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.