Sunrise … Sunset
I watched the sun rise. I watched it set. In between I rode 132 miles solo, covering the distance in about 10 hours, 30 minutes. That’s the short version. The longer version is after the break.
True to form, I did not sleep well the night before my ride. I remember that in my twilight sleep I kept wondering if my alarm would work. It has always worked. I’ve never had trouble with it, but all night I wondered. Yes, the mind was working out some anxiety about this solo ride. I’ve ridden long distances solo before, but there is so much advantage to riding with others that when I ride solo, I’m more anxious. Finally, the alarm went off, and I was ready to go much sooner than I anticipated. Rather than wait around at home, I set off to the start of the ride in Chester.
Of course, I arrived early in Chester. I scouted out safe better parking than on previous rides from there, and discovered a Park & Ride I didn’t know existed very close to the start. I unloaded and finished the final preparations for the ride. It was 38° F and I was anticipating a high in the upper 50s. I dressed for 40. Waiting at McDonald’s for the clock to reach 0700, I ate my second breakfast of the morning; oatmeal and orange juice. I’ve got to say, that McDonald’s oatmeal is very good. The sky was getting light and just before the official start time I was on my bike waiting for the clock to do it’s thing.
At 7:00 I pushed off. What a beautiful day! Traffic was light and courteous as I made my way through Chester and Grasonville. Just outside Grasonville, I stopped to take a photo of the sunrise. It was wonderful. It was also intentional. I needed to give myself permission to stop on occasion. It is too easy on a solo ride to keep pushing and not take the breaks necessary and enjoyable. This would be my longest solo ride by a few miles, and so I wanted to ride it smart. It was also my first 200k in nearly 2 months. My last one was in the opening days of December.
The crossing of Highway 50 and 301 are the first real challenges of the ride. Traffic is fast and heavy. Sight lines are short. I crossed without incident, but after considerable waits. Then, I was moving along familiar rural roads and enjoying the scenery … flat farmland and occasional groves of trees. I was making good time, but I also noticed that my heart rate was higher than I would have liked. I kept an eye on that. Sometimes early in a long ride, my heart rate is high then settles down mid-ride. I believed this time however that this was an indication of both my lower fitness level and the extra weight I’m carrying. If it stayed too high early in the ride, I would pay for it in the last half. I resolved to check on it occasionally.
By 9:00 I was in Chestertown at the first control. When I checked in, the guy at the counter took my control card and signed off on it without even my asking. I commented to him that he must have done some of these before, and he said he had. That makes a route owner proud! I thanked him. I topped off water bottles, ate a banana, and pushed off for Millington, just 14 miles away.
I was riding roads with very wide shoulders, courteous drivers, and these roads were not heavily traveled. It was a far cry from the night ride on these same roads a few months back. Then we had frequent shouts from cars.
At Millington, I made my first big mistake. I should have known better. I departed from the plan. It had only been 14 miles since the last stop. I hadn’t consumed that much water. I had all the food I needed. ”Press on” this voice in my head said. ”You are feeling fine!” The voice that said “Keep hydrated” was working fine and doing his job. The two voices were working against each other and as a result, I polished off my hydration sooner than I would have had I stopped in Millington. It was warming up. I stopped for a clothing change. I stopped to pee. But no additions to the hydration bottles were available. I knew it too! I mapped the course. I tried to find the pizza stop in Sudlersville, but they must have hidden it.
As I turned toward the Southeast, it seemed like the wind kicked up and it was at about mile 70 or 60 or wherever that I decided I needed to slow down and keep my heart rate in check. To that point my average heart rate was reading 147 … way too high. I tried to keep it down below 140 and found myself going slower and slower. Another voice started talking to me. ”You could quit. You are just over half way. Do you really want to spend all this time on the bike today? Maybe if you have a heart attack you can rest. Why do you even ride these long distances. Everyone tells you that you are crazy. Maybe they are right.” I battled the fierce headwind of about 5 mph and these demons all the way into Harrington’s “lunch stop”. It’s funny what dehydration will do to you.
