ROMA Leesburg 400 km brevet ride report

The Leesburg 400 starts 6 miles from my house, which is so convenient I had to ride it.  I actually wanted to ride to the start, but 400 km is a long way and 12 more miles might be the straw that broke the camel's back, plus (more importantly) I would have needed to get up a bit earlier, so I wimped out and drove.  The ride started at 5 a.m., but since it was so close I was able to wake up at 4, eat a bowl of cereal, and still make it to the Comfort Suites by 4:30.  There were 14 riders there, about 5 of whom I recognized.  It was about 50 degrees with a slight breeze at the start, pretty much perfect weather.

Matt sent us off with minimal ceremony at 5 a.m.  The route went down Route 7 Business, Catoctin Circle, and then up Dry Mill Road.  A few hours later these roads would be pretty crowded, but we were pretty much the only people silly enough to be out there that early.  We saw a few deer on Dry Mill, but nobody ran into any this time.  Gravel and potholes were more of a problem, but I didn't see any crashes.  We had some light traffic on Route 9, but had Clarkes Gap Road to Waterford to ourselves.  We zipped through Waterford with the group mostly intact, then through the circle in Lovettsville, and up Berlin Turnpike to the bridge over the Potomac.  Last time I crossed that bridge (the other direction, on last year's DC Randonneurs Frederick 400) it was a minefield construction zone, but this time the bridge was fine.  We zipped up Maryland 17 to Harmony, heading up toward Burkittsville.  By then the front group had dwindled to 8 riders.

Paul and Carol eventually dropped off, and then Alec noticed they were gone and slowed down to wait for them, and I was at the tail end of a group of 4 fast guys.  I stuck with them for a while, but around mile 27 it started warming up, and I wanted to take off some clothes, and I also realized that I hadn't eaten anything.  And of course if I tried sticking with the fast guys to the end I was sure to blow up.  So I stopped on the shoulder for a couple of minutes and let the fast group go, then continued by myself up Spruce Run (not very steep, but very narrow and thus not a great place to be passed by cars) and then Route 77 through Catoctin Mountain Park (the easy way through the park; not too much climbing.)

We came out of Thurmont on Route 15 North.  I will give props to Maryland for having really wide shoulders on some of their highways, but it's still not much fun to ride alongside lots of speeding traffic.  Near the end of the 7 mile stretch on 15, Alec and Carol and Paul caught me, and I fell in behind them as we got off the highway onto 15 business.

Unfortunately, there were Detour – Local Traffic Only signs on 15 Business.  We hadn't heard anything about the detour, so we didn't know if bikes would be able to sneak by.  Until we reached the missing bridge.  Oops, we had to reverse course and take the detour.  We gathered up a couple of other riders and took the detour, hoping it would end up back on 15 Business.  I got a bit too excited on a flat part and ended up dropping Paul and Carol, which was a really bad idea since we were off the cue sheet and Paul knew the area way better than the rest of us.  The detour signs eventually went away and we ended up on Confederate Avenue inside Gettysburg Battlefield Park, having missed our control.  Eventually Alec figured out that we should have turned onto Emmitsburg Road, and we backtracked, and found our control at Gettysburg Battlefield Resort, with 10 bonus miles.

The control didn't have any appealing food, so I just bought some water and ate a Clif Bar and a Gu packet, and took off some more clothes.  I left by myself after about 15 minutes, and started riding back through the battlefield.  I passed another rider, who hadn't found the control yet and was not happy about it, and gave him directions.  I guess April isn't peak tourist season, because thankfully there weren't nearly as many Civil War veterans in gigantic cars trying to run over cyclists as the last few times I rode through Gettysburg.  I rode through Fairfield, Sabillasville, and down the wide shoulder of Raven Rock Road to Smithsburg.  I was kind of annoyed about the ten bonus miles, since that would mean more riding after dark later, but my legs were okay.

Somewhere around Smithsburg I was caught by Alec and Paul and Carol again.  I rode with them through the pretty Mountain Laurel Road section, then over to Antietam Battlefield, which is much less tourist-infested than Gettysburg and thus usually much nicer to ride through.  We had a control at 116 miles at Battlefield Market in Sharpsburg, a really good control with decent food.  I ate some fried chicken and some coconut pie, and then hung around outside resting for a while.  We went across the Potomac into Shepherdstown West Virginia and then almost got run over by a left-turning geezer who never saw four brightly-dressed cyclists in broad daylight.  Have I mentioned that each cyclist should be allowed to yank one motorist's drivers license per year?  Luckily our brakes worked and nobody crashed, and we kept going down WV 480 and WV 9.

This was probably the worst part of the ride, because it's a two-lane road with too much traffic and a narrow pothole-infested shoulder.  Trying to dodge the potholes to your right without getting run over by the pickup tracks passing on your left isn't much fun, but there aren't always better roads available.  After about 10 miles we were far enough from Shepherdstown that traffic dropped off a bit, and then we turned off toward Summit Point and then over the Virginia border toward Winchester.  This is one of the few parts of the Virginia – West Virginia border that's not on top of a mountain, which was nice.  My chain had been squeaking all day (because I got caught in a thunderstorm on my commute home on Wednesday and had forgotten to lube it afterward) and Alec noticed and gave me some chain lube, which helped with both the noise and my shifting.  We skirted the edge of Winchester then took Middle Road and Back Road toward the 171-mile control at Matt's house near Strasburg, where there was some good food waiting.

Unfortunately, the recent rain meant the Stan Miller Memorial Low Water Bridge over the Shenandoah was underwater, so we had to take a detour through Front Royal where there's a higher bridge.  Yay, Saturday night traffic.  The detour wasn't on our cue sheets, but Paul knew the way, so I resolved to stay near him no matter what to avoid getting totally lost.  It cooled off fast when the sun went down, so I put on almost all of my clothes and turned on all my lights and followed the other three riders down VA-55 for what seemed like forever.  Then we had to ride in some traffic in Front Royal, and cross a bunch of lanes to make a left onto what eventually became Happy Creek Road, which featured some construction that made the lane too narrow for a car to safely pass a bike.  Luckily we had a good driver behind us, who patiently followed us through the construction zone, so it wasn't a problem.

We got back on 55 toward Marshall.  Traffic was light but fast, so we had to watch our back, but nobody passed us too closely.  We did have one big dog try to chase us, but we all dodged it.  It took forever, and we were starting to get cold and tired, but we reached the 213-mile control at the Marshall 7-11 around 11:30 p.m.  We bought and ate various imitation food; Coconut M&Ms are pretty yummy.  And we left around midnight to head back to Leesburg.

Marshall to Leesburg is only 38 miles, but it seems a lot longer when you're tired.  We went up Zulla Road toward Middleburg, then up Mountville and Snickersville and Watermill and Lincoln toward Purcellville.  I'd ridden all these roads before, but not in the middle of the night.  The good part was the lack of traffic; the bad part was finding all the potholes in the dark.  But we did our best to point out the road hazards, and nobody crashed.  We had one scary moment when some idiot came tearing down the road at easily double the speed limit, but luckily he was (mostly) on the other side of the road.  We all bailed onto the (nonexistent) shoulder anyway, then resumed riding.  Carol led a sing-along to keep everyone awake, though I didn't help much since I couldn't remember the words to anything.

Lincoln features one of those radar speed detection signs, which meant I had to sprint for it.  And I registered possibly the worst sprint of my life: 16 mph.  Hilarious.  At that point we were on really familiar roads: Route 7 Business through Purcellville and Hamilton, then down Dry Mill into Leesburg.  There's another radar speed sign on Dry Mill, so I gunned it again, and managed 28.  Alec claims the second sign was clearly reading high, while I think the first sign was reading low.  We're probably both right.

We got to the hotel at 3:13 a.m.  Though it took a couple of minutes to wake up our sleeping volunteer so we could officially finish.  I ate a few post-ride cookies and then left, before I had a chance to get too sleepy to drive safely.  My speedometer said I rode 258.8 miles (the course was supposed to be 251.4, so the first detour cost us about 10 miles and the second gave us about 2.5 back).  Average moving speed was 13.7 mph, a decent pace.  We had some hills, and some wind early, but it was calm late.  And I was lucky enough to follow people who knew the way in the dark, to avoid adding more bonus miles.

Other than the two bridge detours, it was a pretty uneventful ride.  I didn't bonk or dehydrate or have any flat tires.  Dropped my chain twice, so I need to do some front derailleur limit screw adjustments.

Thanks to Paul for navigating, Alec for giving me some much needed chain lube, Carol for keeping us all awake, and Matt for running the brevet.


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DC Randonneurs Contrary Mother of All 300ks Ride Report

It's called the Mother of All 300ks because it's 300 km long (actually more like 309 km, but who's counting?) and really hilly.  And it's called contrary because we're riding it backwards from the way it was originally ridden.

The start was at 5 a.m., in Middletown Virginia, which is about 70 minutes from my house.  So I had to leave around 3:30, which meant I had to get up by 3, after about 4.5 hours of sleep.

The forecast was for about 40 at the start, over 60 in the afternoon.  So I wore my summer shoes with two pairs of socks, a short-sleeve wool jersey and a thermal jersey, my best cycling shorts with thermal tights, lobster claw gloves, and a warm balaclava.  I had a cycling cap, rain jacket, sunglasses, and lighter gloves in my bag.  The weather forecasters got it wrong; it stayed in the 40s all day, with a bit of rain and a lot of fog.  Should have worn my winter boots, or at least brought shoe covers.  But other than my toes I wasn't too cold; never needed to put on the rain jacket.  Also never needed the sunglasses.

