I am a cyclist, genealogist, soccer referee, grandfather (x5), and cancer survivor. And I have ridden 70,000* miles cancer-free.
You have stumbled upon the personal blog of Barry Sherry. It is my private journal but made public. After keeping a journal for years I decided to push this out to the web. Maybe someone will find some information of value.
I have included the names, and in some cases, photos of others I have met in my journey. If you are mentioned and do not want to be, kindly contact me and I can change that.
Enjoy the blog. If you would like to know more about me, click my About Me page.
This one was a complete surprise. It was only early last month I started going out to Remington (Fauquier Co.) and Culpeper County for nice riding on country roads. Today I just wanted a nice ride.
I drove to Remington and after surveying the local school for parking, M.M. Pierce, I decided not to park in a school lot during school hours. I don’t know if only teachers were in the school or students, but it was easy enough to find a residential area to park.
It was 70° and a bit breezy. Windy at times. Cloudy for the first hour and sunny for the second hour.
My route would normally be all country roads except the bridge over the Rappahannock River in Remington on Business U.S. 15 is closed. As my detour, I rode on the actual U.S. 15 for about 1/2 mile before connecting to my route.
I had synched my Wahoo with starred segments although I’m not sure all came across. But I knew the first one was after crossing U.S. 15. It was called Fleewtood Heights. My PR was 5:17 and I wanted to beat it. I had no idea where I was on the leader board. I went hard but was fighting cross-headwinds. As I watched my progress I wanted not only a PR but to beat 5:00. And I came in at 4:46. And that is good for 24th all-time, but third this year and number one in my age group. This getting old is pretty cool stuff.
It seemed I had only traveled only a couple hundred meters before a second segment popped up. This was Auburn to Inlet, a 2.6-mile segment. Same direction and same vicious winds. I had done this in 10:00 twice and 9:00 (8:57) once. I just wanted a PR. Again, with no idea where I stood overall. From 8:57 I wanted to beat 8:00 then it was to take 1:00 off the old one. I did that finishing in 7:51. And that’s good for 12th all-time. Just two seconds from 9th place. And 2nd age group but a big leap to 7:17 for first in age group. But that’s OK. I battled strong winds today.
I was riding well as I made my way to Moo-Thru and contemplated stopping for a treat or just to keep going then stopping on my way home. I stopped – but only for a photo, then kept going.
I crossed U.S. 15 and was on Va. Rte 28 for about 50 meters before turning on Lucky Stone Road. And this was a Strava segment. Like the other two, I wanted a PR. I had not studied the segment and did not where I stood. A PR was fine. My best was 3:13 so I wanted to beat 3:00.
As I rode I saw my Time Ahead counter creeping up. I knew I was on a good run and I just kept plugging away. I came to the end and I knew a PR would display on screen. Except it didn’t. It was a KOM. I was shocked. I even yelled out to nobody “Holy Crap! A KOM!”
And it wasn’t just a KOM. It sort of destroyed the old one – lowered it from 2:45 to 2:31. And I hadn’t even been in the Top Ten.
What a surprise. I had no idea. I’ll take it.
Distance: 32.3 miles Elevation Gain: 1613′ (Moderate) Average Speed: 17.2 mph Weight: 179*
*When I got home I stepped on the scales and weighed 179. Due to daily fluctuations, I take a moving average over seven days do determine my weight. My 7-day weight was 181 so I am still in the 180-199 weight group. When my 7-day average reaches 179 I will change my Strave weight accordingly. And it will be my third Strava weight group in three months.
What a beautiful day. I had mapped out a 55-mile ride and loaded it on my Wahoo. Truth was, I didn’t need a map because except for a two-mile stretch of Va. Rte. 267 (Berlin Turnpike) from Lovettsville to Brunswick, Md., I have ridden all these roads before.
Well, not all roads. Twenty miles would be on the C&O Canal Towpath. Yes, on my Domane (road bike). I was comfortable riding the canal because six days ago I met my sister, Betsy, and her husband, Tom, plus friend, George, as they were doing a through-trip from Pittsburgh to D.C.
Betsy had texted me and said “They’ve resurfaced at least this part of the canal! .. no puddles, no roots, no rocks.”
