I decided to do this task about exactly 2 years ago. Now, 2 years ago I was like a level 3 biker. Biking 10 miles was a pretty significant trip for me, and a ride of 20 miles was a rare and exhausting endeavor. Regardless, I was determined to make it happen.
Perhaps my delusions regarding my biking abilities stemmed from how far I had come in the past few years. I had left a job a few years before to move to Chicago and that job had me driving a car 6 to 10 hours a day. Biking was in no way part of my sedentary life. When I moved here, I attempted to learn the ways of city biking and was proud of my occasional 4 or 5 mile excursions. Later on I started biking 4 miles each way to work a few times a week. That commute left me pretty shaky and tired at first but by the end of the summer I was used to it.
So yes, 2 years ago when I set my mind on doing this, I was feeling pretty darn good about the biker I had become. I was biking daily then, doing the 8 miles a day for commuting plus longer trips often enough. At the end of that summer I even gave my license back to the department of motor vehicles, telling them I no longer wanted it.
Going from level 3 biker to whatever level I am now was due to a combination of circumstance, determination, and most of all an absolute love of biking. The more I biked, the shorter the distances seemed. I started pushing myself to continue to bike later in the fall and earlier in the spring, eventually biking all the way through the winter for the first time last year. By the end of last summer, 20 mile bike rides were happening more and more often. When I moved to the northern part of the city last fall, just the commute to and from work was 20 miles.
This spring I made the decision that I was going to make this happen before the snow fell again. About 2 months ago, averaging 20 miles of biking a day, I added a 40 mile bike ride once a week. I also started running 3 to 5 times a week just for good measure. All of the websites on long distance biking say you can bike 3 times what you are comfortable biking. I certainly wouldn't call any of those 40 mile bike rides comfortable, but they got easier and easier, and I finally decided I was about as ready as I was ever going to be.
I really love doing tasks that allow me to explore the world around me, but for me this task was not about exploring the outside world, but instead about finding out what I was capable of. I wanted a route that would allow me to bike non-stop (hard to find in the city), in which I could push myself as hard and as far as I could go without pausing for traffic or sightseeing. Thus, I chose the lakefront bike path. This bike path is 18.5 miles long, going along lake Michigan from the northern end of the city to the southern end. 100 miles would mean biking from the northern tip, where I live, to the southern tip, back up to the northern tip, then back down to the southern tip, and back to the northern tip then back down 13 miles, then back up 13 miles.
I chose yesterday because of its cool temperature (high of 87 instead of the normal 90 plus) and its call for reasonable levels of wind (in Chicago the wind is very often unreasonable and very often a huge factor in one's ability to bike). I woke at 5AM, packed up a small bag with peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars, applied sunscreen, put on my cushy crotch pants,
inflated my tires, and set out.
The sunrise was at 5:32AM but I missed it by about 15 minutes. I was well on my way down the path, for the first time, by 6AM.
There is nothing glamorous or exciting about the actual doing it part of biking 100 miles in a day. It is sweaty and dirty, and third only to the exhaustion and pain, boredom was my worst enemy. Most of my photos, below, were taken during the beginning of the trip when I had the energy to take them and the gorgeous sunrise over the lake to motivate me to do so. All of the photos were taken while i was riding.
Around mile 45 my hands became so numb that no amount of shaking could get them back to normal for the rest of the day (in fact, while I am writing this over 24 hours later, two of my fingers are still quite numb). Around mile 50 there was a sharp pain in my left palm that could only be tolerated while the hand remained numb. The only other serious pain I felt was under my left shoulder blade, likely due to the placement of my very light yet still existent messenger style bag.
As for exhaustion, at mile 50 by body started to understand it was going way beyond what it was used to. Still, at that point, I knew without a doubt I could do another 50 miles. At mile 60 I no longer knew this, but started a chant that continued for the rest of the trip that told myself I could do it. By mile 75 I had seriously lost resolve. I questioned why I was doing this ridiculous thing. I developed a little devil that sat on my (very much in pain) left shoulder that insisted no one would know if I stopped now. But of course I would know. And there really wasn't anyone else I was doing this ridiculous trek for. Luckily the last 10 miles were significantly easier than the previous 50 had been. At that point I was on my very last trip along the lakefront. Everything I passed was something I would not have to pass again. And knowing I was actually going to succeed gave me a burst of energy that allowed me to almost enjoy those last few miles.
I arrived home at 3:30. Over the course of the day I had spent about a half an hour not biking in order to eat and fill up my water bottle. A little over 9 hours of biking in a little over 9 and a half hours, and I arrived home having accomplished a task I had set my mind to doing two years ago.