I brought 2 28-ounce bottles of Gatorade, 4 Gu packets, and 4 Clif bars.  I had a bowl of cereal before I left the house, and then a big bagel at the start, so I figured I'd be okay until the sun came up.

Since an awful 8-flat century last year, I always carry 3 tubes and a spare tire on long rides.  A few days before the ride I put a 25 mm Gatorskin tire on the front of my bike, to match the one I put on the back a couple of weeks earlier.  I figured this would decrease my chance of a flat, and make rough roads more comfortable, compared with the 23 mm Krylion Carbon that was there before.  I also adjusted my front derailleur screws to avoid dropping my chain, like I did too many times on my last brevet.

There were about 40 riders at the start.  I managed to stick with the fast group, about 17 riders, for a while.  Probably not a great idea to burn energy riding at 20 mph, but I was fresh and the early hills were just gentle rollers.  One rider in the group hit a deer and was slightly banged up; after that I tried to give myself a bit more space, but stayed close enough that I didn't have to navigate for myself in the dark.  Trusting the herd to navigate was a mistake because we all missed a turn and did a bonus half-mile.  Then we had an information control at mile 17 before crossing a big highway at a traffic light, which bunched everyone together again until the second control in Siler at mile 34.

After that control the route got hillier and the faster riders flew off the front and I ended up riding by myself at a slower speed.  There wasn't a control with food until mile 60, so I ended up eating a Gu and a Clif bar and making myself drink more Gatorade than I really wanted.  And then the mile 60 control didn't have any food that looked good, so I just bought some Gatorade there to refill the bottle I'd drunk, and ate another Gu and another Clif Bar.  I left the control a bit behind three other riders, and immediately missed a turn because I was following them rather than watching the cue sheet.  Eventually they stopped to see if I knew where I was going, and I didn't but was sure we'd gone way more than 0.1 mile, and turned back around to find the turn right after the control.  Another 2 bonus miles.

The Slanesville control was a good one: general store plus convenience store plus restaurant with bathroom.  I'd only eaten about 1200 calories to go 82 miles, not nearly enough, so I had a slice of pizza (would have had two, but there were only two left and another hungry rider was standing right next to me) and a bag of Doritos and more Gatorade.  Still not enough, but I didn't want to gorge myself and cause stomach problems, so I resolved to eat more often and kept going.  I also bought some AAA batteries because one of my taillights was looking a bit dim.  (I never put new batteries in both of them at once, because I don't want them failing together.)  I caught up with Paul and Carol and rode behind them for a bit, but then they had to stop and I kept going alone again.

There were some more rollers, then a couple of miles on the shoulder of US 50, then a whole lot of empty rolling roads with bad pavement.  I gradually slowed down, probably due to not having eaten enough, and five or six riders passed me.  I was riding alone when I approached a turn that the cue sheet said would have loose dogs, and sure enough two dogs came running out into the road to meet me.  But it was a little dog and a medium-sized dog, both looking more playful than vicious, so not too bad.  But just to be safe, I whipped around the corner fast, not quite as fast as I wanted because a slow-moving pickup truck was blocking the road, but fast enough to avoid running into the pooches.  And continued down horrible roads at low speed.  I wasn't sure how much of the slowness was due to the road and the hills, and how much was due to not eating enough, but nobody else caught me from behind.

When I reached Lost River at mile 138 I was certain I was bonking, and the Lost River Grill had a menu that looked decent, so I ordered a real meal: onion soup, some kind of wrap, onion rings, and a milkshake.  Unfortunately a bunch of other riders came in right behind me, and there was only one waitress and probably only one cook, so it took a while to get all that food.  But it was good, and I probably needed the break.  I ate with the tandem team of John and Cindy, chatted with a couple of other riders, then left to climb Mill Gap and Wolf Gap.  I wanted to make sure to get down the steep side of Wolf Gap before it got dark.

Unfortunately I got a flat right at the top of Mill Gap, and it took me about 15 minutes to fix it.  I never found the cause, so I'm going to assume it was a pinch caused by the rough road, though that's surprising since it was a brand new 25 mm tire, I was going uphill (so not fast) and I don't remember hitting a particularly huge bump, just a zillion small ones. So maybe I have bad rim tape or something; I'll find out if I get another front flat soon.  While I was up there two tandems and two single bikes passed me, and sunset kept coming closer.  But it was 15 more minutes to digest dinner, and by the time I started climbing Wolf Gap the bonk was gone.  I stopped at the summit for a couple minutes to put on more clothes for the cold descent, and John and Eric caught up.  It wasn't dark yet, but there was very thick fog on the east side of the mountain, and I didn't fully trust my just-fixed tire, so I had to descend at 15 mph.  (Of course I don't descend windy roads very quickly anyway, so this wasn't a huge loss.)

I was almost out of food, so I went off-course a bit to the Sonoco station to buy a couple of candy bars, which I ended up never eating.  (But it was still a good idea to get them, because I was almost out of food, and really didn't want to bonk again.)  John caught up with me there, and we decided to ride back together.  On the steep hill when we first got on Back Road, I dropped my chain, for the second time that day.  A few miles later, two big dogs ran out into the road in front of us, but they backed off and let us by when we yelled at them.  And about halfway down Back Road, my headlight bracket got loose and my headlight started drooping and illuminating my front wheel instead of the road, so I pulled over into a church parking lot to fix it.  Carol and Paul and Chris went by while I was doing that, then John and I caught up with them and decided to ride with them the rest of the way, to avoid getting lost.  The five of us did the last 12 rolling miles or so of the brevet at a moderate pace, and finished just before 10 p.m., with a time of 16 hours and 51 minutes.

So what did I do wrong this time?  Two navigational errors (both when following other people, but still my fault) adding up to about 2.5 bonus miles, imperfectly adjusted derailleur limit screws resulting in two chain drops, one flat tire of unknown origin, cold toes caused by trusting the weather forecast and failing to wear my winter boots or bring shoe covers, and bonking from not eating enough.  The bonk probably cost me an hour, and the flat definitely cost me 15 minutes, so if I avoid those mistakes, I should be able to do this ride in 15.5 hours next time.  (Of course I'll probably make different mistakes, or it'll be windy, or something.)


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DC Randonneurs Urbana 200 ride report

DC Randonneurs does the Urbana 200 every year, but somehow I'd never ridden it before.  And I also missed this year's first brevet, the Tappahannock 200, because I broke my bike the night before.  (Okay, I actually wimped out because of the forecast 30 mph winds.  I really did break my bike the night before, but I have other bikes and would have ridden one if the forecast had been less dire.)  I did ride the Dart last weekend (with the excellent Team Sins of the Fleche: George, Joel, Lowell, Mike), so I had one 200 km ride in my legs this year, just not at brevet pace.

The start was at 7, so I set the alarm for 5.  Ate a bowl of cereal and a banana.  Got to the Urbana park-and-ride without drama around 6:30, then rode over to the Waffle House to sign in.  I followed another cyclist over there, and we took the scenic route, so I started the day with a bonus half-mile.  I was preregistered and the sign-in volunteers did a good job, so it only took a couple of minutes to get my brevet card.  We got a huge crowd for such a hilly ride — over 60 people, including a bunch of first-timers.  I don't know if that's a sign of general growth in randonneuring, or just because it's a Paris-Brest-Paris year.  It was well below freezing, 23F at Frederick Airport according to the National Weather Service.  I was wearing shorts, a short-sleeved wool jersey, polypropylene long underwear tops and bottoms, thermal tights, my warmest winter jersey, a balaclava, two pairs of socks (cotton and wool), and my Lake winter bike boots.  And I was still chilly, though not chilly enough to put on my rain jacket.  (Figured I'd warm up once we got going.   Most of me warmed up, but not my toes, which were cold even through two pairs of socks and my boots.  Guess I should bring toe covers next time, or wear two pairs of heavy wool socks.)

We left right at 7.  I took the lead for about 3 seconds because the start is the only time I ever get to lead a brevet, and then dropped back in the pack.  I stayed in the front group until I dropped my chain to the inside on the very first climb that required the small ring.  I had installed a new front derailleur on Thursday night (because the old one was broken), but didn't get the limit screws set right.  Putting the chain back on cost me about a minute, which meant the big fast group was long gone.  Oh well, wasting energy chasing them is a bad idea anyway.  I eventually fell into a small group with Joel, Maile, Alec, and a few other people whose names I don't know.

The first control was at a 7-11 in Union Bridge.  I bought some 79 cent peanut butter cookies, ate a couple, and took off after Chuck and Crista on their tandem. There was too much downhill for me to stay near them, so I ended up riding by myself for a while.

We reached the longest climb of the day, MD77 through Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont.  I got really hot going up the hill, and ended up stopping twice to lose some clothing.  (And ate a Clif Bar while I was stopped.)  I made the mistake of not putting my balaclava back on at the top, and just about froze my face off going down the other side.  It gave me a headache, like the kind you get when you eat ice cream too fast.  This was a recurring theme for the day: too hot going uphill, too cold going downhill.  I was actually pretty proud of my descending on this brevet — I'm still a wimp and tend to brake too early and too hard if there's a sharp turn, stop sign, etc. at the bottom of the hill.  But on the long screaming descent down the back side of Catoctin I pretty much went full speed.

We snuck just over the line into Pennsylvania and had a control at Earl's Market in State Line. I wasn't very hungry so I just bought some Powerade (they didn't have Gatorade — I guess Coca-Cola's market pressure is strong) and some Doritos, and finished the cookies I bought earlier, plus a Blackberry Jet Gu packet.  (I figured the caffeine might help with my headache.)  That was the halfway-point of the ride, so I took off back for Maryland.

