Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections on the Year - 2012


This does and does not lend itself to a Top Ten list. I like to do a Top "Ten" because 10 is such a nice number. But for a year that began hoping I'd go to Italy or Ride the Rockies, I had to settle for something less. At least that's what I thought. A year in which I rode more than any year before (6,500 miles) there are too many memories to narrow them to just 10.

It was a year in which I did not have a week without a ride. As for what defines a "ride," I do not count the miles running "errands" including 0.5 mile to the Mall in D.C. at lunchtime to play Ultimate Frisbee. I define a "ride" as just that -- it has to be a minimum of 10 miles to make my count. But I did count one ride of less than 10 miles - the 7.6 miles up Mount Washington. Was that wrong?

In all I had 10 days of more than 100 miles in the saddle.

My Top Ten (or 11)

1. Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb - When I first started dreaming about climbing the big mountains in Europe, I discovered Mount Washington. I wanted to do it once and now have ridden it five straight years. This year was crazy because I had all but decided not to go then changed my mind, drove up Friday morning, arrived late Friday, did the race on Saturday, then drove home Saturday night, arriving just after midnight. I remember this one most for the uber nice Gabinksi family who gave me a ride down the mountain: Vic, Alison, Alexa, and Lucas.

The Last 50 Yards

The 50 yards before the last 50 yards
2. Bike VirginiaI looked forward to Bike Virginia for a chance to ride with my cousin, Kay Walborn. We didn't ride much, mainly because she was on course each day before I could ride to the course since I elected to stay at Bethany's and Ashley's places. But we rode some. I also rode with a former work colleague, John Dockins. But mostly I remember being struck by a car. That hurt. But I survived.

Barry with cousin Kay
(Don't know the dork in the background)

John Dockins, Barry Sherry

3. Pedal Pal - Let me be clear - I wish I didn't know what it was to have cancer. But I am a survivor and that has opened some new opportunities for me including being a Pedal Pal for Patrick Sheridan. I rode out on Day 1 with Team San Francisco from Baltimore to Alexandria and rode in with them on Day 70 from Mill Valley, Ca. to San Francisco. But it was mostly about Team Portland and Chey Hillsgrove supporting Jake the Hero Grecco.

Chris, Lauren, Patrick, Jeff
Patrick Sheridan, Barry Sherry

4. Mt. Tam - My friend, Eric Scharf, always said "you have to ride Mt. Tam." And so I finally did. I was on a rental bike and missed my Trek Pilot. I really missed my bike. This bike didn't have the climbing gears my bike did and I was suffering. But the best "compliment" may have been made by Kevin Barnett, when he asked what we did with Peter (Bai) who rode with Rodrigo Garcia Brito and me that day. Kevin said Peter came in immediately after the ride and crashed.

Peter Bai

View from Mt. Tam

5. Mt. Shasta Summit Century - While on the west coast I found the Mt. Shasta Summit Summit Century. Like Mt. Tam, I wasn't on my own bike but a steel touring bike lent to me by Deron Cutright, a friend from our Trek Travel trip to France two years ago. Beautiful scenery and some pretty long climbs.

View of Mount Shasta

Early morning at the ride start

6. 24 Hours of Booty - My first Booty and it won't be my last one. While I joined Team BootyStrong, in Columbia, Md., I rode in memory of Jake and established a team for 2013 - Jake's Snazzy Pistols.

7. RAGBRAI - Every cyclist must ride across Iowa once and this was the year it worked out for me. I can't say it is my kind of event because it is much too crowded but I enjoyed the point to point riding each day. And I killed the mileage knocking out 700 miles in a week of riding from South Dakota to Illinois.
Tractor at a road side Farm stand



8. Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo - This is a fund raiser for some local charities including the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. I invited Chey Hillsgrove to join me and we had a great ride until he crashed out.

Barry, Chey

9. Riding with Dad - I never went for a ride with my dad until he turned 82. Memorial Day weekend we rode on the Great Allegheny Passage between Frostburg, Md. and Meyersdale, Pa.

