The Hilly Hundred is known all over the country as one of the most challenging tour rides. The name says it all and no further creative marketing needs to be done. The ride swerves through scenic central Indiana country side with challenging hills and crazy descents. All of those details set aside, it is just another ride around town. Right? (Maybe not). Our ride would be on a tadem...a two rider bicycle. As the rear rider (also known as the stoker), I would not have any sight to see forward, no brakes and no gearing. It is not just another ride. The captain has to do a majority of the work and I have to trust the captain.
The tandem itself has been nothing but pure agony for me most of this year. Originally conceived and designed as a gift for someone other than myself, I never IMAGINED myself riding it. The thought never crossed my mind, not once. The bike was NEVER designed or built for me. When the gift was not wanted anymore and returned, I still refused to ride the bike believing that the bike was not for me and I should not ride it. At heart though, it is a bike and bikes are meant to be ridden, otherwise they collect dust. Quality bikes are meant to be ridden without drama. This tandem is designed and built for a specific size person. I said once..."I wanna try it all in cycling" and I decided the tandem had been collecting enough dust. It was time to ride and our first foray into tandem riding would be Hilly Hundred.
Friday Morning 7AM: We are up with the car packed and we are driving north to Bloomington, Indiana. The sunrise is just starting to peak over the tree ridge. I am still sipping a huge cup of coffee as my system is suffering from a lack of sleep. Perhaps it was my nerves or the many chores that needed to be done before we left but I could not sleep much the night before.
8:45AM: We arrive to the Hilly Hundred vendors tent where we will work between riding. Don made us a deal to cover our registration if we work the tent. It sounded quite fair. At this time, I have still not seen, nor sat on the tandem.
9:15AM: Don Walker arrives with his trailer in tow. We unload the trailer, set up for the show where the tandem is now sitting, waiting for us to ride it.
|JC and Don at the vendors tent|
|Bacon ice cream...dissolves any nerves|
4AM: I awake in an odd panic, not sure where I am, surrounded by darkness. A few moments elapse and I finally realize I am in Bloomington, Indiana, in a trailer, sleeping on plywood in a sleeping bag with a cold breeze blowing through the door. Somewhat panicked and otherwise calm, I attempt to go back to sleep.
6:30AM: We awake to wind hitting the trailer, rattling the roof overhead. It is really cold outside. I ask about the descents before either of us is unraveled from our sleeping bags. I am assured we will "take it easy." Hmmm. I have doubts about this but press on.
7:30AM: I am now in full ride preparation mode. I am up, working to assemble the vendors tent and making mental notes of all the little things I will need on the ride. Other riders start to arrive. A stream of headlights comes over the hill looking like little white ants.
|Sunrise on Saturday morning...|
9:30AM: JC is now finishing getting ready. Water bottles are filled. I adjust my jersey with needed items and extras like a camera. I speak to Don and remind him to remind JC that I have NEVER been on this bike before. I do not KNOW what I am doing. I do not want to crash.
10:00 AM: We are on the bike. Don snaps a quick photo before we take off. We push off in unison. We pedal in unison (you do not have a choice on the tandem). My view is JC's butt in front of me. This view does not change for the next 57-miles. It is freezing outside. My teeth are chattering and my fingers are already cold.
|The before picture...|
|JC's butt...my view for most of the ride|
|Scenery along the way|
2PM: We are literally limping along. At any ascent we slow to a crawl nursing our sore muscles at every summit. I am thinking of muscle tearing, tendon issues, etc. JC cramps so bad at point, he jumps off the bike with me still clipped in. WHOOPPPS! I grab his shoulder and unclip as quickly as possible to hold the bike up. No wrecks today!
2:30PM: We roll into the last SAG, collapsing on the grass. We're still cold. We have both discussed but made the decision to NOT get a ride back to the end of the course. We are now only a short distance away from the end. We run into a friend who shares some cookies with us. They taste like the best cookies ever and JC scarfs them down. I text ahead to the end and tell Don "WE NEED MEAT." The lactic acid build up in our legs is to the point where you can nearly see it. Our legs are tight. Spinning feels good. Our friend Scott, an accomplished strong rider, agrees to stay with us until the end. We start to feel a little more energy.
|The last crowded SAG|
|The best cookies EVER!|
3:30PM: We are rolling to the end and I can hear people talking about the last few miles ahead. I get more excited but I realize that my sits bones are bruised. Every crack, bump, or pothole in the road make it feel like broken glass. I avoid any bouncing. My legs refresh a bit. My arm still cramps with any applied pressure but I do not need it anymore. JC and I can now see the water tower which is a part of the view from the school where we started. We are ALMOST done. Our friend scoots us up the hill pulling us in his draft and we turn to finish out the last few miles.
4:00PM: The end of the ride is officially near. We roll through a neighborhood of small quaint houses and cars. I stop caring about the landscape, the views or anything else and we turn onto the last road into the school. Other riders have collapsed on the road sitting on the grass to our sides. We do not even pause, we head on straight to the bathrooms. It is my first time off the bike in a while. We get on the bike one last time and roll into the vendors tent where we first pushed off. JC's legs are cooked. My legs are seared. We are done. We are STILL cold. I immediately prepare to layer up.
4:20PM: We collapse for a brief moment onto our sleeping bags giggling because we just finished over 57-miles on a bike we had not ridden more than a few feet. Now, it's funny. We laugh at our own stupidity.
Afterwards everyone asks us about the ride and how we got along. We never fought. We made decisions together. We laughed a lot on the ride mostly at other riders in costume or doing things really odd. If I were in pain, I told him. If he was in pain, he told me. We spoke in grunts at times. There was nothing we could do to directly comfort each other but we made it known when something wasn't working. We made the decision to walk some hills. We stopped and drank water when we needed. We finished over the time we thought we would but we did not regret the ride. We regretted our miscalculated gearing and not packing our own lunches. To make up for a lackluster lunch, we ate a whole pizza in minutes and several ice cream treats. Honestly, there were not enough calories in sight. After a hot shower and a few moments of resting, the best reward....11-hours of perfect uninterrupted sleep.