Saturday, September 25, 2010

St. Mary's Century

LEONARDTOWN, MARYLAND

"The Lone Wolf"
"What the hell am I doing?"
"Just Hanging On"


Titles for this blog entry go racing through my mind.





Wheels down at 8:15 a.m., later than I wanted as the course opened at 7:00 a.m., I headed out of town with little knowledge of where I was going. Although I was handed a cue sheet, I don't like to use those. Besides, if I got lost I could always program Garmin "back to start."


Well marked if you're looking for it

I started out on a lonely road and saw no one ahead and no one behind. I figured starting so late I missed any chance to jump into a group. I was resigned that I would ride by myself so I turned around to get a cue sheet then did a 180 and decided to forgo it. I would simply take it slow and enjoy the scenery.

The markings on the road were very small and it is easy to blow past a turn and go for miles waiting for the next mark, which would never come. But I found my first turned and stopped to take a picture of the road and the sign marking - an Amish horse and buggy.



Horse and Buggy sign

While I was stopped fumbling with the camera, I was passed by two guys. I thought that if I hurried I might be able to join them but they went by pretty fast. I counted and they were 17 seconds ahead and wondered if I should hammer it to join them. And what they would think. I let them go.

Settling in enjoying the scenery, I came upon an Amish horse and buggy. Or horse and wagon. I respected the driver's desire not to be photographed and be recognizable by snapping a picture from the distance. From the rear.





Horse and Buggy - No sign

Over the next couple miles I passed eight buggies including one charming family of eight. On the back, and they could see me approaching, were two older girls facing backwards on the top bench and three smaller boys sitting one bench down. Up front were dad and mom driving with a baby in between. It was actually pretty cool in an Amish sort of way.

The horse took off on the downhill section, approaching the steep uphill. And I did the same. I was side by side by passing with a wide berth. I didn't want to scare the horse. Then we hit the 12% grade wall. And I flew by that horse. Ha! (Of course I wasn't pulling a family of eight.)

It was Amish market day as I assume every Saturday is. I passed one young Amish man on his bike and just wanted to stop and show him my bike. But I didn't. I wondered what he would say about a carbon fiber bike with a Garmin GPS unit on it.

Just as I was catching a group of riders, riding a bit too slow for me though, I was passed by the same two riders: John Phillips and his boss, Enrico. I didn't know who these two guys were and I caught their wheel. I can only imagine that they were wondering why I was hanging on and I wondered if they were trying their best to drop me. They didn't. Eventually I said I was willing to work and took a couple of pulls. We were in a group of three.

As is typical of group riding, we didn't say much or introduce ourselves at first. Why should we? We may ride together for one mile then split. But eventually we did. At the first rest stop.
Coltons Point on the Potomac


The first stop was at Coltons Point on the Potomac River. Here the Potomac is five miles wide, not real far from the birthplace of George Washington across on the Virginia side.



Rest Stop #1 at Coltons Point

After a brief stop to fill the water bottles, and it would get hot today, we headed back out to complete the first 50 mile loop. The more I rode the more I felt I wasn't going to be able to hang on with these two guys. Although I had jumped in with them, they were much younger than I first thought and I thought that would wear me down.

We neared the end of the first 50 miles and came to a bit of a climb -- more a roller than a climb but one where I have some problems keeping a fast pace with younger riders. I started to lose contact with John and Enrico and actually felt good about it. But then I saw Enrico sit up and wait for me. Nice gesture but damn -- that meant I was going to have to ride hard the entire day.



Rest Stop at St. Mary's College

Back at the College of Southern Maryland in Leonardtown, John told me the farthest he had ever ridden was 70 miles and that was just a few weeks earlier. I was impressed that he would try to increase his max mileage by 50% on one ride. Enrico had just flown back from Italy and wasn't feeling well and decided to call it a day.

We had ridden the first section at 19+ mph without the benefit of a large group. I was hoping to ride more sensible in the second half.


River Festival at St. Mary's River

John and I left the rest break with six other riders and it appeared that we would stay together. But at the first rise in the road about three miles in, John and I pulled away. We weren't hammering it, just keeping it comfortable.


And that would be it - John and me, for the next 50 miles. There was one stretch where a group of four was catching us and I told him we would sit up and latch on, which we did. But there was no real formation in that group and the leader was hammering it. After a couple of miles I told John I was going to drop back and ride at a more reasonable pace. He did too. And about 50 meters later, the group broke apart.



Rest stop at Piney Point


The remnants of that group all pulled into the rest stop at St. Mary's City together. I don't know what happened to them after that. Perhaps they departed before us or passed us when John flatted about five miles later.


