortunately as the recipient of a Grade 3 Shoulder Separation. On October 23rd I had surgery to reconstruct my shoulder. Hopefully, in 12 weeks I’ll be riding again. Until then it will be 6 weeks in a sling and then 6 weeks PT.

    I was riding with a group of 10-12 riders. We had turned on to Granger Dam and had picked up speed to about 25 mph as the wind was now at iur backs. At mile 56 the rider in front of me touched the rear wheel of the bike in front of him, a lady on a bike with aero bars. He wemt down right in front of me and, being a foot back, I crashed into him and did an endo onto my left shoulder. I heard it snap as I hit the ground. I had no road rash as my shoulder took the full impact of my 210# being slung into the road like a sack of potatoes. I was up walking and talking immediately, with my arm dangling uselessly, but not hurting too much. The guy that crashed in front of me was on his back for about 20-25 minutes, but was walking when I left the scene in an ambulance. The lady whose wheel he snagged did not crash and suffered no injuries. The bicycles behind me were able to avoid the pile up.

    I’m not sure what caused the riders in front of me to cross tires. A number of things could have happened, but they likely all relate to rider inattention or inexperience. I had been riding with these folks for quite and things seemed O.K., but I’m not sure that they knew each other as a group. However, safety alert #5 on the ride’s “Read me before you ride flyer” states that, “It is not safe to ride in a paceline with strangers”. It can be hazardous even when you are very familiar with your co-riders. In any event, I did it and paid a price. I will likely ride in pace lines again.

    On the plus note, I had an excellent and exhilerating 56 mile ride. With the surgery and rehab costing about $8K it will also be my most expensive ride ever.

    Good luck as you continue in the sport.


    P.S. If you want a good surgery scar image for your blog, let me know.

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