SIEVERT: A Century Story
I’d been nervous about the ride all week. One hundred kilometers — equal to 62.2 miles — is known in the cycling world as a Metric Century, and it would be my longest single ride ever. The route was designed for the “Friends of the Trail Fun’d Ride”, which is this Saturday, Aug. 20, but I had a prior commitment, so a few weeks ago I asked fellow Quincy Bicycle Club Member Jim Cate if he would pre-ride the route with me. He accepted the invitation, so at 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 14, we left Bob Mays Park with the goal of a safe and successful 100-kilometer ride.
Jim Cate is something of a biking legend in Quincy. He will be 73 years old in a couple of weeks, and he cycles with enthusiasm and endurance that riders decades his junior can rarely emulate. He and his wife Phyllis — a great cyclist herself — can be seen around Quincy each Thursday night riding their tandem bike along with the Quincy Bicycle Club Pedal Pushers group.
For me, Jim has become a coach and a mentor. When we ride, he’ll share little tips: Shift smoothly and think ahead. Use your “spinning gears” on big climbs rather than muscling it out in a tough one so that you can conserve energy. Keep your feet even and your head down on downhill sections to reduce wind resistance. Don’t look at the wheel of the rider in front of you when you’re drafting — you’ll be able to hit the break instinctively when they break if you watch their back instead.
He coaches quietly and gently, but you can tell that he speaks with the authority that comes with years of experience. When he is trying to teach you something, you should definitely listen up.
We left the park Sunday morning and headed up Koch’s Lane. With the entirety of 63-plus miles sitting out in front of me, I briefly had a moment of doubt. But then I thought of something Ultra Marathon Runner and friend Jared Busen said to me recently, “It’s about not quitting … it’s about continual forward progress.” So I regained my focus and didn’t think about 63 miles. Instead I thought, “All I’ve got to do is the bit of road right in front of me and keep making forward progress. The miles will do themselves.”
The morning was gorgeous, and it really wasn’t hard to ignore the miles in the beginning. Jim and I were dashing along at a pace of around 15 miles per hour, and we’d eaten up the 17 miles of pavement between Quincy and Payson in no time at all. We stopped at the Fast Stop gas station there to check the map and have a quick granola bar, and then we were off to tackle the next 25-mile section.
I had already ridden part of this section before. One of the favorite routes of the Quincy Bike Club is Quincy to ride to Mike’s Place Restaurant in Liberty for breakfast, so the road was familiar. There’s a downhill on Highway 96, on which I reached my highest speed ever — 36 mph — and immediately following that is the first tough climb of the 100-kilometer route. It wasn’t too bad though, and once we got to the top, we went right back to chatting and knocking out miles. I had a nice time telling Jim about every bird we saw on the route, and Jim told me a bit more about the two bikes we were riding — the Trek Madone he was on and the Litespeed Vortex I had borrowed from him for this trip.
Much to my surprise, when we arrived at Mike’s Place in Liberty, a big group of other Quincy Bicycle Club riders were already there. It seems pretty peculiar to see twenty high-end bikes sitting outside a little diner in rural Illinois and to walk in and see their spandex-clad riders munching short-stacks of pancakes, but that’s the club for you. The riders greeted us as we walked in, and Jim explained that I was working on my first Metric Century. They all offered their encouragement, and I felt really good about my chances of finishing my ride. As we were leaving, one of the club riders asked Jim where the rest of our route went, and I should have known by the solemn nod the rider gave me that the route was going to get a lot tougher.
The midmorning saw a change in the weather, and the wind picked up to 10 or 15 mph from the North Northeast. The next set of directions had us doing three 5-mile sections into the stiff headwind. Wind is the enemy of cycling; it just makes everything difficult. We took turns drafting off each other, but the rolling hills were starting to make my quads burn. We hit a “false flat,” which is where a road looks flat but is actually a low-grade climb, and I had to just put my head down and labor through. I’d say this was the first time I hit a “wall” on the ride. It was just a slog. The wind saw our average speed drop into the 13.6 mph range, but when we turned the corner out of the wind to Highway 104 near Quincy Regional Airport, my spirits lifted and I could practically taste my first Metric completed.
I hadn’t once checked our mileage on the ride for fear that it would just discourage me, but Jim shouted out that we were only 15 miles from the car and I was so happy I could have got off the bike to do a little dance! But then …
Ellington Road. Only 10 miles standing between me and victory, and Ellington Road decides to go into roller-coaster mode. Twelve big climbs in 10 little miles awaited my 53-mile-worn-bones. This Metric had to be earned the hard way.
The hills were painful and slow. I looked at Jim and said, “Well I guess we’re too close to call it quits now!” and tried my best to smile. Jim actually didn’t look all that tired, and he passed me on each climb and — thanks to my heavier body weight — I passed him on each decent. He said, “I usually don’t push people, but I want you to get this. Let’s attack the end of this!”
I don’t know if what I did could be considered a proper hill attack, but we got through them, and when I spotted the familiar corner of 36th and Koch’s Lane, I was so excited that nothing ached at all. We cruised up Koch’s, turned left on 18th and there we were — right back at the car we’d left hours before. I actually took a victory lap around the parking lot. I jumped off and hugged Jim and offered my sincerest thanks for being my coach. He gave me a certificate commemorating my first Metric Century. It was such a proud and joyous moment that I’m grinning while sitting here writing about it. Our official ride time was 4 hours, 49 minutes for a total of 63.8 miles, approximately 102.67 kilometers, at an average of 12.9 mph. I learned a lot about cycling and a lot about myself over that distance. The ride was simply extraordinary.
When I started cycling this spring, I didn’t know if I’d enjoy it or stick with it. Since then, I’ve met such wonderful, passionate people in the Quincy Bicycle Club, that I can’t imagine my life without it. Jim Cate and his wife are both great inspirations for my riding, and each of the members of the club have offered their knowledge, support and encouragement as well. If you’re looking for a way to get active and meet a great group of people, my highest recommendation is to try the Quincy Bicycle Club. All ages and abilities are welcome, and I promise you, you will be delighted you found such a great way to “Get Out.”
*There is still time to sign up for the Friends of the Trails Fun’d Ride this Saturday! Distances of 5, 15, 33, and 64 miles will be available. Click here for details.
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Quincy native Jim Robesky has a passion for multi-sport events, and after overcoming both injury and personal struggles, he competed in the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 3. He’s graciously offered to share his story about coming back from injuries to be a competitor again with the readers of “Get Out.” Jim More >