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Friday, February 19, 2010

January Cycling: 5 Centuries in 14 Days

January Cycling: 5 Centuries in 14 Days

The first weekend of January passed uneventfully. I thought I didn't have anything going on.
Then I got it in my fool head to do 5 century rides before the month was out.

My good friend Michael started out as a casual cyclist a year ago with new Carrefour specials for the whole family. Then the bug hit. As everyone who rides regularly knows, when the bug bites... it bites hard. He was soon putting a few kilometers together at a time, huffing and puffing about how he'd never make 20 miles. 20 miles came and went. Before his first anniversary in the saddle was through he was ready for his first century. Michael is 46 years young and... got a little heavy for a the amount of dedication he has exhibited is inspiring to all. He has trimmed up and is a lesson for anyone sitting on the fence. Most people lack the courage to get started and so I am very proud of Michael and I gladly volunteered to accompany him for his first 100 miler. Numbers are just numbers, but somehow 100 anything is worthy of a little extra attention. It is the welcome mat to the triple digit club. From there on out 100 can easily become 200 and then you simply get bogged down into the physical limitations of the human body and the dangers of riding in the dark.

Century 1:

My first century for January was a warm up for Michael's the following week. I wanted to make sure he could do 75 miles to best pace his endurance and calorie intake. The additional distance to and from my house made it over 100 miles.

We Took off up the Highway 3 through Feng Yuan and into the foothills of Miaoli County. We passed through the strawberry chaos of Dahu and took the Highway 6 and a couple other roads to Tongluo and down through Tongxiao, Dajia and then someone had the wonderful suggestion to climb the back side of the hill before Chingshui. We then hit the most dangerous stretch of roadway in Taiwan: The bike path. Bike paths are a swarm of slow moving, weaving amateur cyclists who make it a shooting gallery for anyone riding straight. I then took a creative way home to round out the 100 miles.

Century 2:
The second century was done with Michael from Taichung along the nasty Highway 1 to
the #145 across the Great Xiluo Bridge. We took in some calories at a Breakfast place and then stayed on the 145 to the Highway 19 past Tuku. That area is a fascinating area to pass through as many of the
people are relatively recent converts from being Plains Aborigines. I often look at grave markers on my rides to get a sense of the ethnic composition in the area. A little roadside ethnology to keep the ride interesting. If you check many of the graves down past Tuku, you will notice the place of origin is often local. It is common to find the ancestral home being "Deer Field" or the name of the locality.

We stayed on the 19 until getting a little lost near Madou as we tried to take a short cut. We finally rolled into Tainan before sundown. I powered into Tainan at about 30mph in an adrenaline fueled flat sprint across the final bridge. We finally found some kind of flop house near the train station where I was attacked by mosquitoes all night and we fueled up for the next day.

Century 3:
The next day our distance was uncertain. The plan was pretty much to go as far as we could and then take the train out from there. We were both on one gear easier than the day before, but felt pretty good. We managed to make good time all the way up to Chia yi. We ate at the only restaurant in Chia yi that doesn't sell Ji Rou Fan. It was just after leaving that place that I tweaked my knee and continued on in pain. I would ride out ahead and michael just thundered along at a good pace. We were getting close enough to home that we both thought we could make it back to Taichung... at some point. I gritted it out and we rolled along into Wufeng at sundown. We finally parted ways after 7:00pm having done back to back centuries.

Century 4:
I decided that since I had done two centuries in two days, I could easily pull off two more before the month was out. I also had a day off coming up. I decided to head back through Nantou and Mingjian, Zhushan and into Douliu. From there I had a rough idea of where to go and quickly got lost going through Huwei. I kept second guessing myself and ended up heading through Tuku. For the first time in Taiwan I was totally turned around and had no idea which way was North. I asked a gas station attendant... and he had no idea. I asked a 7-11 clerk and she hadn't a clue. In Taiwan people have no abstract clue of directions. Seriously. Nobody really knows where in the hell they are. I finally figured it out and went back to Huwei and up to Xiluo along the 145. I had originally hoped to take the Highway 19, but nobody could confirm where it was or that it was actually quite close, so I went back to an old road I had been getting quite bored with and made it to Xiluo where I meandered home against the wind and still feeling a growing pain in my knee. It sucked, really.

Century 5:
I had one more to go and my knee had been bothering be for a couple days, but on two days rest I decided to see how a final century up toward Miaoli would work out. Michael joined me for the first 30 miles and then turned back. The pain in my knee was just a dull ache. I decided to grit it out and just go for it. It was only 14 days since the first century and I figured if I could do it it would be baddass and if not I would call Michael for help. I took the Highway 3 all the way to the #126 near the Ming De Reservoir. The rolling hills didn't seem to aggravate my knee anymore than regular riding. I actually felt stronger despite the knee pain. The Ming De Reservoir is a great ride. I got into the monochrome colored city of Miaoli and since I forgot how to get to the Highway 1 through an easier route I took the 13 all the way up the big hill to the 119 and then through "charming" Hakka farms to the industrial old Highway 1. I powered my way at speed all the way to Changhua to avoid any more hills. The pain in my knee was intense by that point. I had
actually been popping Tylenol all day. I limped through the door and took a week off.

Of course in post script I got a bad chest cold the week after my week off... and then I had a couple rides before the rains of New Year. So I am expecting to lose most of the gains I had made through all that riding. Typical.

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