The Mile of Smiles 100 (www.milesofsmiles100.com) is an AWESOME event. It doesn’t actually cost anything to participate, but they take donations to help St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital– and this year raised a little over $11,000. I also dub this the HARDEST CENTURY IN ILLINOIS due to the 6000+ feet of climbing spread over more than a dozen hills. If you’re looking for a good, fun century – this is a great one to do! Plus you get a First Century Medal and Cycling hat donated by the generous sponsors!
Some of you know I was in Seattle for a business trip last week… No bike and long meeting days left little time to even spin in the hotel fitness center. On Friday, I spent 10 hours traveling back with cabs, airports, transfers and flights. I tried my best to hydrate, but felt pretty miserable.
Saturday (the day of the event) hit me way too early and my resting HR was almost 15 beats higher than it should have been! I knew it was going to be a tough day, but thought I’d at least give it a try My lovely wife helped me get everything together, get the bike loaded and drive to the starting area in Hudson, IL:
At 7AM, it was almost 80 degrees with 100% humidity. Around 280 people showed up to take part in the event with the ride distances 25 mile, 60 miles, and 104 mile. Bike shorts a plenty:
In a big group of those riding 60 and 100 miles, we were off. I was trying my best to take it easy and even at the start my HR was higher than it should have been. I’m fortunate enough to have a powertap, so kept my overall wattage low and moved along with the group.
There was a large group of female riders that wore pink shirts – I later learned they were the “Spokes Women” a cycling group for Women that were very nice. Right in front of me around mile 15, one of them had a flat. I stopped and helped them get their tire changed and by the time we got started again, I realized it was now 85 degrees. Ouch. this was going to be a hot day!
The hills started around mile 25 and kept going until mile 90! My favorite was this large downhill with several signs saying “dead end” when you get to the bottom of the hill, you realize there is just an old overgrown bridge and a sign saying “dismount bike”!
Any way you slice it, this is a cool experience to have! Of course, you’re now at the bottom of a hill, at a dead stop So more climbing to do.
My lovely wife met me at Mile 70 where I was starting to hurt, but still feeling pretty good. There were no SAG vehicles, and one of the other riders was in pretty bad shape from the heat and hills and asked if she could take him back. He had done several century rides before, but the combination was just too much.
Around mile 75, there was a large downhill a tight corner, and then another climb up a hill. I was breaking the whole way down and was in my low gear grinding up the hill. I was about 3/4 of the way up and heard a yell, then a crashing sound, followed by another yell. One of the riders behind me had gone off the road and I knew I had to go back. So, down the hill and turned out he was ok, but a bit shell shocked from the experience. Being tired, going too fast down the hill he didn’t make the corner and went about 15 feet into the trees and brushes. His wife was with him and made sure his bike was mostly ok with some adjustments to the brakes. I made sure they had a cell phone and that nothing was broken or bleeding.
As I was grinding back up that hill, I kept thinking about how bad that could have been. That next 10 miles really beat the heck out of me. Lots of hills and grinding up in my lowest gear (300 watts in lowest gear– plus I was starting to bonk and legs were cramping. My HR had been all over the map – never sitting in it’s normal zone and I wasn’t going to let myself get any worse. I slowed down, drank water at the top of hills, and stopped to splash a little water on the back of my neck every now and then.
I eased into the rest stop for Mile 91. My lovely wife was there waiting for me and was very worried because it took me almost 30 minutes longer to do that 20 mile than it should have. Sat in the shade and drank some coconut milk (which is awesome btw) and had some satisfaction knowing there were only a few smaller rolling hills left. I suspect I didn’t look so good at mile 91, so here’s a picture of my wife’s point of view while waiting for me:
I wasn’t in great shape, but was so close I wanted to press on. It was nice having full water bottles and so I kept hydrating and made it the last few miles. I crossed the line with 104.88 miles and went to the end of the road to make it say “105” :) The extra distance was mostly from where I turned around to help out with the crash. I got a first century medal and a Miles Of Smiles trophy for my work with the group:
Tired and sore, my wife drove me home to recover