Only 14 miles later, we had another control at a KOA Camp Store in Williamsport.  I got some Gatorade there, and took off after Paul.  Passed him, but then dropped my chain again and he passed me back, and we met at the information control at mile 95.  We found a general's birthday on a plaque, wrote it on our cards, and took off for the Battleview Market just a couple more miles up the road.  I still wasn't super-hungry so I just bought some macaroni salad (pretty good) and more Gatorade.  I didn't like the distribution of controls on this ride — too many of them were clustered together — but sometimes that's necessary to make it impossible to shortcut the course.

After the last control we got to ride through Antietam Battlefield, which is always nice.  (It's mostly flat, pretty, and not chock-full of tourists who can't drive like Gettysburg.)  I rode with Paul and Maile and Alec for a while, but then I jammed my chain between my biggest cog and my rear wheel (luckily not too hard, and luckily not doing any actual damage) and got dropped by everyone while I fixed it.  Then it was time for a couple more big climbs,  Gapland (the easy way) and then Mar-Lu Ridge (also the easy way).  Our Dart team did both of them (the hard way) last weekend, so it was nice to see the other side. I descended Gapland pretty well, but I knew there was a traffic light at the bottom of Mar-Lu and wasn't too confident in my front brake (my front wheel needs truing), so I crawled down at 20 mph and had to wait for the red light, and never saw the big group of riders that had been just ahead of me going up Mar-Lu again.

After the climbing was done, it was just some simple rollers back into Urbana.  I was fine almost until the end, but I mixed up the two roundabouts on the cue sheet, couldn't find 355, went back to look for it, and ended up doing a couple of bonus miles.  Also, during this extra riding a guy in a truck decided to pass me then immediately turn right.  Luckily he used his signal, so I was able to panic-brake and avoid the right hook.  Drivers: do not pass a bicycle then immediately turn right.  If you're turning, just stay behind the bike at 15 mph for a few seconds then turn behind it, and nobody gets squished .  Thanks.

I finally found Ledo's Pizza, and ate four tiny squares of pizza (total amount of pizza equal to about one real slice) and three yummy brownies.  Not nearly as much food as on the Dart, but I'm down about 20 pounds so far this year and trying to drop another 20 so I can climb faster (and also probably not die of a heart attack in my 70s, etc.), and doing my best not to pig out after rides.  (During rides is different — if you need the calories you need the calories.  After the ride you *want* the calories but you no longer *need* them, unless you're already skinny and want to avoid losing weight, or you have another ride tomorrow and need your glycogen replenished for it.)

My finish time was just over 10 hours.  If I hadn't got lost at the end I would have been just under 10 hours.  If I had properly adjusted my front derailleur to avoid all the chain issues, I might have made it in 9:30.  Anyway, the moral of the story is to try not to work on your bike the night before a brevet, or even two nights before a brevet.  (I did ride the bike to work the day before the brevet, but my commute isn't hilly enough to really need my small ring, so I only shifted into it a couple of times, not really enough of a test.)

While 10 hours is pretty slow, this course was quite hilly, and it's still only March, and it was cold which always slows me down, so I'm okay with it.  No flat tires, no dehydration or bonking, just the chain issues and the one near-right-hook marring an otherwise great day.  Thanks to all the volunteers who make these brevets happen.  Seriously, $5 for an all-day ride with pizza and brownies at the end?  I don't think you'll find a better bargain than that anywhere.


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DC Randonneurs Cacapon 200k ride report

In the month since the last brevet, I lost six pounds, and took my bike to the shop to get the horrible creaking noise from the bottom bracket fixed. (As I suspected, it was just loose, and just needed to be removed and reinstalled tighter. But I failed twice to get it tight enough myself and figured it was worth paying a pro.) And the weather report said wind but no rain. And the Capacon route is really pretty, as are the changing leaves in the mountains along the Virginia – West Virginia border. So I figured it would be a great ride.

I packed everything the night before, then woke up at 4:45 a.m. to give myself plenty of time. Ate a quick breakfast (unlike last time), made good time in the early morning lack of traffic, and got to Middletown, Virginia around 6:15. But my GPS got confused about where the Super 8 was and sent me the wrong way on Reliance Road, out into the sticks. I hadn't written down alternate directions, but Middletown is small enough that just driving back toward I-81 and looking for the Super 8 sign worked fine. Not sure why I believed the GPS in the first place.

The temperature at the 7 a.m. start was in the high 40s, with some wind already. I decided to wear a wool short-sleeve jersey, a winter-weight long-sleeve jersey, shorts, heavy tights, wool socks, light full-finger gloves, and summer mountain bike shoes. This worked out pretty well. I had a light jacket and a balaclava in my bag just in case, but never needed them. I also had arm warmers, cotton socks, and fingerless gloves, in case I got hot later.

We started right about dawn, so I had my reflective vest and ankle bands. Both of my Relite taillights gave me problems — the LEDs and batteries were fine but the switches were refusing to stay in the on position. I removed the taillights from the bike, slapped them around a bit until they stayed lit (do not try this with traditional bulb lights), and put them back on the bike in time for the start. I always use two taillights so that if one fails, I'm still visible. (Note the clumsy foreshadowing.)

I took the early lead out of the parking lot (the only time I ever lead a brevet is at the very beginning). The Civil War reenactment was on the same day as our brevet again, and there was an amusing sign on a house that said "Blue Bellies Go Home." For the second time in a row I missed the first right turn at the only traffic light in town. Well, I didn't quite miss it this time. I was pretty sure it was the correct place to turn, but couldn't see a street sign that confirmed it (the street sign on the opposite side had a different name), so I waited there for everyone else to get there and confirm that it was the right place, then followed. The big group split in half a few minutes later, and I was feeling pretty good, so I sprinted up to join the tail end of the fast group.

I stayed at the back of the group for a while, then we hit a small climb followed by a dead straight, not very steep downhill. I think I was the heaviest rider there, able to out-coast all the skinny people, so I zoomed off the front, having a great time. And right about then Chuck and Crista zoomed by, reminding me that tandems are way faster downhill than even fat cyclists. (Chuck also turns a lot better than I do.)

We hit a medium-size climb, at which point the better climbers disappeared. I thought I was climbing better than on last month's brevet, but not well enough to actually keep up with the fast people, so I just stayed with the tandem to avoid using up too much energy early. We rolled into the first control at mile 17, while the leaders were still there. One of my taillights was missing — guess I didn't snap it back on very well. (Oops, but that's why I have two.) It was fully light by then, and starting to warm up, so I turned off my lights, took off my heavy jersey and reflective vest, and put on my arm warmers. Then I followed Chuck and Crista out of the control.

I rode with the tandem (falling off on the downhills, catching back up on the climbs, but choosing not to pass since they always set a quick-but-sane pace) to a control manned by our RBA / photographer Bill at mile 34. The control had some food and water, so I ate a banana and topped up my half-empty bottle. Then I continued following them up until a great view around mile 40. At that point Chuck and Crista stopped to take pictures, and I kept going alone. It was a really beautiful morning, and I was feeling good. I kept expected the tandem to come whizzing by on every downhill, but they didn't catch me until around mile 55.

I got to the lunch control at Greg's Restaurant in Capon Bridge at mile 61 still feeling good. Greg's wasn't expecting 30+ cyclists to show up at once, and it was taking forever for people to get their food. I decided to just get my card signed, use the bathroom, and take off without eating lunch there. (I'd eaten a Clif Bar and a banana and a Gu packet, and drunk a bunch of Gatorade, and there was more Gu in my bag, so I thought I could make it to the end without bonking, even if I skipped lunch.) Chris had the same idea, and left just ahead of me. I caught him and we rode together for the nice easy mostly-flat ten miles along Cacapon River Road. Jeff joined us for a while, and Randy and another fast rider said hi as they went by into the distance.

At one point a medium-sized brown dog came charging out of a yard after Chris, who was about 100 yards ahead of me because I'd stopped for a few seconds to fix my chain. Chris never even noticed, and he was going faster than the dog could run. The dog gave up on him, then turned to try to get me. I had to decide between slowing down and making it easier for the dog to catch me but less painful for me if I ran into it, or staying at full speed. I decided to sprint right at it, yell to scare it away, and dodge at the last minute if that didn't work. The dog acted tough until right before I arrived, but then I think it figured out that I was bigger than it was and that it would lose the crash, and let me go by without actually trying to bite.

After a quick stop at the 7-11 in Wardensville to get more Gatorade, we started the long slow club up to Wolf Gap. Chris said his goal was to take it slow and easy, and I agreed and decided to stay behind him. I dropped my chain two more times on the way up, so I fell a bit behind the other two, but the climb was much easier than I remembered from last time. I caught Jeff at the top, but stopped for a bit to put my arm warmers back on for the descent, and he went down first. Then I went down the steep, twisty eastern side of Wolf Gap. The cue sheet said hard right curve in 0.2 miles, so I rode the brakes until I reached it to make sure I wasn't going too fast. My back wheel was shuddering under braking as if it were way out of true, which didn't give me any confidence in my ability to stop hard, so I rode the front brake most of the way down the hill. Needless to say, the other guys were long gone by the time I got to the bottom. But I didn't crash.

I eventually reached the 100-mile control at Larkins Store, bought more Gatorade and some chocolate milk, drank, used the porta-potty, and headed down Back Road toward the finish. It had been fairly breezy all day, but we were lucky enough to have the wind behind us for this section, which was great. We zoomed down the road at 20+ mph for 17 miles, our fun interrupted only by one idiot in a pickup truck. (All the other drivers I encountered that day were nice.) But he was only honking and yelling, not trying to run me over or throwing stuff at me, so I didn't bother calling the cops on XPS-9561, this time.

Traffic was not too bad on US11 heading toward Middletown. There was a half-shoulder for a while, which I rode on, but then it went away and I had to take the right edge of the highway. The cars were polite and passed safely. Eventually we reached the Civil War reenactment, with police out in force to escort pedestrians across the highway, and traffic actually slowed to the town's 25 mph limit. I didn't quite have the legs left to do 25 myself, but I went around 18. My finishing time was 9 hours 41 minutes, 90 minutes faster than last time I did this brevet. Of course last time I broke a pedal and had to one-foot the last ten miles, so not really a fair comparison.

It was a really good day. I still need to improve my descending, but I say that after every hilly ride. And I need to replace two taillights and true my rear wheel. But I think I climbed pretty well, and I didn't bonk or dehydrate despite skipping lunch, and I didn't completely miss any turns. (Okay, I sort of missed two, but not by enough to credit myself with any bonus mileage.)

Food and drink consumed: About 120 oz. of Gatorade, 16 oz. Coke, 20 oz. chocolate milk, about 16 oz. water, one banana, one Clif Bar, 2 Gu packets. That doesn't seem like nearly enough calories, but I didn't bonk. (I was hungry enough at the finish to eat 3 slices of pizza, so I was probably close.) This is the closest I've come to a liquid diet on a brevet. I've been drinking Gatorade instead of water when possible on long rides lately, to try to sneak in some extra calories even when I forget to eat, and it seems to help.


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Civil War Tour 200km Ride Report

I was moderately excited to ride the DC Randonneurs Civil War Tour for a second time. I remembered that the ride went over Mar-Lu Ridge, had lots of information controls, and that Antietam was a great place to ride while Gettysburg was a death trap full of inattentive tourist drivers. I forgot just how hilly it was.

Woke up bright and early at 5 a.m. Didn't eat breakfast at home. Got to the start at Perkins in Frederick around 6:30, leaving plenty of time before the 7:00 start. Didn't eat breakfast at Perkins either. It was 47 degrees, quite chilly for September, but I brought arm and knee warmers so I felt ready for it. Said hi to a few people, then went outside and checked out a few unfamiliar bikes.

My left knee warmer stayed in place perfectly. My right knee warmer started falling down before I even started pedalling, and kept falling down until it got warm enough to take it off. I hate knee warmers. Should have just worn some tights over my shorts — my bag is plenty big enough to hold them.

We started rolling at 7, and the people who hadn't dressed for the cold started shivering. I was fine, except for the slipping knee warmer. The first info control was only 0.3 miles from the start, and was marked as a control on the brevet card but only as a point of interest on the cue sheet. I remembered it from last year, and stopped to write down a date from the sign. Most of the riders kept going. Luckily this control wasn't really needed to establish the brevet distance, so nobody got disqualified. But it did mean that I lost the group right away. (It took me a while to find the right date on the sign, and then my pen wouldn't write and I had to dig out a golf pencil.) Not a big deal; I was going to lose the fast riders on Mar-Lu Ridge anyway.

Realizing I hadn't had breakfast, I ate a Clif Bar then started cranking. Just missed a green light crossing Route 15 and got to wait a couple of minutes for the next one before starting up Mar-Lu at mile 12. My bike shifted great, but I climbed slowly. About halfway up, Roger blew by me on his vintage Trek. Bill was waiting at the top to take pictures. I was pretty warm from the climb, but I knew the descent would be cold so I kept all my clothes on. Then I bombed about halfway down the descent, until I saw a curve and got scared and slowed down to about 25. Yep, I've been riding brevets for over three years now and I'm still a wuss. But I still have all my teeth.

Rode through Burkittsville, and caught a couple of riders. Any hubris was soon checked when Chip and another rider who had started late caught and passed me. Went up a big hill (didn't remember it being so big), then down the nasty bumpy shady descent of Townsend Road. On the way down, a truck decided to pass me. And then I saw a pothole, but couldn't swerve around it because the truck was right next to me. I tried to unweight over the bump, but didn't do a very good job, and my front tire hit pretty hard. At first I thought I'd been lucky enough to avoid a flat, but by the bottom of the hill my front tire was feeling soft. I pulled over to fix it. About a dozen riders passed me while I did so, way more than I thought were behind me. Several asked if I needed help, but I didn't. It was a simple tube swap and I was moving again in about 15 minutes.

The first real control was at Battleview Market in Sharpsburg. I bought a big bag of Jalapeno Combos. Volunteer Ed offered me a jug of free water, which made me realize I'd hardly had anything at all to drink. (Too cold to be thirsty.) So I chugged half a bottle of Gatorade and refilled it with water, ate a few Combos, and took off after some other riders toward Antietam Battlefield.

Antietam is a very nice place to ride. Pretty fields, fairly flat, nice roads, not many cars full of tourists. There was an information control somewhere. I wasn't sure where so I just kept riding until I saw a big group of cyclists reading plaques. Then I wrote down the solder's name and continued toward the not-very-secret secret control, where Bill and Chuck and Crista stamped our cards and wrote down our names. One road in the battlefield had been recently covered with pea gravel and wasn't very fun to ride on, but nobody fell. The rest were fine, and we were heading out of the park and up MD34.

I was in a group of six or seven riders for a while on 34. Then a couple broke off the front, and a couple fell off the back, and someone stopped to tinkle, and eventually I was riding alone. I was making pretty good speed on the flat section, but at mile 52 we started the long easy climb up the shoulder of Raven Rock Road, and everyone passed me. Everyone. I resisted the urge to speed up and ride with the cool kids, and just kept on chugging at 6 mph. Almost an hour later (literally) I was done. A few miles later the cue sheet warned of traffic on PA16. Worse, there was a paving crew. Meaning I could wait for a while for them to let the traffic on our side go, and then get passed by a huge line of annoyed (at me, even though the paving was actually causing their delay) vehicles in a narrow lane. Instead, I started walking my bike down the shoulder. Then when the line of oncoming traffic stopped coming, I took the lane and pedalled as fast as I could, hoping I'd make it to the end of the paving zone before the cars coming from behind could catch me. I made it, and it was glorious having an entire freshly paved highway to myself for a couple of miles.

There was a one-lane covered bridge at mile 67 with a one-car-at-a-time traffic signal. It would not change for my bike (weak sensor?). And no cars would pull up behind me. Three cars (including a police car) approached the other side and all three took the green even though I was there first. Finally it was clear to safely run the red. Fix your sensors, Penndot or local equivalent thereof. I'm happy to obey the laws but you need to meet me halfway.

Entered Gettysburg around mile 76. Went through the park, past the distracted tourist drivers, past Ed and Mary and Bill taking pictures, stopped at the US 15 crossing forever waiting for a convoy of WW2 vehicles (second year in a row our brevet coincided with their wrong-war reenactment), came out of the park into the town, and hit the control at the 7-11. It had warmed up by then and I was a bit low on water, so I bought a bunch of Gatorade (2 32-oz. bottles for $3, score). Drank all that didn't fit in my water bottles, ate some Gu and some Combos, and left the control pretty quickly. I think I controlled pretty well on this ride.

The route went back into the battlefield for some more tourist dodging, some more pretty scenery, and some more info controls. Rode with Chris and Bennett for a while, then alone in front of them, then Bennett passed me, then Chris passed me. I wasn't very tired but I was slowing down a bit. And the constant clicking of my slightly loose bottom bracket within its titanium shell was driving me nuts. (Maile and Bennett both commented on it, so it wasn't just me noticing, either. I've tried and failed to fix it myself, twice, so I'm planning to take the bike into the shop this week.)

There was a non-control at a High's at mile 108. I was low on water so I stopped to buy some, and also bought a turkey wrap since I hadn't had any real food all day. While I was there Maile on her new custom bike and Gary on his purple IF and Bernd and first-time brevet rider Erik rolled up. I hung around waiting for them for a few minutes and then rolled out in a group of 5. We nicely pacelined for the first few miles on a flat shoulder, with Maile pulling a train that included three guys twice her size. Then we hit some hills and Maile and Bernd were off the front while we three larger guys were falling off the back. Then the turkey wrap's miracle energy boost hit and I suddenly had a lot of energy and chased the climbers down. But someone told me that Erik was new and didn't have a cue sheet, at which point I went to the back of the group to make sure he didn't get dropped and lost.

I stayed with Erik and Gary, with Maile and Bernd within sight, until about five miles from the finish when my rear tire started feeling soft. I don't remember hitting anything, and I didn't find anything poking into the tube, but there was a gravel section around mile 98 and 23mm tires plus 200+ pound rider plus gravel always equals a possible flat. I pumped the tire back up and didn't hear a fast hiss, so I just rode the last few miles at a conservative pace, and finished seven minutes behind the rest of the group.

I wasn't very hungry for pizza because I'd just had the turkey wrap, so I just guzzled some water at the finish and chatted for a few minutes then headed home. My time was 10 hours 11 minutes, or 33 minutes slower than last year. But I can blame that on the two flats and the time walking along the shoulder of the paving detour of PA 16. I'm probably climbing a bit slower than last year, but not much.

Great weather, nice course, great volunteers, and no really bad drivers. And I set a new personal record for fewest bonus miles: 0.4. (I missed a turn but realized it right away.) A very good day.


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Old Rag 200km Ride Report

Stan Miller and I rode the DC Randonneurs 600 together back in early June. We didn't finish, mostly due to the heat. But Stan was determined to do a full SR series this year, and emailed me a couple of days later, asking if I wanted to ride the New Jersey Randonneurs 600 with him in late June. I wanted to, but I couldn't make it because our family vacation was already planned for that week, and I wished to remain married more than I wanted to do the ride. So we decided to do the ROMA 600 in late September instead.

And then Stan was killed by a drunk SUV driver, near home, a few hours before the start of the NJ 600. If only I'd been able to do that ride with him then he would have been hundreds of miles away from that drunk driver on that day…

Of course, that's the kind of irrationally warped negative thinking that leads people to quit riding, sit on the couch watching TV and eating Doritos instead, and die of a heart attack in their fifties. So I got off the couch and signed up for the Old Rag 200. Since I hadn't done a ride longer than 30 miles in a couple of months, I had no idea how I'd do, but it was only a 200k and the weather forecast looked nice, so I wasn't too worried.

I made it to the HoJos in Warrenton just a few minutes before the brevet was supposed to start. I managed to leave with the main group, which was only 17 riders, not the 30 or 40 we usually get. (It's vacation season, plus a bunch of folks are doing big event rides this month.) The group quickly sped up to about 20 mph, and most of it passed me on the first big descent as usual. If it had been a longer or harder ride I probably would have just let the group go early to spare my legs, but this time I decided to hang on as long as I reasonably could without frying myself. We had a secret control about 20 miles in, which briefly fragmented the group, but things came back together and we still had a group of 12 at mile 40. Then I started slipping off the back, and clawing back up, and slipping back again. I wanted to keep the group in sight until the first control at mile 56, but then I really needed to pee, and that eventually (at mile 49) became more important than my pride, so I stopped, and didn't even try to chase back. I averaged 18.2 mph to that point, pretty fast for me. During that stretch I ate one Macadamia Nut Clif Bar, one orange Gu packet with double caffeine, and drank about 35 ounces of strong Gatorade.

I pulled into the control at Yoder's Country Store at mile 56 as the first two riders were pulling out. Yoder's is a great control — good food plus a clean bathroom. So I stopped to get a sandwich and refill my empty bottle with water that some nice faster rider had left. I left alone a few minutes later.

The next stretch went through the nice little town of Madison and up the Blue Ridge Turnpike. I reached the mile 71 control at Syria Mercantile still alone, riding about 16 mph, and feeling fine. I was starting to wonder if this would be the first brevet I ever finished without a wrong turn. I bought some cookies, refilled my bottle with more free water left by another nice rider, and put on some sunscreen. Bennett came into the control while I was there, and I talked to him briefly, then left and immediately went the wrong way. I mostly realized it within a half mile, but kept riding on in denial until I was really really sure before turning around. 2.6 bonus miles. At least they were flat ones, unlike the hilly bonus miles I rode on the 600. And the weather was nice, only about 78 degrees, about as cool as it gets in Virginia in August.

Leaving Syria for the second time I went up the short but steep climb. A big truck with a big trailer was unable to safely pass me, and I really didn't want him right behind me all the way up the hill, so I bailed off the side of the road to let him by. And then I got to the stop and went down the fun descent pretty fast. And a few rolling miles later I reached Round Hill Road, home of the Three Meanies. It's not really that big a hill, but it's split into roller, big hill, roller, big hill, roller, roller, big hill, roller. (Maybe I got the order slightly wrong; feel free to check Google Maps.) Lots of redundant grade, and the bigger hills twist so you can't see the top. More frustrating than truly difficult. The first time I rode this brevet in 2007, it broke my spirit and I actually stopped a couple of times to catch my breath. It's a bad idea to stop halfway up a steep hill because then you lose all your momentum and have to struggle to clip in before you fall over. This time, I rode it slowly but never even thought of stopping. So I guess I'm still a better rider than I was 3 years ago, even if I'm in awful shape this summer.

After I reached the top, the next few miles featured some heavy-but-polite traffic on 522, and then the third control at Laurel Mills Store at mile 94. I don't like this control because their selection of food and drink is subpar and they don't let us use their bathroom. But I bought some Gatorade (no free water this time) and headed back out. George rolled in as I rolled out.

It was about 20 miles of rollers to the next control. I was tiring but not doing too badly, down to about 15 mph. I needed another bathroom break but managed to reach the Orlean Store at mile 114 before needing to resort to the woods. The Orlean Store is a very nice control — clean public bathroom plus good food. Much fancier than most country stores. I wasn't really hungry and it was only ten miles to the finish so I just bought a Coke. Which I had a hard time drinking quickly — the carbonation didn't really agree with me. George rolled in at that point and told me he'd lost his wallet at the previous control. So he made some phone calls and I slowly drank my Coke, then we left the control together.

Even though I didn't feel really great, I looked at my time and realized that I could set a personal best time for a 200k if I pushed. So when we got to the start of Piney Mountain, the last big climb of the day, I hammered. George dropped behind — he always rides at a smart conservative pace, and often passes me after I overcook myself. But this wasn't one of those days. I made it over Piney Mountain in pretty good shape (though I got tricked by the false summit and thought I was done before I was), and rode pretty hard into Warrenton. I finished in 8:45, 14 minutes faster than my previous best, set on this same brevet in 2007. 15.7 mph moving average, 14.6 mph including stops. About 36 minutes spent stopped (Four store controls, one secret control, one pee break). So not exactly fast — a bunch of riders finished an hour ahead of me — but not too bad for a guy who hadn't done a long ride in two months.

I hung around the hotel room at the end for a bit, talking to the riders and volunteers, but still wasn't hungry enough for post-ride pizza. I left to go pick up my daughter, and right when I got my bike on the car, it started raining hard. Perfect timing. If I'd ridden my usual pace, I would have been soaked. Not that getting wet in August is the worst thing in the world, but it still felt nice to avoid it.

All in all it was a good day. Would have been a lot nicer if Stan were still around to ride with us, though.


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DC Randonneurs Many Rivers 600 km Brevet Ride Report

This one is no fun to write because it's the first time I've failed to finish an organized ride.

Friday night, I did some last-minute work on my bike (which I should have done days before so I'd have time to make sure it was right). Finished about 9. Got to bed around 10. Fell asleep around 11. Alarm was supposed to go off at 2. It didn't (I set it to PM instead of AM), but I woke up anyway around 2:05. So I didn't get nearly enough sleep before the ride. The forecast was for 90 degrees and a 40% chance of thunderstorms Saturday, 82 degrees and a 50% of storms Sunday. So I brought my raincoat and my Camelbak.

I drove to Warrenton, arriving about 30 minutes before the start. Tech inspection and registration went perfectly, thanks to the volunteers and the nice facilities at the Hampton Inn. (They gave us the Continental breakfast room in the lobby, so we had light to work with, plus some food.)

Over 40 riders turned up, a great turnout for such a long ride. We rolled off at 4 a.m. I resolved to not chase the fast group, and ended up in a slower group of about 11 riders. Then fairly early in the ride we reached a group navigation crisis. The cue sheet said to bear left. There was a left turn there. The signage was ambiguous. About seven people decided to turn left, and four of us decided to go straight. I think everyone still thinks they went the correct way and the other people got it wrong. The two routes converged so we'll never really know, but our group rode an extra mile.

I was riding with Stan and Nick and George W. Nick was on a mission. He had expected times for every control and was trying hard to stay on schedule. I figured Nick was pretty sure to finish so my goal was to stay with him and I'd finish too. George fell off the back of our little group, and we were three. A couple miles later we caught up with Larry, who'd been in the group of seven. Which told us for sure that we'd been the ones who'd taken the longer way. We were four again. The sun came up, I made myself eat and drink, and eventually we reached the first control at mile 52 in Wolftown.

I bought a couple of bottles of Gatorade at the control, refilled my bottle with one and drank the other. While I was drinking, Nick and Stan left. (Like I said, Nick was on a schedule.) I eventually finished my drank then decided to chase them down. (Probably a dumb idea.) I rode off at a pretty good clip and caught them around mile 61. George M. caught us a couple of miles later, and we were four again. George was faster than the others, and I decided to follow his pace rather than hanging back (you can always fall back to a group if you want, but it's harder to catch up to one), so I rode with George to the information control at mile 78. A bunch of other riders were there already so we were briefly in a group of about 8. But eventually George and I rode off the front of that group too. It was starting to get hot and I was worried about whether I had enough liquid, so I stopped at a store at mile 84 and let George go.

I wasted a lot of time at that store, and Stan and Nick and Michael caught me, so I was in another group of four. We continued into the heat. Michael fell off the back and I rode with Stan and Nick for quite a while, to the Ashleys Market control at mile 103 and beyond. Then I made a bad wrong turn. On a long easy climb, Nick was pulling ahead and Stan was falling behind. I decided to chase Nick (easy to fall back, hard to chase forward) but I missed the downhill turn onto Old Roberts Mountain Lane. Badly. After a bonus mile of climbing, Nick was gone. I rode for a while by myself, and eventually caught up to Stan and Michael, both of whom were going slowly. I said hello then continued past them, knowing I needed to go faster than that, but the heat got to me and I needed to take a bathroom break at the next store at mile 120. I dawdled there for too long and Stan caught up and said Michael was going to abandon there. So we waited for Michael to arrive and we made sure he was okay and had a ride before continuing. And then I rode with Stan for the rest of the day.

Stan told me that he hadn't missed a turn all year, so we immediately missed the next turn and did a couple more bonus miles. The next 50 miles or so were kind of a blur of endless rollers. We were both hot and tired but we eventually caught up with Al, who didn't look so good and immediately made a wrong turn at a T intersection. I yelled at him to get him back on course, and he confirmed to us that he was going to abandon. So we rode with him to a grocery store in Palmyra, and wasted a lot of time there before continuing. Michael eventually came out to give him a ride back to Warrenton; it was 90 miles and he didn't have the energy to make it. So Stan and I set off again. We reached the Louisa control at mile 182 at sundown. We ate in a little Italian restaurant that had pretty good food, but it took a while to eat it, and it was fully dark when we left. Then Stan had some lighting problems that took some time to resolve.

The last 70 miles or so were kind of a blur. Stan was really tired and also short of water. I had plenty, but it's not easy to dump water from a Camelbak to a bottle. The convenience stores were all closed so we only had vending machines, which were all sold out of water so he had to settle for soda. I had pain in my hands and left foot and saddle area. Some pain is normal on a long ride, but this was far more than normal. I think I had sweated a whole lot during the hot part of the day, and my own acidic sweat was attacking my skin.

We dragged into Warrenton about 4 a.m. To have a good chance of finishing we really needed to start riding again almost immediately. I asked for a 5 a.m. wake-up call, showered, and went to sleep. Seconds later the wake-up call arrived. My hands and saddle area still hurt, so I decided to go back to bed. I think it was the right choice; it would have been a really painful last 200 km. Better to try for the 600 again on a cooler day.

Anyway, what I learned from this one is that my sweat is evil and can eat my skin. So I'll be bringing extra gloves and socks and shorts on any future long, hot brevets. But I did manage to drink enough to avoid dehydrating in the heat. And I ate enough to avoid bonking. And I didn't fall asleep on the bike, despite not getting enough sleep the night before.

And I did quite a bit wrong. I repeated the mistake of working on the bike right before the brevet. (It had been popping out of the easiest gear. I fixed that, but in the process loosened the front derailleur's low limit screw too much, so it could drop the chain to the inside on a hard downshift. I think that happened four times on the ride.) I stopped too long at the controls. I made a couple of large navigation errors.

Oh well, maybe I'll do the ROMA 600 in September.


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DC Randonneurs Frederick 400k ride report

Last year's 400 was really hard for me. I got lost and I had stomach problems and I dehydrated and I bonked and I had 4 flat tires (1 blowout, 1 puncture, 2 bad fixes). But I finished. So I was a bit worried this time, even though I had a pretty strong 300 a couple of weeks ago.

The things that went wrong for me in the 300 were arriving a bit late, minor mechanical issues (badly adjusted brakes and chain problems, on a bike I rarely ride), not bringing enough warm clothes, and ridiculous levels of wind.

So for the 400 I made sure to arrive on time, I rode my usual bike, and I brought a wool jersey and wool socks in addition to the synthetic jersey and cotton socks I usually wear in warm weather. I also brought more food than usual: Clif bars, Gu, and Gatorade instead of plain water in my bottles. I didn't bring my Camelbak even though I got dehydrated last year, because I hate wearing one and it wasn't supposed to be very hot. I just resolved to completely fill my bottles at every opportunity and also to drink heavily at the controls. (Not that kind of drinking heavily; that'll make you crash your bike.) I think a bike with space for three full-sized water bottles is in my future. I couldn't do anything about the weather, though. The forecast was for a 50% chance of rain in the day and 60% at night, so I figured we'd probably get rained on some. (This is called foreshadowing. I learned about it in middle school English class. You probably did too.)

The group left Frederick at 4 a.m. and I started off near the front. Most of the fast riders seem to want to do a couple of miles at 15 mph to warm up, then speed up to over 20 mph. I prefer to do the first couple of miles at 17 mph and then gradually slow down to 13 mph. (Well, "prefer" is the wrong word. I'd prefer to ride at 25 all day. But that ain't gonna happen, ever. I didn't win that particular genetic lottery. I think my ancestors were the ones who tricked the mastodons into falling off cliffs, not the ones who ran down the gazelles.) So I often end up leading the brevet very briefly, then getting rapidly shelled out the back. At least it gives me a brief chance to see all the fast riders who I'm unlikely to see again all day.

Last year I somehow stayed with the fast pack all the way to the first control at 39 miles in Airmont. This year, I lasted about 5 miles before I realized that I was going about 23 mph on the flat, which was wasting energy for no good reason. (Maybe trying to keep up contributed to my bonking last year.) So I let the pack go and rode alone. Of course riding alone in the dark is a lot slower than riding with a fast group. Not only do you lose the draft but you also lose the benefit of other people's lights so you have to descend more slowly. And you have to navigate for yourself rather than just following a wheel and trusting that 20 people can't all be wrong. But I think it's still the right choice to let the group go, if they're riding faster than you can reasonably sustain.

I really didn't have much power in my legs on this ride, for whatever reason. Even just a few miles in, I found myself going 15 mph on the flats and coasting on the slight downhills. But I climbed well (by my standards, not an actual good climber's standards) all day. So the power was there when I really needed it, just not all the time. I pondered why I didn't have it as I slowly rode from Frederick down to Brunswick and then over the bumpy bridge into Lovettesville and around western Loudoun County toward Airmont. A few riders caught me from behind. I just let them go and kept riding whatever speed my legs wanted to do. Oddly that meant getting passed on the flats and then passing people on the uphills. Of course I also got passed on the downhills, but I always do, because I'm an overly cautious descender. It doesn't really matter much when you're riding alone because the total time spent going downhill is small, but it matters if you're trying to stick to a group and they accidentally drop you. So I need to work on my descending. But the early morning darkness was not the best time for that, so I resolved to not outrace my lights. (I was using an Inolight 20, plus a cheap LED helmet light for backup / repair / cue sheet reading purposes. The Inolight is reasonably bright but not super-bright, which makes it nice for my mostly bike trail commute because it doesn't blind oncoming traffic, but not so great for fast descending where you really need to be able to see far ahead. I also own an Edelux, which is significantly brighter, which I should have mounted before this ride and will definitely mount before the 600.)

I stopped briefly at the Airmont information control, wrote down the information on my brevet card, chatted briefly with a couple of people, and then started the climb up to Snicker's Gap. The climb was a lot easier than I remember from last year. Maybe my legs were more tired then from chasing the fast people, or maybe I felt slow because I was watching the fast people pull away from me. I made it to the top, climbed on the shoulder of Route 7 to the top of the hill (the shoulder is bumpy but perfectly safe for ascending at less than 10 mph), then moved to the white line for the extremely fast descent on Route 7. This is a scary descent not because it's technical (the road is dead straight and you can see forever), but because there's high-speed traffic on the road and not all of it wants to move to the left lane to pass you. My maximum speed was just over 40 mph and I got passed by another bike on the way down. Didn't even have time to see who, it was just "Uh-oh there's a car I didn't hear coming right next to me, no wait it's a bike, wow he goes downhill fast."

Still riding alone, I turned off Route 7 into West Virginia. I skipped the first store shown on the cue sheet, but my water was running low so I stopped at Charlie Brown's Store (which conveniently sells bongs and handguns so that area cyclists can tell more jokes about West Virginia) to get some Gatorade and use their porta-potty. A couple other cyclists caught me while I was in the store, but in my weird slow-flat fast-uphill mode I didn't think I could fit well into a group, so I just said hi and continued riding alone. The route contined toward Shenandoah Junction. We know it really was a train junction because you have to cross railroad tracks approximately every half-mile in that area, and most of them are diagonal and extra-bumpy, as if the people who built the railroads feared invasion by Dutch bicycle troops and wanted their tracks to also serve as defensive fortifications. (More foreshadowing.)

As part of a personal tradition of always riding more than the minimum number of miles on a brevet due to occasional inability to read a cue sheet, I turned left instead of right onto Flowing Springs Road and then couldn't find the expected turn onto Daniel Road because it wasn't there, it was the other way. Of course I had to ride another mile to make sure, before looking harder at the cue sheet and figuring out what I'd done wrong. Oh well, it was only 2.5 bonus miles, or a mere 1% of the total. And continually trying to get better at navigation rather than just giving up and using a GPS probably builds character.

After crossing a whole lot of railroad tracks without crashing, I made it to the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop, which has lots of really tasty desserts that you'd feel bad about eating if you weren't riding your bike 250 miles. And also sandwiches and drinks and bathrooms. They need to franchise this place and put Starbucks out of business. I had some delicious but messy cherry crumb cake thing, and a donut that had peanut butter in it, and also a greek wrap. Breakfast of champions. Hey, I didn't want to bonk.

I left Shepherdstown and went west, approximately following the Potomac River, but not actually close enough to the river for the route to be flat. Instead it kept on rolling. Downhill, cross creek, uphill, repeat. After 25 miles or so the course got on River Road. River and Creek are usually good words on cue sheets (unlike Mountain and Hill and Ridge and Eagle and Gap and Pass and Highway), but this particular River Road isn't as flat as most, because the railroad got there first and put their train tracks between River Road and the river. It was approaching noon and I saw some sun peeking between the clouds, so I stopped to put on some sunscreen. Apparently that was just the cue the clouds were waiting for, because it started raining a few minutes later, and rained for most of the rest of the day and night. Didn't really need that sunscreen.

Eventually River Road led to the bridge across the Potomac to Hancock, where Maryland is so narrow north-to-south that you can bike across the whole state in just a few minutes. (Even if you don't actually bicycle much and just read ride reports so you can laugh at insane people, if you live in the area you should head out to Hancock sometime and bike from the river to the Mason-Dixon line, so that later you can say you biked across Maryland and impress geographically uninformed people with your athletic prowess. You're welcome.) But before biking all the way across Maryland to Pennsylvania, I had to visit the C&O bike shop control. It's nice to have a control at a bike shop because if you have a mechanical problem they have some bike parts, and if you have a really serious mechanical problem they rent and sell entire bikes. And they also have porta-potties, and drinks, and a covered porch that procrastinating cyclists are allowed to loiter on while hoping the rain stops, and a limited supply of bike food. I bought a Clif Bar (I had some but wanted to try a different flavor) and some water and Gatorade, and drank until all the liquid that didn't fit in my bottles was gone.