When I met the crew last week, I had just ridden through a steady rain. Although it had quit raining when I met them, that led to a discussion about the surface. Between Point of Rocks and Whites Ferry, it is generally hard-packed. With the rain it looked, and rode, like asphalt.
When I mapped out this ride I thought about taking Md. Rte. 28 from Brunswick then connecting to Martinsburg Road and the familiar country roads I have ridden many times. These are the roads to and from Sugarloaf Mountain so they would be familiar territory.
But an alternative would be the C&O. The paved C&O. Well, so I thought.
It was a chilly late-summer morning. Just 55° (13° C) at the start. My cold-weather gear consisted of arm warmers. And that’s it.
I followed the W&OD to Purcellville then took Hillsboro Road over to Hillsboro. There were ZERO cars behind me today. There’s a major construction project in Hillsboro with a detour around the quaint town, and cyclists benefit by the detour.
From Hillsboro to Lovvettsville I followed Mountain Road. It was absolutely beautiful. I had mapped out an alternative for bypassing Lovettsville but that did not work out. I have to go back to the drawing board but I was comfortable staying on the roads I knew.
Actually, the drawing board is confused. Checking what I had mapped out and downloaded, what Wahoo was showing today was not the same. In Purcellville, it was supposed to route me onto Chestnut Overlook Drive but did not show that. Then on Mountain Road, it told me to go straight about 200 meters, do a U-Turn, and then turn on Brittain Road. And that was gravel so I ignored it. But it looks like I had mapped an alternative for bypassing Lovettsville but that never showed up either. Don’t make me lose trust in my Wahoo.
I jumped on the Berlin Turnpike (just the name of the road, it’s not really a turnpike). I came to a construction area and stop where the flagman held up a stop sign. We chatted briefly. He told me I was flying up the hill before I reached him. That was a nice compliment.
It wasn’t long to the bridge into Maryland and over the Potomac River to Brunswick. In Brunswick, I looked for Mommer’s Dinner, a quaint little restaurant where Andrew and I ate back in 2001. I did not see it and would learn that it closed. I can’t determine if it was this year or just some time in the last 19 years.
Crossing the B&O tracks, I came to the access road for the C&O Canal. And it was crap. I was expecting paved and this was a gravel road with many potholes. It was horrible.
Thankfully, it would last one mile, just to the entrance of the Brunswick Family Campground. And it was 19 years ago that Andrew and I camped one night here. We thought we found a great campground only to be woken up too early by the trains just 50 meters away through the trees.
But the canal path became much improved here. I could see, without the rain, that this was definitely a crushed limestone surface. Except for one detour around a bridge that was out, it would be 19 miles of glorious crushed limestone. Along the way, I passed many cyclists. All were much slower than me. Every time I looked my speed was 17-20 mph. Not bad on this surface.
There was one guy I caught and surprised. He was probably around 40 years old. He had mountain bike tires but was making great progress – probably 15-16 mph. I called out “on your left” which surprised him. He looked back, a little surprised, probably thinking he was the fastest rider on the canal today. But I was on a road bike and he had fat tires. If we switched machines he would be way faster, I’m sure.
One week ago I was in a steady rain crossing the Potomac by ferry. Today was a gorgeous day. I arrived as the ferry was arriving from the Virginia side. I never stepped off the bike although I had to put a foot down for 4-5 minutes.
Leaving the ferry my legs felt good. There is a ramp here which is probably 15%. Almost always the lactic acid hits me here and I can barely pedal. Today I noticed no lactic. And although I was riding into a strong headwind and had 50 miles in my legs, I saw my time on this Strava segment was coming down. I would set a new PR. And I sort of smashed it.
It was a beautiful day. This is a ride I would love to do with friends. It can be done with road bikes. The canal section isn’t bad except for one mile in Brunswick but that shouldn’t be enough to discourage one from this ride.
Distance: 55.0 miles Average Speed: 16.3 mph Weight: 181
Oh how Strava Live Segments change everything. I came to ride the BlueRidger Proper (counter-clockwise). The weather was mostly sunny at the start but with a strong wind which would be cross-head or just a headwind for much of the ride. The temperature was 70°.
