Before I started the ride, I made a PB&J sandwich, and packed it and a breakfast bar in my jersey. I knew it would be a hot day (it reached 95F (35C) that afternoon), so I filled two 48 oz insulated bottles. One was filled with Gatorade, the other with water. I really hate it when it gets to be this hot in Texas, because 96 oz of fluid just looks clunky on the bike, but I needed the fluids...with multiple refills.
I wanted to leave at 7am, which is when it gets light enough to not really require taillights. Also, I knew that the earlier I started, the less I would be dealing with the building wind and increasing temperatures. With the prevailing wind coming from the SSE, I had chosen a route that took me SSE, which would give me a tailwind on the return. But due to various reasons, I wasn't on the road until 7:30a. This would prove to be a key pain factor, as it meant I had to fight the wind more than I wanted on the way out, and would also be exposed to higher temperatures. The route and wind graphs are below, but notice the winds: from about 8:30a to 11a, which is when I made the turn, I was fighting almost a pure headwind of 18mph and up.
As I exited Hidalgo and reached the rural farmland of Military Highway, I noticed some springiness in the bike. I looked down, and had a front flat. Getting a late start was bad, but having a flat in the first 10 miles was worse. It took me out of my rhythm, and further exposed me to the building winds. There were 2 good things about the flat -- a nice gentleman stopped to ask if I needed help, which has never happened to me when I had a flat, and I took a few seconds to take a photo of the totally exposed route. Most of the riding was with open fields along either side of the road, allowing the winds to scream and make me feel like I was on a pure climb.
I stopped in Progreso for a quick bottle refill and to inhale my PB&J sandwich, and when I got back on the bike I was hurting. The wind was really picking up at that time, and within a few miles my lower back and glutes were begging me to stop. I looked at my odometer, and I was at 30 miles. I needed another 20 before I could turn around and head for home. Mentally, I told myself that 20 miles was nothing. Physically, I couldn't get any relief. I spun faster. I changed gears. I got out of the saddle. My back continued to hurt. My lower body was in pain. My nether regions started to get sore, which almost never happens. And the wind continued to build. My speed continued to drop, as the speed plot below shows.
I was thinking the same thing my daughters think on a long trip -- ARE WE THERE YET? I was looking at my odometer and watching the tenths and hundreths of a mile click, click, and click some more. I'm lucky I didn't hit something. When I hit 50 miles, I stopped on the side of the road, slammed some fluids, ate the breakfast bar, and snapped a couple of photos. One shows my enemy, the odometer, and the other shows the boring nothingness of the tailend of my route.
As the speed plot shows, when I made the turn, my life got drastically better. I had a partial tailwind, and it was strong. Even though my body was aching, I was able to reach low to mid-20mph speeds without hurting too much. But when I turned out of the tailwind, like between miles 75-80, you can see my speeds suffer. The wind and temperature were brutal.
I didn't want to bonk or overheat, so I stopped once on the way back to refuel and pour cold water on my head. That helped, and I continued to ride hard when I had the wind. I felt good. But as I neared home, an anomaly of GPS tracking occurred. I wasn't at 100 miles. I had ridden exactly the same route out and back, but I need about another 0.2 miles. So I rode around the neighborhood a little, and finished with 100.69 miles. It took me 6 1/2 hours to finish the ride, but with an hour of non-rolling time. I averaged a respectable 18.1 mph, and if you use average cadence, I turned the pedals 28801 times.
As you've read, the wind and temperature made this a tough ride. Also, riding solo made it challenging. Since my previous centuries were all in groups of at least 3, I never had shelter from my friends, which makes the ride about 15% more difficult from the get-go. Riding with a group also keeps your mind and eyes away from your odometer, and you spend your time chatting instead of focusing on the miles. Regardless, it was an absolutely great ride, as most rides are. And it feels great to have reached a new milestone -- my first solo century, the hardest ride I've completed to date.