It never ceases to be an odd experience for me to try and write out summaries of my rides. After all the early mornings, long days on the bike, cool places seen and new friends met. My reports always feel like a dry recount of technical problems with computer mounts and physical ailments.
I had an obligation to start coffeeneurring on Saturday so it was the perfect opportunity to do a tune-up/test ride and make sure all my equipment was in order so I could just roll out of bed at 4:30 Sunday and stumble out the door. After a quick stop at the dunkin donuts for coffee I met up with Ken at his house around 5:30. He had a smoothie for me again — this time without the cucumbers and with a hard-boiled egg inside rather than a raw one. It was very good and I finished it pretty quickly. Will have to get the recipe from him. The drive out was uneventful and we joked about all manner of stuff.
GPS wasn’t working properly and I didn’t get a satellite lock from the start. Often I can get it to work by power-cycling the unit, but after 10 attempts in the first 5 miles I gave up. It feels like the Vista series has its own satellite which goes offline Sunday morning from 6am to 10am. I rode on and resolved to keep a close watch on the cue. The route didn’t waste any time in getting to business working us over. Within the first 10 miles there were 2 large climbs. Unlike my only other ‘long climb’ experience I had on the Civil War Century a few years ago, this was the unimproved ‘straight-up’ rutted, puddly, gravelly dirt b-roads rather than the carefully engineered, well maintained routes I was used to. I thought Bob’s gravel ride last month prepared me pretty well for this with 70 miles and 7000 feet of climbing, but spinning for an hour straight to get up a single hill was a completely different experience. Wondering how far I’d gone I looked at the redundant computer I installed after my experience with the Etrex shutting off last month. Fun for me, that wasn’t working correctly either. The mount was worn down and the unit kept sliding out, causing it to shut off a few minutes later. I stopped by the side of the road for a bit and rigged it with a spare zip-tie to stay in place so at least I could track my miles between cue points. 7 miles in I gave the gps one last try, finally got a successful lock and started tracking my miles and elevation.
While climbing the first 2 hills, I was passed by nearly every rider on the Century and 65 mile route. Consensus from everyone is that If I can push the trucker up all those hills I must be in pretty good shape. It’s a heavy bike, and I’m a heavy rider, but if my equipment is a detriment to my riding I’m pretty sure it’s because having the granny gear available to me has made me weak. Because I have an easier option available to me I don’t force myself to try a harder gear. It’s great to spin the hills, but 3mph is a demoralizing pace for anyone. Hell, PUSHING the bike nets me 2.5… Most riders were gone before I could look up a second time but there were 2 on more classic bikes who I would occasionally see a few 100 feet ahead of me when the trail would straighten out for a bit. They stopped at the top of one hill for some food and I thanked them for unknowingly keeping me alive on the last climb. Of course we exchanged names and rode together for most of the day and of course I forgot your names because that’s how my brain works but thanks again for lifting my spirits and sorry I’m so terrible at remembering names. Please don’t take it personally.
From mile 20-28 the route eased up a bit on us with some downhills and easier climbs. That didn’t mean I wasn’t looking forward to stepping off the bike when I saw the first rest stop on the cue…
I milled around the store which had all kinds of good local stuff before settling on some spicy pretzel bits, a stayman apple and an orange cream soda. It was a nice break and we got a chance to hang out at a relaxed pace. Looking at my printed map I noticed that if I stayed on the main road I could cut out a chunk at the top of the route. The mere mention of this brought emphatic objections from the group and I decided to stay on track because of their infectious enthusiasm.
