Group rides that aren't timed often lead to small talk on the road. My experience is when I wear a destination or event jersey someone will talk to me about it. Be it the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hillclimb or Alpe d'Huez, I will have people asking me about the event or sharing their own experiences.
I brought my Ride the Rockies and Spokes of Hope jerseys to wear today unsure of which I would go with. When I wear a cancer jersey very few people will say a word. But I had a feeling and decided to go with my newest kit. I wanted to display the first blue Spokes of Hope kit made (last week).
It was 52 degrees as I rolled out of Thurmont. My legs felt heavy. Very heavy. I refereed a soccer match last night. As the assignor, I had a late turnback of a game and rather than scramble to find someone to take the game I took it myself.
|A Pretty Barn and Horse near Myersville, Md.|
When I referee I am not one to stand in the center circle. I give the game the effort it deserves and I worked my butt off running with the U16s. I got home after 10:30 p.m. I showered and went to bed.
Now pedaling my legs felt very heavy. I was conscious not to go out too fast but still found myself passing people on the low part of the seven mile climb over the Catoctin Mountain which greets the riders on the Civil War Century.
|Rest Stop at South Mountain|
I was passing people and eventually realized that everyone I had been riding with were now behind me. I was going out too fast.
|Not the bike I rode|
At Mile Nine I felt a twinge in my quadriceps. I knew I was in trouble. I was cramping just nine miles into a 100 mile ride. I decided to back off and take it easy and hope to make the full route. It was a beautiful day for a ride warming up to the mid 80s.
|Antietam National Battlefield|
Navigating through Boonesboro, Md. was interesting. A quaint little town it apparently held a community yard sale on this day. Traffic was backed up or cars were simply double parked. It was a little bit sketchy at times getting through there safely.
A lasting image of the community came when I rounded a curve and saw three kids in the yard, probably 7-9 years old. I called out "Morning!" One of the kids yelled back "GET OFF THE ROAD!" It sort of reminded me of Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles stating "the little bastard shot me in the ass." I just thought these kids have already learned this from their parents. They don't have a chance to grow up and be a compassionate member of society.
On the climb up South Mountain headed towards Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., I was passed by five riders. One said "I like that jersey." Once over the top I caught the group (meaning they stopped) and stopped with them. There I met Kim Goldman and gave her my card. We talked about the jersey, the organization, and cancer. She invited me to ride with them.
Save for the last hill before Fairfield, Pa., I stayed with them but even then quickly caught back up to them. I generally felt good. After the rest stop we pedaled on to Gettysburg. Fighting off the cramps there were times when I felt good.
The moment of truth came while riding through the battlefield. I had dropped to sixth wheel (last) as we were required to ride single file through the park. There were even three volunteers with signs to remind us. Out of the blue came a loud pop. My front tire blew.
|Help at Gettysburg (Josh Sayre)|
This was the second time on the day. I never had a tire blow out on me before but earlier, as I was leaving the rest stop at Mile 50, I had a tire blow. Rather than change it on the side of the road I walked 200 meters back to the fire station where I changed the tire. Now just 20 miles later, it happened again.
Would my new friends keep going? Or would they stop and help this stranger? Without a spare tube (already used) I was screwed, But Josh Sayre, riding in front of me, heard my faint yell of "flat" or at least heard the tire blow. He stopped and gave me his tube. The SAG was right behind us so I could use their floor pump. This change was easy.
After a group photo we were rolling again. At Mile 85 we were riding along at a good pace when we came to the last rest stop. They indicated they were not going to stop but I was low on my fluids. Any thought about continuing with them immediately disappeared with a cramp. Our pace up the small climb to the rest stop was just enough to induce more cramps.
|L-R: Ben Herbert, Josh Sayre, Kim Goldman, Ben Aiken, Mike Davis, Barry Sherry|
I pulled over and could barely lift my leg over the frame. Looking for something, anything, with salt, I found Doritos (yes). I refilled with Gatorade. I drank five bottles on the day with seven bottles of water. I took off for the final 20 miles. And I was deep in the suitcase of pain.
I could find no rhythm in pedaling. When I did I would stay there. Sometimes it was a slow cadence. Other times it was faster. But then a cramp would come and I would have to change position, cadence, and twice, stop to stretch. To make matters worse, although it was all flat, there was mostly a headwind to contend with.
|My Salty Snack|
The ride was a struggle. Actually, from Mile 60 to 85 it was a breeze as I was talking with the group. But the last 20 miles, riding solo, was very difficult. My skin was white with salt deposits.
The irony is I like distances. I often do my best in the final quarter of a long ride. But I was ill-prepared. I even had a jar of Endurolytes which would fend off losing all the salt and electrolytes. At home. In a drawer.
It was a difficult ride. And while I did set a personal best on the climb up Catoctin Mountain, I will remember the difficulty of the day and how ill-prepared I was. But I will remember most meeting new friends on the ride. All because of what's on the jersey.