Reston Century: race report

So, no surprises here.  I decided Saturday night to go ahead and do the full (under serious pressure from my running-turned-triathete college buddy over the last 3 weeks, as she didn't want to do 100 miles alone).  I had a great long ride last weekend, my legs were feeling good, I had new expensive softness for the biscuit, and that meant I could stuff down even more delicious bread with dinner.  A solid win, right?


Stats: 106.4M, 7:32.

The good: I finished.  Before the free ice cream truck left the finish line.  I could still - mostly - feel my hooter.  Fantastic rest stops with great crews.  73 degrees at the start.  I didn't cry, walk my bike, crash, flat, or puke, although I hoped for all of those things at various points throughout.

The bad: Less than 6 miles of flat on the course that my friend called "a little hilly."  Surprise!

The ugly: 20 miles of steep climbs and quick drops on unshaded blacktop, scheduled right at noon when the gray morning turned into a 97-degree scorcher.  And a bastard jackass race director with a nasty sense of humor, tracking a 106-mile course advertised as a 100-miler.

How it unfolded.....

The course opened at 6:30am.  I planned to arrive at 6:00am, to have lots of time to unpack and fuss and check 8 times that I had everything I needed, which meant I needed to leave my house by 5:30am.  I set my alarm for 4:50am so I would have time to eat breakfast, deliver the mail, triple-check my packing and leave.  The poet was kind enough to get up (read: woken up by me crashing around in the dark) and helped me load my bike and bags into the car.  And while I really appreciated the help, it wasn't until I arrived at the start that I realized that by not loading my own bike, I didn't notice the empty water bottle cages and as such, retrieve my water bottles from the freezer.  GAH.  I had one of those heavy metal bottles with a screw-top that I had packed for the car, and I (of course) had a tube of nuun in my purse, so that would have to do.  I ended up leaving some of my nutrition behind, as well, after hearing about the amazingly well-stocked rest stops.  I think I packed 5 Gu's, 3-4 packages of shot blocks, 2 bags of Gu chomps, my bag of pretzels, and a protein bar.  

Gretchen forgot her pump and went back to get it, and it took us a few minutes to rendevous (which parking lot?  this parking lot?  no, that parking lot.  no, the other one.  I can see you!  I'm waving!  you just drove past me!), so we departed the start at 7:00am.  It was cloudy, 73 degrees, and sprinkling a little.  Perfect.  
Ready to roll!

Reston Town Center to Ashburn: 10.1M, 0:38 (split at arrival)
About 10 minutes after we started, a pack of DC Tri folks that Gretchen knows sped past us, and she decided that we should try and keep up with them - I think she was afraid of getting lost.  After 30 minutes of 21-22mph average, I told her that I couldn't keep up with that pace or I'd blow up long before we hit 100.  That group spent less than 30 seconds at each rest stop and was probably home in time for lunch, so I'm glad we dropped back early in the day.  I was also glad that my bike computer was spot-on with the cue sheet.  We stretched a little, I used the porta, had an orange slice and a pack of Gu chomps and we headed out.

Ashburn to Hamilton, 31.7M, 2:03 (split at arrival)
The first 10 miles or so of this stretch were nice.  Some gentle rollers, quite a few stop lights, and we were still in a pretty big pack.  It was cool and breezy, and I felt strong.  We were averaging 17-18mph, but in the pack it felt easy.  There was one left turn not marked, and we went almost a 1/4 mile before someone in the pack turned us around, which added .4 to the bike computer - hurrah!  Math do to all day!  We went down a big long hill, took a very sharp left turn, and the "everything feels great! I am strong!" was over for the day.  This took us up a pretty steep (7-8mph, still in the pack) 2-3 mile stretch.  When we crested, there was little relief, as we spent the rest of the loop doing some pretty serious climbs and flying down steep downhills.  I was pretty grateful to see everyone turning into the rest area, and hoped that meant the big climbs of the day were over, as my quads were feeling trashed.

