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Flèche Countdown: 12 Days

by on March 25, 2013

With about 5 inches of new snow on the ground, I didn’t ride this morning.  We don’t want this kind of snow on the Flèche!

It has been a busy weekend, and my ride report for Friday’s 200k is long overdue.

The short version: It was hard, but I finished.

The long version:

After the usual terrible night sleep before a solo 200k, I woke readied myself, and was out the door close to 5:30 am for a 6:00 am start.  My plan was to meet up with the 5:45 riders at the Rusty Bridge and ride with them a short distance before heading to the start of the 200k.  That worked well, and soon I was turning left while they went right and I had the full day alone with my thoughts.  I grabbed a banana and a partial cup of coffee while waiting for the clock to reach the official start time, and pushed off into the cold dark.

I had loaded two different versions of the GPS track into my Garmin, and rapidly discovered that the one I had chosen wasn’t going to give me the kind of cues I wanted.  I made a couple of minor wrong turns in residential areas, and stopped to switch out the guiding file.  That was a good choice, because the other file worked flawlessly all day. [GPX Track, for future reference.]

Watching the colors change with the sunrise was the most enjoyable part of the ride.  I was in familiar territory and traffic was still light.  I was riding as the rest of the world was waking up and the quietness of that was only really disturbed by a strong NW wind.  That wind would be in my face for the next 60 miles, and sometimes it whistled through the overhead wires.  I’m guessing the wind speed to be about 20-25 mph most of the day.  I enjoyed the trip through Patapsco Valley Park.

The first of many steep climbs of the day came in Ellicott City.  I navigated that one comfortably and felt good about the prospects of the upcoming hills.  My bike was shifting properly, which was not true the last time I rode this route.  Once I finally crossed Highway 40, I stopped and got a quick bite to eat and had a bathroom break.  Unfortunately, I had to stand in line for quite a while for the bathroom and it was not as quick an in and out as I had anticipated.

The next leg of the Patapsco Valley 203k moves through suburbs into farmland, generally climbing but nothing very steep.  It was on this stretch that the wind was at its worst.  I found that I had to pedal downhill in order to maintain speed.  Coasting meant that I slowed down on those downhills.  That’s simply not fair!  There was a little excitement on the morning.  I pulled over 3 times to let emergency vehicles pass.  I pulled over to let farm machinery pass only to learn that it was a manure spreader.  There were a lot of farmers spreading manure on their fields.   I saw a church sign that read “He is resen”.  (Yes, the spelling was that bad!)  I kept the pedals turning, although I was going a lot slower than I really wanted to.  I considered taking some photos, but my calculations were not optimistic for having time to the first control if I flatted or ran into some mechanical problems, so I kept pushing on.  Since I had ridden this route before, I kept looking for landmarks I remembered.  Most of them came much later in the ride than I remembered.

As I entered Union Bridge, I started to get some cramping in my left leg.  I had popped some ecaps earlier, but had only consumed 2 bottles of fluids those first 60 miles.

Soon enough … well, around 11:15 I rolled into Union Bridge, the first control, and found the 7-11 where I planned to stop for lunch.  Yes, it is not very interesting, but I knew that I could control my time there.  A restaurant was dependent upon the service.  I ate a chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat bread, ate a bag of chips, drank a coke, and refilled water bottles.   My lunch spot was inside seated on a milk crate that had been kindly offered by one of the cashiers.  Since my next leg was going to be downwind and the sun was shining, I switched out gloves to a lighter pair, but still kept the balaclava on.  Temperatures had climbed to 38° F!

The best part of the Patapsco Valley Ride is from Union Bridge to New Market.  It is a highway with wide shoulders, no real hills, and today, a 25 mph tailwind.  I rode easy, enjoying the time before  the hills started.  I also took about 3 doses of ecaps along the way.

The hills start at New Market.  Whatever benefit the tailwind gives is not really noticed on the hills.  I was pleased with the first hill and how I was riding.  It was slow, but it was not unbearable.  The last time I rode this ride I watched the elevation profile on my Garmin.  This time, I avoided that screen entirely.  I didn’t want to know what was coming up because on the screen it all looks nearly straight up.

I rode up and down, often at 5-6 mph on the uphill and 30-40 mph on the downhill where it was safe to do so.  I kept as hydrated as I could.  I found myself stopping at places I had stopped last September.  At one point the balaclava was switched out for a cap with ear flaps.  My jacket was unzipped on the uphills and closed on the descents.

I enjoyed the roll through the Springfield State Hospital complex.  I actually enjoyed a long gradual uphill toward Route 40.  The long gradual downhill into Ellicott City was another pleasant part of the ride.  I was feeling good about what was coming up after Ellicott City, where I had really struggled last year.  There had been no cramping on the hills, and instead of walking my bike up the steep hill out of downtown Ellicott City, I comfortably rode up, albeit in granny gear.

Soon enough I was at BWI airport, and out of water.  I decided to simply press on in my now dehydrated state for the last 8 – 10 miles.  I was picking up the benefit of the wind again, and true to form, those last 10 miles seemed to take forever.

I arrived at the finish in just over 11 hours.  It was a long day on the bike.  That’s ride number 8 on this second R-12 attempt.

This Ride: 129.5 miles
Month: 435.6 miles
2013: 1239.8 miles
Total since 1/1/2010: 21,012.7 miles

From → Cycling

  1. I understand from multiple reports that Garmin batteries tend to die out on rides longer than 200k. Is that your experience and if so, what will you do on the fleche?

    • ponderingpastor permalink

      There are a variety of USB output batteries available. Some Garmin devices will run properly powered in that way. I carry one of these that has multiple outputs so I can charge my phone if necessary also.

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