One year, 52 rides and more than 5,000 miles
By Gary Popp
Published in News on January 1, 2012 1:50 AM
Scott Summers takes his bike out for a ride outside his Goldsboro home. He has completed dozens of century rides since January.
Scott Summers poses with his bikes before going for a ride outside of his Goldsboro home. He has done several century rides. Summers documents his ride with photographs.
As most people look back on 2011, taking stock of their accomplishments, few will have accomplished a feat that can measure up to the two-wheel triumph of avid bicyclist Scott Summers.
The 49-year-old retired airman completed 52 100-mile bike rides in 2011.
"It wasn't really a planned thing," Summers said. "I didn't start off the year thinking I was going to do this."
Summers' unplanned journey began on Jan. 5 when he and a friend went out for a 70-mile ride. But before their ride was over, Summers realized he still had plenty of gas in his tank.
"I said to him, 'Let's go ahead and do a century,'" Summers said, using bicycle slang to refer to the triple-digit mileage.
Over the next several months, Summers continued to log the long-distance rides, which take him around six hours to complete, and at some point in March, he said, he set a goal of riding 50 centuries before the end of the year.
He reached that goal in early December, but with nearly a month left until the new year and plenty encouragement from fellow riders, Summers kept pedaling.
On Christmas Eve, Summers finished his 52nd century.
Summers said he has grown used to people responding in disbelief to his highly active lifestyle.
"People say, 'What are you training for?' I say, 'I am training for life,'" Summers said. "I just love to exercise and to push myself."
Summers said the 100-mile ride, which seems virtually impossible to most, is all about proper preparation.
"I don't feel challenged by it. I try to challenge myself before I go out," he said.
In a given week, Summers said he pushes through extended, high-intensity workouts on step machines and indoor cycling classes, sometimes participating in two one-hour sessions in a single day, which have helped him average one century ride a week for the entire year, nearly unfazed.
Summers said he starts preparing three days before he takes to the saddle of his 18-speed titanium bike for a 100-mile ride.
"I start by drinking a lot of fluids," he said. "I will even bring a water bottle to bed."
Summers said his preparatory diet includes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and a big bowl of pasta the day before the ride.
"You have to eat right. You have to drink. All that stuff is a major. If you don't eat right, you will know real quick," Summers said.
A long history of biking is another contributor to Summers' nearly unfathomable endurance.
"I have so many base miles. Base miles are so important during those long rides," he said. "I am usually getting warmed up around 70 miles into the ride. I can keep going hard where a lot of other people are getting worn out, and that is because I got base."
But a formidable fitness routine is not be enough to roll over 5,000 miles in one year. Summers said being right mentally is also key.
"If you start thinking negative, you are going to talk yourself out of it. I am not going to talk myself out of it. I came there to do it. I am going to do it," he said.
The mental challenge is especially acute when riding solo, and 12 of his 52 centuries were done alone.
"When you are by yourself, you are just out there in the wind," he said. "So many things go through your head. You are just out there by yourself. I don't think a negative. I try to stay positive.
"I just tell myself I can do. You have to be able to put those little aches and pains out of your head. It is mental. Most everything in sports is about mental preparation."
Summers said he began to ride seriously more than 20 years ago while serving in the Air Force.
He was an airman for 26 years and served at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base before retiring as a master sergeant.
While in the Air Force, Summers had the opportunity to put rubber to the road all over the United States and the world, including in Japan, Guam, Hawaii, California and Alaska.
He even took a vacation to France to ride the French Alps in 2000 to test himself on the same climbs the professionals ride in the Tour de France.
Soon after arriving in Goldsboro, Summers sought out the local bicycle group Seyboro Cyclists.
"I attribute a lot of what I have done to my club, Seyboros," Summers said "We have a great club."
He said he rode 40 of the centuries with at least one person from the bicycle group.
"You talk. You carry on a conversation," Summers said. "That makes a ride a lot easier when you have someone to talk to."
Summers first met the group at the East Ash Street bicycle shop, Bicycle World, its unofficial headquarters.
He said the friends he has made through biking with Seyboro Cyclists have inspired him throughout 2011.
"My motivation are guys like Dave Galloway (club president), Mike Haney and Frank Drohan," Summers said. "They have been a big factor," he said. "They have been supporters and friends."
Summers compared his passion of bicycling to another type of biking.
"I love motorcycling because you are out there enjoying the freedom," he said. "It is the same way biking is, you just got to use some muscles."
He said his commitment to fitness has allowed him to excel at other non-biking activities, such as finishing the 26.2 mile Marine Corp Marathon on Oct. 30 in 3 hours and 52 minutes.
Now, as he approaches his own half-century mark, Summers has his sights set on an Ironman-distance event in Wilmington in October. The non-stop event requires participants to complete a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride then a 26.2 mile run.
"I figure I should do all this stuff while I still can," Summers said.