The moon and stars filled the early morning sky as we prepared to leave for our century ride. As we left Havertown, I don’t think we knew exactly what we were getting into. Not one of the three of us had ever ridden more than about 70 miles. I personally had only ever done 70 miles on a supported MS ride. Still, we headed out full of confidence.
I must admit I was a bit nervous about the terrain. Living near the Chesapeake bay, I don’t have many opportunities for lots of hill work – or at least, I haven’t sought out a lot of hill work. So when Matt showed me the route plan on Mapmyride.com and it said 3200 feet of climbing I was a bit nervous. My year to date climbing total prior to the ride had been just over 32,000 feet. I was facing 10% of what I’d climbed in 1400 miles in 100 miles.
Our route took us west of Havertown, under I476 out through the neighborhoods that made up the Philadelphia Main Line. The houses we passed were multi-million dollar houses and the area reminded me of Ruxton outside of Baltimore. We made a turn and took a steep decent and suddenly we were in horse country. There was an amazing mist in the valleys and the temperature seemed to drop 20 degrees. I stopped us for a picture.
From there, our climbs began. We slogged it out over 35 miles until we came to Westchester where we stopped for a break, refueling and getting some hydration. While we were there, we noticed a pickup truck with 8 kegs in the back. It was Westchester’s homecoming. The thought of crashing a party briefly entered my mind, but I remembered that I was a 40-year-old dude in brightly colored spandex – not likely to be welcome at a college party.
From there we headed further west. Our travels took us by the Brandywine, which looked like an amazing river to fish and through more horse country. The hills kept coming and I frequently found that I had no gears left, that I was cross chaining, and that I was going about 4 mph up hill. Sparing you the details, I was also experiencing my first ever encounter with real chafing on the ride. I was starting to wonder if this had been a good idea.
We stopped at mile 58 and had lunch at a market called “Triple Fresh Market.” The turkey sub that I got was perhaps the best sandwich I’d eaten in months. After about an hour we started on our way back east. Around mile 75 we took our last rest stop having passed what I thought were the final significant hills.
We were running at least 2 hours behind our predicted schedule, but I knew that we were going to finish. The next twenty-five miles were perhaps the longest miles I’ve ever ridden. I could not help but watch the odometer gradually click off tenths of a mile. At mile 95, we encountered the final hill and it was a bear, however I got up over it (like all those before it) and we cruised into Havertown around 5:00 PM.
The total trip time was roughly 10 hours and 30 minutes. The total ride time was 7 hours and 30 minutes. The total ascent was 6775 feet according to my Garmin. Mapmyride.com was way off.
All in all, it was a great day spent with good friends in beautiful country. The hills were brutal, but not so brutal that I won’t do another century next year.