I believe the Rando Ramble for March is the only route Bob has designed that I haven’t ridden. The first time it came around for me I definitely wasn’t ready, or there was bad bad weather, I forget. Last year I had my mountain bike decked out with the heaviest studded tires on planet earth and was ready to give it a shot even though there was an inch of fresh snow on the ground. In that attempt the last I saw of the group was 200 yards from the start when they skipped the Gwynns Falls Trails section in lieu of the main roads. I made it as far as Ellicott City before turning back and transforming the ride into a ‘West-Baltimore-trails’ day. This year I was cautiously optimistic. The weather looked above freezing and the precipitation wasn’t supposed to start until the afternoon. Most importantly I’ve trained 4-6 days a week since January, ate clean aside from 2 occasions and lost over 25 pounds to help make the task of hill climbing a little less torturous. Sounds pretty good right? Well the only way I’d know is to wrestle myself out of bed at 5am, hit the pavement and find out.
Sunday morning came and that’s just what I did. Everything was laid out the night before so even with breakfast I was out of the house by 5:30. My plan was to leave the vehicle in Hampden with the hopes of hanging out at a local establishment after the ride for a drink or 2 and dinner. The best riding of the day for me was pre-dawn in Druid Hill Park and coming down the west side of the city on Monroe. The sun was just peeking over the horizon as I approached the starting point. Following Frederick rd. to Frederick is about as simple as it gets. My plan was to get ahead of the day since I’m permanently slow so I made a right when I got to Frederick rd. A bridge was out on Frederick near the Gwynns Falls — now I know why all the gps tools kept re-routing me when i was planning. There was a foot bridge so I was still good to go without a detour. Climbing towards Catonsville I saw Mike headed for the start. In my mind the clock started ticking and I figured I had about a 20 minute head start given where the rendezvous point was. I found out later that they left a little late and my lead was more like 30-35 minutes.
The first part of the day has some of the larger climbs and descents. I was fresh enough to remain mentally collected climbing into Catonsville and for the large climb through Ellicott City with nary a look-behind. A few miles west of the quick jog on route 40 through the tiny rollers that seem to go on forever was when I started wondering how I was doing. The little hills are the ones that really mess with my mind. I don’t get up any speed on the descents, and when I’m going up-down-up-down for 45 minutes I can’t really tell if there’s a net elevation gain or loss which really is the true test of how your performance is stacking up with the average speed. 7 miles out from the rest stop I was zoning out up a hill when P.J. caught me by surprise at the first moment I wasn’t expecting it. It’s kind of amazing how easily a cyclist can sneak up on me when I’d been training myself to only listen for the hum of a car approaching me from behind. They kept moving and were distant memories not 2 rollers later. Bob hung back and we talked for a little bit even though I didn’t have much to say.
At the Starbucks break, the plans were forming for the approach to Frederick. With the weather threatening to deteriorate in the afternoon, the group consensus was to bail on the brew pub or sit-down lunch and just grab a sandwich or some other quick food before hitting the road. Giving the way the morning went — me rolling out half an hour ahead of schedule, riding non-stop and still getting caught at mile 24 — that generally meant they’d be ready to saddle up just about the moment I arrived even though we were only maybe 15 miles out. Faced with the concept of riding alone along busy Frederick for 4o miles or riding alone along busy Frederick rd. for 70 miles I did the only thing my brain would let me do which was cut the ride short.
Good news is that my outlook improved after a venti latte and an amalgamation of other ‘bike snacks’. The 16 miles leading up to the break turned out to be a net elevation gain so even though there were rollers on the return trip they weren’t as soul-crushing and I didn’t have a true hill to climb until I got past Ellicott City and the Patapsco River again. Bad news was that what is normally my favorite part of west-side bike trips turned out to be frozen over and I spent most of it slowly walking after 2 or 3 failed attempts at pedaling slowly.
ice on the trail and slow walking for 1/2 to 1 mile in bike shoes destroyed what was left of my average for the day
After 20 minutes or so of walking I finally came to a place in the trail that wasn’t hardpack snow or ice. I quickly cleared the slush and mud out of my fender with a stick, and the trip back through Catonsville went well. I love that nice wide boulevard (Edmonson?) compared with Frederick. When close to the Frederick rd. intersect I missed a turn but just took the next right and was back on course in 5 minutes. All that remained was to cut back across the grittiest part of the west side, up through mid-town and home. My cue was mapped to go up Maryland, but I took the extra street across to Charles so I could enjoy riding past the monument and Penn Station like olden times. The little downhill stretch before Penn was faster than usual and I was beating a sequence of red lights for about 5 blocks by 2 seconds. From there it was up Falls Rd., through the JFT switchback and within a half-mile of where I was parked. Not quite finished, I zig-zagged across Hampden and headed for my old neighborhood. After riding past my old house (they put up a fence but it still looks pretty much the same) I decided to go to Joe’s Bike Shop in Mount Washington and pick up a few essentials. As I climbed up Bellemore the drizzle turned into a steady rain. Back at Hopkins I stopped into the office to get some stuff from my desk, stretch for a few minutes, fill my water bottle, and be dry. There was a loose plan that I would ride around in Baltimore when I got back and possibly catch up with the guys upon their return. After I was out of the rain for 10 minutes all I wanted to do was stay out of the rain so I headed for the truck, cranked up the heat, threw the rando in the back and was on the road in about 2 minutes.
