100 miles… before the rains came

On Monday I rode Medina County Bike Club’s annual freebie century ride (freebie = unsupported, as in “feed thyselves”) otherwise known as Ramble Around Medina. I’d done this ride last year and really enjoyed the route, so I was over-eager to do this one again, despite the pessimistic weather forecast. Before leaving the house at 7am, I checked the weather.com one more time and it was predicting a 40% chance of rain all day. My usual assumption on the roulette of weather and cycling is that anything below 50% is pretty good odds. That said, I was more optimistic than the weather forecast despite the threatening dark clouds that loomed periodically in the distance on my way to the ride.

Of course, for this ride, I chose to bring my OCR 1 for fast road riding… I am excited to ride Beau the Cross Check, but Beau has a different purpose and doing centuries is really a job for the sports car of my bikes. With a century, the goal is to get it done within a reasonable amount of time. Perhaps Beau will go with me on a TOSRV (back-to-back centuries) sometime, where the weather conditions are doomed to rain and miserableness of the early spring season, but not for this type of ride.

When I arrived at the start location–the “I-71 plaza” at Route 18 and Windfall in the outskirts of Medina–dark skies loomed threateningly in the west. The air was rather heavy with humidity. I was fairly certain that it would rain sometime during the next 100 miles but I figured as long as I started off before it started, I would be forced to continue due to since this ride had no SAG and, anyway, I never quit once I start.

Fortunately, the usual crowd from ABC showed up–Bob W, Bob I, Randy–and we all ended up riding together. During the first leg of the ride, I ran into June, a woman I met and hung out with on XOBA, so she rode with us to lunch as well. At lunch at a Subway in West Salem, we ran into Michael and he rode with us to the end while June, who’d ridden from her home in west Akron, took off for a different route to return to her home. It was nice to ride with so much company, especially when I was prepared to do this ride alone. (Since I didn’t know how many ABCers would end up doing the ride.)

The first leg of this route passes through Brunswick Hills and actually passes my parents’ street. It then continues on through Valley City to Spencer Lake and ambles in some Amish country in Medina that I didn’t know even existed until I did this ride last year. Amish in Medina County? Who’da thunk! The roads were quiet for the most part and in pretty descent shape. There was a little bit of a headwind in some directions, but it wasn’t bad enough to make any of us form a paceline. (At least, I didn’t.)

When we stopped to snack at a gas station in Litchfield, I realized my average was 16.3, which really, for me, is pushing it on a century if I’m not in the guaranteed flat lands of Northwest Ohio. Overall, this ride was not especially hilly–at least not until the end–but it wasn’t flat either. You had to make some climbs here and there. My right knee–the troublemaker, the one that gave out on me on XOBA–was aching slightly by the time we reached our lunch stop in West Salem so I knew I had to calm down a bit on my riding. Fortunately, with Michael there, I knew that my pace would be regimented to something more sane–he and I ride at a similar pace and, actually, Michael tends to be even more cautious about over-exertion than me.

The weather on Monday was on the verge of rain. We would go from glaring dark skies to periods of sun in which the skies looked about to clear. At some point, rain didn’t seem like it was going to happen which put me at ease. I am okay with most weather conditions, but I really hate being rained on. And the bike just does not feel very safe on the rain.

Our return trip to Medina took us through my favorite, the Overton Valley, which I still enjoyed despite the recent chip-n-seal applied to Overton Road. Then, past the Lodi Premium Outlets to Seville, up the long slow ascent of Seville Road (also recently chip-n-sealed), then into Wadsworth for a hilly finish through backroads to Windfall Road. I actually hit a max speed of 39mph going down the other side of Seville Road–which is less of a slow descent than the ascent–and kicked myself for feathering my brakes a little at the beginning because you had a clear shot of the road all the way down to the bottom. I’m such a coward! Still, I managed 39mph without thinking about it so I must have been less cautious than usual. (Had I known, though, I would have tried to push 40!)

Right before we reached our start/end location at the I-71 plaza, it started to drizzle slightly. As we got closer to the end location, dark clouds were really prominent again in the west. Windfall road was freshly wet, suggesting that we’d just missed a recent heavy rain shower. When we got to the plaza, I had 101.82 miles so I rode around the parking lot for a bit to top off at 102. My ending average was 15.7, which is pretty descent by my books (in contrast, I think I had a 14-something on the much hillier century on Sunday in June).

As I took off to my go to my parents’ house for a little Labor Day feast of ribs and the obligatory beer, rain started to pour rather gratuitously. I missed the rain by a half hour! Whoosh! Close call. It was definitely not the kind of rain I’d have enjoyed riding in for at least fifteen minutes–a pretty hard deluge with some rumbles of thunder (though I didn’t really see any lightening). It continued to rain the rest of the night and into Tuesday morning. So it is as if the cycling gods heard my fervent prayers throughout the ride. Thank you, cycling gods!

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