Biking --- Summer 1998 --- Ithaca, NY

One of many bike rides during the summer of 1998.

This story doesn't exactly go with the pictures in this album, but I don't have any pictures from my first century ride, and I don't have any story to go with the pictures below.

The Century

   "Did you notice how those hills just kept going up and up and up?"
		-- Joanna, 7/19/98

A century. One hundred. In this case, one hundred miles. A classic bike ride distance. I had never biked much more than 60 miles in a day, but I wanted that century. Ok, maybe to you this is the story of some guy who rides a bike for 100 miles and gets a flat tire. But to me it is much, much more.

Sunday was the day we had set aside to ride around Seneca Lake. I was ready. Having ridden around all of the other Finger Lakes except Cayuga, I knew what to expect of the day. Sure, Seneca is a little longer -- about 80 miles. That's why we built strength and endurance around the shorter lakes first.

But I want to be tough. I want to be cool. I want an excuse if I punk out half way around the lake. We are meeting at Joanna's house early Sunday morning, and I ride my bike there. Exactly 10 miles from my house to Joanna's. There we meet with Josh, Alan and Rajesh. The bikes are lovingly placed in vehicles and we drive to Watkins Glenn at the Southern tip of Seneca Lake.

The Seneca Lake ride goes like you would expect. We cruised around enjoying the scenery, chatting about bikes and life, and stealing Rajesh's Fig Newtons. The wonderful tail wind that pushed us up hills while zipping North was in our faces the entire time as we struggled South. Returning to Watkins Glenn, Josh's odometer said we had done 80.1 miles. So I was at 90 miles for the day, and the ride home from Joanna's house would put me at 100. I was feeling great.

Daylight. That's a problem. By the time we got back to Ithaca, I calculated, there wasn't going to be enough daylight remaining for me to bike home. And I didn't have my headlight. Who would want to carry that heavy battery around the lake? As an aside, I think the old style generator powered lights were a better idea. The generator doesn't weigh much and only adds resistance when you are using it at night (at which point you probably aren't racing around a lake). Also you don't have to worry about being five miles from home as your dying battery causes your headlight to produce a faint, sickly yellow glow. But back to the problem at hand. Daylight. I had an idea. "I'll start biking back to Ithaca. You guys wait for me at 10 miles, and you can drive me home from there." They were agreeable. What a great bunch of friends!

But they did suggest that I reconsider. "Umm, Jeff, if you bike towards Ithaca, that means taking route 79 East out of Watkins Glenn." Yup. "You know, that's a pretty hilly route?" Yeah, I know. "Like, some of the longest hills in the entire Finger Lakes region. Like, about the last road in the world you would want to bike after having ridden 90 miles." I'm feeling strong! I'll see you guys in 10 miles! Bye!

That first hill was pretty painful. Looking at a topo map of the area, it climbs right from Seneca Lake, 445' elevation, and peaks at 1050' elevation about 1.2 miles later. 600' of climbing isn't a mountain pass in the Colorado Rockies, but it is about as much elevation as you would gain driving from Houston to Austin. Sunday evening it was about all I wanted to do. Then after cresting the hill and a funny thing happened. I started feeling better. I started biking faster, and that made me feel even better still. The next two big hills were each several hundred feet and pretty long, but I didn't care. I was cranking up the hills and just flying on the flat and downhill sections. Everyone else was going to relax at the lake, then catch me after about an hour. The thought was that I couldn't possibly average more than 10mph with those hills in the way. I had a new goal. In addition to the century I wanted to shock everyone by getting 15, 17, even 20 miles before they caught me. I started peddling even faster.

Just after cresting the third big hill, I saw my favorite road sign. A picture of a truck heading downhill. A warning for truckers to use low gear for the next... whole mile! Excellent! As another aside, I've always said that sign should be a picture of a bicyclist exclaiming "Woo Hoo!" I had just cranked into my highest gear and was passing 30mph on my way to 40mph when I felt a small bump and heard that sickening "psssssssssst" sound. Luckily, it was my back tire and I was able to stop without falling. My bike is pretty well behaved. In 10 weeks of riding, this was my third flat. The two previous had occurred when someone was nearby with a floor pump (just try to pump a tire to 120psi using the mini-pump I carry). This time was no different. I knew my friends were on their way. I could catch a ride home and fix the tire at my leisure. A check of the watch showed that I had left Watkins Glenn about 45 minutes earlier. I knew I was going fast, but wasn't sure if I had covered 10 miles yet. My century would not be denied, could not be denied. Especially with one mile of downhill beckoning me. So out came the tools and off came the wheel. 15 minutes later I had replaced the inner tube and mounted the tire. I was about to start pumping the tire (at least to 90psi which would have been acceptable) when two cars crested the hill.

I could hear the laughter first.

As they pulled on to the shoulder of the road I heard the voices. "Ten point two! Ten point two!" Yes! The century was mine! Just barely. Good bike.

As everyone helped me gather my stuff and put it in Josh's truck, Joanna made her observation. "Did you notice how those hills just kept going up and up and up?" I guess she had a pretty good view from her Toyota Camry. I just sat on the road and smiled, for once in my life at a loss for words. Alan came through, speaking up for me, "You know, Joanna, I think he noticed."

Alan, Walter, Beth, Carl, Josh, Joanna and Rajesh. (Category:  Biking)

Alan, Walter, Beth, Carl, Josh, Joanna and Rajesh.    Ithaca, NY -- Summer 1998

One of many bike rides during the summer of 1998. (Category:  Biking)

One of many bike rides during the summer of 1998.    Ithaca, NY -- Summer 1998

One of many bike rides during the summer of 1998. (Category:  Biking)

One of many bike rides during the summer of 1998.    Ithaca, NY -- Summer 1998

One of many bike rides during the summer of 1998. (Category:  Biking)

One of many bike rides during the summer of 1998.    Ithaca, NY -- Summer 1998