Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My 1st Event - Santa Clarita Half-Century, Pt I

The Idea
So, about a year ago I got my road bike, and after a few months of riding shorter, easier rides (10 to 25 miles) I started looking at different events that I could participate in, that would also give me something to work towards. By this time it was towards the end of the year, and the start of a new year would bring my busy season. (I am an accountant. Not the lame, boring, stereotypical accountant that you are picturing in your mind. Just a lame, boring, non-stereotypical accountant that, well, may not be far off from what you originally were picturing. Your mind may have had some guy in a white shirt and tie behind a computer. I, however, sometimes wear a blue shirt. Heck, sometimes even a PINK or PURPLE shirt. Yes, I have little girls.) Because of my busy season, it would mean that riding in an event would probably have to wait for summer. But, seeing that the city I live in (Santa Clarita) was holding its 5th Annual Century Ride, I knew that I could slip away from the office to get in the 50 mile ride even though it was just two weeks before the filing deadline.  
(The photographer's site was down so I couldn't event buy any prints to put in the blog.)

Skipping Ahead to the Pre-Event
Like I said, it was busy season and I had not really trained. In fact, I had only ridden more than 30 miles maybe two or three times before the event, so I wasn't sure how things would go. A couple friends were going to ride the 50 miles with me, but bailed just before the event. So when I showed up, I was solo. 

Having never been part of an organized ride before, I had no idea what to expect. I had barely bought my first kit just weeks before the event, so when I showed up I was put back by the number of people all pro'd out with their matching getup and game day faces on. (Side note: Shortly after getting my bike a friend told me he saw me riding one Saturday morning. He knew it was me because, as he said, "The guy was riding a nice Bianchi and was wearing gym clothes...I knew it HAD to be you." After that comment I started to realize when I was riding that the person that stood out on the trails riding was actually me. Everyone else was wearing cycling garb. So finally, I manned up and put on some bibs.)

Before the start of the ride everyone was riding around, making final adjustments to their bikes and gear to make sure things were perfect, and I knew so little about fixing my bike that I wasn't even sure I'd get through a flat tire as I hadn't even changed one to date on my bike. With it being as cold as it was that morning, I was starting to think I should just pack it up and try again another day. 

After a minute or so of talking myself into the ride while I sat in the warm van I got out, grabbed my gear and started riding around on my bike in the parking lot. "Just do what the other guys are doing, and act like you've been here before," I thought to myself.  Luckily, as we were lining up to start the ride I noticed that there were a few other people that no more ready for this than I did. 

A Ray of Hope - Gary
As I stood waiting for the event to start I realized there was a guy five feet to my left that had the same bike as I did, and was standing alone. His name was Gary. Turned out we were pretty similar. Not only did we have the same great taste in bikes, Bianchi Infinitos, but he got his bike only a month before I got my bike. It was also his first road bike, and he had never ridden over 40 miles before. Where we differed is that is had more time to ride than I did, and he had done most of the climbs before, whereas I had only ridden most flat trails around town. Luckily for me, I did have one thing that MIGHT help me in trying to ride with Gary: I was over 30 YEARS YOUNGER! As most riders can attest, age can't always make up for experience. And being in my early 30's was different than being in my early 20's. Back then, even though I wasn't the most athletic, I never needed to worry about getting sore or tiring out. However, as Gary and I were in the same boat with just starting to ride as a way to trick our bodies in thinking that we weren't really exercising, I thought maybe I wouldn't be the last one across the finish. And if I was, hopefully I wouldn't be alone.

The Ride
The ride started and we were underway. Gary and I visited with each other, both going rather slow. Gary told me a couple of times that I could go ahead, but I wasn't sure how I would do on the hills or on the length, so I thought it better to pace myself at the beginning. Besides, this was the part of the ride that has roads closed, and a police escort in parts.

After a mile or so of Gary and I riding along, I lost Gary going around a corner. We were both going rather slow, but managed to pass a group of 10-12 people, I on one side and Gary on the other. The only problem was, Gary never made it around the group this time. I waited for a couple minutes, going rather slow (did I mention we were going slow), and then realized that if I were going to ever pick up the pace maybe now was my time. And maybe Gary was wanting to ride alone. (There were plenty of police at the corner blocking traffic, so I knew that if Gary took a bad spill going three miles an hour around a large turn, after having gone one mile, there would be plenty of help. So, no, I did not leave him stranded.)

So off I went. I had plenty of people in front of me, and all of them were starting to scatter out. So, one by one, or small group by small group, I started passing people as we rode to the outskirts of town. I was feeling good and the riders were getting spread out thinner and thinner. Now I only had one thing holding me back. I really had to pee!...[To be continued]...

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