The Hamilton rest area we hit 3 times, and it was fantastic.  I had some shot blocks during the last stretch, and when we arrived, I had a Gatorade snow cone (amazing), tons of water, 2 pieces of honey wheat bread, some pretzels, and some more shot blocks.  I was so happy to have the bread, as it counteracts the awful stomach feeling of eating only squishy sugar.  We stretched, refilled, and left for the next stretch.
 Gatorade snow cones. 
Fantastic spread.

Taylorstown Loop: 62M, 4:20 (split at arrival)
40M, 2:41 - first caffeinated Gu.
50.6M, 3:27 - right before the hill decision.

The loop was really tough.  It was still fairly cool (high-70s), and we were blessed with some rain, but I overheard enough conversations about how much climbing was on this loop (the general consensus was 3000 feet of climbing, according to the Garmin people) to finally understand what I had gotten myself into.  Honesty time: if I had known how challenging and hilly this course was, there was no way on this green earth I would have done the full.  No possible way.  I'm a pretty new cyclist, and I love it, but all my long training rides have been on fairly flat terrain, and while I've done Conte's hill workout pretty regularly, it doesn't even come close to what we encountered in western Virginia yesterday.  

Gretchen rides a tri bike and has about 10lbs on me - I couldn't even begin to keep up with her on the flying downhills.  However, I have thunder thighs and a road bike, so I'd mostly catch her on the uphills.  During this loop, we had to choose a "more hilly" or "less hilly" route about halfway through.  I can't imagine what kind of ridiculous sadist thought that we needed this choice, or that we wanted MORE hilly mileage (the "more hilly" course added 3.2 miles).
Hill decision time.

The split happened at 50.6 miles and I'll tell you what - if what we took was the easy split, I can't imagine how anyone survived the hard split.  This was the worst part of this loop, and maybe the worst climbs of the entire ride.  I saw a LOT of cyclists walking their bikes up hills, and a lot of cyclists on the side of the road who yelled "cramps!" or "just puking, I'm fine!" when I yelled "are you ok?"  No shame here - I was dying for a cramp so I'd have to stop for a break, and if I thought I could have safely unclipped during a 4mph climb, I would've done it and walked too.  As we headed back into the rest stop, the sun came out.

South Loop: 82.8M, 5:54 (split at arrival)
A bunch of lying assholes in the rest stop told us that this loop was softer and easier than the last loop, so we took a quick break for bread, cookies, bananas, Gatorade, and Gu and headed back out, saying to ourselves, "It's just 20 miles, then another 20, then we're done!"  The only thing that was better about this loop is that it was shorter.  This was the worst 20 miles of my life.  The first few miles went through a little town, and then we hung a left into serious back country, identical to the previous loop, except there was no shade, we were on blacktop, there was absolutely no flat road, and my bike computer reported 97 degrees.  This is where I started to get really and truly pissed off.  I wanted to do the metric.  I didn't train for the full like Gretchen (who is in 70.3 training).  I didn't know what the course was like because I had the metric cue sheet.  If I had done the metric, I'd be home by now.  I hate everyone.  She called me a chicken and made me do it.  She told me it was pretty flat.  I hate her.  I hate my bike.  I'm going to stop and throw it into a bush and walk home.  

I spent at least 5 miles writing the speech that I was going to shout at her as soon as we stopped.  I spent another 2 miles writing the speech that I was going to shout at the race director, because YOU KNOW I was going to track his ass down and let him have it.  I passed Gretchen on one climb and yelled "FU@K" and she yelled back "WHAT" and I yelled "I SHOULD HAVE DONE THE G@DDAMNED METRIC!"  For some reason she didn't pass me again, choosing instead to suck off my 3mph wheel until we pulled over at a gas station about 2 miles out from the rest stop.  I can't imagine why.  When we stopped I looked at her and said "I hate you right now" and she said "think of how good you'll feel when we're done!" and I said "SHUT UP WITH THAT SHIT ALREADY" and stomped into the diner to beg for ice water.  The only thing that made me feel a tiny bit better was that she toppled over at a stop sign and lost almost all of her fluid at the front of this loop, and while I was too focused on being pissed off to drink anyhow, I did think "HA!" over and over again in my little rage because she DESERVED to not have any fluid.  

