Some of you may have read about my husband’s and my spontaneous metric century in 2013, the 29th year of the local Evanston Bike Club’s North Shore Century. We have such fond memories of our first NSC experience: a relaxed morning, a beautiful fall day, a well-managed local ride and time together doing what we love.
In the “meat” of our training and with only three weeks before we’re both running the 2014 Chicago Marathon, we lamented that we wouldn’t be able to squeeze in another North Shore Century. Then, we learned that friends were planning to do a portion of the 30th annual North Shore Century and, more importantly, that they would be doing it with their son, Dylan, who would be attempting the longest ride of his young life. With a week to “prepare,” we began to juggle our running workouts to free up our Sunday.
Like last year, we took our time getting down to the Evanston Lakefront. (My 4x Ironman husband makes buttermilk pancakes that are worth savoring!) We had friends who were well on their way to the Wisconsin border and others already returning from shorter routes by the time we registered and began our ride. But we didn’t mind.
The weather was cooler than last year and, according to the forecast, held no promise of appreciably warming up. Clouds and a ferocious wind assaulted us throughout most of the ride, but even the few light sprinkles we experienced couldn’t dampen our spirits. We had with us a new entrant into the world of endurance cycling, a young padawan who has been pedaling all summer long, building up to this moment.
We’ve all been there for our own milestones and successes, but now my husband and I had the opportunity to be there to witness a major accomplishment of an eager young rider.
The highlight of my day would be repeated over and over when we would cross paths with runners or other cyclists who would lazily glance at our group of five and then suddenly burst into a smile after spotting Dylan nestled in our group. That is the joy of sharing a passion and seeing that passion ignited in a younger generation.
As we approached one intersection, a gentleman who was trying to be helpful shouted to us: “You’re turning right!” Haha, silly man, that right turn is for the 25-milers. We, however, are going straight, because we are riding 50 miles today! That’s right, folks, our ten-year-old friend was en route to his first 80km ride.
The North Shore Century has rest stops set up around every 18 miles or so, which allowed us to pace for a first 50-miler nicely. Our first rest was at Northcroft Park in Lake Forest. We stopped for a quick break, a minor mechanical adjustment and some refueling. (Fortunately we had packed a little of our own food, as the rest stop had been emptied out before we got there.)
Having done the ride last year, we were familiar with the route. This year, we enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy the scenery at a more relaxed pace. The jaunt through Lake Bluff is always a treat, especially with the opportunity to overlook Lake Michigan.
The second rest stop along our route provided ample calories for those who needed to refuel on their return from their century rides. We sampled a bit of their wares before we got back on our bikes to make the familiar return trip down through the north shore suburbs.
The finish of the ride would have been unremarkable had it not been for one fact: we were there to witness Dylan’s longest ride of his entire life! This was a ride he worked all summer to achieve. He put his head down, pedaled strong into a headwind, and rode 50 miles – and ended with a big smile on his face.
Our young friend said this about his first 50-mile ride: “It was easier than I thought it would be. I feel like I could have finished 62 miles.”
As for reaching the 50 mile mark, Dylan said, “It feels really good to accomplish a goal I set for myself.” For next summer, he has his sights on the full century. His advice for anyone considering a ride of such a length? “Anyone with bike can ride 50 miles. You just have to train for it.”
Dylan’s training included some track and cyclocross work with Paul Swinand, but mostly consisted of long rides with his father. “I like the speed and being able to think. Talking to my dad as we ride and finding new places when we go out are things I really enjoy about cycling.”
“Accomplishing the ride was a big deal. And feeling great at the end made me very happy.” Like a true Gearhead, Dylan added: “Also, [I enjoyed] getting to ride my new bike – that was a lot of fun!”
Check out that well-earned certificate of accomplishment – and that finisher’s smile! Nice work, Dylan!
Lots of friends and Higher Gear customers enjoyed the 30th annual North Shore Century. Check out some more of ours and their photos from the day:
The North Shore Century offers incredibly scenic biking. You experience luxurious neighborhoods, view unique architectural treasures, pedal down tranquil tree-lined streets and feel the refreshing breezes of Lake Michigan. Open it up in the flat to rolling countryside between Chicago and Wisconsin. There are a variety of routes for cycling enthusiasts of all ages and abilities – everything from a quarter century to a full century. Hundreds of riders make the North Shore Century their last – maybe their best – ride of summer. You can, too.
- Check out how my husband kept warm during yesterday with Specialized Therminal Bib Shorts.
- Have a young one interested in cycling? Meet Paul Swinand and check out his efforts to get youth excited about the sport.
- For more about the North Shore Century, visit the Evanston Bicycle Club’s website.
- Many locals choose the North Shore Century as their last ride of summer, but there are still rides to be had before the cycling season wraps up. Check out our Chicagoland Cycling Calendar.
- Looking for a great ride? Join our group rides which continue into the fall.
- Higher Gear has all your century riding essentials.