I thoroughly enjoyed the team paceline for the first leg of this double century. Day two, on the other hand, was going to be completely different. Most of my teammates either went home on Saturday or participated in the shorter 50-mile ride. This left me as a free agent and the first real test of my cycling legs on flat terrain. I had already competed two double centuries this year, but both times had been exhausted at the end.
I felt great for the Sunday ride, perhaps better than I have ever felt on the bike. Oddly enough, I had a slight head cold, which I had been battling for a week. On the bike, for some reason, the stuffiness was gone. My body felt strong as ever.
Since the MS Ride is supported so well, I knew I could take the chance of going out strong early. If I went too hard, I could slow down in the second half without consequence. With rest stops approximately every 10 miles, I would hardly be lacking for supplies. So I decided to go for it.
When we lined up in the morning, I wanted to keep my eye on the lead pack. Unfortunately I forgot that they release riders in waves of 100 people at a time. I was around mid-way through the second wave, so I knew that I would have to push early to get with the better group. I moved ahead and managed to jump on the back of the Blood, Sweat and Gears team out of Denver, NC (no relation to the century ride out of Boone, NC). They were at the perfect pace, around 21-22 mph, and together we passed all the second wave riders and caught most of the first wave. I discovered later that they were the second fastest group at the time.
I drafted with the BSG team for around 30 miles until we all stopped at a rest stop. They took their time, apparently waiting on their slower riders. I could appreciate that, but was plenty rested and had the flexibility to look elsewhere. I hooked up with two others who had also picked up on the BSG group. Rather than wait around, we decided to go on our own just to keep moving, thinking the BSG group would eventually catch us. That didn’t happen. We eventually picked up other stragglers who skipped that rest stop, and we ended up with a paceline of around eight riders. That was perfect, and we were able to keep the 21-22 mph pace.
When we arrived at the lunch spot, the front group was heading out. Not wanting to stop long, I quickly consumed my sandwich and looked for others, but everyone was content at the dining table. There were now again three of us who wanted to go ahead. One of the guys could not keep our pace and dropped shortly after lunch. The other guy was Jon, a triathlete out of Salisbury, NC.
Jon and I got to know each other well for the next 30 miles or so. Just like before, we went at a good pace and figured we would eventually be caught. By now we were facing constant headwind, which was brutal at times. Our pace had slowed to 19-20 mph as we took turned pulling a couple miles at a time. This was extremely hard work and it was taking its toll. We were both getting tired. Jon really needed to rest and somewhere around mile 75 he decided to take the next rest stop. I was tired, but could continue. As luck would have it, another group turned up right about that time. I jumped on with them and Jon took the rest stop.
This was a larger group of around 5 riders. They had fresher legs than I did at the time, so sitting in with them was a nice chance for me to recover. They took the next rest stop and by that time I was ready. We took a little longer than we should have, and as we are heading out, Jon from Salisbury showed up and rejoined the group. We kept around the same pace going in — about 19-20 into the wind, which was most of the time, and when we turned south we could keep a 22-23 pace.
By mile 90, the two days were taking a toll. My quads were starting to burn and I was very uncomfortable in the seat. I kept on, inspired by the sun coming out and the smell of the beach in the air. It was a refreshing sight to see hints of the beach ahead, and an exhilarating feeling to cross the finish line to overwhelming applause and be handed a medal.
I ended up with just above a 20 mph average for the day, which was one of my fastest centuries and without question the easiest double century. After I settled down, I still felt surprisingly strong, not as sore as usual after a tough ride. It feels great to see these kinds of results from all the hard work I’ve put in this year.