It is also true that I experience this on nearly every long ride. I’ve still not worked out complete prevention.
I took the time in Herrington to slow down, to eat casually, to update my status for those who were aware I was out, and to rest. I even set a timer giving me a good half hour before I had to move … and permission in my head to extend that by up to 10 minutes if I needed it. I needed it. I then went across the street to the Royal Farms, bought Gatorade and water and after another bathroom break, pushed off, this time with a tailwind and new voices in my head. I had 50 miles left, the cloudy skies lifted, and the breeze stiffened at my back. That old blessing of the sun on your face and the wind at your back became a reality and life was once again good.
I still worked at keeping my speed and heart rate down. I also recommitted myself to proper hydration and fueling … so much so that I started to feel bloated and didn’t want to shove anything past my lips.
At mile 95 I noticed that my rear tire seemed to have a mind of its own and sure enough, it was going flat. I pulled over, and took my time changing the tube. I found the sharp piece of salt that caused the flat so I was confident that the repair would hold. Soon I was in Ridgley and all of the remaining roads were familiar to me, including the very rough chip seal of John Brown Road.
It was on this stretch of road between Ridgley and Chester that I had my most interesting encounters. One was a fluffy little white dog that just didn’t want to give up. I was moving along easily at 18-20 mph when it took chase. It never got closer than 10 yards behind me but yapped consistently at that distance for at least a quarter of a mile. I’m sure as this dog is writing it’s chase report, it was a success. The other encounter was not as fun.
I approached a farmhouse and noticed the rather large dog (think Mastiff size) chained to a large tree in the front yard. The dog noticed me at about the same time, jumped to his feet and started barking. He decided to give chase and I was relieved to see that the chain was substantial. It wasn’t quite logging chain, but I’m sure you could pull a car with it. This dog reached the end of the chain and stopped abruptly. ”Good thing,” I thought, except that there was an odd sound at the terminus of the run. Again, the dog and I were in sync. The chain broke! Now I had a large dog that decided I was a target. As I accelerated to outrun the dog, I looked back and noticed that the dog was dragging the full length of the chain behind him and it was substantial enough to slow him down to maybe 10 mph. There was no way he was going to catch me like that, but he gave it a valiant effort for 100 yards or so. Poor dog. I wonder how heavy the next chain will have to be.
It was now looking like it would be possible to finish the ride in daylight, even if it would be a few minutes after sunset. I threw caution to the wind and let my heart rate increase, even as I lost the tailwind for good. Crossing 301 and 50 went without incident. By the time I was crossing the drawbridge near Grasonville it was getting decidedly colder. In the sun it had gotten up to about 75, but the thermometer was now reading close to 50-55 with a chilly wind blowing off the water. I didn’t want to stop for more clothing, so I just endured it for the last 5 miles or so.
I watched the sun set, and pulled into the final control at 5:25 pm with a good mood, a feeling of accomplishment, and utter fatigue. Bathroom, control card signed, and a chocolate milk were attended to in that order. Soon I was back at my car and on my way home.
I was not able to eat supper after the ride. My belly was still feeling full. I did eat a few light snacks, and before heading to bed consumed a bowl of ice cream. I was in bed by 8:00 pm, utterly exhausted and my legs ached. I was afraid it was going to be a long night, and it was. I got up to use the bathroom 4 times before 1:00 am (I guess I wasn’t too dehydrated the last leg of the trip). I slept with my legs elevated and by morning was feeling pretty good again.
This was my 20th successful 200k or more ride. I evidently still have more to learn. Next time I ride solo, I plan on leaving the author of some of those voices home. There was no need to bring him along on this ride! At least he only spoiled about 30 miles of the ride. It was a good day, and an unusually pleasant day for January to be out on the bike. You should join me in a ride someday. I know how to pick the weather.
Today’s Ride: 132.2 miles
Month: 416.2 miles
2013: 416.2 miles
Total since 1/1/2010: 20,189.1miles