My dad, me, angry sister

10. Civil War Century - One of my favorite rides but wasn't a century. Cut dangerously short at Mile 75 by severe weather I took a shortcut back to the start. I returned five weeks later and rode to Gettysburg by myself to finish the ride.

The Road Back to Start in Thurmont

Rest Stop at South Mountain

11. Livestrong Gala and Challenge -- Given the 1,000 page report by the USADA outlining systematic doping at U.S. Postal and Lance Armstrong, I am still sorting out my thoughts. But thousands of cancer fighters not named Lance support and are served by Livestrong. It was fun being among them, and Lance, for a weekend in Austin.

Always ride for Jake

With 6,500 miles on my butt for 2012, I now have surpassed 10,000 miles for two years and 15,000 for three years. Cancer-free. I can't predict where 2013 will take me although I would like to do Bike Across Kansas if the route is right and Ride the Rockies. A trip to Europe would be nice. And maybe a repeat of Bike Virginia. As for the Mt. Washington Hillclimb, I just received my private registration code since I have ridden it five consecutive years but don't know if I will do that one again (I said I wouldn't and I mean maybe).

The best rides are just following the road ahead and I'll go where the road leads as long as my health permits.


Saturday, December 1, 2012



One thing about distance riding is that you have plenty of time to let your mind take over and absolutely enjoy the peace and solitude on a bike. But when things aren't going so well it can be too much time fighting the cycling demons.

While it sometimes felt that I have made this 70-80 mile ride a hundred times, in truth I have made it less than 15 times. The distance is nice but it's also a dangerous ride with up to 10 miles on some hi-speed two-lane roads with no shoulder. It's a matter of pick your poison depending on which of two major routes to take.

Having a family gathering at Bethany's, it was a perfect day to bike. It was 32 degrees when I left the house. I was kitted up and was toasty warm. I rolled out of the house towards Manassas. I wasn't concerned about time and thought it was a good thing because in the first 10 miles I seemed a little sluggish.

In Manassas I came to a road closure for their annual Christmas Parade. It took me down to Wellington and then over to Ashton Ave. I hadn't gone this way, even in a car, but realized I was parallel to the very busy Sudley Road and was thankful that even though it was a mile or two longer, I have found a safer way through Manassas.

After a stop at the visitor center at the Manassas Battlefield Park, I headed west on Sudley Road. This is a dangerous two-lane road with no shoulder. Coming to the Aldie Market, I stopped and bought two Snickers bars. I was sluggish.

After crossing US 15, I stared ahead at Bull Run Mountain. I got on Mountain Road but was thankful this road was parallel to the ridge and I would mostly be going around the mountain and not over it. At Mile 40 in the town of Aldie, I stopped at the country store and bought a king size Snickers. I was sluggish.

Snickersville Turnpike, aptly named today, is an unmarked two-lane country road which is a beautiful ride. As it approaches the Blue Ridge it may trend slightly uphill but is mostly rollers, some of them pretty steep. It is a continuous ride of up and down.

After 15 miles you reach Bluemont at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountain. And here the road goes straight up. I was worried. I wasn't feeling it. I was sluggish.

On November 9 I had ridden 50 miles but it wasn't really a 50 mile ride. I rode to a doctor's appointment and back and added a little more. That is important because the last long ride I had was on October 21 in Austin at the Livestrong Challenge. I had plenty of short rides but nothing more than 30 miles since.

I felt great that day. After 80 miles in Austin I pedaled faster -- I averaged more than 21 mph over the last 20 miles. Solo. Not drafting in a group of riders. And I know that when the body is trained it knows how to release fat stores so that you can ride as fast, or faster, after 80 miles. Today, I was sluggish. And it was always on my mind. 

Even the flattest section, Sudley Road, I struggled to average a pedestrian 15 mph. Actually, I didn't average 15 mph.