A few weeks ago I had ridden on Rectortown Road and found a segment I liked: Frogtown Road to Atoka Road. My goal for today: PR on that segment.
I am loving my Live Segments but not every segment I sat seems to show up on my Wahoo. Once it’s there it stays but I never no until the next time I approach a segment if it will be a Live Segment. I rode off into a very strong headwind. Part of me said to just pedal through it while another part said to go for it. I listened to the bad me.
It did not show up as a Live Segment. Nor do I think that it would have done any good. I changed my time display to see elapsed time and went passed Frogtown at 8:48. As I approached Atoka Road I could see I was around 11:24. I knew I needed 2:24 and not 2:36. I was way off. And it was the wind. Well, at Atoka a woman looked at me and pulled out right in front of me causing me to sit up. I didn’t have to brake but I could no longer keep the pedals moving. So I settled for 3rd best of my time which was really tied for the second-best of my times. But way off the mark.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. On Rectortown Road the road “bottoms out” as it crosses Goose Creek. I wanted to hit 40 mph here and I did. And then I got a Live Segment – GO! This was for Rectortown Test Climb. And even though I was riding into a strong wind, I decided to see if I could PR it. I was happy when 3:53 (New PR!) popped up. Old PR had been 4:15. Then I could rest the rest of the way.
Fighting the wind, I averaged 16.1 mph out to Airmont. Without doing a deep search, I found a ride from 11 years ago where I averaged 18 mph on this part. But that was in a group; I didn’t fight winds in my face; and I was 11 years younger.
Passing through Bluemont, it appeared to me that some new construction has taken place since the last time I rode through here. There was a building on the left and then I saw the E. E. Lake General Store. Apparently it is a welcome center but has the old General Store facade.
The climbs were pretty much as I remembered them. Moderately hard. There is a steep climb out of Bluemont on Snickersville Turnpike. It has a 180° switchback at the top and is flat over to Rte. 7. Rte 7 has a wide should as it climbs to the top of the pass. This is the easiest of the three sections here. And turning on Blue Ridge Mountain Road is a pretty steep climb with no end in sight. I still don’t know where it finally ends and dips down.
The ride off the mountain is nice. When I got to U.S. 50 I found it was too windy to descend without braking. That may have been the first time I rode here using brakes. But there were cross-wind gusts hitting me making it hard to control the bike.
Once on Leeds Manor Road I expected and received, a Live Segment for Naked Mountain. Once it starts the Wahoo displays the elapsed time, a contour map of the climb, your estimated time, and your PR time. My PR coming in was 9:06. Today I went through in 7:44.
There is pavement on this road but it is rough. I wanted to descend faster but didn’t trust the pavement. Rounding a corner on a downhill the road turned up and a GO! appeared. This was for Naked Mountain Winery. It’s a short climb but I had no legs. Pretty much left everything I had a few minutes ago on the Naked Mountain climb. Wahoo disagreed. My old PR was 2:21 and I lowered it today to 1:41. I would like to see what I could do when I didn’t fight the winds.
The last 10 miles from Markham I had great pavement and crappy pavement. I thought I had a tailwind but my speed was only 16 mph – the same as the first 20 miles into the wind. Maybe my legs were fried at this point.
I wanted to beat four hours and came in at 3:47. Goal accomplished. It was a good solo ride fighting the winds. Wish I could do better but Strava thinks I had a good day.
Distance: 55.2 miles Time: 3:45 Average: 14.7 mph Weight: 180
I’m old. I have more bad days than good days. Generally, I am not going to compete for a KOM (King of Mountain) segment on Strava.
My “Montclair Loop” often includes a two-mile segment on Minnieville Road from Spriggs Road to Rte 234 (Dumfries Road). The road itself is a four-lane divided road, curb to curb, no shoulders. It is signed for 45 mph. Beside the road is a bike / multi-purpose path.
It looks like I never rode it for time before this year. My times in February through May were 8:00 – 10:00. It wasn’t until June 4 that I broke 8:00 when I finished at 7:34. Then on June 16, I broke 7:00 (6:54). It wasn’t until July that I lowered it to 6:32.
There are two problems with this as a segment. First, at 1/4 mile in there is a traffic light at the Howison soccer fields. One must hit this light green. Many times I started well but then hit the light at which time I simply soft-pedal the rest of the segment.