The day was hot (upper 80s) and four rest stops hardly seemed like enough places to fill our bottles. On our way out to Piney Point we passed a small beer store and stopped in for a Coke. It's not quite the same as the Cokes I had in France in July but it was good enough. It was the pause that refreshes.


John is a younger, stronger, and faster rider than me. But around Mile 85 he had pulled for the last time this day. It was just the two of us working together and we had not been passed by anyone the entire day, save for the group of four that soon splintered after we dropped off.







I was up front for a mile or so and pulled to the side to let John pull. But he was no longer on my wheel. I looked and saw him about 200 meters behind so I soft pedaled. And this would continue all the way back to the college.



Party at the finish


I (we) caught another rider and I went to the front thinking I was pulling both but realized I had dropped both. I could have gone on home solo, and I think most roadies would have -- in some ways it is survival of the fittest -- but sitting up and waiting seemed like the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do.

We made it back, John accomplished his first century ride and said the last 15 miles were the hardest miles he had ever ridden. Funny thing, our bodies. After a summer of long distance riding, it knows how to dole out the energy stores for a 100 mile ride. John's body simply had never been pushed to that limit and quit around Mile 85.


Brusters Ice Cream


The organizers of the St. Mary's Century are very proud of their work, and they should be. It was just $40 and they provided a nice T-shirt, four fully stocked rest areas, and showers at the college. Except for our (the 100 milers) first rest stop at Coltons Point which had a port-a-john, every other rest stop at fully functioning rest rooms, including some nice facilities at Piney Point.


The welcome package was full of information on St. Mary's County including discount coupons. At the finish they had a band plus a grill with hamburgers and hot dogs and Brusters Ice Cream.


With many century options available to me and wanting to sample each one, I don't know if I will be back to this one but highly recommend it to anyone if they have never ridden it. Well down, Paxvelo!




Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rappahannock Rough Ride

WASHINGTON, VA

The Rappahannock Rough Ride started and ended in Washington, Va., a place often referred to as "Little Washington." As the sign proclaims, of the 28 Washingtons in the U.S., this was the first of them all.


Shortly after we rolled out from our mass start, the cable to my front derailleur broke, or at least I thought it did. I had been rolling with the very front pack but knew I couldn't keep up this pace in a small ring up front.

Stuck in the 30-tooth gear, I did OK climbing hills but could not keep pace on the flats and downhills. All the other riders were in their big rings producing high speeds. I had to pedal furiously which eventually took its toll on me. My cadence even hit a ridiculous 168 rpm.



This was a beautiful ride. The Sheriff's department actually blocked all traffic on US 211 westbound as we rolled out of Washington, Va. Some of the roads were as smooth as glass. Despite my mechanical, I still averaged 19.0 mph for the first 18 miles.




I was pleasantly surprised by the support on the ride. I did not expect water and Gatorade but was expecting a glorified Potomac Pedalers ride with rest stops at local country stores or service stations.



The route was hillier than I expected. I expected this to remain in the valley but there were still plenty of rollers. More than one mile of vertical gain over 58 miles. This certainly qualified as a hilly course, normally a course I love where the hills produce the right amount of pain and the thrill of a descent over the top. Except I couldn't produce the big speeds on the descent. Without the big speeds down the hills I couldn't roll up the other side quite as easily. Oh well.

The Grinch - Great Jersey!
Three of  us rolled out of the first rest stop; my friend, John Dockins, a guy named Ray, and me. Ray commented on how fast I was pedaling and saw my derailleur cable. We soon caught a fourth guy and then John and Ray pulled away. We had two groups of two and eventually, I pulled away from "The Grinch." I rode more than five miles solo before finally catching back on with Ray and John. Ray even congratulated me on the good work of rejoining them. I thought that they could have "sat up" and waited. Oh well, this builds character.



Over the next few miles I tended to get up the long hills a little faster than John but on the flats and downhills he could pull away. And he jumped in with two other riders and pulled away, waiting for me at the Marriott Ranch rest stop, although he was never more than one minute ahead.


At the second rest stop we examined the cable and noticed that it wasn't broken - just disconnected. So, we became bike mechanics and were able to reconnect and adjust the derailleur. I could ride again.

But for the last 20 miles I was pretty much toast. I had worked hard pedaling in the small ring, and didn't have much left. I was content to ride home at a comfortable pace.


The roads were super and the views superb. Much of the route we could see the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. On a great weather day, temperatures in the 70s, I still came in probably in the top 10% of riders. It was a day that I thought if the SAG wagon came by I might decide to abandon. But I also decided I could ride along in a little gear and then was rewarded by fixing it. My average speed was 17 mph which, on a very hilly route, still qualified as an A pace.