Time dragged on. Every pedal stroke reminded me how unfit I am. The cell phone taunted me. Use it! Call ahead and tell them you can't do it and come pick you up.

Every mile. Every mile I fought that temptation. I got to the top of Snickers Gap (US 7) and knew it was all downhill. Well, downhill to the Shenandoah River then flat, with rollers, the rest of the way.

Turning on Shepherds Mill Road every little rise in the road gave me trouble. As I passed Moose Apple Christmas Tree farm I pulled in and looked at maybe more than 50 cars parked. Although there was a big line waiting to pay for a tree, I went to the front "just to say hello" to the owner.

Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm

I told him I was there during Bike Virginia and he told me he remembered. He said I was from Woodbridge and worked for the Postal Service. I must be memorable. That good feeling was enough to power me the next five or six miles.

My thought was my next goal - Sheetz. Even though it was two miles from Bethany's I knew I couldn't make the last two miles with a food stop.

I stopped at Sheetz. I ordered food. After paying and standing while waiting for my food I didn't see any seats in the store. I felt too tired to stand and looked for a place to sit on the floor. But I didn't. I was sluggish.

After eating and resting I got ready for the last two miles. Crossing US 340 there is a slight hill and I struggled to get up it then celebrated as I knew that was the last hill to climb on the day. One mile later I arrived.

I went in the house to a number of concerned family because I was so late. I explained I was sluggish. Although it has been six weeks since my last long ride I explained how quickly one can lose fitness. I blamed the cold as one burns more calories, I think, keeping warm. And pedaling with tights I figured must slow me down some too.

I was almost too tired to put the bike away but I knew I would have to before I could shower and shave the Movember mustache. I had leaned the bike against my parents' car and now walked it down the driveway. I didn't think much that it didn't seem to roll freely. In fact, I had to coax it down the small hill on their driveway.

At the car I went to remove the wheels. Since I had been pedaling in low gear the chain was on the top sprocket and it's easier to remove and replace the wheels if one moves the chain to the lowest sprocket. I lifted the bike and turned the crank with my hand and shifted gears. The wheel spun. Then stopped. Crap!

I looked at the rear brake and it had somehow been misaligned. The left brake shoe was solid against the wheel. I had just ridden 78 miles with the brake on.

Left pad was snug against the wheel


Of the thousands of miles I have ridden one thing I don't normally do is check to see if the brakes are misaligned. But they can get pushed or knocked out of alignment and it's an easy fix to put them back. One thing you don't want to do is to ride 77 miles with the brake on.

You'll feel sluggish.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Five Weeks Later I Finished


With a feeling that I left something unfinished, today was the perfect day to return and finish the Civil War Century. On September 8 I had begun the climb of South Mountain when severe storms hit. I cut the route short electing to return to the safety of the van.


Library at Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

A chilly morning, it was 48 degrees when I left home with a forecast of temperatures in the 70s. Arriving Thurmont, I discovered it was something called Colorfest Days and there was no free parking to be had anywhere in Thurmont. I drove up Catoctin Mountain Road about  two miles and decided I would pull over next to the stream, completely off the road.

Covered Bridge near Fairfield, Pa.

I decided to leave the jacket and long finger gloves behind, believing in the forecast. A mistake.

Tunnel in Md. near Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

I climbed over South Mountain, partly knowing where I was going and partly just exploring. I was surprised when I entered Pennsylvania that I was immediately in Blue Ridge Summit, a small town I had ridden through before on three occasions. And it made sense to me that this was the bailout route for the Civil War Century should someone on the full century route decide after 65-70 miles they wanted to go back to Thurmont. It really is all downhill back to Thurmont from here.

Sabillsville Rd aka Catoktin Mt Route

I had hoped the road markings from the CWC were still in place and they were. Except when they weren't. At one intersection there was new asphalt down and my marking was gone. I went part on memory and part of feel. And I was right. Mostly.

A painted over marking on the road
Gettysburg, Pa.

Leaving Fairfield, Pa. I came to an intersection and did not see any markings and assumed no turn was necessary. After a few hundred yards I knew it felt wrong but I kept going. I sensed where Gettysburg was and figured I could still get there even though I missed the actual turn.

Fairfield Inn, Fairfield, Pa.

Arriving at the battlefield I got back on course. I found one of the markers and it had been covered in black. I wonder if the Park Service did that but wouldn't be surprised if the CWC staff did that after the event out of respect for the battlefield.

Gettysburg National Park

Leaving Gettysburg I lost the trail, or so I thought, but picked it up again. The winds picked up and were in my face the rest of the day. And I was cold. Until about the final 10 miles, the temperatures held steady in the 50s and I didn't have a jacket. 

I wasn't feeling well. Only a 50-mile ride I had four packets of gels/GUs and ate them all hoping it would help. I was a bit light headed but managed to stay on my bike. Unlike most rides, a sense of relief came over me when I arrived back at the car. Fifty (miles) was enough. But five weeks after I started, I can now say I finished the ride.

EPILOGUE - As a testament to how crappy I felt or how strong the wind was, I averaged a higher speed the first hour which included the 7-mile climb from the start than I did the last hour when it was flat.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Knowing When to Say Yes


I don't know if it's me. Or if it's men in general. But offer me help and I'll probably turn you down. Maybe if I accept assistance it indicates a sign of weakness I'm not ready to admit to. So when Greg, and his daughter Sam (Samantha), from Rocky Mount, NC, saw me changing a flat and offered me a ride in their truck, my first instinct was to say no. But then I thought about I had one CO2 cartridge and if I messed that up, I'd have to walk 3.5 miles back to where I parked. And I had wedding to get to.

Greg and his daughter Sam

I was here for the wedding of friends David Vito and Kelley Noonan. I came down a couple of hours early to be able to ride. I parked in Nags Head and headed south on S. Virginia Dare Trail, the road parallel to the main highway. No shoulders but a reduced speed limit. Still, one "local" (I assume, he had North Carolina plates) gave me an ear full of horn even though I was all the way to the right and there was a wide open lane to the left. I gave him a friendly (true) wave.


David, Barry, Kelley
But what's up with the road rage in North Carolina? David and Alistair Hastings had a couple incidents yesterday and Pierce Schmerge said he was yelled at also today. Hey North Carolina: Bike Belong.


At the south end of Nags Head is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I headed south on the main road, Rte 12, Cape Hatteras National Park Road. Although the speed limit was 55, there was a decent sized shoulder. I went into Bodie Island to see the lighthouse and was disappointed to see that it was covered by scaffolding. 

Bodie Island Lighthouse. Closed for Remodeling.

Heading south again, I wanted to cross the sound but only went about 200 yards on the Oregon Inlet bridge. No shoulder. None. And 55 mph. I turned around.


Oregon Inlet Bridge

I headed back to explore a little more of Nags Head and thought I might try to make it up to Kill Devil Hills and photograph the Wright Brothers' Memorial. But on my way I flatted. I'm not sure what it was that I pulled out of the tire. Possibly a sand spur, which I pulled out of my skin. Ouch!

Pier at Nags Head

My track record with CO2 cartridges is about 50%. If I was in a group ride and messed it up I could always borrow another tube or cartridge. But if I messed it up it now it would be walking time. So Greg and Sam offered and I accepted. And I'm glad I did.

One Property is Footloose. The next is Fancy Free.

I got to the wedding with plenty of time to spare plus I was able to change my flat in my room with a floor pump. Thanks to Greg and Sam and for once I knew when to say yes.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Oh My God - I Killed Chey


I was very pleased that Chey Hillsgrove could join me for Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo Presented by the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. Chey was Jake Grecco's Pedal Pal and while I had met him in Baltimore before his cross country trip, I had never ridden with him. So today would be the first day.

