Cap2Cap: My First Century

A few months ago, my IMNC group - me, my dad, my dad's friend who is like a second dad to me, and dad's friend's girlfriend - decided to sign up for Cap2Cap, a century (a.k.a. 100 mile) bike ride. Unfortunately, the name is a little misleading: it doesn't actually go from Williamsburg (colonial capital of Virginia) to Richmond (current capital), but instead makes a giant loop between them. So you never actually ride in either city, which was kind of a bummer. It was on May 14, the same day as my graduation ceremony, which I had never planned to attend anyway, so what better way to celebrate than to ride with some of my favorite people (and a few hundred? thousand?) others?! It seemed like a good idea at the time. 

After injuring my foot in March, I had no races or endurance events planned for the foreseeable future except for, oh, this 100-mile bike ride. I expressed more than once that despite my best attempts, I was seriously undertrained, and the only reason I wasn't absolutely flipping out and debating bailing on the whole thing was because it was a ride and not a race. I knew I'd be with a group that wouldn't leave me, there'd be pit stops along the way, and it wasn't timed. But still, with a projected ride time of 6-7 hours it was slated to be my longest endurance event ever (both in time and distance), and none of those previously mentioned facts made riding my bike ONE HUNDRED miles an easy task. 

To be honest, I don't remember a lot of this ride. I wrote this recap almost immediately afterward, so that's not the reason. I was always mentally present and never really zoned out, so that's not the reason either, but I guess a lot of it was repetitive and looked the same and made 6.5 hours kind of blur together. At the very beginning I remember thinking that I'd never been in the same place as so many bikes before! I don't know how many people there were, but it was hundreds, I  think. If you think weaving during the beginning of a running race is hard, then a bike ride is even harder! Especially when you have a group of five people trying to all stay together.

The first 20 miles were pretty rough for me. My allergies were bothering me, particularly giving me pain right behind my right eye socket and then at the top of my forehead (although I think that might have been from my new helmet being too tight). My nose wouldn't stop running and my eyes were really watery. I just didn't feel well and was seriously wondering how I was going to last all day if I was already struggling so badly. I also really had to pee despite going twice in the 30 minutes before we started! 

The first aid station was at mile 20 at a country store - way different than any aid station I'd ever seen! There were tents set up with food and water, and it seemed like everyone participating had stopped. There were bikes and people everywhere. While we were stopped I went to the bathroom, took some salt tablets (usually I take them every 30 minutes but since it was took crowded to try to get to them out of my pocket while I was riding, I just waited until we stopped), some Advil for my headache, and ate a banana.

I felt much better once we got going again. I think we spent 15 or 20 minutes total at that first aid station - obviously another way this ride was way different than a running race. Our finishing time really wasn't a concern, especially since the ride wasn't timed so it wasn't like there was a ticking clock to try to beat. 

At that point we were off the road and into the Virginia Capital Trail, which was paved and mostly shaded and beautiful! The course had been mostly flat with some little rolling hills up to that point, but from then on it was more and more rolling hills. No super long or super steep climbs, but there was definitely some elevation change - lots of fun on the downhills! I hit a max speed of 31mph going down one.

The next stop was at mile 31, and while I didn't need anything, some of the others in the group did so we stopped (though we vowed to make it quicker than the previous one). I took a selfie, and I found out there were chocolate chip cookies so I ate one and grabbed two more to take for later. 

The next 20 miles were the chatty miles, and also the miles where no one in our group gave a shit about how slow we went (not that anyone did the whole day, but especially during these miles). The crowd had thinned out enough that it was mainly just our group of 5, and I remember riding two-by-two and talking to my friend Leah for quite a while. I remember the mile 38 stop, and rolling through it since none of us needed anything. I remember thinking that my foot hadn't bothered me at all - biking doesn't aggravate my injury but I have a bunion (I think) in that same foot and sometimes it does get irritated - and then it started hurting like a minute later, of course. I remember waiting to hit, and then finally hitting 44 miles - at which point I could finally stop saying, "The distance we still have left is farther than my longest ride ever!" It was weird and cool but also kind of depressing knowing I had ridden 44 miles and still had to ride farther than I'd ever ridden before until I finished!

We hit the half way point and then shortly after that was the next stop at mile 51. This one was in a church parking lot, and it was the best one! With the 5 of us all using the bathroom, eating, refilling water bottles, etc, I think we were there for around 30 minutes. Oops. I ate a PBJ I had stashed in my pocket, my other two chocolate chip cookies, and a burrito that was being given out at the aid station. So much food! It was awesome. It was around this time it started to sink in that we were still a solid 3 hours away from being done, and I was getting tired! Remember, I was only 5 miles away from a distance PR but only halfway done with the ride, so it felt like I still had a long way to go (because I did).

