Bike Commuter riding her first century

I decided to try the North Shore century ride this past September.  This would be my first-ever century, and I figured that biking 100 miles in a day didn’t seem that bad since my transferrable bike commuting skills would come in handy. My body was already accustomed to being on a bike for long periods of time, I knew how to perform basic bike repair and best of all, I wouldn’t be weighed down by a backpack full of work clothes or a work laptop.  My training schedule consisted of bike commuting at least 50 miles a week six weeks leading up to the event.  I also went on a 75 mile bike ride two weeks before to make sure I felt confident with my energy and choice of food.

bike at rest stop
My bike at one of the rest stops.

I used my road bike with platform pedals.  I packed two water bottles and some energy bars and goo, and a stick of sunscreen which I kept in my handlebar bag.  My outfit for the day was what I typically wear when bike commuting.  I wore my running shoes with bike-specific insoles to help with foot fatigue.  My knees and legs felt fine after the event, so I do think the bike-specific insoles really helped and made things feel a lot better when pedaling.  I also wore a cooling scarf to keep comfortable and sun sleeves so I wouldn’t get sunburned.

olivia holding bike
Holding the bike at the last rest stop. I certainly did not look like most of the other century riders in my bike commuting clothes but at least I was comfortable.


Here’s the recap of the day:

Weather: Perfect – sunny with no wind.

Breakfast: Oatmeal, some fruit and coffee about an hour before the event.  I had eaten a lot of carbs the week leading up to the ride and felt good.

Started:  6 am, which is my regular bike commute time.

Rest stops:  I stopped at all of them to eat and give my legs a rest.   My husband was nice enough to be there to keep me company.  I had a hotdog at lunchtime and enjoyed watermelon, pickles, grapes and pretzels throughout the day.  I was sufficiently hydrated and the best part of being a woman at these events is there is no line to the ladies’ room.

Favorite part:  I’d never been to Wisconsin my whole life, and I got really excited on State Line Road when I knew I was going to cross over.  Also, being able to see neighborhoods in Illinois I’ve never seen before.

biking in wisconsin
Biking in Wisconsin


Least favorite part:  Climbing hills on a single-speed.  The second leg of the event before reaching Wisconsin was very hilly and I doubted if I would be able to make it the rest of the ride.  Thankfully, the terrain was mostly flat after that point and I didn’t have to worry anymore.

Boredom:  At mile 80, I was actually quite bored and wanted to stop and do other things that day.  Next time I do a century, I am making someone I know come with me.   I did encounter some very nice people who talked to me during various stages of the ride – some guy named Guillermo who I started the race with, and other curious people who said I was crazy for biking the whole thing with my single-speed.

Ended: 4 pm = 10 hours of biking


NSC Certificate
I had to fold and stuff my certificate in my bag.

At the end, I was expecting some sort of fancy finish line, but there was none, so I just had to imagine it being a crack in the road.  I went to the finisher’s tent, got my certificate, stuffed it in my bag and rode back home.  Luckily, I got to enjoy some Spotted Cow which the husband picked up in Wisconsin.  I think I did just fine for my first century and found that regular bike commuting enabled me to train during the week without sacrificing time on my busy weekends.  This was definitely a new experience for me and I’m glad that bike commuting helped prepare me both mentally and physically for a long day in the saddle.

Summer of biking – 2016 edition

It’s been a busy summer on and off the bike, but I’ve spent enough time riding around to get a biker’s tan.  I’ve recorded over 1000 miles this year with the miles mainly from commuting.   Here’s some highlights of this past summer.

2016 Active Transporation Alliance’s Bike Commuter Challenge

I was the sole captain this year as the co-captain from last year opted out of organizing.  Overall, it was a very fun and successful event – this time my company had 17 participants (new record), and we finished within the top 25 of companies Chicagoland in terms of mileage.  I think since word got out much earlier this year,  people were interested.  I made some flyers and had emails sent out to the company starting a month before the event.  As captain, the event website made it difficult to find stats or manage the team.  Active Transportation did admit they they were rolling out a new backend system so some user-friendly features from last year were not available – such as sending out daily messages to my entire team through the website. Me and other team members also encountered were some minor technical difficulties with their bike app in terms of uploading miles, but that was resolved by just restarting the program.

I was able to bike every single day of the challenge, and the first day I had an interoffice commute which I’ve never done before.  I even tried a new route from another coworker who lives nearby.  I’ve since used that route on my commutes to mix things up a bit.  Some days were hot, but luckily, kids still run lemonade stands and I was able to take a short break on my rides home.

Lemonade Stand
Hot weather means one of many lemonade stands on my commute home.

I definitely met a lot of new people and have new biking friends.  It’s always nice to have camaraderie around non-work related stuff.  I’ve ridden to work with two ladies in a different department who take one of the early morning Metra trains.  As someone who’s commuted for many years, it’s great to see new commuters giving biking a try, using whatever bikes they have.  A few weeks after the event, we took a group photo and it was included in our company newsletter. People said they had lots of fun and it motivated them to be healthier and consider alternatives to driving.


Upgraded some bike items:

I treated myself to some new bike lights, bags and other bike supplies to replace what I’ve been using.  My equipment will be discussed in later posts.


Biked to work in a downpour:

One morning the radar showed red and I thought I would get to work before the worst of it hit.  I was wrong and ended up in a really awful downpour about 15 minutes in my commute.  There was no lightning in the sky, but the thunder was really serious.  Thankfully, I always have all of my lights with me and I kept to the quieter streets.  At times, the rain actually hurt as it hit my skin.  When my husband texted me if I was OK, I said that I was putting my phone in a plastic bag and I turned on the Beacon feature so that he could track my route.  I remember pedaling so hard through some standing water and telling myself not to stop since I didn’t want my bike to fall over.  The water came up to my bottom chain but it required a lot of force to pedal through.   It was such a weird sensation to be pedaling through water, but not as crazy as underwater cycling. It was terrifying at times, but luckily I made it to work safe and was actually the first one to arrive.  I was reminded by my boss that one day I will show up looking like an electrified kitty on a bike.



On Labor Day, rode 75 miles in preparation for the North Shore Century.

I signed up to do my first century ride since I’ve always wanted to do this event and my other coworkers are doing it too.  My only training for a century is biking two times a week commuting to work (50 miles).  On my Monday off, I got up at the usual time for my bike commutes, but I wanted to see how I felt after riding a long distance.  I decided to enjoy the lakefront path which kept my speed slow at about 12 mph.  I tried eating something about every hour- some energy goo or food I had packed.  I think I did not eat enough for breakfast – I only had oatmeal and some fruit and a cup of coffee.  My feet felt fatigued but that was expected since I use platform pedals and have regular gym shoes.  I may consider swapping in harder insoles, or purchasing bike specific insoles to put in my gym shoes.  Otherwise, I feel I am ready to bike 100 + miles.  Even a day after riding, I am not really in pain, but seem a bit dehydrated –  I blame that on the two beers I had the night before and two beers the night after my ride.  More on my first century ride in a future post.

Bike on the Lakefront Trail next to the Shedd Aquarium.
Bike on the Lakefront Trail next to the Shedd Aquarium.