Barry Sherry, Chey Hillsgrove

Last night we checked in then went next door to Dave's Downtown Taverna. By luck we ran into Erin Bishop, the event director, who invited us into the Gala. That solved our issue of where we would eat. After the ceremonies we met Robert Hess and his sister, Jodi, as well as Jeremiah Bishop. Robert presented me with a cycling jacket from the Prostate Cancer Foundation Project. My friend, Scott Scudamore was the emcee so we got to see him and his wife, Margaret, as well.

Barry, Jeremiah Bishop

Today in the parking lot, my cousin, Krissy Harlan, came over from JMU to say hello. When we got called up to the line they called fund raisers followed by cancer survivors. I was the only survivor who went to the front. Strange, I thought. There are more of us.

Krissy Harlan, Barry

I found myself on the front row with Ben King, racer for Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek. Ben was U.S. National road race champ in 2010. We chatted briefly and had a photo op.


Ben King, Barry, Robert Hess

As we rolled out I went just a one block then pulled over looking for Chey. As he rolled by I moved up and caught him.

Chey was on his new Lightspeed bike and hadn't yet been fit to it. After 18 miles as we came to the base of the first time climb, we pulled over to adjust his seat. There were probably 15-20 people at this point who had also pulled over. It appeared to be a woodsy-bathroom break too, but not for us. Although we had discussed doing the climbs at your own pace, and I thought he'd pull away from me, I pulled away from him. Chey hadn't been on a bike since the 4K ended August 4 and his bike was stolen in Tacoma. So it was fair enough that he had lost his bike fitness.

Top of the first climb, looking back towards Va.

Last year I did this five mile climb in 48 minutes, just riding a comfortable pace. And I was passed early by a number of riders. Today was different. Although I was passed by one rider, I pulled back 10 riders on the climb. My time was 35:05. It's not going to win me any prize but I love seeing the 13 minute improvement over last year. And it was rated eighth out of 18 in my age group so it was above the line.

At the top I waited for Chey. Then we bombed the descent on US 33. I pulled back another 10 riders on the descent, at one point passing a motorcycle as we both cornered. I was flying. My top speed was 46.7 mph.

After the first rest we came to the Medio/Gran Fondo split, off the main road and up a three mile dirt/gravel road with 15-18% grades. Rough. Last year I, along with everyone else, walked most of the way as this section was all mud. Today it was dry and while I made it most of the way, there were two sections that had so much gravel I simply dismounted and walked for 100 yards. And I'm not ashamed.

Meadow at the top of the gravel climb

As I waited at the top I talked to Richard Canlas, from Texas, who made his way up. He was waiting for his buddy, Ronald "Zeke" Smith, from D.C. Zeke tried the route last year but couldn't finish so he had his friend from Texas join him. While Richard expressed concern we might miss a cutoff point, I told him whatever happens, happens. 

After Chey crossed the top we hit a dangerously steep two-mile descent then pulled into a rest stop. The other two riders pulled in after us but rolled out one minute ahead of us. And then we were last. The last riders on the Gran Fondo course.

One tough gravel climb

As we started to climb, Chey was struggling with his bike. It may have a bottom bracket issue but being set up with a 39 tooth small front ring, the bike was slowing him down. He needed a compact. Still, we rode together and could see the two riders in front of us. I went ahead and caught Zeke who by then was alone. I think minutes before he told Richard to go ahead and make the cutoff without him.

Arriving at the cutoff we were told we had missed the time and would be rerouted over to the Medio climb to get us back on course. No problem. Although Zeke took off, I quickly hit the descent, passing him going 40 mph. When I got through all the sharp curves I sat up and let Zeke catch and pass me. I looked back but didn't see Chey. At the bottom I soft pedaled for Chey to catch up but he didn't. I was only three miles from the top and I stopped at the rest stop. And waited. After about 10 minutes and asking about Chey we heard he had crashed hard. I was sick.