Not 1/3 mile up the road the cue pointed us right leading to a brutal climb up Debold Rd. Checking back on the cue later it worked out to about 500 feet in 1 mile or 2 Bellmore’s strung back-to-back and squished into the same space as a comparison for you North Baltimore people out there. There were quite a few moments where I thought about cutting my losses, coasting back down and making that right for the unpublished short on Sabillasville. The name of the Orchard we stopped at was Scenic View, but it didn’t have anything on the vista we had from the top…
We rode around for a few more miles with the group kindly waiting for me at each turn. by mile 33 we were climbing one of the shorter hills on Eylers Valley road and about as far away from home as we could be. My legs thought it would be a nice time to start cramping up and I started to feel just like I had on Circumnav in June. I ate a salty piece of pretzel and walked for a few hundred feet while my legs loosened up. Back on the bike I polled the group at the top of the hill what they thought about leg cramps and chose to use one of my nuun tablets to help stay in the game. We only had a mile or so until the official rest stop anyway. Half way up the cut-off to the rest stop there was a lake. I was chatting and not really paying attention to my surroundings. We crested a hill and started to descend the other side when I noticed that the track had disappeared on the Garmin. I looked down at the cue, saw a note about Rainbow Lake and started to worry that we missed the stop. Rather than fly all the way to the bottom and have to climb back out for nothing I decided to turn around and check lake 1 first. Nope, the gps track wasn’t long enough so I climbed BACK up the hill and over the other side again. The real lake was at the bottom of the other side all along. By the time I got there everyone else was wrapping it up so I quickly ate a banana, stole 2 Gu’s and topped off my bottles. In hindsight I wish I had just gone to the convenience store in the next town because the lake-stop adventure ended up being a ridiculous 3 extra miles and .5k of climbing for me.
I got past the rest stop and waited for the banana to kick in, but I sort of already knew what the deal was. It wasn’t a food or water issue, I was simply asking my legs to do more than they’ve done in years without a proper build-up. The gang was cool about hanging back at all the hilltops but I started to feel bad about it. There were 2 or 3 more times in the last 40 miles where I did the ‘walk of shame’ up a hill — not because I couldn’t push the granny gear but just because my butt was SO tired of the spinning bounce. By mile 45 I was ready to cut my losses and head back on the least circuitous route. I was wondering where I was, how I could make it back, if I was in cell coverage, if there were cab companies that worked that neck of the woods, how much it would suck to leave Ken a message begging him to drive 15 miles out of his way to fetch me off the side of the road, and how long it would take for someone to find me if I collapsed by the side of said road over and over again with each new hill climb. (aside: I’m not sure why I bother writing all of this down. If you wanted to know how I felt at any point on any ride you just have to look and see how many pictures I took. My desire to work the camera is inversely proportionate to the amount of worry I harbor about getting home before dark.) James gave me some directions to follow route 17 home through Myersville. The main roads were a welcome change of pace but I still found myself grinding along in a few spots. We parted ways a few miles later and it felt mostly downhill from there. Back on improved roads I took advantage of coasting down hills in as aero a tuck as I could. On a few occasions I passed others crossing 17 to get to the cued route including Ken during the “coincidence of the day”. Even though i knew it was him because of the huge grin he wears every time I see him on a bike I kept moving. I was half way down a hill and nothing was going to break any momentum I might be able to take up the next one. I stopped at a gas station to use the facilities, grab a can of coke, and check in near the rte 70 split. At that point I still wasn’t sure if the winery was 20 minutes or 2 hours away. I took more time than I needed and got back on the bike — pleasantly surprised that I only had about 25 minutes of riding left. The last 5 miles felt fine sans the stupid little hill rolling into the winery. I was dead but I forced myself to pedal rather than walk. Bob waved as he saw me riding up the driveway. I pushed my bike up on the lawn and just stood there staring into space for 4-6 minutes.
Back in reality I took some time to stretch, have some chili, try the mead, and joke with PJ about how my new nickname should be ‘dead-long-haul-trucker guy’ for the look of last place desperation I was wearing from mile 5 onward. Mike, PJ, Bob and Ken told me about their 80ish mile rides while the band played us some good music. I spent a good portion of the day wondering why I would spend my weekends punishing myself like this but if I had it to do all over, I wouldn’t change a thing. Now that life is easing up a bit I look forward to taking time to regain my fitness so I can enjoy the experience with a bit less pain.
Extra special thanks to Bike Frederick for all their work organizing a fantastic event and hope to see you again next year!
Photos in the Flickr Set HERE
64.6 miles total for the day. – somewhere between 7100 and 7300 elevation.
No times or speed statistics. They are irrelevant anyway.