The course continued down the Western Maryland Rail Trail for 5 miles, to dodge the Hancock traffic, then turned north into Pennsylvania cow country. Cows and rain and rollers, a winning combination. I slogged on until the Saunderosa Campground, where I got a delicious vanilla milkshake and refilled my water bottles. There were 7 other riders there, hiding from the rain, and I decided to leave with them and ride with the group to relieve the monotony.

There was a pretty big climb immediately after the campground, which featured a really stupid driver who tried an ill-advised pass on a blind curve, almost caused a head-on collision, then honked at us like it was our fault. How hard is it to wait until you can actually see whether you have room before passing? I know it's boring to be stuck behind a bicycle for 30 seconds, but it's a lot worse to be dead. Luckily the oncoming car was alert and stopped, so no carnage, just honking. The rest of the climb was slow and easy. The descent in the rain was fast and exciting. My rear brake wasn't very well-adjusted and brakes and tires and road were wet, so I went down even more slowly than usual to make sure I could stop, and got passed by a couple of guys. We regrouped at the bottom and continued through cow country together.

After about 20 more miles in the rain we reached Letterkenny, which featured a golf course whose pro shop has snack food and bathrooms. We stopped there and ate hamburgers, which were okay. While we were there Stan told me that the railroad tracks that were coming up were really nasty. (More foreshadowing.) So when we finally left I was third in line, and went over the first diagonal railroad tracks with my bike perfectly vertical but aimed left to cross the track perpendicular. And again with the second set. But then the third set of tracks were diagonal the other way (to confuse those invading bicycle troops) and I swung my bike around but I guess I didn't get it quite vertical, because I was on the ground. Luckily there weren't any cars right behind me to compound the damage. I was okay, just some road rash on my left arm and leg and a bruise on my hip. We checked out my bike, which was okay except that the chain had come off, which someone fixed for me while I made sure none of my bones were sticking out. Then we restarted. I've been warned about railroad tracks for years and have been crossing them carefully for years, but this was the first time I ever actually fell on one. Next time I come up to that kind of metal plate track setup in the rain, I'm unclipping both feet and going over at 5 mph.

After that excitement we'd lost a couple of riders off the front of our group, but they waited for us under a bank drive-through shelter a couple of miles up the road. We continued through lots of mild rollers and then through a bunch of disgusting slippery cow-byproduct-infested mud on Mud Level Road. Nobody slipped and fell in the mud but it was all over us anyway. Somewhere in this section we saw a cyclist up ahead. It was Paul, riding alone, and we merged him into our big group. We got to the control at Kane's in Newville just before dusk. Their fryer was broken but they made a good chicken cheesesteak. (I thought a real beef cheesesteak would be too greasy, especially after the golf course burger.)

While we were in Kane's the rain stopped. Fantastic! Unfortunately, a few minutes after we left, it started again. We went up Big Flat (the easy part but still a big climb). As it got darker I noticed my headlight was barely working. I figured the connector to the generator had come loose in my crash, but I didn't want to stop to fix it until someone else stopped. So I followed Joel's headlight until I saw Bill stop to fix something, then I stopped to fix my headlight (it was just a loose connector, probably knocked off in my crash on the railroad tracks) and rode with Bill up the rest of the hill and down the descent and then through the rollers of Michaux State Forest. Two lights are definitely better than one, especially when my one was my Inolight rather than my Edelux. We made it to the next turn and the group all waited to have a navigation discussion, since half our cue sheets were soaked and the rest were under fogged-up plastic. We came to a consensus and turned toward Gettysburg.

Just before Gettysburg Paul left our group. Not sure why, but whoever talked to him determined that it was okay for the rest of us to press on to the control. The remaining 8 of us stopped for a while at the 7-11 control. They had the air conditioning on so it was freezing inside, and then it was cold again for a while when we got moving again. But the remaining 40 miles was mostly flat to downhill and so not that hard even in the dark rain. Except that I couldn't read my cue sheet, so staying with the group was imperative. Luckily Bill had the route pretty much memorized. We took almost two hours to make it to Thurmont, stopped again at the non-control 7-11 there, then took a long time to make it to the end in Frederick. We arrived at 3:15 a.m. My utter disaster of a 400k last year took 22 hours; this one took 23:15. There was definitely a time penalty for riding with a big group because we rode at the speed of the slowest rider and took a long time at the controls and occasionally stopped to wait for each other. But there was a huge navigation and safety benefit to sticking together. Lots of lights.

When we got to the end my brevet card was soaked. I had it in a Ziploc baggie but some water got in there somehow. A volunteer dried it in the microwave, but the signature from one of the controls was illegible. Luckily I went through that control with a whole bunch of other riders so our RBA was able to verify with them that I did indeed stop there. Another benefit of riding with a group. But next time I'm double-bagging my brevet card. And bringing 3 cue sheets instead of my usual 2.


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DC Randonneurs Frederick 300k Ride Report

My favorite road bike was sometimes making a funny creaking noise that sounded like handlebars but wasn't (because it continued when riding no-hands).  And it had a slow leak in the rear tire that I didn't feel like fixing.  And my rear brake pads were pretty worn and I didn't have any replacements handy. So I decided to ride my touring bike, which I hadn't ridden since last August.  Hey, it's got a triple, so the climbs would be easier. You probably already know where this is going…

The night before the ride I installed a new chain, and a cyclocomputer, and lights.  This should have taken 30 minutes but it ended up taking longer.  I packed everything in my car then went to bed, so I could wake up and drive to Frederick for the 5 a.m. start.

I woke up at 3:30 and somehow wasn't at full speed on 5 hours of sleep, and managed to get to the start at about 4:58.  It took me a few minutes to get my bike ready, and then the big pack had already left.  The volunteers at the start checked my lights and gave me a brevet card and a cue sheet, and I was off into the darkness about ten minutes behind almost everyone else.  At the first turn I caught a guy (Chris, I think) on the lowest tadpole trike I'd ever seen.  First time I've seen a trike on a brevet.

Since I still had delusions of catching the pack, I kept going without slowing to chat, checked my cue sheet and computer for the distance to the next turn — and noticed that my newly installed bike computer was set for kilometers rather than miles.  Now, I've got nothing against kilometers.  As a matter of fact, I'd be thrilled if the US would go 100% metric tomorrow to avoid the inefficiency of needing to constantly convert stuff between the US and the rest of the world, making our imports cheaper and our exports more competitive.  But the cue sheet is in miles, and constantly multiplying and dividing by 1.6 in my head is not much fun.  Worse, I knew that switching the computer to miles involved hitting some micro-button on the back a bunch of times in a sequence that I'd probably not guess without the manual, and would also end up resetting elapsed distance to zero.  So I just left it in metric and navigated without really using the computer all day.

I kept riding into the pre-dawn darkness, and eventually met up with Hank from New York.  He'd forgotten his water bottles and had to go back to the start.  Neither of us were going really fast so we just rode and talked until we started catching the slower riders who were off the back of the main field.  As we started the climb into Catoctin Mountain Park, Hank caught up with his friend Tom and slowed to his pace, and I went ahead.

The first climb of the day through Catoctin was not very steep, but it went on for a long time.  And it started raining.  Our route didn't actually go up Park Central Road (probably because it gets closed whenever the President is at Camp David or the Secret Service just feels like inconveniencing people) so we took the loop around.  With the rain came some wind and dropping temperatures.  I had arm warmers and a cycling cap but no tights or jacket or heavy jersey, because the forecast hadn't called for cold and I was momentarily too stupid to remember that weathermen are often wrong.  So I was a bit chilly, but it wasn't too bad as long as I kept moving.

Eventually the climb ended and we had a secret control.  When I'd plotted the route on Google Maps I'd noticed that the known controls allowed completely bypassing Catoctin Mountain Park and skipping a whole bunch of riding and climbing, so I'd figured there'd be one.  George and Tyler were there and they had food. I didn't take any because I'd stopped to eat a banana and some Vanilla Bean Gu one corner before the control.  I said hello, got my card stamped, and took off.

A bit later I caught and passed Dave from Potomac, riding his first brevet.  And then my helmet light (a cheap Princeton Tec 4-LED AA-battery model that I use as a secondary light for reading cue sheets) fell off going down a hill.  I reversed and picked it up (right in the middle of the lane) and it still worked.  LEDs are a lot more durable than bulbs, but I still think I got lucky.  That's why you always bring at least two headlights and two taillights.  It was light by then so I put the helmet light away and just used the one on my handlebars for the rest of the early morning.  I eventually caught up with Lowell and Cheryl on their tandem, riding with Cliff.  I said hi and then passed them but then a downhill came and my poorly-adjusted cantilevers (oh yeah, now I remember why I never ride this bike on brevets) scared me so I descended even slower than usual and they descended faster and flew away from me.  I caught them again at a store around the 30 mile point and we'd continue to pass each other all day.

Then there was a big climb which turned out to be Big Flat in Michaux State Forest.  I climbed it last year on the 400, but I guess I'd suppressed the memory, because I forgot about the false summit.  So I climbed a lot (and it was much easier with a triple and only 40 miles in my legs than with a compact double and 150 miles), and eventually reached the top and started tearing downhill, only to see the real summit up ahead.  By this point the rain had stopped, but the wind had started to pick up.  The wind wasn't so bad on the climb, and I got to the top feeling pretty good, but on the big descent the combination of badly-adjusted screeching cantilevers and occasional 30 mph crosswind gusts was a wee bit scary.  I was happy to reach the bottom, even though it meant I had to pedal again.

