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Crazy Fun!

by on October 17, 2011

This Ride: 227.4 miles
Month: 388.3 miles
2011: 6,307.9 miles
Total since 1/1/2010: 12427.6 miles

A colleague of mine, hearing that I had planned to ride 225 miles in 20 hours declared this to be “crazy fun”. She was right.  I extended my longest ride ever by some 50% and entered a whole new realm of riding this weekend.  First it was an overnight 200k, then the Seagull Century in Salisbury, MD.  The 200 k ran from 7:20 pm to 4:15 am.  The Seagull Century ran from 7:20 am to 3:45 pm.

Last year, two Severna Park Peloton members rode “Eastern Shore Reversed” 200 k before doing the Seagull Century ride.  At that time, I thought they were absolutely crazy.  As I’ve ridden more and more, I began to think it might be possible for me, and shortly after signing up for the 2011 Seagull Century in the spring of this year, I decided to try the same stunt.  I announced it early, then had many second thoughts.  The really crazy thing was, that after I announced my intention to do this long combination ride, others joined in and said they were considering it too.  By the time October dawned, seven riders had committed to the overnight ride, and four of those planned to ride the Seagull Century.  The excitement built to a fever pitch so that in the days leading up to the ride, it was all we could talk about.  What follows the break, if you choose to read it, is a rather lengthy description of this 20 hour journey.

On Friday morning, I woke up later than usual, but still early.  I took Lori to work so that we could leave from her work and go directly to Wallops Island with something like a 45 minute buffer between arrival and our planned 7:00 pm departure time.  The weather was not cooperating for my planned bike maintenance.  I looked at the radar at 6:30 am, and discovered less than a 60 minute window before rain would start.  I pulled the bike outside and cleaned the bike and the drive train in the dark with a headlamp, finishing before sunrise and before the rain.  I prepped my food and other supplies.  I planned to replace my tires, but decided against it.  I planned a 2 hour nap and got 1 hour.  I hydrated and ate many small meals.  Before I knew it, it was time to leave.  I was feeling pressed for time, but the GPS in the car said I had plenty of time and I relaxed until I hit highway 50, just 20 minutes into the trip.  It was backed up and moving slow all the way across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  I was anxious as we crawled at 25 mph … when we were moving.  Once we were across the bridge, I relaxed again.  The GPS said we had only lost about 15 minutes.  That was when we saw the sign that all lanes of Highway 50 ahead were closed due to an accident and an alternative route was recommended.  I looked for another route on the GPS and decided to take 404 over to highway 13.  We hit a traffic jam there too, with all the other people who were thinking the same thing.  I found a few smaller back roads, avoided most of the congestion and arranged to drop Lori off in Salisbury to visit our daughter and son-in-law for the weekend.  I finally arrived at Wallops Island around 6:40 am and saw no one else.  Eventually they trickled in, got dressed, and were almost ready to go at 7:20 pm.

The evening was pretty.  The skies had cleared.  The temperature at the start was about 65° F with a forecast low around 50-54.  The biggest challenge at the start was figuring out how to dress.  Some of us went for dressing for the current temperature and carried other clothing.  Others decided to wear what they might need for the low of the night.  We pushed off just after 7:20 pm full of energy and excitement, reflected in our fairly quick pace … once we warmed up.  Each of us took natural roles in the ride.  Chip knew the route, even in the dark, without looking at a cue sheet.  Bryan was hyper alert for dangers in the road … especially the frequent deer.  Dave served as sweeper.  Mike and I kept the pace reasonable.  Dan and Jeff pressed the pace to keep us moving.  The first 15 miles were frustrating for me because my Garmin wasn’t working right.  I finally fixed the magnet on the spokes so the speed and the distance registered properly.  If you look at my Garmin log, ignore the first 15 miles and the reported average speed for the ride.

We marveled at the moonrise.  We marveled at the stars in the sky.  We were amazed at how dark it was.  We laughed at the cars approaching from the front, for nearly every one slowed to a near stop as we passed.  We were a group with 10-15 lights headed their way, and I can’t imagine what they thought of this strange grouping of lights as we approached.  The deer were the most challenging and remarkable thing about our ride.  We had all seen the youtube video of the antelope “tackling” the cyclist that went viral earlier in the week, and after a few encounters, were concerned that could happen to us. Usually, Bryan or Chip would see the deer in the fields, call out, and we would slow down just in time for the deer to sprint across the road yards ahead of us.  One time, early in the night, at least 8-10 deer dashed across one at a time, including a few fawns.

We pressed on, sometimes much too quickly for me.  My heart rate spiked frequently during the trip south.  We were on a deadline.  The control at the turn around point closed at midnight, and we knew we needed to make that.  We did, with time to spare.  It was amazing watching how busy the gas station/convenience store was from 11:30 to midnight, then how it was completely abandoned at exactly 12.  We had pressed through a bit of a headwind going south, and appreciated the tailwind as we moved north again.

The miles rolled by, we kept the pace down a bit (which I appreciated even though I’m sure it frustrated others).  I was concerned that if I worked too hard overnight, I would not have the stamina for the Seagull.  We took much longer than necessary at one of our control stops on the way back.  The only business open was the McDonald’s drive-through, and at 2:30 am the line was long.  Some of us got ATM receipts.  Some decided to get McDonald’s pie or french fries.  Chip had a saddle problem that took time to resolve.  Then Dan realized that he had thrown away his receipt and had to go back to McDonald’s and get a replacement receipt.  Eventually, we were on our way again.