I was glad to get home, have a hot shower and put some dry clothes on. Got farther than last time. Maybe next year I’ll finally earn the beer.
Distance: 81.9mi | time: 7:22 | mv av: 11.1 | elev: 6578′
Update: Bob’s got his writeup here. and photos here!
The weekly update starts with copious amounts of snow-shoveling. I went out on Thursday around 9:30 and worked for about 3.5 hours until everything was clear. I’ve kept pretty fit when it comes to moving stuff with all the boxes last year, but I got my fill. Friday of course brought a second round and I wore out any muscles that didn’t get totally worked over in ’round 1′ of utility-cross-fit. After the drive and walk was clear I took pugsley out for a little bit of time in it’s natural element…
If I had it to do all over I’d go out first and then do chores. The roads were still bad enough to make the ride entertaining, but cars had found their way out too, making it less than fun. There were also intermittent spots with 4 or 5 inches of water since drainage was pretty much non-existent. By the time I got back 40 minutes later the lower half of my body was soaked.
We celebrated Valentines Day Friday evening. That was my first true cheat day. I weighed in early for this week and dropped another 1.2, but have some work to do getting back on track from dinner.
On Saturday, a caustic combination of muscle stiffness from the snow shoveling and cabin fever set in pretty hard. I decided to have a light workout on the treadmill and felt good enough after getting warmed up to turn it into a 5k. After the 5k part I kept going to make it an hour run for 4.4 miles total. I wanted to go again today, but decided not to because I don’t want to get overzealous and thrash my ankles like I did in November.
Last night I mapped out a figure 8 which was about 38 miles in length to try this morning. I got up a little late but still with plenty of time to give it a run since the snow held off and the radar looked clear. I was gone only about 25 minutes before my feet started to get cold. For the first time ever it was icy enough that I could feel the cold radiating from my pedal, up the cleat and through the bottom of my shoes. Put warmers on the top of my toes but should have put them underneath… When I reached the center of the ’8′ I took a right turn instead of going straight to make a b-line for home before my feet froze out. Temperature for the rest of my body was regulated well so I’ll just have to keep trying different combinations of footwear and warmers till I find something that works what with 6 more weeks of winter ahead of us. Back in the neighborhood and close enough to home that I didn’t have to worry about frostbite I looped around a few extra streets until numbness set in. 15 miles is better than nothing.
On the upside, since the ride was shorter I used it as a ‘nutritional experiment’ by not ingesting any carbs along the way or having any extra food when I got back to see how I felt a few hours later. Like it never happened and I just ate lunch at the normal time. With weight loss, I’m “in the zone” where the sugar and bread withdraw has receded and I’m content with 3 small meals a day. 16lbs down since the day after Christmas.
Distance: 14.8mi | time: 1:09 | mv avg: 12.8 | elev: 1249′
This month’s ramble is a repeat of the Pylesville ride from January. I was watching the weather last month and was a little bummed out when I woke up to icy roads and temps in the high 20′s. I don’t have studs and even if I did I don’t have the legs to push them for 80-100 miles. February rolled around and the weather looked much more promising. A week or 2 before, Ken and I had tossed around the idea of riding out from his house as a group, but he sounded like he wanted a slightly later start than me so I made the executive decision to go my own way and map a loop from my front door.
The plan was to leave close to dawn, get a head start on the rest of the gang and maybe have a chance to hang out at lunch with them for a few minutes. Not committing to the full route or a meetup at Ken’s house meant I had the luxury of hitting the snooze button once AND brewing a cup of coffee while getting my stuff ready in the morning. 7:40 was early enough for me to get out the door.
As I rode the first miles, I kept scanning for signs of ice. It was definitely cold enough, but I think most areas were pretty well treated and there were even dry spots here and there. Lots of melt from the sides re-froze overnight so caution was definitely in order for the day. No bombing the twisty descents for me…
My ride started out around the back of Harford Glen, climbing up Stockton towards 152, then west to Carrs Mill Road where I picked up Bob’s route. The morning was uneventful in the best way riding along in solitude for a few hours. Cloud cover was near 100% which cast the entire landscape in monotone grays. I kept seeing vistas and old barns which I could imagine would make a magnificent photo with the right lighting but today it was all flat. It was just as well because I left my good camera at home and I really needed to focus more on riding.
