I finally got around to completing and Tunnel Hill century ride.
That’s 100 miles, in case you didn’t know. I rode 100 miles in one day, all on the Tunnel Hill State Trail in beautiful scenic southern Illinois.
If you wanted to know how it went or would like to do it yourself, I wanted to create this little guide and journal of my experience doing my Tunnel Hill century ride.
Let’s just right into it!
How I Prepared for My Tunnel Hill Century Ride
I decided to use my mountain bike for the ride. It’s a 2011 Trek Marlin 29er. It’s not carbon fiber. It’s pretty heavy. The tires are 29 inches, so they’re not skinny. But most of the trail is crushed limestone, and I didn’t want to ride that with skinny tires.
As for clothing, I wore a pair of bib shorts by The Black Bibs. I wore them because they have a good stretch in the spandex material, the leg grippers are not too tight, and the chamois (pad) was thick enough for 100 miles in the saddle. It was chilly, so I wore some Aero Tech Designs unpadded tights over the shorts. I wore a long thin sleeve running tech shirt under my cycling jersey. I wore a cycling windbreaker over my jersey. I wore Smart Wool cycling socks. I wore Saucony trail running shoes. I also wore cycling gloves and a helmet.
Equipment-wise: I packed everything in an oversized bikepacking saddle bag created by Newboler, which I picked up from Amazon. I don’t plan on bikepacking a lot right now, so I just wanted something cheap, but I’m pretty impressed by the quality of this bag – it’s even waterproof! I packed in two tubes, a portable air pump, a patch kit, a tire, and bike tool, my lunch and a bunch of snacks, an additional water bottle, a small towel, and extra batteries and mounts for my GoPro camera plus it held my tights and windbreaker when I eventually peeled them off as it got warmer. The bag didn’t sway or move around. I never noticed it being there until I got off the bike and hit it with my leg.
Equipment on the bike included my GoPro camera, a headlight by NiteRider, and two water bottles.
I planned my ride out on Google Maps weeks before I started. I also told people I was doing it, so four other friends joined me.
I made sure I ate a good breakfast before I started the hike, drank a cup of coffee, and drank some water.
We set off about 6:30 in the morning while it was still dark to ensure we had plenty of daylight to ride that many miles.
I Got Injured On My Tunnel Hill Century Ride
A few miles in, I was injured during the ride. I usually wear safety glasses when I ride, but I failed that morning for some reason. A piece of dirt or a bug or something got in my eye. It bothered me for the entire ride. It almost made me quit a few times. It lasted about a week after the ride and scared me.
My eye is fine now. It’s 100% better. There was no damage. I rubbed it raw and made the Cornea sore. It was very sensitive to light for a few days. But it’s all good now.
I’m a very safety-orientated person. I’m OSHA trained, a first responder, and I have a master’s degree in Emergency Management. It is safe to say that safety means a lot more to me than most people.
But that goes to show you that even the safest people make mistakes. It could have been a lot worse.
It is a reminder of why it’s so important to put safety first. I preach that a lot. I preach it from experience.
I learned a lesson the hard way, and I don’t want you to learn it as I did.
How the Rest of My Tunnel Hill Century Ride was
The rest of my Tunnel Hill Century Ride was pretty amazing.
I was in great company. Charlie and Jeff were fantastic to talk to. We cut up, talked shop, and had a great time. And we all kept an excellent speed going, too!
I stopped at every rest stop from start to finish. I would rest for about 5 to 15 minutes each time. I’d get off the bike, walk around, sit down, flush my eyes, and use the bathroom. I think that played a role in helping me cope with being in the saddle for so long.
We stopped halfway and ate lunch. I ate a few bananas and a sandwich. I also got a cold Gatorade and a Snickers bar for sugar and fuel. That helped out a lot!
With that, I drank a lot of water and ate quite a bit of granola bars and trail mix. You have to keep yourself hydrated and fueled when burning that much energy and calories.
The last 30 miles were the hardest for me. My butt was sore. My eye was in a lot of pain. I was tired. My legs were cramping up. I was feeling 70 miles for sure.
But we biked on.
We finished in the dark.
But we finished!
After My Tunnel Hill Century Ride
I slept well that night. I took a CBD gel capsule (no THC) from Hammer Nutrition. It gave me a good night’s sleep and helped with the pain in my legs. I did wake up from my eye issues. I did that for about five days after that.
The next day though, I felt great (aside from my eye). My butt was a bit swollen, but the bibs did a great job. Had I not worn padded shorts, I think I would have been in a lot more pain.
The next day after that, I was perfect except for the eye.
The kicker is that it was my longest ride in eight years. It was eight years ago when I rode my last century ride.
Would I have done anything differently?
I would have worn safety glasses! That eye issue stopped me from focusing on filming and taking pictures, so I didn’t have much to show from the ride aside from a little bit of video.
I might have started a little earlier because it took about 12 hours to complete the ride. So, maybe next time, I’ll start at about 4:00 or 5:00 AM.
We did this in October, and it was a perfect time, to be honest. No wind. Pleasant temperatures. No high humidity.
I enjoyed my Tunnel Hill century ride and encourage you to get out there and do one yourself. Just wear those safety glasses because the ride would have been so much better had I done that.
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Founder, Hiking with Shawn
Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman