Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The 2008 Reston Century - Part 4

One last short climb awaited me on old Route 7 before I reached Clarke's Gap and the mild descent on Dry Mill Road into Leesburg. The W &OD Trail took me through Leesburg, past my crash site of 1996, and into the ever changing countryside - not countryside any more - of eastern Loudoun County.

The hot dry wind blew into my face. I was in a hurry to complete the ride and had decided that the Century was enough for me on this day. I skipped the rest stop at Ashburn. My tired legs spun past Smith's Switch Station - a throwback to the railroad days. The new golf course on Broad Run looked parched despite the sprinklers. Redskin Park was to the left. The miles were slowly passing.

Steve and Stacy greeted me when I pulled into the Pavilion. "How was it?" Steve asked.

"Tough. Hot," I replied "This year was worse than last even though I biked 130 miles last year."

Stacy grabbed my hand and gave it a good shake. The pavilion was crowded with cyclists, some eating, others lolling about with their families. I noticed lots of small children.

I grabbed a cold water and a cold Mountain Dew. I needed a shot!
I sat briefly to gather my thoughts and my balance. Soon other Spiders appeared and we found a table. The food; salad, pasta, bread, and chicken hit the spot.

Stacy decided to ride with me since I was going home. I passed around copies of my biking book, Saved by the Bell. Jody looked fresh despite the heat and the miles. I guess after biking the RAAM a one day ride of 100+ miles was nothing.

After most of the Spiders left Stacy, Kevin and I discussed the ride.

"Look," I pointed across the pavilion.

Lou pushed his bike up to the table and slumped into a chair.

"What happened?" I asked. "I thought you terminated in Hamilton."

"I did, but I had to continue. It is the hardest thing I ever did," Lou said.

"Well, you did great. I didn't think you would make it."

"Good job, Lou," Kevin and Stacy said. Stacy offered his hand. "Way to go."

"Amy met me and brought water and food, so I had to go...." Lou was exhausted.

It was a tough day on the bike. I burned lots of calories, more than 6,000, climbed more than 5,500 feet, averaged 17.3 MPH and traveled more than 107 miles.

Keep spinning.


26 August 2008

Culpeper, Virginia

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The 2008 Reston Century - Part Three

At one point on Taylorstown Road, I reversed course in search of Lou who had disappeared on one of the tough climbs. I was afraid the fast early pace had taken a toll on my son-in-law who was still a novice at riding long distances. The Reston was his first Century and it was not an easy ride. It is long, had little flat roads, tough rollers, and a few nasty climbs. And the day was heating up fast.

Lou informed me he was cooked and for me to remove the fork from his back. He was planning to stop when he reached Hamilton Park after about 60 miles. I rejoined Stacy and we spun our way back to Hamilton. We passed Steve on Hamilton Station Road.

"Don't wait or me," Steve informed us when we passed. "I am cooked and will take it easy back to Reston." There was lots of cooking goin' on today!

As soon as I stopped in the park I noticed the heat. Without the wind chill effect while riding it was hot! There is nothing like rollers and short nasty climbs to heat me up. I wonderered how the South Loop would treat me.

I ate a handfull of cookies - good homemade oakmeal with raisins which I love. I filled water bottles, one with water and one with Gatorade. I also ate bread smeared with peanut butter, two bananas, a few orange slices, and drank a bottle of cold water.

We regrouped at the street. "Hey, Spiders, you did great on Stumptown. We were out there and saw you tackle those climbs without any problems," one of the RBC guys told us. He was directing traffic at the street.

"You saw these young guys, not me," I laughed as I pointed to the group. Most of my fellow Spiders were 25-30 years younger than me.

"Where are you from?" he asked. No one responded since we were from all over Northern Virginia and not really an organized club.

"Spiderville," I said.

"Well, you have the 23 mile South Loop, then back here. Then it's home free back to Reston." Easy for him to say since he was not riding the miles in the heat I thought. And trying to keep up with these young people. I was impressed with Jody and of course Buster was super strong as all RAAM riders had to be to complete that grueling 3,000 mile ride.

"Turn left at Maple, go thru Lincoln and to Snickersville...." He saw me nodding my head. We knew the route, unfortunately.