Railroad tracks were not kind to us on this trip.  Previously, crossing one set of tracks, a headlight rattled off the bike.  Leaving town, Chip lost a tail light over a set of tracks which I promptly ran over, nearly losing control of the bike.  Recovering the tail light, Chip complained that I had scuffed it.  Such was the banter and good-naturred ribbing we both gave and took along the way.

Something like 3-5 miles from the finish, we picked up the pace considerably, running about 23-25 mph, but there was really no final sprint “win” to the finish.  We clocked in at just under 9 hours total (about 4:15 am).  We grabbed food, changed clothes in the parking lot of the Royal Farms, and four of us drove to Salisbury, nearly an hour away for the Seagull Century.

I arrived at the parking garage in Salisbury at about 5:30 am.  I hit the Hardee’s for the bathroom, then stretched out in the car for a nap, hoping for 30 minutes and getting maybe 15.  I got up, got ready, and was at the start just before 7:00 am.  No one else was around.  Mike arrived a few minutes later.  We called other people, and they were slowly getting ready.  We had coffee.  We saw Randy M and talked to him for a little while.  Finally, at about 7:20 Mike and I decided to push off, not wanting to wait any longer because the longer we waited, the later we would finish.  Both of us discovered we had forgotten to turn on the rear flashing lights, and as we stopped to turn them on, we got a call from Mike C and Alex M saying they were nearly ready to start.  We invited them to catch us, since we were pushing on.

Somewhere before the first rest stop, we saw Jeff and Chip pass in a fast paceline and we met up with Mike and Alex at the rest stop.  We took our time at the stops, eating and hydrating.  Alex usually pushed on faster, but would rejoin us at the rest stops.  Mike tended to hang with Mike B & I.  Eventually, Doug C also joined us.  We were riding comfortably, generally passing most people and avoiding getting run over by the faster draft groups.

We were feeling the fatigue, but still turning the pedals pretty well when suddenly, disaster hit for me.  I call it a graceful crash.  It was about mile 47.5 into the Seagull.

I was riding behind Mike C and was “zoning out” a bit when I allowed my wheel to cross his, and suddenly both of us drifted the wrong way.  My front tire contacted his rear wheel, and I knew I was going to crash.  I remember thinking that the ditch would be better than the pavement, so I pushed the bike as hard as I could toward the ditch.  The first part of the ditch was grass, about three foot wide.  I remember as I hit it seeing the dew on the grass and knowing that I would not be able to slow down at all on it.  To the right of the grass was a “gully”, about a foot wide and a foot deep.  I headed for it, bunny hopped into it thinking I could maybe ride out of this yet.  When I landed into the gully, I discovered quickly that it was full of sand when my bike stopped as if it had run into the back of a truck, and I went heels over head over the handlebars, landing on my shoulder, my back, and my legs … in that order.  The ditch on the other side of the gully was sloped toward the gully, so I was laying there on my back with my head lower than my feet.  I checked out my body parts.  Nothing seemed to be hurting.  I slowly rolled over to see a dozen people on bikes and two cars stopped fully expecting tragedy.  I got up, brushed myself off, lifted the bike out of the gully to friends, stepped across the gully, checked the bike, climbed back on, and rode off all before anyone who had stopped even got back on their bikes.  No blood.  No breaks.  One rear flashing light was off kilter, and that was it (other than the dirt and pine needles all over the bike).

The wind started picking up shortly after that crash, and when we made it to Assateague, we knew that the rest of the ride, some 40 miles, would be into the teeth of the wind.  Fatigue and knee pain was setting in for me.  I give Mike C full credit for my making it those last 40 miles.  He willingly took the lead and stayed in front for 90% of the ride back to the finish.  I drafted as much as possible.  With 18 miles to go, I saw the sag wagon, and for a moment considered bailing.  With 15 miles to go, I was a mess.  I layed for a few minutes with my legs straight up.  Doug and Mike played gofer, getting me ice cream without me having to lift a finger.  I did press on those last 15 miles, and they weren’t too bad … at least any worse than the previous 15 miles.  I even led out for a mile or two.

None too soon, I called Lori to tell her we were 2 miles out, and soon we were crossing the finish line.  Two hundred twenty seven miles in under 20 hours.  What an accomplishment!  It is enough for a Fleche, with four hours to spare.

I showered, had a beer at the beer garden, went out to supper with my daughter and son-in-law.  I wasn’t the best company during the meal.  I wanted to sleep.  Lori drove us home, while I slept, then as soon as we got home, Lori and I went to an Octoberfest party some friends were holding.  An hour after arriving at the party, we left, and I don’t remember anything until sometime Sunday morning.

This was a good time.  It was crazy fun.  I don’t want to do it again soon, but I’m sure I’ll do something as crazy fun again.

The remarkable thing is that I’m not as sore as I thought I’d be.  I was in more pain on Thursday than I was after this ride … except for my shoulder.  I might have landed harder on it in the crash than I thought.

(First 15 miles of Garmin malfunction throws off some stats, including distance, speed, etc.)

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From → Cycling

2 Comments
  1. Wow. I can’t imagine what you’ll do for an encore. That was an epic ride – TWO rides! Well done on the crash. Whether intential or not, you landed properly.

    • ponderingpastor permalink

      Encore? Stay tuned. No plans yet, but it will likely come.

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