(Note: of course this was just my anger talking, I love her again today and want her to always be hydrated.)

The last 2-3 miles of this loop were on the W&OD trail coming from Purcellville (the end of the trail) and they were paved, shaded, and flat.  Relief.  Of course there was one last climb up to the rest stop.
I'm not smiling, I'm gritting my teeth in rage.

Hamilton to Reston Town Center: 104.5M, 7:32 (split at arrival)
We did a very quick stop, mainly because we were in the "I just want this to be over" mental state.  The bad thing about this is that I don't want to eat or drink or stretch or pee, I just want to get to the end as quickly as I can, which is really dangerous during endurance events.  It was tough to eat and drink at the water stop, and even tougher to eat and drink along the way.  There were a few climbs during the first 3 miles of this loop, but we hit the W&OD trail - familiar territory - and I started to count the minutes until we were done.  Gretchen's phone rang a few times, and the last time she stopped to check it about 10 miles out (she has a little kid & always wants to make sure it's not an emergency, which I respect), I just kept going.  I knew if I stopped, I wouldn't be able to get started again.  The W&OD has some easy rollers, but generally a complete lack of shade.  I was boiling the entire way and had to make a huge effort to eat some shot blocks, some pretzels, a Gu, and drink during this stretch.  Right after I left Gretchen, I tucked in behind a guy who I had seen several times during the day and hung on as long as I could.  Our speed varied from 14-15mph to 19-20mph, but I just stared at his ass and focused on not stopping.  I'm sure he appreciated it.  

The cue sheet had the ride at 105.6 miles, and our turn off the W&OD trail was marked at 105.3.  Since our wrong turn had added .4, I spent most of the last hour staring at my bike computer, watching the .1s click by and counting down to 105.7.  5.3 extra miles is a long way on a bike after 7 hours of tough riding.  I hit 100 miles at 7:05, and thanked all of the higher powers for getting me that far, then went back to cursing the race director because I was done my mother-effing 100 miles and wanted to stop in the middle of the road and sit down and CALL HIS MOTHER.  

So I'm watching the .1 click by, and after 100, I can't do anything.  Around 103, the guy I was tailing had a water bottle drop off his bike and he rode over it with his back wheel and crashed.  I yelled "are you ok?" and he starting ranting and raving and cursing and yelling, but I heard someone yell "go ahead" so I didn't stop.  If I was that guy, who crashed (and maybe bent his wheel and couldn't finish) at mile 103 of a 100-mile ride, I would be PISSED.  I found another batch of tired people to suck on and went back to watching the .1 click by.  105.5.  105.6  105.7.  105.....8?!?!?!?!  

Imagine this.  Imagine running the longest, hilliest, worst marathon of your life.  P.S., the longest you ran in training was 15 miles.  It's 97 degrees out.  You're alone.  You see mile marker 26 and start rejoicing because you are almost done.  And then, you think, "this .2 feels long," but you keep running because it's all your brain can do.  And then imagine that you see mile marker 27.  That's how I felt when my bike computer kept clicking.  My splits had been perfectly aligned with the cue sheet all day (minus the .4 from our wrong turn).  We didn't turn off the trail until 106.3.  

I rode through the party and back to my car, knowing that if I got off my bike to eat or drink, I'd leave it there to find its own way home.  It felt amazing to put on flip-flops, to take off my bike helmet, to pull my bike shorts out of my diaphragm.  I met Gretchen back at the party and had a small plate of food, but I was done.  I got my free ice cream treat and we headed out.

I drove home and had enough strength to put on my bathing suit and lie on the floor while I waited for the poet to get home and take me to the gym for hot tub soaking.  But by the time he got home I couldn't imagine leaving the house, so I soaked in a hot bath, then a cool one, then took a shower and climbed into bed.  

