Saturday, August 25th, the day before John’s birthday, and the day of the Shore Fire Century. My first metric century. Could I finish? Would it take me all day? I was pretty sure the answer to the first question would be yes. I hoped the second question’s answer would be no, but I wasn’t sure about that. We drove up the night before and stayed in Middletown, DE’s only hotel. Not wanting to leave our bikes on the car overnight, we wheeled them through the lobby and to our room. We half expected the staff to stop us, but no problem. Dinner at the nearby 1861 pub was quite good; the hotel’s breakfast less so, but enough to get us started.
The ride began at Middletown High School. Registration packet pick up took just a few minutes and we were on our way by 7:50 a.m. There is not a lot to say about the route. It was flat most of the way and well-marked. Lots of cornfields and quiet country roads. We passed three Amish horse-and-buggies. Each time I thought the horse might get a competitive spurt and start racing us, but that didn’t happen. We would have passed just two buggies, except I caused us to miss a turn and we got off course for a while, which is where we came upon the third. Later in the day we met up with another cyclist who got off course to the tune of 40 extra miles!
I don’t know how many cyclists there were but other than at the rest stops, there was rarely the sense of riding with a group. There were 3 route choices, 35, 65 and 100 miles, and perhaps the riders dispersed among the three options. The people we did meet along the route and at the rest stops were very friendly. I easily fell into conversations with no sense of being an outsider. There were 3 well-spaced and well-provisioned rest stops, one of them at a firehouse offering almost luxurious indoor restrooms.
Luck was with us. The weather forecast called for intermittent thunderstorms. Instead we had some light rain early on that soon let up. For the rest of the day it was overcast and in the mid-70s. Not beautiful, but not blazing hot either. Pretty good for a late August ride in this part of the country. In another stroke of luck, while my bike developed an irregular clunkety-click associated with pedaling (chain? bottom bracket?) it held up for the remaining 18 miles of the ride. That was fortunate because at that time we were off-course due to my cue-sheet reading error. I imagine the SAG car would still have come for us, but I am glad we didn’t have to find out. The problem was a broken chain link, easily enough replaced at the bike shop later in the week.
Despite my pre-ride jitters, the ride went well for me. I felt good and kept up what for me is a great pace, thanks to the flat terrain coupled with the strength developed riding in Baltimore County. By about mile 60, muscle fatigue and soreness were setting in. Could I have gone further? Maybe with another rest stop I could have. But I was sure glad to stop when we got back to the high school. A good experience all around, and who knows, maybe next year I will be up for trying the 100-mile route.