The second is the bike path. There are seven transition segments from bike path to street as it crosses. Not all are in a straight line. One must be careful to find the transition pad. In addition, there are walkers and the occasional dog. It is hard to ride fast on the bike path, and one may suggest, that we shouldn’t with this mix.
On July 31, I lowered my time to 6:09. And I was sitting 11th all-time. Not too shabby. I started looking at top ten. The KOM was 5:23 – a time I knew I could never match. But I could get in the top ten.
Sometimes I take the bike path all the way. But I realized I need to take the road for the best time.
On August 15 I broke 6:00 coming in at 5:52. I was in the top ten. Four of us were tied for 8th. Maybe I was still 11th. The ride was almost perfect. I took Minnieville Road for the first mile then switched to the bike path as there is a climb on Minnieville Road. There are also those transition segments. And walkers. And dogs.
I was happy. I held the age group #1 and knew I wasn’t going to improve by much.
Five days later, the next time I rode, I went through in 5:52. Damn. Same time.
I was disappointed because I thought I was 2-3 seconds ahead of my previous pace. Actually I was so I gave it away on Minnieville Hill. But it also made me realize that if I had the same time twice that I could probably improve on that by a few seconds.
I had been tied for 8th overall with three other riders. One second and I would have sole possession of 8th.
I set out this morning for a quick ride. We had a party to go to and I didn’t have lots of time. The past two days I rode my gravel bike so it was fun to get back on the Domane.
I rarely take Minnieville Road from my house to Spriggs, generally using some side streets or just the bike path. Today I stayed on Minnieville. Coming out of the neighborhood I check the oncoming traffic. If it’s heavy I just jump on the bike path. Today I saw no cars when I started.
Conditions were perfect. Cool (about 70°). Overcast. But most importantly, it was a weekend morning with little traffic. I was first in line in the right lane at Spriggs when the light turned red. This is before the segment starts.
I started out well. The segments doesn’t begin for a couple hundred meters and then the GO! command came on my Wahoo. There is a hill going up to the traffic light and I held my lane. The light was green and I was four seconds ahead of my PR.
It was the first day of soccer season and I should have been supervising referees. A pickup truck pulled beside me and the soccer dad had some words for me as he turned into the fields before saying words to our refs. That fired me up.
I didn’t say anything to him but thought what a jerk. I picked up the pace and was “on the limit” down Minnieville. I knew a PR was in sight.
Approaching the climb I had a decision to make. Stay on Minnieville or jump off onto the bike path. I have never ridden this section on Minnieville Road since they made it four lanes. But today, traffic was light, it is a four-lane road so there is a passing lane, and I held my ground, staying the right lane. I was 30 seconds ahead of my PR time.
I kept my pace up and started thinking about how far I could move up in the rankings. My memory had the KOM at 5:05 (but I messed that up). Then I saw 40 seconds. I was looking at 5:12 or so. Just a little more.
The last I saw was 40 seconds ahead. Luckily, I had a green light approaching 234 which meant no brakes and full gas to make the turn. I turned. I looked down and there it was – KOM – 4:56.
I had taken almost one minute off my previous PR. And when I got home I see I was badly off regarding the previous KOM. It was 5:23 not 5:05 which I thought I needed. Smashed the KOM by 27 seconds. Holy Wow!
This one feels real good. I’m getting older, not younger. I’m getting slower, not faster. Except for a day.
Conditions were perfect today. Weather. Traffic. And, oh, I did this before breakfast without eating and didn’t even have bottles on my bike today.
Distance: 12 miles Average Speed: 18.1 mph Weight: 183
Two weeks ago Tim Casebere and I were riding out near Remington when we ran into another cyclist. The cyclist, David Thatcher, is from Gainesville and we exchanged numbers for a future ride.
Yesterday David texted me and told me he planned to do a 40-mile ride on Skyline Drive and invited me to join him. I agreed.
The only hiccup in our plans was where to meet. David said first parking south of the US 211 entrance at Thorton Gap. I saw the area known as Panorama or the tunnel overlook. When I questioned him he told me it was Mary’s Rock Trailhead, “within 1000 yards of 211.”
