An Accidental 50 Miler

The Centurion 50

Scott and I went on a short vacation to the Blue Mountains in Canada over the 4th of July. With both kids in camp we had time for a short getaway!! Our plan? Stay in an affordable AirBnB and get a nice bike ride in, some running and some time on the longest contiguous fresh water beach in the world.

After we arrived our first order of business was to figure out a route for our ride. It was obvious to us as we drove in that we’d need a plan. Many roads up here didn’t have shoulders, and since we didn’t know the area, it could be awfully easy to get lost. In a quick internet search, I found a bike race route called the Centurion 50. We’d ride the 50K route in the morning, enjoy lunch at a taco place that I found and then hang at the beach for the afternoon. We had turn by turn directions written out so that we wouldn’t get lost.

The turn by turn mangled by the end of the ride.

Facebook, fifties and forty-five

Prior to our trip, we had a whirlwind weekend. I baked A LOT of cakes, we volunteered at the Finger Lakes 50s Trail Race, got the kids off to camp and packed up our things. There were a lot of things going through my mind as we sat down to breakfast with our AirBnB hostess that morning. After volunteering at the race my mind was spinning with, “I’m not a real runner because I don’t want to do the Finger Lakes 50s.” It was a miserably wet day and the course is hard on a normal day!! (I did do the 25K once and really didn’t like it). After dropping Xander at camp I was worried about his week. It is an outdoor camp and he’s petrified of spiders and most other outdoor things. When we left him there it was all I could to make myself get back into the car and drive away. That morning at breakfast our AirBnb hostess shared that her husband died when her kids were young. She immediately followed up that statement with a question about how old Scott and I are. “I’m 44,” I replied and then shared that Scott would be 44 on July 11th. We learned that Terry and Scott share a birthday and that she would be turning 58. Some quick mental math and I realized she lost her husband when she was 45.

I don’t spend much time on Facebook. I try to remember to get on each morning to send happy birthday greetings, but the only time I go through the feed is when I’m waiting in a checkout line. It isn’t because of laziness or time that I don’t go on, but because I find it puts me in a bad mood. I end up feeling like I haven’t accomplished enough in this world when I look at all the things my Facebook friends are posting. One of the cakes I made for the weekend was a wedding cake. It was for a friend for purchase and I worked really hard on it. I was happy with how it turned out and excited that I had a role in her wedding. That morning I had popped onto Facebook and saw she mentioned a lot of people in her wedding post, but hadn’t mentioned me. So naturally I decided she hated the cake. With all these thoughts swirling in my head, along with the knowledge that I’d be cycling with my much faster husband, we headed off for our morning ride.

Sunscreen and a water bottle

After a last bathroom stop we parked the car, grabbed our water bottles, put some sunscreen on and headed out for our ride. It was a gorgeous yet slightly chilly day. Scott had his sleeveless tri outfit on and I had a bike skirt and a short sleeved jersey. The first portion of our ride was uneventful. We missed a turn once, and there were bits that were in traffic with no shoulder, but it was lovely country and we enjoyed ourselves.

Soon into the ride we took a turn onto an 8K stretch that would wind through the mountains, gaining a lot of elevation. We saw many riders along this stretch of road. After this portion, we turned right onto a main road with a shoulder. Scott had the turn by turn directions so I asked him how long we’d be on this. “Not long,” he replied. A couple of miles later he said, “actually I think we’re on this awhile.” We stopped and I looked at the mileage. We were at 18 miles. Not bad. We checked the map so we’d know where to turn next, checked a text from Elizabeth telling us that she was loving her piano camp more than any other camp we’d ever paid for. We smiled and continued our ride.

Courage

This stretch of road lasted for what felt like forever, and then we turned onto a main road with no shoulder. This portion of the ride started with a pretty decent ascent before turning into a long downhill. I’m working on my courage for downhills, only recently mastering a hill near my house. The grade of this hill was steeper than the one I’d just mastered. It also had no shoulder and there was a fair amount of fast traffic. I knew I had no choice. Walking down the hill was simply not practical. We were nearing the end of the ride and I just took a deep breath and started down. Seeing Scott in front of me reminded me that this was indeed safe and I’d be ok. I made it down this hill and used all of my courage in doing so!

We’ve ridden 30 miles

As I arrived at the base of the hill, Scott looked bummed and said, “well we have ridden 30 miles!” “Great! We’re almost back!” I said. “I think it is actually 50 miles,” Scott replied.

We had both ventured out for a 50 mile ride with one bottle of water. We didn’t have any food with us, and we had both ridden over 30 miles the day prior. We aren’t long distance riders, and we were plenty tired by mile 30.

This was an “Amy” idea

We have this going joke in our house that if I am the one to think of the idea, we should immediately discard it. As we started our next ascent all I could think was, “Really, why didn’t you look more carefully at the map? It must have been obvious that it was a 50 mile route.” After realizing we had to go 20 more miles I was suddenly chafed, thirsty and hungry. Interesting that I wasn’t any of those things just moments before. Ironically I’m reading a great book called “How Bad Do You Want It?” about the mental aspect of athletics by Matt Fitzgerald. I spent the next few miles thinking about not being hungry, thirsty or chafed, finding it really ironic that I was fine until I realized we had to ride longer than I thought.

