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This is How We Spell Fun!

by on August 7, 2012

I’ve not completed a RUSA sanctioned 200k this calendar year.  Regular readers will know that I completed the Flèche in April and a handful of other long rides this year, but no 200k.  So what prompted me to complete one in August?  Why, a night ride, of course!  Who could miss such fun?

Gardner and Theresa put out the word that during their vacation they were going to do an overnight ride and invited any others who wanted to join them to complete the paperwork for a Monday-Tuesday ride.  Bryan, Janet & I jumped at the chance, so five of us planned a 7:00 pm start to avoid the heat of the day.  This was Janet & Theresa’s first overnight ride and I think it is a prelude for Janet to ride the Flèche next year.  Other SPP members were jealous of this ride, and a group of 4 rode the route Friday night into Saturday.  I will admit, knowing their results impacted the way I rode this ride.  More about that later.

I drove over to the start in Wallops Island, VA stopping in Salisbury to have a plate of spaghetti and a salad, leaving enough time for the carbs to digest and provide fuel for the first part of the ride.  I arrived with plenty of time before the ride was scheduled to start, with Janet and Bryan there at about the same time.  Dressing and prepping the bike took us right up to the planned 7:00 start.  We pushed off 4 minutes after 7:00 into 84° F, very humid, cloudy evening with a bit of a SSW headwind.

Over our first hour, we maintained a brisk pace, settling into what would become the norm for our entire ride.  We formed a paceline and kept the pedals turning and the pace up.  As we passed farms and through small towns many people waved at us and one guy tried to keep up with us riding a BMX style bike.  He quickly gave up as we passed him as if he were standing still.  We were treated with a spectacular cloud-filled sunset after our first information control that started with just a touch of color and ended with deep reds and purple.  With our southerly track, we could watch it off our right beam with only the bike a foot ahead of us to be concerned about.  We pulled in to our second control as darkness was really taking hold and I was absolutely amazed at how dark it had gotten in the few minutes were getting control cards signed.  The cloud cover was nearly 100% and our route took us through farm fields and lonely stretches of road without a lot of extraneous light.  I expected our speed to drop some as we rode in the darkness, but with nothing much to look at, we kept a brisk pace and watched as the miles went by.  Wildlife spotting was quite limited.  We saw quite a number of cats and a few dogs including one little guy who ran ahead of us for a good 1/8 mile.  It wasn’t until much later that we saw frogs on the road.  That was just about it … except the bird Bryan flushed from the side of the road and somehow avoided the spokes of one bike as it flew through our paceline just a few inches above the ground.

In the dark it started to rain.  It was a light sprinkle, but just enough to get the road wet and reduce the reflectiveness of the road surface.  It didn’t rain long and it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the ride.  We continued to make good time.  We arrived at the turnaround point just a few minutes before 11:00 pm and made quick work of food, hydration, and toilet needs.  We were back on the road about 30 minutes later, acutely aware that there were a lot of people who had been drinking out in their cars.  We didn’t need to worry.  Except for a few vehicles we encountered in Onley, we encountered exactly 3 cars on our return trip of 63 miles.

Everyone seemed to be feeling pretty good on the return leg.  We continued the plan with some very fast speeds as we headed north toward the finish.  Between the information control at mile 69 and our stop in Onley, we had a 20 mile stretch with 5 mile segments of 19.7, 21.0, 18.9, 19.1 mph back to back for an average of 19.7 mph.

And then, as we started to look for an open control in Onley, it started to rain again.  At first it was a sprinkle.  We missed a turn, stopped to figure it all out as the rain got harder and harder.  We decided to stop at the McDonald’s, and after finding the route to the McDonald’s noticed that it just rained harder and harder.  We pulled into the drive through and were greeted first with a recording that the McDonald’s was closed, and then the manager came on to take our order.  I ordered a vanilla milkshake.  Their machine was shut down for the night.  I ordered a cheeseburger.  They only have items 2-10 … not 4 … at this time of the night.  I settled on a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a Coke.  Others also negotiated through the tricky menu.  It was good there was an overhang at the drive through next to the window as our food was prepared because the skies opened up and it rained pretty hard those 10 minutes.  After being served, we crossed the street to the drive through lanes at a bank and took shelter under the overhang.  One minute I planned to eat half the burger (I lost the Coke when it fell out of my hands when I hit a pothole that was invisible in the standing water) and the next I knew the whole burger was gone.  I was hungrier than I thought.  As we ate, the rain eased up and moved on.  I noticed a bright green frog on one of the poles at the bank and petted it.  It turned to face me, then without warning jumped at me, landing on my chest then immediately hopping off onto the ground.  This caused a great deal of laughter among those I had been calling my friends.

We pushed off with streets full of water from the rain and within minutes, Bryan flatted.  We waited as he and Gardner got him soundly on two good tires, then picked up the pace once again as a group headed home with about 20-25 miles left.  There were a lot of frogs on these wet roads, but to my knowledge no frogs died as a result of our ride.  I felt the lack of the Coke.  With about 5-7 miles to go, I struggled.  Mind you, that struggling never let my 5 mile average speed drop below 17.2 mph, but I felt it as others were anxious to get home and I had trouble holding the pace they wanted to set.  Soon enough, the end was in sight … for those of us who knew that the flashing red lights signaled the end.  The Royal Farms isn’t visible until it is too late to sprint for it.

We finished in 8 hours 52 minutes elapsed time with a rolling time of 7 hours 12 minutes.  That put us off the bike for 1 hour 41 minutes, the largest part of that being in Onley during the rain/dinner break.  Our average rolling speed was 17.7 mph.  All of this was my best time for a night ride, but closely matches my time on this course last July when Mike B & I managed very similar numbers in temperatures that spiked to 103° F.  I guess night time rides does bring the overall speeds down.

Chocolate milk was our go-to recovery drink.  Everyone had some.  We said our goodbyes, and I stayed around for a 45 minute nap in the car before heading home by way of the Populaire route Chip and I are planning from Salisbury to Stevensville.  I was checking the route, modifying cues, and discovering impassible roads.  Near Queen Anne, I gave up and headed home, arriving home around 9:30 am.  I promptly went to bed for a short nap.  I think I’ll take another one now.

This Ride: 127.3 miles
Month: 172.1 miles
2012: 3,534.9 miles
Total since 1/1/2010: 17,388.5 miles

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