The wind was desert-like. It was dry just like the weather had been for weeks. Surely it would rain soon and hush the tree frogs who had been advertising dry weather since mid-July. I looked forward to Lincoln Road because it was shaded most of the time. I did not look forward to the rollers of Snickersville and the mad traffic on Route 690.

I hung on by my nails as we flew through Lincoln at 30 MPH. Good Lord, I thought, what will my legs think! The group was in a single file pace line and it was quiet - always a signal of serious cycling. When the rollers started the pack split into two groups with me falling into the second one. Oh well....

Six rollers dominate the miles between Watermill and Route 690. It is up or down with no flat road. I was happy to turn onto Route 690. On one climb traffic backed up behind a group of cyclist and I biked beside a Honda.

"Hey, how about a tow?" I asked the young lady sitting in the passenger seat.

"Sure, grab on," she laughed. I was kidding, of course. In Purcellville Stacy and I passed the main group and pushed for Hamilton and the cold drinks waiting for us. How much water could I drink and still bike I wondered. I was cramping as was everyone. It was impossible to drink enough fluid in the heat and dry wind. I had not paid my water bill in hours or days it seemed. It was not a good sign.

To be continued.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Reston Century - Part Two

The first 30 miles were relatively easy on the flat roads of eastern Loudoun County. I knew once we passed Leesburg the roads rolled and tilted upward and caused sweat to appear in all kinds of places. Woodburn Road tested the climbing legs and the rollers of Harmony Church Road were unforgiving in their up and down repetition. Stacy and I talked of extending the Century to 160 miles for him and 130-140 for me - depending on our conditions after the meal at Reston Town Center (RTC).

We had skipped the rest stop at Ashburn -only 10 miles into the ride. It was too soon to eat and get refills. However, I could have paid my water bill. The next stop was at Hamilton Park. It was packed with cyclists of all types, men and women and a few youngsters. I even saw recumbents and a few tandems in the crowd. I queued for water, food and the toilets (not in that order). There was plenty of cycling food: bananas, orange slices, energy bars, cookies, bread, peanut butter, candy bars, M& M's, and other treats.

I was ready for the break after 31 miles. The next segment was tough. I knew because I had biked it numerous times. Stumptown Road was famous for its short but steep hills and the tricky descent. There were nasty rollers on Loyalty Road of 12-14% grade repetitious in their steepness.

"What is your group name?" a photographer asked me when we re-grouped and moved toward the street.

"We are the ...spiders," I replied after pondering for a moment.
"How about a group photo?" he asked.
"Sure. Hey, spiders, gather around for a photo."
"Spiders, huh," someone in the group laughed.
"Thanks. And have a good ride," he added.
"Thank you," we replied.
"Maybe we'll become famous for the Reston Century," someone said.
"Infamous, more likely," I laughed.

The only comfortable stretch of road on the Stumptown Loop was the 4-5 miles from Clarke's Gap to the turn onto Stumptown Road. It was my opportunity to move to the front and lead the charge into Waterford. Someone up front decided we missed a turn and threw the group into mayhew for a few seconds. Tires skidded, cyclists yelled, guys were off the road and I biked to the front taking advantage of the disorganization. I set a moderate pace into Waterford. The shade felt great in the growing heat. The rest of the Loop was rollers, short but nasty climbs, and a desire to return to the comfort of Hamilton Park gripped me. My HR reached 158 and the Garmin beeped informing me that I had exceeded my top HR limit. No kidding!

To be continued.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Horse Country Circuit

"Wow," I exclaimed as I plunged down the descent of Leeds Manor Road.

I quickly glanced at my Garmin computer and saw: 45 MPH!

The road contorted and twisted as Stacy and I flew towards the village of Hume. Wow indeed I thought. It took only a few seconds to reach 45 MPH and the crooks and turns took all my attention.

Thankfully, there was little traffic as we finished the descent and slowed to 25 MPH. I pulled even with Stacy, "That was quite a ride. Too bad the road is so rough." We were forced to navigate through a series of potholes on the plunge and my bike took a beating. Huge trees shaded most of the road and I knew that winter freezing and thawing played havoc with the pavement.

We were doing a 60-80 mile ride in Horse Country - Virginia - in Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties.

We turned right at the village of Hume and headed for US Route 522 several miles to the west. Our loop took us past The Marriot Ranch, an eastern dude ranch of 4,000 acres. We spun past Oasis Vinyard and later Rappahannock Vinyards as the grapes were being cut from the vines.