My body has no idea what to do.  Last night I felt feverish and nauseous and ached all over.  I managed to lay my calves on top of some ice packs for a while to try and avoid the charley-horse alarm clock, and drank glass after glass of water.  I had a big bowl of ice cream, and the poet brought me McDonald's french fries - the only thing I could think of that sounded good.  I didn't sleep well last night - I was hot and sore, and woke up early.  I still have no appetite (although I ate a big breakfast) and am drinking lots of water, but I feel much more human, and might do something like take the dog out for a walk today.  

Would I do it again?  Well, of course.  This is the kind of physical and mental challenge that I've been missing all these months of not running (very much).  But it's also always good to be reminded of how important proper training is.  I know that I was prepared for the mileage, but the elevation and the heat made it a totally different ride.  I heard varying tales of elevation change for the whole ride, varying from 3500-4800 feet, but either way, it's very different from the 3-5 feet of elevation change that's been in my long rides to date.  A great step for me as a cyclist and as an athlete both - I feel like I learned a lot about mental toughness on this ride, as that's what got me through the last 44.4 miles.  I don't think it's something that you can work on like you can go to the gym and lift, but I think events like this show you what you're currently made of, and I was grateful to find that while I may not yet have the strength or speed I need to really excel at this, I have what I need mentally to not give up.  To do what I always want to be able to do: never stop fighting.


  1. Awesome job! I can't even imagine riding for that long. Talk about some serious mental strength!

  2. Holy shit, chica. That's ridiculous. I would have been right there with you and I would have probably plotted the murder of the race director, not just a bitch-out. This just convinced me that I shouldn't do a century for a long time, if ever. :P I'm glad you survived!

  3. Way to go! I'm so impressed. I was getting to the bottom of the post and wondering if you would want to do it again after it sounded so torturous, and am happy to see you would. It sounds like 100x more mentally tough than a marathon!

  4. Dang woman! You are a born ultra endurance athlete. I can't wait til Farouk fixes us both and we can spend miles on the trails suffering, bitching, and loving it!!

  5. I'm in awe...I could never do this.

    Your eyebrows look great, BTW.

  6. Great job! Sounds like way more than I could handle. Plus, this has got to be one of the best race reports I've ever read.

  7. I LOVED reading all your tweets yesterday during this insanity! You did amazing - seriously, I don't know what kept you from quitting! Hot dang that was crazy! But your commentary is what probably got you through - your witt and humor is a blessing ;)
    Good job girlie! I love that you at Miky D's french fries - those sound amazing! I haven't eaten fast food in about 6 years! Huggss!

  8. "pull my bike shorts out of my diaphragm"

    of COURSE you would do it again.

    You kill me.

  9. And thank you for assuring me that I have no business EVER attempting a century.

    PS-awesome job!!!

  10. Ah...begging for a cramp just so you could stop. You did A LOT more than I did yesterday, but I can totally commiserate! And oddly enough, I came home after Chipotle and went straight to lay on the floor too. I couldn't be bothered to do anything else.

    You continue to inspire me! :)

  11. wow, you are amazing. Congrats on your super challenging century+! :)

  12. This is a great recap after an even better ride! Your mental toughness rocks. I'll be thinking about this the next time I'm struggling to get through a long run!

  13. I wish I had realized it was at the Reston Town Center, I would have come out to cheer you after bringing my sister to the airport. Congratulations on an awesome job and race! You should be floating on air! :D

  14. No frickin' way I could have done that ride... even if it was downhill the entire time! ;-) Congrats and you should be proud of the ability to smile as you do when faced with such a brutal task! Way cool, Katie. Way cool.

  15. I am SO impressed. 100 miles - wowza. You are a rockstar woman! Wow. Just wow.

  16. Glad you love me again. When is our next century?

  17. We are riding 100 on the trail on Sunday. Loved your story.

  18. Just FYI, I rode this yesterday, and it seemed a hell of a lot less hilly than it did in August 2010. :)

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