One definition of the word challenge, according to Chambers, the dictionary of choice in our household, is as follows: A task, undertaking, etc. to test one's powers and capabilities to the full. Without a doubt, this description is certainly applicable to my participation in last Sunday's Cadillac Challenge century.
The 100-mile ride, bicycling the roads of Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, and Acadia National Park, is an all-consuming endeavor — both physically and mentally. If successfully achieved, a great deal of self-satisfaction is a handsome reward. And that is exactly how I felt after crossing the finish line.
In professional cycling, a time trial is often referred to as a "race of truth." I believe engaging in a century holds similar characteristics. You are basically on your own, often encouraging yourself to press on, and — ultimately — proving to yourself that such a goal can be accomplished.
By no means, is it easy. At least for those of us nearing 70 years of age. And the fact that the Cadillac Challenge is, by far, the hardest century I've ever done. The 6,500-feet, elevation-gain profile looks like one you'd see for a stage in the Tour de France. I'm not kidding!
For some reason, I had a ton of anxiety leading up to this annual event; almost to the point of bailing out. Worried about ... flat tires, a broken cable or chain, even getting lost. Maybe it was because I was doing it without any of my cycling friends.
Staying in a motel in Bar Harbor, I didn't sleep very well the night before. In bed at 10:45 p.m., awake at 3:45 a.m. Suffice to say, just like the Maine Senior Games two weeks earlier, there were several trips to the bathroom as I got ready to ride.
As the 100 participants gathered for the 8 a.m. start, it was a bit chilly at 48 degrees, with a "feels like" reading of 43. There was a steady breeze of 14 miles per hour, coming out of the north, off Frenchman Bay. It did warm to the mid-50s, with mostly sunny skies.
It was a day filled with countless thoughts and memories — many good and some not so pleasant — and I'd like to share a few of the highlights:
— Everyone was super friendly, especially the volunteers. The rest stops were well stocked, with the right foods. The last point is quite important when involved in a long ride.
— I actually felt strong the whole way. There is usually a phase in a century — at least for me — that interrupts the good vibes. On Sunday, it was at around mile 45. Suddenly, I felt cold and shivery. I put it down to a lack of nourishment, so I quickly stuffed fig bars and a CLIF Bar into my mouth. Soon, I felt better. During the latter part of any extremely long ride, I make it a point to consume anything sweet for some quick energy.
— My feet didn't go numb, like they often do late in a century ride.
— The real Challenge part started with the ascent up Cadillac Mountain at the 90-mile mark. I was tired and seriously thought about skipping that portion. Then I decided I'd go to at least above the tree line. Once there, I thought, "Well, you've gone this far," and I pushed on for the top. Truth be told, I just had to and I would have been disappointed if I hadn't done it. A lady at the summit said, "I think it's pretty remarkable that you are able to ride a bike up the mountain." When I told her how far I'd ridden prior to the climb, she exclaimed, "Oh my goodness!"
— Going up the mountain, you are locked into the same body-posture position for so long you easily stiffen up. Going down was a piece of cake, but with the cold wind and with not too many clothes on, I rode the brakes. I was still shaking like a newborn baby when I reached the bottom.
— Cruising along the national park's Loop Road is a good way to finish up the ride, with the beautiful scenery, perfect pavement, and one-way traffic for a sizable portion. I apologize to blog readers for the lack of scenic photos, especially along the Atlantic Ocean and inside Acadia. But you are so focused on riding and by the time one reaches the park — around the 70-to-75-mile mark — you just want to get the job done.
— My Trek Domane, the same bike I utilized in the Maine Senior Games, performed flawlessly.
— In my previous Cadillac Challenges, for various reasons, I'd only completed 82 and 83 miles. So I was pleased to have done the entire 100 miles.
No matter how you slice it, riding a bicycle that far is hard. Many people have told me that I'm crazy for putting my mind and body through such pain. But I love doing it and will continue to do more endurance tests. It's just a reflection of my passion for pedaling a two-wheeled machine.
And by the way, I did my 26th century in six hours and 58 minutes. Stay safe!