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Fixie Across the Eastern Shore

by on June 2, 2012

As I posted earlier, I had some anxiety about this ride.  It was my longest fixie ride and it was solo across the Eastern Shore.  The original forecast was for quite warm temperatures.  I was back and forth about doing the ride and had several people tell me not to do it.  When early Tuesday evening I saw the forecast for 40-60% chance of rain, cloudy conditions, very light winds, and highs not expected above 83, the ride was a go.  Yes, temperature and winds were the most critical factors.

I slept poorly.  I got up 30 minutes earlier than planned, accomplished final preparations, and was out the door around 5:30 am.  After crossing the Bay Bridge, I parked in the lot at the Lutheran Church in Stevensville as previously arranged, and just before 6:00 pushed off.  As soon as the pedals started to turn, the light sprinkle of rain started.  Since there was a 50% chance of rain, I figured that it might rain half of the time, so I settled into a comfortable pace.

Crossing Highways 50 and 301 were nightmares, and took considerable time to cross safely.  The heaviest traffic was all headed toward the Bay Bridge.  By Queenstown the sprinkle stopped and it appeared as if the sun might make an appearance.  That was short-lived.  The rain started again within a few miles and never stopped. Thank you Tropical Storm Beryl.  Seriously … the rain kept the temperatures down.  Temps never varried more than about 2 degrees all day!  Yes, the rain got old.  I cursed it at times.  I dared not wish it to stop for fear of rising temps and high humidity.

I was moving well and worked to keep my heart rate below 140, a level I believed would be manageable for the entire ride.  I had a timer set on my Garmin so I was drinking every 15 minutes whether thirsty or not, eating something every half hour, and popping E-Caps every hour.  I did not want to bonk.  I really enjoye the scenery.  Wheat was nearing harvest, deep golden brown with full heads.  I hadn’t noticed wheat on the Eastern Shore before.  This part of the ride was quite enjoyable with everything new and the day ahead of me.

After about 2 hours I arrived in Ridgley (mile 36) and stopped in a Subway.  I had the worst service possible (let’s just say the clerk is not a morning person, and it shows) but still managed coffee and a flatbread breakfast sandwich.  Status updates were texted, and I was back on the road within half an hour.

I was pleased with my pace, and as I remember it, had to keep working on the plan for pace and hydration/nutrition.  The rain teased me.  It would ease up to a sprinkle then without warning increase to a steady rain.  If I were to pick a low spot in the ride, it was between about mile 50 and 75.  It was all I could do to work the plan.  The miles seemed to take forever to cover. At one point, I was getting tired of the relentless pedaling.  I wanted to coast! I stood up, and for some stupid reason, coasted.  In an instant the rear wheel left the ground and I was doing a front wheelie!  The rear wheel slammed down, skidded on the wet pavement, and drug me to a very squirrlley stop. Out loud I said, “What were you thinking?”  I gathered my wits and self respect (to my knowledge no one saw this blunder) and vowed to never try that again.

A solo ride is a mental game.  I noted the 1/5, 1/4, 1/3, and halfway points in the ride.  I decided somewhere around mile 75-80 that the rain was pleasant but that I didn’t have to stay in it any longer than necessary.  I decided at about the same point several other things that worked well.  I decided to skip going into Milton and save 5 miles (in the rain).  It was about 11:00 and i was feeling well physically. I also decided to let my heart rate go to between 145-150.  I knew that could be risky, but the decision to embrace the rain was also buoyed by the fact that it looked possible that I could match or beat my first OC ride pace.  On that ride a year and a half ago, I rode a pace of 17.7 mph on a group ride.  I was amazed at the time.  To match that effort solo on a fixie became my goal.  I had to work at it, and I had pretty good roads the rest of the way in to Ocean City.

The 10-12 miles into Millsboro were quick.  I stopped at a convenience store just as I entered town.  I bought a Snickers, orange juice and water, and stayed long enough to witness a whole lot of drama between the staff and a panhandling woman.  She tentatively approached me for money.  I said I didn’t have any.  She said, “I didn’t think so.  I could tell.”  What was the giveaway?  Looking like a drowned rat?

Leaving Millsboro, I soon encountered a roadblock.  A very bad accident closed the road.  I asked about a detour.  I was told it was a long detour.  The emergency worker got on the horn, & eventually got permission to let me through.  On the other end they were turning vehicles around.  I got the feeling that this road closure would take hours to resolve.

Soon I was pressing on again and had a great pace going.  The rain increased in intensity the closer I got to Ocean City.  At mile 97.5 I heard a noise in the front wheel that was consistent with the rotation.  I checked the brakes.  They were fine.  The wheel seemed true.  The tire was firm.  Still the noise persisted.  I checked the firmness of the tire again, and sure enough, it was going flat.  The rain was steady.  I’d be fixing a flat in the rain.

The first part of the repair was relatively quick.  I located the triangular piece of glass and carefully pulled it out.  It had cut the tire pretty well, so a dollar bill went in as a boot between the tube and the tire.  I had a lot of trouble seating the tire properly on the rim.  I inflated and deflated the tube several times before it was right.  These wheels have caused me trouble in perfect conditions and i didnt want to be stopping again, so i was quite precise in this repair.  I used the tire pump I bought on Tuesday instead of CO2 because in the rain I was concerned that I’d freeze my hand to the cartridge.  It wasn’t a 4 minute flat repair by any stretch of the imagination, but it held, was done in the rain, and is my first flat since September on any bike.

Soon I was on Coastal Highway north of Ocean City. With 120 blocks to go to my hotel on 21st Street.  I was pleased to see that my average speed was 17.7 at that point!  Now to hold it there in traffic. The Bike/ Bus lane was mostly flooded, so I rode in the lane far left. I had 20+ mph pretty consistently.  I think I was stopped only about 4 times for traffic lights. Several times I was forced into the pooling water by traffic.  The water flooding my shoes was quite warm and pleasant.  Once I nearly fell as I hit a long narrow drain in the center of the lane, invisible because of the standing water.

I made it to the hotel just before 2:00 pm and the Garmin confirmed 17.8 mph average rolling speed.  I had done it!

I had ridden smart.  My plan for hydration and nutrition worked in the rain but would have needed considerable modification if it had been hot.  As it was, I consumed about half of the food I thought I would and only drank 2 Camelbacks and one small bottle of water.  again, the rain saved me there.

This Ride: 115.2 miles
Month: 877.2 miles
2012: 2475.1 miles
Total since 1/1/2010: 16,328.7 miles

Click on the map to go to the Garmin page if interested

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