Chey's lack of riding for six weeks plus learning his new bike left him tired. At the Medio/Gran split I should have taken the Medio route. Instead, being macho, we turned up that awful gravel road and Chey started walking almost immediately. That should have been my clue.  And now, he crashed. Damn me! I thought I killed Chey.

A few minutes later the SAG van came in and Chey was in it. I saw a smile on his face which was a relief. I hadn't seen a smile since he began the climb on gravel. He got out and stood up gingerly. He was bleeding and his shorts were ripped up.

The guy running the rest stop was packed up and ready to go. He already had his son in the front seat and could take two passengers and two bikes. The quickest way back to get Chey treatment was to get him back to Harrisonburg. Maybe that was even quicker than calling for an ambulance here in a remote part of West Virginia. And Zeke decided he had had enough. So the two of them took the car back to Harrisonburg.


I headed up the 7.5 mile climb. This was the second climb on the Medio route. It was paved now but last year was dirt. Unlike last year, there was no timing station setup.

Jake loved blue butterflies and we are left to wonder about some mysteries in life. I have never seen a blue butterfly in my life. But since Jake left us these blue butterflies seem to appear at the strangest times.

Jake's Memory was with us

 I knew I was last on the course. I had the 7.5 mile climb all by myself. As I started off without Chey I became very emotional. I felt that I had pushed Chey to ride the long route. Maybe he even crashed because he was tired. And here I was all alone on this climb. Just as I was to start to cry a blue butterfly fluttered by. What the hell?! I had never seen a blue butterfly before. But I thought of Jake. And I knew that Jake's Pedal Pal, Chey, would be OK.

My mind turned to the climb. After a mile or so the SAG van passed me then went about 1/4 mile ahead and waited. I passed and the van leapfrogged me. And so it went. I believed the driver was watching the clock and at some point was going to tell me I was beyond the cutoff and to jump in the van. Sometimes he walked down the road looking for me. But I kept the pace and kept going.

I was so sure he was going to pull me off course that I had my speech ready to go. He can't make me get off the road. He could have my timing chip and my race number but I have the right to the road. I was going to finish the ride for Jake and that was bigger than his cutoff time. In fact, I probably had an hour in the bank. But nothing was going to stop me.

Then I started thinking about taking the lanterne rouge award for being the last finisher. Reaching the summit I flew across the top of Reddish Knob and began my descent. I was flying and got halfway down the mountain when I saw a number of riders. I caught the last guy going about 35 mph then tagged him. "You're last," I told him. He looked at me not knowing what I was talking about. Then I drifted back - to last - and waited for the SAG van. "I thought you said I could be last."  He laughed at me.

I pedaled ahead and came to a rest stop with lots of cyclists. I wasn't going to be last.

Just 18 miles to go and the roads in this section were rollers -- undulating ups and downs with some flat sections. On a gravel road I passed a farmhouse with the name Wenger on the mailbox. Then about 100 yards away I passed another farmhouse. A Mennonite woman waved to me. I stopped. 

Her three young daughters were watching from the door and I asked if their name was Wenger. It was. I told them my great-great-great-grandmother was Mary Wenger. There was a pretty good chance we were distantly related. (This from my knowledge of Wenger genealogy) The girls, dressed in their plain long dresses came to see me. I gave them my business card. We were so different. They in their very conservative dress and me outfitted in blue/black spandex. With FUCANCER on the jersey. They must have wondered where I went so wrong.

I pedaled to the finish. Crossing the line the announcer called my name and said I was on a hot list. Then he found it to read that I was a survivor. I would have preferred him to say what I wrote -- I was riding in memory of Jake Grecco - the toughest superhero I know.


Finisher's Medal for Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

Chey was waiting at the finish. He was banged up and bandaged up a little. Nothing broke, he didn't go for X-rays. Lots of road rash and some mechanical issues with the bike that will have to be fixed. But hopefully we can do this another day. And I didn't kill him.