DC Randonneurs Cacapon 200km Brevet

This one went perfectly, so it'll be a short and boring ride report. (Except for the bear.)

I packed my stuff the night before, including putting my bike inside my car. (My old car, a BMW M3 sedan without fold-down rear seats, wouldn't hold my bike without totally taking it apart, so I had to use a trunk rack. And the car didn't fit in the garage with the bike on the trunk rack, so I had to wait until the morning of the ride. But my new car, a Honda Fit, can hold my bike without taking any wheels off. Pretty amazing for such a small car.) So all I had to do was wake up at 5 a.m. (yuck), eat some breakfast, and drive to Middletown VA. Got there around 6:30, well ahead of the 7 a.m. start, which gave me time to listen to some stories about Paris-Brest-Paris last month. It was around 50 degrees, but felt chillier than that since it was 90 on Wednesday, and I was decked out in tights and a long-sleeve jersey and wool socks and a bright green reflective vest with the zipper on the wrong side for a right-hander to draw his sword. (Oops, I got a girl's vest. Luckily, anyone that can tell is automatically less manly than me for knowing too much about fashion, so it's okay.)

We only got about 15 riders for this brevet, a pretty small turnout for DC Randonneurs. Probably because most of the people who rode PBP are still resting. As we rolled off, I noticed my speedometer wasn't working, so I had to stop and reseat it in its bracket, which meant I started next to last. (Roger didn't bring lights and waited a few more minutes to make sure the sun was totally up.) Honestly, starting at the back is probably smarter anyway since I've missed the second turn of this route not once but twice in the past. I started off slow, but after a few miles decided everyone around me was just moving too slowly, and started passing people. Pretty soon I was all the way in the front, next to George. We rode together for a while, until he noticed that others were creeping up behind us. I decided I didn't want to be caught, and took off. Most of the fast people didn't ride today, and the fast people that did ride weren't feeling fast today, so nobody caught me before the first control at 17 miles.

At the first control I drank a 20 ounce Cherry Coke, turned off my lights, and took off my long-sleeved jersey. About five riders caught me while I was there, and Kelly realized he forgot his tubes, so I lent him one. While I was doing all that, George out-controlled me and retook the lead. But I took off second and caught him after a few miles. We rode together for a bit, until the first big hill which he climbed at his typical slow-and-steady-good-for-1200-km pace, and I climbed at my stupid going-to-burn-out-before-100-km pace, which meant I was back in the lead. I didn't think it would last long, but I didn't see another rider from our group on the road for the rest of the day.

The second control on the porch of a closed store in Siler was labeled an information control, but when I got there RBA Bill was there to take pictures and hand out food and sign cue sheets. I was happy to still be in front, though the rollers were starting to hurt a bit. I felt like I was descending better than usual, despite a few drops of rain. I'd recently (but not the night before the brevet, for once) adjusted my brakes, which gave me more confidence in my stopping ability and let me go faster without feeling like I was taking excessive risks.

When I got to the mile 61 control at Greg's Restaurant in Capon Bridge, I saw another bike parked out front. Hmm, I was sure I was in front. Then I saw it had a cue sheet for our ride. How did someone pass me? It turned out to be Leslie, who had shortcut the course to turn a 200k into a century. (This is of course cheating if you do it with fraudulent intent, but she told Bill she was doing it because she didn't feel up to 200 km that day, so it was okay.) So I was still in front. I had a chicken salad sandwich and took off toward Wolf Gap.

The 10 miles along Cacapon River road are the prettiest part of this ride, and also (as you can tell from the word "River") the flattest. I saw a few people canoeing on the river, and enjoyed digesting my lunch. The 8 miles along WV 259 were less fun, since they featured hills and traffic, but the traffic was pretty friendly and I got to the 7-11 in Wardensville in a good mood. This 7-11 was not a control (that'll teach 'em to not let us use their bathrooms) but my bottles were dry so I stopped anyway and bought some Gatorade and some kind of air-injected Hershey Bar I hadn't tried before. (Clever marketing — sell less chocolate and more air and call it a feature.) It was okay, nothing special.

I went down Trout Run road toward Wolf Gap, still ahead of the field. When I started climbing I got warm, so I stopped to take off more clothes and pee. Ten miles of (mostly) up and (some) down later, I reached Perry's Zoo. It was open for once, but I didn't need anything so I didn't stop. The climb up Wolf Gap proper is steep, but kind of anticlimactic after the ten-mile buildup. I stopped at the top to put my arm warmers back on, then zoomed down the descent. Well, zoomed by my standards, which is super-slow compared to any real descender, but I'm not that skilled and going too slow is better than crashing and losing teeth.

The descent turned into Animal Planet. First I saw a turkey vulture eating something on the side of the road. It saw me and took off, but went the same direction I was going at about the same speed I was going (maybe 27?), so I got a fantastic up-close look at a big ugly bird in flight for several seconds before it flew above the trees. Then I encountered a couple of pickup trucks going up the hill around blind corners in the middle of the road. Luckily bikes are skinny and I try to go around blind corners as far to the right as possible, so no head-on crashes ensued.

Near the bottom, the first dog of the day came out into the road to play. It wasn't that big, but it was brown and fast and had the angle on me and cut me off like a good defensive back. I was a bit worried that I was going to hit it, but it left me enough room to get by, and I was going downhill, so let go of the brakes and pedalled hard and zipped by. I was still a bit pumped from the dog when I saw something in the road ahead that looked like a *huge* black dog. Wait, that's not a dog, it's a bear! (And while it was huge for a dog, it was actually pretty small for a bear, probably less than a year old.) Luckily the bear was as scared of me as I was of it, and ran off into the woods, so I didn't have to deal with going around it. Finally, at the very bottom of the hill a second dog decided to chase me. It was tan, and a lot bigger than the first one, but also a lot slower, and probably more bark than bite, so I got past it without much trouble. That would be the end of the day's animal excitement, except for a couple of dalmatians on Back Road who chased me from behind their fence (thank you owners who actually keep their dogs in their yards), which hardly counts.

The last control of the day was at Larkins Store near Edinburg, where I bought another bottle of Gatorade and two Reeses King Cups. Apparently regular peanut butter cups are too small for Today's Fatter Americans, so now they make bigger ones, 200 Calories per cup. Yum yum yum. I ate my candy and refilled my bottles and drank the excess Gatorade and used the Porta-Potty and headed for Back Road. This ride features 17.8 miles of Back Road, which feels like forever, and I was sure someone was going to catch me from behind, but they didn't. The last 10 miles from Back Road to Middletown went by very quickly. There was no Civil War re-enactment this time (our ride is now scheduled not to conflict with it, for better hotel rates), so the scenery was less exciting than usual.

I finished first (for the first and probably last time) in a not-very-impressive 9 hours 55 minutes. Kelly got a flat right near the end, so we were both glad I loaned him that tube. Pretty much a perfect day for me — no flats, no wrong turns (!), I remembered to eat and drink enough, and my legs held up.