The miles really started to blur together after that. I do remember hitting 56 miles and then being in distance PR territory for the remainder of the ride! That was exciting. I also remember being on a lot of rural roads, passing a lot of fields that all looked the same, and getting kind of bored of the scenery. The course was all rolling hills and way more difficult than I thought it would be, and the second have was actually a little hillier than the first half.

During the second half we mostly rode in a pace line, where one person was the line leader for a few minutes to a few miles, then would drop to the back of the line and the next person would take over. It was windy out, not crazy windy but the storm that would roll in later in the day was already making its way, so being in the line helped alleviate some of the headwind. 

The mile 63 aid station came and went and we agreed to hold out on stopping until the one at mile 80. I started to regret that decision around mile 70, but luckily there was an unanticipated stop at mile 75. I the it was technically more for the people doing the half century, but we stopped there anyway. I got more water, ate a banana (so much food!!!), and then we were off again. That ended up being our final stop!

During this section we still mostly kept in a draft line, and while time wasn't flying, it was a blur. I remember noting the number of hours at one point when I glanced down at my Garmin, but I honestly can't remember if it was at 4 hours (~65 miles) or 5 hours (~80 miles). Aside from the mile 75 station, miles 60-90 are basically a giant blur in my memory. I remember getting tired, but not tired enough to quit. And I always seemed to feel better after I ate something. 

I can't remember exactly where it started, but there was a while in the 70s, 80s, and 90s where the road was paved with aggregate and annoyingly rumbly. It hurt the pads of my hands pretty badly and I just wanted to be back on the smooth trail. I remember somewhere in there we caught up with another group, and there were times when we probably had 10 people in our draft line. I remember almost running over a huge snake - he was taking up a good 2/3 of the road and would have stretched clear across if he had stretched out, I'm sure of it. I remember getting to mile 90 and being like, oh we're close! And then realizing we still had like 40 more minutes, so not really that close. 

But once we got to the 90s, I was suddenly super committed to getting it done. We got back onto the trail somewhere around 92 or 93, and for all the time I had spent waiting to get there, I actually almost missed the turn (I was line leader at that point)! My hands were still a little uncomfortable since the damage had already been done, but it was a relief to be on a smooth surface. We headed back to where we had started (the whole course was a giant loop) and were once again going through stretches of fields, then forest, then fields, then forest. It was getting windier and windier - it was sunny and beautiful while we were out, but a huge storm came through about an hour after we finished - and the worst part was a stretch during the last couple miles. We had just emerged from the woods into an open space with a horrible headwind. I seriously struggled to go 12mph!

It got harder and harder for our group to stay together - one person fell back so someone stayed back with her, and my dad and another guy went on ahead, and I was stuck in the middle trying to hang back enough the the two behind could catch up, but they never did. Eventually I was able to catch my dad and we finished together! We actually hit 100 miles (according to my Garmin) right before the last turn, where we had to go up a hill (not a big one, but not what you want to see after 100 miles) - so really I could have done without that part. At 3pm and a total of 100.4 miles later we made it right back where started at 7:45 that morning.

When we were done I felt...basically normal. A little wobbly, but not too bad. I know we it wasn't exactly a strenuous ride, but it was still 6.5 hours on a bike, so I was pleasantly surprised at just how fine I felt afterward. I was even able to drive 4 hours back to D.C. just a few hours after we finished (with no nap)! I will say that when I finished I definitely wasn't in the mood to ride 12 more miles or run a marathon, but...I guess that's what the next 4 months are for! 


  1. I love reading your recaps because I feel like I can picture everything so clearly. This is such a cool accomplishment and I love that your group stays together for the most part to make sure no one gets left behind. I can't imagine being at that almost halfway point and realizing there was still so much more to go, but I'm sure once you got past that and on the decline of miles it's such a good feeling-- even with a little bit more of hills.

  2. Definitely the way to go for a first century ride. I did that too but up here in southwest Virginia. The aid stations and company certainly make for a much more fun experience than going at it alone!

  3. "Strenuous" or not, 100 miles on a bike is huge! Not just for the physical effort (which I quite literally cannot even fathom) but because I know I would have had the same mental conversations about distance PRs, going so far (and being so tired) and STILL having such a long way to go. But you did it! That's amazing! So you're basically ready for the second leg of IMNC right now, right? ;)

  4. oh my goodness, what a long ride! i would have flipped out over the snake lol. but seriously, what an accomplishment :) you go girl. eat all the chocolate chip cookies! good job on only eating 3, i would have taken 10 if i could carry them haha