Ride report from the NSC Blazing Saddles Century

“So, are you going to taper or something?”  A friend of mine who runs marathons asked me late this week.  A good question given my weekend plans of doing the North Shore Cyclists “Blazing Saddles” century 100 mile route.  My answer was I was riding very slowly on Thursday and not riding on Friday, surely that would be enough even though the 200 miles I had ridden that week since Sunday was about the most I’ve ridden in a week for a year.

Turned out I was incorrect.  Tapering — reducing your training load before a big event so you have fresh legs — would have been an excellent thing to do.  I would sorely regret this decision.

In any case, I was up before my alarm went off at 5:20 AM.  I had packed all my cycling gear and post ride clothing the night before.  My bike was all prepped as well — tires topped off the night before to full pressure.  Since the forecast was for a strong chance of showers and the roads were already wet I went with my touring bike.  It’s got fenders on it and has a powerful headlight to use in case of actual rain.

Not a morning person.

I got to the start in Byfield (part of Newbury, apparently), got my wristband & map/cue sheet.  My registration was paid for back in May.  I used to do Blazing Saddles every year in the late 90’s.  It was offered in a two day format.  You could pay one registration and ride both days any length route you wanted each day.  A couple times I did the 100 mile route both days and even set my personal best for a century on this route back in 2000.  Now it’s only run one day.  Typically, it conflicts with my oldest daughter’s birthday, so I don’t get to ride it anymore.

As I rolled out I knew I wasn’t going to set or come close to my personal best.  The 300 mile week I was so excited to get to was my summertime cycling norm back then.  These days I usually bike less than half of that mileage each week.  It was cool and foggy.  My legs felt achy and didn’t have much pop in them.  I jumped on a couple pacelines for bit but didn’t feel up to it.  I was paying a price for not tapering.  My legs just weren’t there.

Water stop One

I did a good job with keeping up on eating and drinking.  It was helped greatly by the three rest stops along the route.  What a difference from riding on my own.  I didn’t have to worry about stopping to get more food.  The variety of food at the stops was really good.  The middle stop featured sandwiches.

An overcast Merrimack River

Very quiet rural roads were the norm.

The terrain on the ride was typical rolling terrain for the area.  The roads were fairly quiet.  We rode along the Merrimack River and then up into New Hampshire for a bit.  Quite a bit of the route was along coastal areas.  I also saw farms with cows, goats, sheep, horses and fields with corn.  It was just gorgeous. A couple standouts was a loop in Ipswitch that went out along a small peninsula and a section along a salt marsh.  The day had been slowly warming, but it had been overcast all day.  Suddenly around one o’clock the sun burned through the clouds and the temperature jumped up to the mid 80’s.  It was hot.

Scenic Ipswitch

Towards the end of the ride — really from the last pit stop around 75 miles or so — people got quite focused on how many miles were left on the ride.  Riders would repeat how many miles were left or ask each other how many miles they had on their bike computers (due to calibration differences you can get some variances).  People can get really fixated on this and in a way, it’s kind of self-defeating.  Yeah, we’ve got 20 miles left, or whatever, but if you aren’t having a good day, this can just get you down.  After all, that’s really the toughest part of the ride.  Anything that might have slightly annoying you can become a major issue.  Have you been keeping up on hydration?  Eating enough?  That slight cramp in your leg isn’t going to get better.  Achy shoulders start to feel worse.  Keeping ahead of all that early in the day is important — as is addressing those problems and not obsessing on them in later in the day.  I tend to think that a mileage count down doesn’t help with that stuff.  Anyway, we were rolling through some amazing farmland and all I could think was that people pay money to go on bike tours of places like this.

Snacks at 75 miles in.  I had lots more pickles than shown.

In any case, you keep pedaling and what do you do know, you eventually come to the finish.  Hats off to the people who laid out this route, it came in at 100 miles on the nose.  There was an excellent post ride spread, including vegetarian hot dogs.  It was a great ride all in all.  I was very happy to have had the chance to ride such a scenic route after so many years.  I finished my coke, veggie-dogs, said goodbye to the fellow rider I’d been chatting with and went home.  Satisfied with a long day in the saddle even if I didn’t hit the pace I’d wanted (taper before events kids!).

Veggie dogs!


Very happy at the finish — not the least due to getting out of that cycling kit!


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