The first control at mile 67 was a Uni-Mart convenience store in Shippensburg.  It had a clean bathroom and food and drinks for sale so I give it an A.  I ate a gigantic Rice Krispies Treat bar and a Macadamia Nut Clif Bar (my new favorite flavor) and probably some other stuff, and drank a big Gatorade (now that they have low-calorie G2 Gatorade, the "sports drink" for drinking while you watch sports on TV, you have to be careful to get the real stuff if you're trying to fuel up and avoid bonking) and filled my bottles with the rest.  I saw a bunch of people who had been ahead of me at the control, but I didn't manage to get through fast enough so I ended up leaving alone.  I got confused by the cue sheet leaving Shippensburg and ended up making a bit loop back to the Uni-Mart and trying again. And a young man in a Mustang decided to blow through a stop sign right in front of me and test my brakes. There's a reason not to ride through college towns.

I got back on course, and then suddenly my pedals refused to spin forward. I coasted to a stop off the side of the road and found my chain outside my rear derailleur. How the heck did that happen? There's a little tab that's supposed to keep it from slipping out but somehow it had. I jammed it back in there, but the chain starting skipping once per revolution, like I had a bad link. So I pulled over again and got out the chain tool and removed the problem link and replaced it with an extra SuperLink from my bag. Surprisingly, that didn't really fix the problem. The brand-new chain continued skipping for the rest of the ride. I decided it was good enough and that I'd rather ride than continue working on the bike, and I found that it didn't happen as much in the big ring, so I rode most of the ride in the big ring.

After zipping through Newville, the next control was at Young's Deli in Bloserville. No bathroom and slow service, so I give it a D, but they did have sandwiches. I ate one and took off again. A bit later the ride went down Creek Road, a beautiful low-traffic road that was actually right next to a creek, and more importantly with the wind at my back for a change. A 25-mile-per-hour tailwind is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately the road turned again and it was a crosswind or a headwind for most of the rest of the ride.

I stopped again at a Subway in Mount Holly Springs, because they had a bathroom. While I was there I got a footlong BMT and two cookies. This was probably the biggest meal I'd ever eaten on a brevet, and it did a great job keeping the bonk away. The time I spent at Subway let Hank and Dave catch me, and we rode together for a while. We eventually reached a decent-sized hill that I wanted to climb faster than they did, and I pulled away. We met again at the Rocco's Pizza control in East Berlin at mile 129.

Rocco's had okay pizza, but I only ate one slice since I'd just had a big sub. I hung out at Rocco's for a while, then left with Dave and Hank. Riding as a small paceline helped with the wind a bit, though it was often coming from the side and it's not always possible to ride echelons if there are cars about. Then we just kept riding as it slowly got darker and colder. It started to rain a bit, but not too bad. The wind never went away. We stopped twice more, once at a Getty in Bonneuville around mile 144, and once at a 7-11 in Thurmont around mile 168. I didn't get anything to eat at the last stop, and so I finally started wearing out as we rolled into the last control at the Motel 6 in Frederick. The ride took us 18 hours.

So I had a decent day legs-wise (not fast but never really in any trouble), a great day nutrition wise (eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty, repeat), and a lousy day equipment wise. Riding a bike I hadn't written in months on a 300k brevet was dumb. So was not bringing enough warm clothing. So was not securing my headlight very well. So was arriving late and missing the big group, maybe. It may have been a blessing in disguise, by removing the temptation to waste energy chasing the fast people early. Anyway, the 400k is coming in a couple of weeks, and I'll be going back to my usual reliable bike (but with new rear brake pads), and I'll be sure to be prepared for colder-than-expected weather.


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DC Randonneurs Old Rag 200 km brevet ride report

I biked to work all winter, except for a couple of weeks when record snowfall made the W&OD Trail nearly impassable. But I hadn't done a ride longer than 35 miles since November. And I was still carrying way too much winter weight, which would make climbing hard. So I was a bit worried about yesterday's 200 km brevet.

I did this ride a couple of years ago, so I thought I knew what to expect. Mostly flat and fast early, from Warrenton down to Madison, then a big climb after the second control in Syria, then some rollers, then another big three-part climb, then more rollers, then a really nasty climb over Piney Mountain west of Warrenton right before the finish.

But this time the ride was in April not July, so there was cold to deal with in the morning, but fortunately less heat in the afternoon. Plus that extra April weight and lack of fitness.

So I decided to take it seriously and try to do everything right. I got to the start half an hour early. And I dressed for the 36F start temperature — thermal tights, wool socks, heavy jersey, balaclava, lobster claws — but wore shorts and a short-sleeved wool jersey underneath for the expected afternoon warmth. (The forecast high was 64.)

I started at the front of the group, but resolved not to work very hard to stay there. (There's no chance of me finishing the brevet first, but if I work at it I can stay near the front for the first half of the ride — and then die in the second half.) When the first serious descent happened and a dozen people passed me (I'm still a cautious descender), I let them go rather than chasing them down like I wanted to. And rode by myself for miles, between the first and second big groups. When the second group caught me, I let them go too. "Do not waste energy early," I boringly kept telling myself.

I stopped once to water some trees, and again to take off a layer of clothes, and made it to the first control at 55 miles. Yoder's Country Market is pretty much the perfect control. They have a wide variety of good, cheap food. And picnic tables, some in the sun and some in the shade. And a clean bathroom. And free water. What more could you want?

I ate lunch pretty quickly and left by myself. "Don't waste time in the controls," the boring guy on my shoulder told me. By that time the temperature was near 60 and I was riding in short sleeves, lightweight full-finger gloves, and still had the tights on.

I proceded through Madison, still riding alone. Got to the 71-mile control at Syria Mercantile (Note: the Virginia town of Syria is not pronounced like the country Syria. The first syllable has a long I sound, and you have to say it with a pronounced Virginia hill country accent. sigh-REE-uh.) Not nearly as nice a control, but I bought a Gatorade, and filled up my bottles from a half-full gallon jug that a faster rider had left for slower riders. (Thanks fast rider!) I also took off my tights and switched to fingerless gloves and cotton socks and put on some sunscreen. And crammed all those winter clothes into my Carradice bag.

There's a climb after the Syria control that I remembered as being nasty, but this time it wasn't so bad. It was steep for a bit, but it wasn't that long. There were some rollers afterward. At this point lunch finally kicked in, and my legs came back, so I started climbing faster and passed a rider ahead. I remember thinking that everything was going so well that I wouldn't have anything to put in my ride report.

Then I turned onto Round Hill Road, and remembered the three nasty hills. And felt something hit me in the small of the back. I pulled off the road to check, and noticed my bag was open and the flap had bounced up to let me know. Whoops. I closed it and continued, hoping I hadn't lost anything. (I didn't actually bother taking inventory, because I wasn't going back regardless. It was 8 miles since the last control, and I didn't feel strong enough to add up to 16 hilly bonus miles to my ride.)

I climbed the three nasty hills without needed to stop to catch my breath (the last time I rode this route I needed to stop, but it was July and hotter). And continued over a bunch more rollers and then a fast section of US 522 until I reached the 95 mile control, the Laurel Mills Store. The guy who works at this store is very nice, but I still don't like this control because it lacks a public bathroom. Also, the Klondike bar I bought there was frozen solid, a serious dental hazard. So I had to hang around for a while while it thawed, answering questions from a kid riding his bike around the parking lot while wearing a cowboy hat.

While I was waiting, a rider showed up and asked me if I'd dropped anything. Whoops. He had my arm warmers and my gloves. Another rider who arrived a couple minutes later had my balaclava and one of my wool socks. They said a motorist had seen my reflective vest, but they couldn't find it. Or, predictably, the other sock. (Everyone loses one sock, even in their own dryer at home.) So the good news is that the total punishment for forgetting to close my bag was one lost sock and one lost vest. And it was a $15 Nashbar vest that I didn't like much anyway because the shoulders tended to ride up and block my peripheral vision. Thanks again to the riders who recovered my dropped stuff, and anyone else who helped look for it. Sorry if my absent-mindedness made your ride slower.

Embarrassed at my silly mistake, I left the control slowly. Whatever energy had gone into my legs after lunch was fading again. I just trudged through Flint Hill and into the control at mile 114. I wasn't feeling horrible, but I wasn't going fast. Probably a touch of bonk. The Orlean Store is very nice — clean bathroom, nice selection of food and drink, even a real restaurant adjacent. I bought some water and some iced tea (I was getting hot in my wool jersey, even though tempertures were still in the 60s) and then left pretty quickly to do the nasty last ten miles.

Right after Orlean the cue sheet had two turns back to back, one after 0.1 miles and the next after 0.2. I made the first but then zoned out and didn't check the cue sheet until I'd gone by the second, for my only bonus miles of the day. I kept going about half a mile before I realized my mistake, so it was more like one bonus mile. No big deal, but another sign that I was a bit cooked. I had two full bottles for only ten miles of riding, so I resolved to drink more than I wanted, just in case dehydration was affecting my legs or my brain. (In hindsight, I don't think so. I think I was properly hydrated but slightly bonked, just not quite enough food.  I had some Gu and some Jelly Belly Sport Beans but didn't eat them for whatever reason.) Soon enough, the climb up Piney Mountain began. But it didn't seem as bad as last time I did this ride. While I didn't have any speed (I was climbing at 5-6 mph), I didn't have to stop either. When I reached the summit I was very happy. Until the next hills, which I'd forgotten about.  They're just rollers, but when you think you're coasting into the barn, any hill is a bad hill.

I rolled into the final control in Warrenton in 10 hours 12 minutes. Last time I did this ride it took 8:59. So my spring unfitness cost me over an hour. But I finished and didn't hurt myself and had fun (other than being annoyed at my slowness and at forgetting to close my bag), so it was a good ride. I'm a bit nervous about the upcoming 300k, though.


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