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Sailing Down to Solomons – First 200K ride!

by on December 18, 2010

This Ride: 129.2 miles (longest ride to date)
Kona Distance: 5,393.8 miles
Month to date: 352.8 miles
2010 Total: 5,885.3 miles (114.7 to go for 6,000)

About a week ago, Mike suggested that the “weather window” was just right for his 12th consecutive monthly 200k on a Friday. Knowing that I might be interested in riding a 200k and that Fridays are typically a day off for me, he invited me to accompany him. The weather forecast was for a low of 29 and a high of 45, sunny skies and very light winds, great conditions for a long bike ride. Clint also was invited and arranged to ride. The details were worked out, and Monday of this week we filed the necessary paperwork and prepared, watching the weather forecast deteriorate. On Thursday, we had our first measurable snowfall of the season, with 2 inches at home and up to 4 inches along the planned route. None of the three of us “blinked” despite spouses who were hesitant and other club members who ever so gently asked if we were still going to ride.  We met up in Crofton at 5:30 am for a 6 am start.  Chris, a SPP member who had completed his R-12 a week ago (solo) was there to send us off.

It was 23 degrees and dark when we set out.  The shoulders of the roads were mostly wet, heavy slush, so we carefully negotiated the traveled portion of the roadway.  Most drivers were courteous and observed good clearance distance.  Some drove by close enough to cause some concern.  At mile 6, I stood in the pedals for a slight hill, and felt some unusual sensation in my front tire.  It was going low.  We pulled off under a street light and in the cold and dark with snow underfoot, changed the tube.  I couldn’t locate the cause of the flat, so with numb fingers crossed, we pressed on.  (Mike has a great pump with a pressure gauge in it.)

Most of the route to Solomons follows Rt. 2, a major N-S highway.  After the gorgeous sunrise, we were able to negotiate the shoulder more often, stretches of it were simply wet with slush patches that could be avoided.  The rumble strips caused increased attention, as did the heavy commercial traffic.  At mile 25, we stopped in a gas station for a restroom break and to get hot water in our water bottles (to melt the ice and stave off more freezing for a while).  At mile 37 we stopped in at a Starbucks for coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and bathroom break.  We were certainly objects of curiosity.  Three guys on bikes, in this weather?  Schools had been canceled for the day in this county!

That first mile after a meal stop is always tough.  It is cold, the muscles are stiff and don’t want to work.  On we pedaled, and soon we lost what little sun we had.  The sun felt good when it was out, but now it was behind the clouds and the chill was noticeable.  At mile 58 we had our first control, an information control at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science – Chesapeake Bay Laboratory.  The view of the Chesapeake Bay was marred only by the merging of the cloudy sky and the cold water … both the same wintry color.

After the control, we turned north for our return home.  We stopped for lunch at Woodburn’s Market at about mile 60.  Once again, we were the objects of long stares, slow head shaking, and a lot of questions by the staff.  Lunch consisted of a French Toast Bagel and Hot Chocolate.  Water bottles were topped off, and it was here where we replaced the foot warmers in our shoes.  As we pushed off, we confirmed that we were not setting any speed records.  We were averaging about 10 mph including the stops, and 14.5 – 15 mph rolling speed.  The maximum time allowed for a 200k is about 9 mph including stops, so we were a lot closer to the maximum time allotment than any of us liked.  So, putting our heads down, on we pressed.

Until the flat at mile 70.  It was just like before.  I was up in the pedals, pushing up a hill, when I noticed that softness in my front tire.  We pressed on to a side road near the top of the hill, and there took a lot of time to change the flat.  We found the hole (glass that had pressed through), and also pulled half a dozen other bits of glass out of the tire.  The glass causing the punctured tube was difficult to extract.  Mike had a pair of needle-nosed pliers that he offered.  The two parts wouldn’t close, so they were useless.  I remembered the straight pin I carried, and we were able to dig out the junk, booted the hole, and changed the tube.  That tire will be replaced this week.  All of this was accomplished behind a police vehicle set up for a speed trap.  I think he barely glanced at us.

