After my race in Wanning I had caught the racing bug and was looking for another race to join.
To my delight, I was immediately informed of a 100km bike race on the morning of Saturday, August 26. The race would consist of a single 100km loop; ride from Haidiandao to JiuZhou and then turn around and head back. Previously I had joined races of 400 km and 200 km but I haven't rode my bike longer then 30km in the past 6 months and I didn't have much time to prepare for this race but I trusted that my previous endurance training mixed with my current regiment would be more then enough to get me across the finish line so I took the chance and signed up paying the lowest registration fee of any race I have ever done; 15rmb.
Being busy the week prior to the race I did absolutely nothing to prepare. Nothing.
Before I knew it, Friday night had arrived and I decided it was time to get my bike ready and do a little preparation. I did a pre-race check on my bike; checked my brakes, tire pressure, spokes; savaged through my old race boxes and manged to find some left over GU energy gels and bottle of "Sport Legs", and then ate a carb loaded dinner before bed.
Being that we had to start check-in at 6:30 am, I was hoping to get to bed by 11:00. I didn't get to sleep until 1:00 and 5 hours later I woke at 6:00. It was actually a nice feeling that I hadn't felt in a long time. Waking up early in the morning with no one else awake, the feeling of excitement for the race that is about to begin. I ate my pre-race breakfast of oatmeal, milk, and fruit and headed out the door at 6:30 with my girlfriend, whom lovingly or annoyed, not sure which one, woke up to see us off at the starting line.
I hadn't heard much of the race so I wasn't sure how many athletes would be there but was surprised by the outcome of 128 athletes, 127 Chinese and 1 foreigner. Almost as soon as I arrived I was taken to have my photos taken as my presence there had made the race International. We took some photos, ate the bananas and bread given at check in, and then lined up for the start.
As the race route was not closed or marked, we were supposed to have downloaded the race route prior so we could follow which I didn't do that as I just planed on following my fellow athletes as we went along. The starting pistol fired and off we went. The race started with a very relaxed pace as we rode seaside around Haidiandao. Everything was going smooth for the first 15 minutes; getting into the groove, fixing any issues i.e. tighting shoes, and getting prepared for the next 3 plus hours of riding.
Then is started to pour down rain.
The weather had been beautiful until we crossed over the bridge onto Xinbudao. At that point the skies opened up and began to let down some of the heaviest and biggest rain drops I have ever seen. As many athletes scrambled to look for cover, I decided to just continue as I was already soaked and you can only get so wet. As I was riding solo in the rain, I ran into Trek's Haikou women's team, who had by that time donned full body rain suits, pushing through the storm. I didn't see anyone else so I tagged along with them for a while as I had no idea where I was going.
We managed to ride through the rainstorm in just under 10 minutes. Not that long but long enough to get my socks and shoes all wet and uncomfotable. I continued to ride with them for quite some time until I we ran into a group of of guys riding a little bit faster (I would see this women team again later on in the race as they pass me) whom I joined with. The interesting thing with racing is that often times, very little talking is done. There is a very real connection that exists between athletes that crosses all cultural or language barriers. I didn't say much to these new riding companions; I just joined them in their riding group, which they accepted me into, and we continued on our way; weaving through the different barriers one comes across when racing in China; dogs, sanlunches, chickens, potholes, vendors, etc. As we rode out past the airport I remembered what I loved about these longer bike races.
The farther you ride out of the city the more and more beautiful the scenery gets and you eventually find yourself surrounded only by Hainan's natural beauty. The real Hainan. The Hainan we often forget about after staying in Haikou for too long. We passed over bridges, drove through some small towns, rode under the shade of tropical tress, and dodged farmer's guiding their goats down the street. After about an hour of riding it finally dawned on me, to my advantage, that this course was relatively flat and I still felt great. I wasn't pushing myself but I felt better then I thought I would, up to this point averaging around 28-30kmh. My dopamine was running through my body, the scenery keeping my mind occupied, and my music pumping; I was in my "zone". So much so that when I saw athletes heading towards us in the opposite direction, i thought maybe they had dropped something; It didn't dawn on me that they had already reached the turn around spot and were headed home. As these riders in the opposite direction increased, I realized that we were coming up on the half way spot. It was at this point which the women's team proceeded to fly past me whom I never saw again.