When I got to the Exxon rest stop I was only about 14 miles in so I quick ate a Clif bar and kept moving. The next 22 miles were more of the same — only a little quieter the further I got from Bel Air proper. I’d churn up a hill, and pray for a straight run-out on the downhill to enjoy some speed. Sometimes I’d get lucky, more often than not I was trimming the brakes the whole way down.
I approached the lunch stop at Amaroso’s around 11:20 still feeling strong. My reward for the morning’s riding was a good one…
first bread I’ve had in 40 days
A toasted chicken parm sub really hit the spot. I stretched while I ate and relaxed for a few minutes. Checking my phone I saw an email from P.J. he sent an hour before from the Exxon. They shouldn’t be that far behind. About the same time I was finishing up the Baltimore crew pulled in and started stacking up their bikes. Still no word from Ken. I had been sitting for about 40 minutes and was starting to get itchy to ride again when Ken pulled up. He had a late start and had been trailing the group since he left his house. We talked about paces and he told me he was going kind of slow. I didn’t believe he was as slow as me, but said if he didn’t mind matching speed I’d be glad to hang around for another 20 minutes or so and ride the afternoon together. Turned out to be the best decision because Ken was really great company for the afternoon.
About 5 miles out of lunch while discussing our routes I suggested that he follow me back to my house rather than splitting for home at the tail end of the loop. Then we could go out for a beer and some apps at Duclaw and I’d give him a ride home in time to catch the SuperBowl. Conversations ranged from the scenery, nutrition, and Ken pitching me on quantifying my training effort by picking up a heart rate monitor so I can stay at my aerobic threshold. We looked to be fairly well matched for the afternoon and chipped away at the northwest part of the loop together. Somewhere around Old York Rd. he pulled me off course to show me a really nice diversion – Hutchins Mill Rd. – and we went about a mile out of our way just to see the sights.
Hutchins Mill starts to the right of the track around 52 and put us out on Hess rd. at the bottom
We got back on-route and looped around to Bel Air again along Manor, Sweet Air, and Patterson Rd. before connecting with Bob’s route for a few miles and entering Bel Air from the south along Connelly Rd. The reward for the afternoon’s riding was equally as good…
First Beer I’ve had in nearly as many days…
6:26 we pulled into his driveway so I got him home with 4 minutes to spare. Thanks to all for the great day on the bike!
Distance: 74.1mi | time: 6:31 | mv avg: 11.3 | elev: 6541′
Link to PJ’s photos from the lead pack…
Link to Bob’s photos for the day… and his writeup!
When we moved into the new house, this was in the basement…
I like the idea of running and I was looking for something different to mix up my workouts. Back a few years ago I even completed a couch-5k plan to keep myself active the summer I cut my leg and wasn’t able to go on long rides. Last November I decided to fire it up about the same time the days got short and figured out something really quickly–even off my athletic peak, I can run my ankles and knees into the ground wayyyyyyy before I get winded. All I had to do was crank it up to 5 or 6 miles an hour and run for 35 minutes–BAM, pain. I spent a good bit of the holidays hanging around thinking about how much my knees suck, how much my ankles suck, and how much my right shoulder sucks (hasn’t been right for about 6 months since a fun day in July where I spent 8 hours cleaning out my mom’s house and tossing junk over the wall of a 7′ tall dumpster.). Ironically, the fact that I spent the first month of my 40′s wondering how I got so old so quick was part of my drive to get clean in 2014.
Good side of this rant is that I started stretching out everything that sucks regularly and was pretty much back to normal by January. About the same time I had an epiphany with Mr. Treadmill. If I jack the incline all the way up to 10 I can get winded without pounding my joints to dust. I didn’t do too much riding this week but I got a few interval workouts in so all-in-all not too bad.
Gained a bit since my last check-in, but I was down like 3 or something the week before so I’m not going bonkers about it.
Still digging in. My weight loss efforts have been consistent since 12/28. 8lbs? Most likely it’s all water, but I still don’t have to carry it up the hills. Last 3 days have been kind of tough. Really want a beer and a burger right now.
I’m still having problems with motivation for my morning rides, but I managed to break out for a near-25 miler on Sunday with about 2k of climbing. First I couldn’t find my favorite gloves for cold riding. Then once I got going my gps kicked out. Then I had to loop back around to get my balaclava (colder than I thought). Once I got going FOR REAL it felt pretty good. By about the halfway point my toes were freezing so I pulled off to the side and broke out the chemical warmers. Don’t think I shook them up enough because by the time I got back my toes were completely numb. I pulled them out of my shoes and they were lukewarm but nothing great. An hour later I went to toss them in the trash and they were 3 times warmer than when they came out of my shoes. No regrets though as the ride was worth it. I was glad it wasn’t any longer though.
Think I’ll close out this series on a high note and ease into regular ride reports. In pursuit of that goal I’ll try to make rides more regular.