It was a great day on the bike.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Civil War Century



THURMONT, MD

It was 48 degrees when Ernie Rodriguez and I rolled through Frederick, Maryland on our way to Thurmont for the start of the Civil War Century. The big question was arm warmers or no arm warmers. Ultimately I decided no warmers and it was a good decision. The temperature climbed into the high 70s and it was one less thing to carry, and potentially lose along the way.


Ernie Climbing South Mountain

The ride began with a seven mile climb through Cunningham Falls State Park in the Catoctin Mountains. This is where Camp David, the presidential retreat is located, although we did not pass the secret Campground Number 3 (shhh!). And that was followed by a 14 mile descent and then some "rollers" before the mile and a quarter climb up to the South Mountain Battlefield site.


South Mountain Battlefield Site

On the descent I picked up enough speed that I looked down and saw my speedometer go over 50 mph. Only once before had I pushed it to 50 and I was so concentrating on pedaling or holding on, or both, that only when I checked my max speed later did I see it go over 50. Today I looked at the speedometer while it was occurring. It hit 51.9 (52 mph!). Awesome. Nothing, not even a flat tire, could ruin this day.

Max Speed: 51.9 mph

After a short break, enough to use the porta-johns and refill our bottles, we headed off to Sharpsburg, the site of the Antietam National Battlefield. Then it was on to Boonesboro and Smithsburg.



While on Rte 64 in Smithsburg, I ran over something that wasn't good. Ernie thought it may have been a cable of sorts but it sounded like a baseball card was in my spokes for 30 seconds or so then it freed itself. But about 60 seconds later I flatted. It was the first flat I have had in more than two years and probably 6,000 miles of riding.




Still not sure what occurred. When I got home there wasn't a puncture in the tube. But the valve wasn't functioning properly. Whether that cable somehow hit the valve, I don't know, but it was shortly after I picked up the road debris that I flatted.

Ernie fixing my flat

Ernie used his hand pump to fill up the tire. After a repair I always worry that there's a piece of glass embedded in the tire which will cause another flat. And I feel like I am riding on a flat.


Ritchie Road
I felt sluggish on the 4 1/2 mile climb up Ritchie Road. It was the high point of the ride and the beginning of a 40 mile downhill or flat ride back to Thurmont. But I was afraid to let the bike roll on the descent.


Rest Stop, Fairfield, Pa

When we reached the rest stop at Fairfield, Pa., I immediately went to the repair tent for a floor pump. Tire pressure was 62 psi. I normally ride about 100-110 psi. Once I fully inflated the tire I never thought about it again.
Fairfield Inn. One of six inns in continuous service since the 1700s.

At Gettysburg, we were reminded at every intersection to ride single file. We did.



We rode through the Battlefield. What an impressive site seeing all the monuments lining the roads.



The run in back to Thurmont was basically flat. We passed through the Roddy Road covered bridge. It was the second covered bridge we had on the route.


Roddy Road Covered Bridge

Back at Thurmont they had ice cream and sandwiches.


 Sean Walker and girlfriend

It was a GREAT day in the saddle.












Garmin Maps and Stats (on Ride with GPS.com)

104 miles and 7,000 or 9,000 feet of climbing. Who knows for sure? But 52 MPH! Sweet!!!!!




Ernie wearing his changing skirt

Monday, September 6, 2010

10,000 Miles

MIDDLEBURG, VIRGINIA

I thought this would be a big day. The day I rolled over 10,000 miles on my Trek Pilot. But in the end, it was just another mile. In fact, it was an extra mile.

I went out to horse country, Middleburg, Virginia, for a Labor Day Potomac Pedalers ride called Horse Hills. Although listed as a class CC ride, I didn't mind this slower-than-normal pace as my legs could take a day off after a 80-mile mountainous route on Saturday. 





The first hills sorted out the riding groups and I found myself in a group of four guys who would hang together until the end and not stop at any of the planned rest stops either. A couple of the riders were new. One had just moved here from California. Another had moved to Purcellville and was to begin his teaching the next day at Harper Park Middle School in Leesburg.



Middleburg, Va.

As we rolled through Hillsboro we passed a family on bikes -- a dad without his helmet, and little girl with hers on. As John Kilmartin passed, he looked and saw that it was his new principal so he stopped to say hello. And he did not remind him to wear his helmet.



