Thursday, September 17, 2015

TFCE 2015 - Recap

The Flattest Century in the East  (except they added over 600 ft of gain ?!?!??! 2,704 feet last year )

Last year this was my first century, and it was fun, or I remember it as fun.  I’m beginning to think that I block out the not fun parts, like mile 60 where I am more than half way done yet still 3 hours from being done, and replace them with mile 90 where I’m ready to sign up for the next one and bummed, well not totally, that I’ll be loading the bike in the car in 30 minutes.  

This year I joined the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen to be sure I’d get a spot in this century ride.  In fact I signed Dave up.  He didn’t participate… rib injury and upcoming trip to UT and his general hatred of the road bike, that’ll be the last time I do that!  I have enjoyed the periphery of being part of the NBW, lurking and getting to know people better through the pretty much daily eMail interactions of the club.  They are very active and TFCE (The Flattest Century in the East) has been their main event for the last 44 years.  Just as long as the Blessing of the Fleet (my favorite race to run and hate). 

Front of the T-shirt

The club has been around since May 15, 1879; it started as the Providence Wheelmen and has merged with and evolved with other clubs to become the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen, one of the largest bike clubs in the country.   The history of athletic clubs is interesting what brought them together, what keeps them together, what makes them grow.  

The cycling community is very different from the running community.  There aren’t a bazillion people posting about cycling like there are with running.  This is curious to me.  Is it perceived bicycling is easier than running?  Or that running is just so difficult only certain people can do it and must post obsessively about it?  Or that running is for obsessive people?  Or that cyclists are quiet, unassuming bad asses like ultra-runners?  Then again most everyone hates cyclists, especially motorists, and apparently even more so motorcyclists, so maybe it's better to remain in the shadows and not prompt the haters?

On my run on Saturday there was a very large group ride coming through the downtown areas of Pawcatuck, CT into Westerly, RI and several of these bicyclists were trying to get around a car with its blinker on attempting to parallel-park.  First of all cyclists are to obey the rules of the road.  We don’t have the right of way when turning left.  We have to give way to the motorist parallel parking.  Just as we do while we are driving our cars. It was complete chaos and a bit of yelling by the cyclists, the clearly in the wrong cyclists, and the elderly gentleman trying to park his car.   I bit my tongue, ok, I may have muttered “and this is why people hate cyclists, a bunch of elite pompous asses who don’t think rules apply to them”.   

I look forward to these cycling events and I don’t look forward to them.  


Motorists:  Dealing with the motorists who hate all cyclists and blare their horns or try to cut in as close as possible, is scary.  I have had several moments where I am as far right as I can get and I can hear that engine screaming up behind me thinking “This is how I die”.  So to have close to 2,000 cyclists between the 100, 70, 50, 30 mile events (I’m  not sure how it breaks down I am curious to know how many ride each route) on the roads for a day, there are going to be some ticked off motorists. 

Bikers: They ride in gloms pretending to be pacelines and won't yield to the cars behind them.   Or ride side by side and not get over, and you've all heard this rant before, why repeat myself.  I am not a perfect cyclist, I never claimed to be, however when there is a large group better to be uber careful for the rest of us who tend to cycle alone and don't want some angry motorist taking it out on the solo cyclist.

The weather was going to be iffy.  Was it going to rain was it not going to rain?  The rain held off until we were all packed up in our cars and heading out of the parking lot! 

Bottom line, I go into them with a bit of trepidation; there is a lot that can go wrong between bike failure, accidents, weather, other cyclists, and motorists.  There is also a lot that can go right.  

The plan was to meet up at registration, Ro, Mark, Me, and Sara.  This was going to be Sara’s first century, I thought her husband was going to be riding with her, unfortunately not, baby duty.  I couldn’t let her ride alone and I was pretty sure Mark and Ro would enjoy an additional person in our group, someone new to talk to.  We took off by 8 a.m. as planned.   The first stop is at mile 30.  

