Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Long Ride on the Withlacoochee State Trail

I must admit that a year ago doing a century was not on my to do list. Al and I were perfectly happy doing metric centuries. But we spent the summer working on riding faster and longer. Somehow the idea of riding a century seemed like a natural next step.

At 46 miles, the Withlacoochee State Trail is the longest paved rail-to-trail in Florida. The Friends of the Withlacoochee State Trail host a fundraising ride annually on the first Sunday in October. We like to do the ride just to enjoy it's unusual mix of riders. Because the Withlacoochee is a rail-to-trail, it's straight and pretty flat. And there are very few roads crossing it. So you can ride, and ride, and ride. It seemed like a perfect place to do our first century.

We were out on the trail early, happy to have good headlights to spot ninja dog walkers as we pedalled to the start to pick up our registration packets. The good weather news was that today would be sunny. The bad news was that the early morning would be foggy. Off we pedalled into the fog. Follow the blinking red lights. At least it was light enough that ninja dog walkers were no longer a danger.

We followed the century rider route north. We came to the point where the century route left the trail and headed on local roads for about 10 miles. Whoa. Head out on foggy local roads when we can do a boring but very safe 10 mile loop on the trail instead? No contest. We stayed on the trail.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Rest stop for snacks and sports drink fill up. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. While this century ride stuff was a bit repetitious, we were enjoying the ride immensely. The people were fun to watch and chat with. Not a bad way to spend a day.

Funniest sights on this year's ride:

  • A family of 5, all on recumbents: mom, pop, and adolescent son on adult models; a very little girl and a little boy on kiddy size recumbents.
  • A trio of young mothers leading a group of kids on kiddy bikes down the trail. I talked to one of the moms, learning that they were local and not part of the registered riders. She said the kids were a bit confused why they couldn't stop for cookies at the rest stops like everybody else. (The moms wisely promised an ice cream stop on the way home.)
  • A group of 7 ladies on hybrid bikes, all in matching t-shirts, each with her helmet tipped way back on her head, all pedalling jauntily but obliviously down the trail.

Like all long rides, the ride takes you on a mental and physical roller coaster. Your legs get tired, your mood gets irritable...then 10 miles later your legs feel fresh and your mood is jolly. You just roll with it knowing the pattern, knowing what will come next. We dropped our speed to a leisurely 15 mph for the final few miles. Delicious. Then we were done.

Got to do this again!