Are you in your smallest ring?

We turned a corner and Scott stopped to wait for me. I could tell he was annoyed with me for picking this route and felt bad about messing up the distance. I caught up with him and said, “you know we could just route ourselves back to our car. It might be shorter.” He replied that he was thinking the exact same thing. Suddenly we had a plan. We’d route to the car and save 5 miles. I admit that I was a tiny bit sad about this as we changed our route. Now we wouldn’t be able to say we rode 50 miles. But, it seemed kind of silly to stay on the course if there was a more direct route to be had. There wasn’t much time to dwell as we had reached another hill to climb.

At the top of the hill the road turned to dirt. We had planned to take this road all the way back. Now I knew we’d end up being back on the course and doing 50 after all. There was a small store there and we grabbed Clif bars and ice-cream sandwiches and filled our waters. We had 12 miles to go. The man who suggested I lower my gear told Scott that we wouldn’t have wanted to take that road anyway; it was VERY steep. He told us the actual route was much gentler. There was only a little bit of climbing left.

What qualifies as a “little bit”?

The road we had turned onto had no shoulder again. By this time in the ride I’d figured out that the drivers here are very kind to cyclists. As a result, I wasn’t as worried as I had been earlier in the ride. Scott was ahead of me and I watched as cars waited to go around him when there was oncoming traffic. Presumably they did the same thing when they came upon me, but I didn’t get to see them stop and wait. I started to worry about him being splatted by a car. What if we had met Terry for a reason? She lost her husband at 45. What if one of us was going to die on this road today? I pushed the thought out of my head while also saying a little prayer that if someone had to die, could it be me? I felt he was better equipped to deal with talking to someone in customs as he drove in with a body and everything that would follow afterwards.

Gratefully, I was abruptly pulled from my thoughts when I arrived at our left turn.  I went to dismount because there was a car coming in each direction and my skirt got caught. I almost fell over. I looked left and saw a massive hill. This is not “A LITTLE BIT” of climbing left.

Please pass the courage

At the top of the climb I saw a sign that said, Trucks use lower gear. A big downhill had to be coming up. Oh my goodness! I was going to need another helping of courage. I had used up all that I thought I had for the last downhill.

Scott stopped to take a picture so I was ahead of him. He’d catch up after his picture taking. I started down the hill as slowly as possible. This hill reminded me of a ride I took with my friend Michael. He had to coach me down as I rode my brakes most of the way. “1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand …” I would count to ten and only allow myself to hit the brakes every time I reached 10. Suddenly Scott blew by me saying, “Woo hoo isn’t this fun?” “It is TERRIBLE. I just want to stay alive.” I replied. He looked shocked and kept going.

Back in my head I started to think about my kids. They’ve spent years ski racing; throwing themselves down the hill. How do they do this? Poor Scott. He should be married to someone who is more of a daredevil. At least someone who isn’t trying to survive the downhill of a bike ride. I was only able to think for mere moments, because soon the hill was extreme again. I counted to at least 100 before we hit the bottom. By the time we arrived at the base, my hands were numb and my arms were so tense.

Back at the stable

Early in the ride we had a crew of people come up behind us. Clearly a biking group, the leader was right behind me for a bit commenting that it was a great day for a ride. Then, he and his crew had turned off and I heard him say to one of the riders, “don’t worry, we’ll take the hill nice and easy.” At this turn off you couldn’t see the hill, but the hill they went up was the hill we just came down. As hard as it was to go down that hill, I couldn’t imagine reversing the route!

Once we were here, it was just some light city riding. The horse stable was a landmark that reminded me that we were almost at our destination. The last miles were uneventful and relaxing even. There was almost no elevation change and while we were in the midst of traffic, it felt very calming. The speed limit was low and cars were very kind.


The Rest of the Day

When we finished we weren’t all that hungry. We’d had Clif bars and ice-cream sandwiches from the store we came upon. So, instead of hitting the taco place we had looked up we went to the town at the base of the Blue Mountain Ski Area. We wandered, got a coffee and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Then we headed to Wasaga Beach, the longest freshwater beach in the world. As we walked about a 5K we chatted about our great day of accidental long biking! We agreed that it was a better story than we’d have had if we had only done a 50K today. We finished our day with a trip to a Brew Pub, enjoying some beer and chicken wings at the bar. Then we went home to chat with our AirBnB hostess about her day of motorcycle riding. She tried to understand what we found fun about riding 50 miles as we tried to understand what was appealing about being on a motorcycle for 6 hours.

No one died!! As usual my worries were for nothing. And the cake? My friend mentioned me later in the day along with a picture of her cutting the cake with her husband. Her wedding was lovely and I hope she liked the cake.

2 responses

  1. You’ve probably heard the saying that the things that go wrong make the best memories. And stories, I’d add! My husband and I have a few similar tales in our history and they are definitely more memorable than others. I’m just like you in thinking meeting Terry ordains some terrible fate. I always comfort myself that none of my fears have ever come to pass. And I just bought that book. Hope it’s a good one!

    • Definitely true! I am loving the book – I hope you enjoy it!! And I just had a friend ask me today if she routinely rides 5-7 miles if she should do 30. I said, “hmmm, I usually do 20-30 and 50 felt challenging so …. I think you could but it could feel super hard :)”

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