Back of the t-shirt

I started my GPS as soon as I pedaled away from the car, every freaking foot counts!  So my mileage was a bit off with the rest stops. 

By the time we hit mile 30 we were ready for a break.  The cold and damp was starting to give way to a bit of warmth, and we were glad the sun wasn’t out beating down on us!  A PB&J fit the bill and filled up one bottle of water.  I was doing OK with water intake; a bottle every 20 miles is really the minimum.  I knew that as the ride progressed I’d get to that and then some.  After the UCAN debacle, I’m staying away from the electrolyte mixes.  I stashed away my rain jacket and hoped I didn’t get chilled.   

We were about 10 miles past the aid station and Sara noticed Ro’s back tire was losing air.  We all yelled up to Mark who was happily pedaling away with the group he caught up to.  Ro told him, “The faster you go the slower I go.”  She gets a little tired of him saying “Let’s go for a ride” then dropping her after the first 5 miles.  Boys… whaddya gonna do right?  Be they 6 or 60 they want to go fast!  We stopped I got to use my fancy frame pump and we had it up to about 90 lbs of pressure when the SAG wagon stopped and helped for the last 20 lbs of pressure. 

After the tire and tube blow out for the New Haven Century last year, I got a pump with a gauge because I can’t tell how full the tire is.   I was happy to get use out of the pump and not with another blow out! 

The SAG wagon drove off and eventually we saw Mark talking to the driver.  He had asked if the driver saw three ladies riding together.  The driver said, “Yes they were very nice I helped them blow up a tire” he said “Oh that must not be them”  har har har.    

The next  road was where Mark crashed last year.  He touched Ro’s tire and went down BOOM, quite spectacularly.   We suggested he/crash ride ahead of us, he thought that would be a good idea and he waited for us at the end of the road.  So this next 8ish miles were all new to him as he had not ridden them but he had his bike with its bent derailleur hanger were transported from the crash site to the 48 mile rest area in Tiverton, RI. 


We stopped at the aid station and Ro’s tire was soft again.  The bike mechanic found the teeniest piece of metal in the tire and tube.  Put in a new tube blew it up and we were ready to roll on!  Just like last year my knees went “GROAN” as we started.  A mile in and all was fine, but wow that first mile is tough.   

This part is coastal and pretty, I remembered it as much prettier, I also remembered there being rumble strips along the solid white line.  Those were gone so that was nice.   The lack of rumble strips helped!  It was also much sunnier last year, so that could have something to do with the ‘remembered it as being prettier” 

This 24 miles seemed a little flatter or maybe we knew it was only 24 miles till the 72 mile aid station?  Who knows.  

About mile 60 when I was seriously regretting this idea, and hating that I had been lax about getting on the bike in the last few weeks, Mark spied a couple cyclists struggling with a CO2 pump and we stopped and my handy frame pump came to the rescue!  Plus a little bit of a break from the saddle, perfect timing.

At the last aid station Sara needed an extended break and I agreed to stay and told Ro and Mark they could venture on.  They were good with hanging around and we all hung around for what amounted to an extra 5 minutes.  A round of ibuprofen as provided by Mark and that definitely made the last 30 miles better.

We made a stop at the bridge with 15 miles to go!  I really need to get a new helmet that fits better, mine is always crooked!  We were iffy on the stop, but it made the last 15 so much better!!

Whoop!  We rolled into UMASS Dartmouth campus happy and thrilled to take another cyclist on their first century.  

As the skies darkened, we collected our shirts and magnets and said our good byes and congratulations!  Loaded up our bikes in the mist and by the time we were on our way the skies opened up and poured buckets.  We were very very lucky cyclists!!

Beth reporting on her 2nd Century for the year!  And is wicked flattered she can impress some pretty impressive people by riding a bike for 100+ miles  (come with me some time, it's fun!)


  1. I mean, I don't even know what these "bike" things are that you speak of, but congrats anyway--it seems like a shitload of fun (and work).