I thought they looked pretty professional at the start of the race and all I could think was "That makes sense". Anyways, I wasn't here to win; I just wanted to have fun. After about 15 minutes of being passed by a train of ladies, I came upon the turn around with a time of 1:45 and was greeted with more bread, bananas, and water. After we checked in with the official (they are there to make sure all athletes went the distance) and had a quick stretch, I started back for the next 50km. Somehow on the way back I managed to find myself alone for the first time during this race. As soon as I started I felt the wind that had been coming from behind on our trip out. I realized the trip home wouldn't be so smooth or easy.
That is what makes riding unique.
One way always sucks significantly more then the other with the lightest breeze causing you to feel like you're dragging something behind you. Either way I started my way back, just a little more tired with my legs feeling a little more fatigued. Tired legs and all, I started my journey home. I somehow left the turn around point by myself and figured I could take this as a chance to take some time and shoot some pictures and some videos; this time allowed me to forget about the clock and enjoy the moment and I was able to take some photos of the beautiful landscape, some water buffaloes, and the same farmer walking his goats.
Everything was going good until I hit another rainstorm.
I had been dry for no more then 20 minutes when I saw a dark sky standing between me and Haidian. I had already rode through once so I kept trucking through, resoaking my clothes, and passing some athletes who had stopped at the various fruit stands to take a rest and enjoy Hainan's fresh fruit. The rain didn't last long and I found myself riding with another group of riders who had chosen to push through the rain as well. And then we hit another storm. And then another. We rode through 3 or 4 storms on the way back, testing my limits for riding in the rain (One word...chafing). We rode through and for the last 25-30 km we had beautiful skies. After a quick pit stop at a market though one of the towns (I need to grab some Maidong) I pushed on, blisters and all, and found the last group of riders whom I would ride with for the remainder of the race.
Things were going well and I felt we were getting close, maybe another 5km when the worst thing that could happen. We rode on a street until it dead ended into the ocean. It would have been beautiful if that was the route but it wasn't. We had missed a turn. If you have never missed a turn in a race it feels like you are riding deeper into Dante's Hell, regardless of how far you must ride. Now, I had no map didn't have a speedometer so I was just going with my fellow riders; in other words I had no idea where we were and could only guess how far we had ridden. We turned our bikes and start heading back; an unknown distance to me. Luckily, our trip only lasted about 5 minutes (which feels like an eternity after riding for 3.5 hours) and we made our last turn.
It was then that I saw the first sign I recognized the whole race; Xinbudao.
I knew where we were and I knew we were close. I turned up my music and started picking up the speed for it was the first time I in the race I didn't need help and knew exactly where to go. I speed over Xinbudao bridge, through its local fishing villages, passing some of it's iconic colorful houses, and finally across the bridge onto Haidian. I made a quick U-turn with one fellow athlete and headed towards the seaside for the last 1Km seaside ride to the finish. My final time was 3:45 which is an average of 26.7kmh. Not my fastest time but considering I hadn't done any serious riding in 6 months, the multiple rain storms, and the multiple goats I had to dodge, I was pleased with the time.
All in all I thought it was an amazing way to spend my Saturday morning; a beautiful 100km ride around beautiful Hainan and I was able to finish my exercise early. I got my certificate and then picked up some breakfast on the way home for me and my girlfriend and take a much needed nap. I'd like to thank Haikou City Council for Culture Radio, Publishing, and Sports for putting on this event (海口市文化广电出版体育）for putting on this event and look forward to riding with them again。
I hope to see some of you next time at the races. Check out my albums for pictures of the race.