John Kilmartin

Of course I was not privy to their conversation and only found out later that John was hired at Harper Park Middle School, in Leesburg. Tomorrow would be his first day. Harper Park is also where my son-in-law, Andy Olejer, works in administration. I didn't say a word about Andy, instead talking about another assistant principal, Don Keener. Andy can have some fun with John later since I dropped my group about three miles from the finish to solo on home. King of the CC ride. So what?

When I reached the school where we had parked my odometer was at 9,999 miles. So I had to go for another mile to get it to turn to 10,000. I headed back out in the country, turned it over, and then came back. Anti-climatic. No one cheered me on.





While 10,000 miles on a bike seems like a lot to most people, to many cyclists it's just another number. It certainly pales in comparison to Danny Chew, who calls himself the 1,000,000 man. Although he may be slowing down, and don't we all? The last number listed on his website is 621,371.

I have other miles on other bikes, but this is the first time I've had an odometer that worked most of the time, and was able to see it turn over 10,000 miles. It was sort of neat.



Garmin Map and Stats


In the end I averaged 16.0 mph on what I would rate as a "Hilly" route. We climbed 3,500' over 42 miles. That would still qualify at the top of the BB or bottom of the A pace on the Potomac Pedalers Chart. On a day I took it easy.




Came home, cleaned the bike and got it ready for the next 10,000 miles.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Just 16 Miles in Virginia

FRONT ROYAL, VA

In July, I rode 300 miles in France without a single incident of road rage. Today, it only took 16 miles in Virginia.

I was on a Potomac Pedalers group ride called Edinburg Gap. The rage was more remarkable because the "Bubba" driving his big truck was coming in the opposite direction and not inconvenienced by following cyclists at speed. Still, he slowed, rolled down his window, and yelled "GET THE $^%@& OFF THE ROAD!" God, I miss riding in France.

While 20 or so of the 40 riders total started out together, there was a split around mile four and I ended up in a second, or third, group of six. I thought I could bridge to the front group but had no reason to. This was a "B" pace so I didn't need to kill myself to get up with the stronger riders. Besides, yesterday it was 90 degrees and I rode 42 miles (68 km) home from work. My legs were tired.

Around Mile 10, we hit our first real hill and four of the six fell off the pace. That would be my pace. I had been soft-pedaling before but this time I was passed by a rider in a "Spokes" jersey so I sat on his wheel. I never saw the other four riders the rest of the day.


On Fort Valley Road. Our initial group of six
which would end in two minutes.

At the first store/rest stop, we stopped long enough to form a group of four and stayed together until the climb up Edinburg Gap. In Edinburg, there were perhaps 15 of us who rolled out at the same time.

We hit a decent climb at Mile 41 that split the group. Some, like me, were simply caught behind the "wrong wheel" when the split occurred with no chance at staying up front, while others seemingly were going backwards on the climb. What shook out was a group of four up front, followed by a solo rider about 100 meters behind them, and followed by me another 100 meters or so behind him. I thought the leaders would soft-pedal to allow at least us to integrate but they weren't interested.


Rolling out from Edinburg. Blue guy, two yellow 
guys, and red guy were part of our group of six.

After a few miles of rollers and realizing that I wasn't going to integrate with the leaders, I "sat up." I simply waited for the next wave of riders to catch me so we could form a group. Two guys did, and thanked me. Our group of three, working together in the wind, soon caught the solo guy ahead. Then we had four working together, and it became a bit easier. We no longer concerned ourselves with the four guys off the front. It wasn't a race. In a race they have every right to and should take off. But it's a friggin' ride.

I caught a glimpse of two more riders, about 300 meters behind us and instructed our group to sit up. Or we took a vote. And I won. We sat up and soon had a group of six working together. Life was good!

Normally I wouldn't stop at a rest stop with 10 miles to go but I was out of fluids. We stopped at a 7-11 and refilled our bottles. One of the riders made it a point to thank me for organizing our group of six and holding everybody together.


Last stop. Middletown, Va. Blue/white guy 
was another one of our six.

We hadn't rested long, nor did we want to stay long, when three of our six were ready to go before the other three. The second three told us to go ahead without them. The last 10 miles was an enjoyable run back into Front Royal. Time and miles flew by as one of the riders saw my Trek Travel jersey. He too, had been in France, although not with Trek Travel. But we chatted about riding in France and how enjoyable it was not to have to deal with the "Bubba's" of the world.

On the day: 80.2 miles (129 km). Average speed was 17.2 mph (27.7 kpm). On the Potomac Pedalers Ride Classification, that speed qualifies as a "BB" pace for a "moderate" route and as an "A" pace for a "Hilly" route. Not bad for tired legs.




Garmin Map and Stats