Shoving off once again, we were reaching the warm part of the day.  My Garmin shows that it hit about 35 degrees.  We picked up the sun once again just before the flat, and it remained out all afternoon.  Soon we were into the rolling hills and wooded roads leading to Chesapeake Beach/North Beach.  They seemed to never end.  We saw deer.  Then we saw a big unleashed Golden Retriever.  Remembering Chris’ stories about dogs from last week, I was very cautious, until I saw the big yellow Frisbee in her mouth.  She wanted to play!  I think she offered it to each of us in turn, but we were preparing to grind up yet another hill, and didn’t slow down to accommodate her.

Ah, Sweet Sue’s at mile 95 was a welcome stop.  More hot chocolate, a huge chocolate chip cookie, control cards signed, and updates sent off to friends and family.  My chain had been chirping for about 10 miles, and having brought some lube for this possibility, I generously doused the chain before going in, and then used a napkin to remove the excess before pushing off.  That worked very well, and I’m glad I brought it.  Those 95 wet, salty miles had removed the oil in the chain and filled it with grit.

When I gauge the attitudes of the three riders, I think we were all ready to be done.  There were about 30 miles left in the ride, and we went a bit more quiet.  We still had the hills north of Sweet Sue’s, and we had all ridden those hills before.  It was here we hit the real challenging part of the ride.  For about a mile, the road was completely snow covered, alternating between hard packed snow and hard packed snow that had a treatment of salt upon it.  Most of it was either flat or slightly downhill, and was a real challenge because the rear wheel didn’t necessarily track the front wheel.  I un-clipped one foot, intent to go down in that direction if necessary.  There were no falls.  I also knew that we had a very steep downhill coming up that ended near the water.  If there was snow packed on it, we were in trouble.  Thankfully, the snow pack ended, the downhill was wet with some slush that could be avoided.  I’m frankly surprised that we didn’t hit more snow pack on our route.

These last 30 miles saw more than their fair share of “natural” breaks.  At mile 103 we had an information control at Tacaro Farm.  It was starting to get close to sunset and flashing lights were turned on.  At mile 112, the sun was down far enough that we turned on our headlights, trying hard to balance the need to see down some very steep long fast downhill runs, and battery life.  Crossing under Route 50 was a spirit-boosting landmark.  We admired Christmas light displays.  Some of these people have really gone all out!

I never knew a nose could run so much.  As it got colder, it ran and ran, and nothing I did seemed to stop the flow.  The long down-hills seemed to aggravate it, but so did the climbs.

Once on MD 424, we encountered police activity that had traffic backed up for miles.  At least it was moving slowly, and we kept pace with the traffic.  Soon, we were in the final stretch, and Mike moved into the lead to cross the finish first, the completion of his R-12!  Chris met us at the finish.  It was great to see a friend there.

My Garmin shows we arrived 12 hours 17 minutes after our start, which is a relatively slow time.  We had 1.5 hours left in our time limit.  Official time was 12 hours 25 minutes (we had to wait in line to get our control cards signed.) The Garmin link will give you more information about those parts of the ride.

Our SPP friends and some family planned a “welcome home party”, and after a quick change of venue because the original place was crowded, we met up at Hella’s and spent a couple of hours telling stories, drinking beer, and having a good time together.  Then, I went home and was asleep almost as soon as sitting down.

This was a great ride.  Thanks to Mike for inviting me.  Thanks to Clint for accompanying us.  It was Clint’s 25th consecutive monthly 200k.  I learned some things about Randonneuring.  I felt good about my nutrition/hydration plan which kept my energy level good.  (I did mess up at the start.  I forgot to eat breakfast before setting out for the early meet up.  A Cliff bar, banana, and a trail mix bar at the start served as my breakfast.  Both Mike and Clint were rightfully concerned that it might be too little too late.  I was fine, but will try not to repeat that.)

Next ride: (I really don’t want to get on the bike again right now) is our Christmas Light Ride Saturday evening.

From → Cycling

One Comment
  1. Congratulations and thanks for the great write up! I was thinking about you. Glad you made it home safely!

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