On US 522 Stacy pulled me at speeds exceeding 30 MPH to Flint Hill. (Ah, to be young.) Traffic was nasty as cars and trucks zoomed past us.

I pulled into our regular rest stop- a Mom and Pop service station. We watched folks as they prepared for the Labor Day weekend. The pumps were busy with locals chatting.

I drank a Raspberry Snapple, ate a cookie and a pack of toasties. My water bottles were empty. It was 43 miles into the ride and I usually stop at mile 30 or so to refill bottles and eat.

Our return took Crest Hill Road and its numeous short, but steep hills. The accumulated rollers took a toll on my legs. The headwind pushed against us while we tried to maintain our brisk pace.

"We'll finish with around 70 miles," Stacy informed me on a rare section of flat road.

"Good, that's about what I wanted today." I was still recovering from the 107 miles in the heat of last week's Reston Century.

We blazed the last mile at 30 MPH since it was on a slight downhill.

"Good ride," I shouted when we stopped.

I ride my bike because...

I love to bike.

I like the wind in my face (not too strong) and the sound of my tires when they turn fast. I dig the sounds I encounter while cycling; the air as it rushes past my head, the calls of the birds as they flitter in the bushes and trees, the grunts of the tree frogs signaling more dry weather, and the silence of shady country roads.

I like the endorphins that free my body from its normal aches and pains.

I love breaking the barrier that separates normal life from the life on my bike. It is invisible, but there nontheless. My cycling life frees me from daily worries as as I spin along and my mind is able, to use a cycling term, to freewheel (spin freely without brakes) and conjure at will.

I love to set the pace and to ride in a pace line with a set of companions who also love to bike.

Keep Spining.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The 2008 Reston Century - Part One

The 2008 Reston Century and the Spiders

A fire truck and two ambulances blocked the road. Now what I thought as I slowed and unclipped my right foot. The line of Spiders moved to the right and skirted the waiting cars and trucks.

"Move to the right and walk your bikes," a woman shouted as more cyclists slowed and joined the line.

"What happened?" someone ahead of me asked. I thought perhaps a car had gone off the road on the dangerous curve.

"There are two cyclists down. You can walk though, but you must stay on that side of the road," she emphasized with a motion to the right.

Indeed there were two cyclists stretched out on a lawn. Both had backboards and neck braces on and medics were tending to them even as sirens announced the arrival of more medical personnel.

"That is a nasty curve," I remarked to Stacy after we passed the congestion and headed for Taylorstown Road.

"Been there and done that," Stacy replied. Stacy had crashed on a descent in 2002 not far from this spot. Fortunately for Stacy a passer-by found him- unconscious- and called the meat wagon. Stacy had a concussion and a banged-up Bianchi. He was back on his bike after a week or two. The curve where the two cyclists had crashed was not shaped to take at speed and had a curve inside the curve that may have caused the cyclists to crash.

"Yeah, me too," I answered thinking about 1 June 1996 when I was hauled off in the meat wagon.

We were riding the northern loop of the Reston Century with our group of "Spiders". The group included Stacy, Lou, Kevin, John P, Steve, Buster, Jody, Jere, Jay, Bill, Dave, Ira, Rod (?) and me. We were the Spiders because we had no group name and the dark blue jerseys Lou ordered for us read "Spiders". There were tough as nails cyclists in the group; namely, Buster and Jody who has recently completed the RAAM -Race Across America - 3,000 + miles on a four person team in 7 days and change. I knew I was in for a tough day when the ride started fast (for me) and remained fast. I knew my dogs would howl with this pace.

John Peterson joined us at Hamilton Park for our first rest stop. He chased us up and down the rollers of Harmony Church Road. John is training for an Ironman in Louisville hoping to make it to the Big One in Haiwii. He looks forward to a long swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a marathon. Nuts! I wish him the best.

There was a long line at the Reston checkin station. What the heck I thought? All the years I had biked the Reston I never faced a line like this. "Is there only one person checking us in?" I asked no one in particuler. The line wrapped around the pavilion and out into the street where I waited. "The heck with this," I exclaimed and moved from the line. I knew the route, was preregistered, had my meal ticket band, and was wasting time.

To be continued.