I entered Skyline Drive and passed Panorama and went to the tunnel overlook. Didn’t see David or Mary’s Rock. I knew I went too far so I turned around. I figured I would go back to Panorama and ride by myself if that was the case.
Somewhere outside of Warrenton all cellular service is lost. I doubted I would be able to contact David by text. But returning to Panorama, which has a very large sign, is a small sign or Mary’s Rock Trailhead. I was in the right place.
We hadn’t ridden together except for a little bit in Fauquier Co. near Remington. And he was on a bonk that day. I did not know what to expect from David.
It was a perfect morning, probably 65°. If I would have been riding on the flats I probably would have opted for arm warmers. But knowing there was a climb immediately, I went with nothing additional. We started out of the parking lot. I was matching David’s pace but after half a mile or so, he was about five meters in front of me. We went through the tunnel, stopping at the end for a quick photo, then continued up the hill.
I stayed with David early on but he was clearly the stronger rider going uphill. Using my friend, gravity, I was the faster rider going downhill.
Our first climb lasted about 4.5 miles followed by a three-mile downhill then a three-mile uphill, passing Skyland, the high point on the trail. There was construction in this section which actually made riding more pleasant. The pave was perfectly smooth asphalt.
Four of five times we came to a flagman where we had to stop and wait for a pilot car to come by and lead us, and waiting cars, through. We just tucked onto the back behind the cars. And even going uphill, they held all oncoming traffic until we cleared. No oncoming traffic. No following traffic. It was a beautiful ride.
Other than a garter snake sunning on the new asphalt, I didn’t see any wildlife. No deer. No bear. But plenty of beautiful vistas.
The distance wasn’t far but we had more than 100′ of climbing per mile. Arriving back to our cars I congratulated David on winning all the hillclimb points on course. He said that’s what he does best. And he did well today.
Distance: 40.1 miles Average Speed: 13.0 Weight: 183
I have made a decision that all my posts of rides will include one additional metric: Weight.
Like many adults, I have a problem maintaining a healthy weight. And last month on my birthday, I made the determination – I will get down to that healthy weight. And by publicly posting it, I will force myself to maintain that – once I reach it.
In cycling, a Clydesdale is a category for heavy riders. Some could be simply that they are big men (very tall) but most are just overweight. And they cannot compete going uphill with their lightweight competitors. So some events, hill climbs usually, have a Clydesdale category. It may vary but is usually 190 pounds. And the women have a Philly category.
Sometime after cancer treatment 10 years ago, my weight started creeping up. There is a medical reason for that but that’s not an excuse. It’s a challenge. And we all have challenges in life.
I’ve never registered as a Clydesdale. But the best opportunity for me was at the 2018 Hillclimb World Championships in Santa Barbara. I did not because I always held this belief that I would lose the weight before the event. And I never did.
Only after the world championships did I see it. Just two people had registered as Clydesdales. No matter how bad my time (and it was), I would have finished on the podium (Top Three). Damn me. And possibly, if I rode with those two guys, I could have stayed with them until the end and maybe even pulled out a better time. Or maybe not. I was, after all, coming off knee replacement surgery just a few months earlier.
For me, all my adult life, to control my weight I have to be aware. That means the scale has to be my friend. And I’ve gone too long without stepping on the scale.
On my birthday I went for a 65-mile ride near Altoona, Pa. I bonked. I blamed the heat (true) and lack of hydration (true) and lack of nutrition (also true). But I realized also that I was carrying too much weight. When I got home I made the determination to lose weight.
I stepped on the scale. 210 pounds. Ouch. And that was that.
I made a spreadsheet. It was simple. Date. Weight. 7-Day Moving Average.
Seven-day moving average spreadsheet
I chose this method of tracking with a focus on the seven-day average. This would allow me to miss a day of weight tracking and not worry about it. It also accounts for the daily fluctuations that occur depending on when I can weigh in. Sometimes a loss, or a gain, is all water weight. In the chart, above, I gained three pounds (Aug. 21) but the moving average was down (because the 189 replaced a 190 value seven days earlier).
My “program” is simple.
Eliminate grazing, that between or after meal snacking
Eliminate all the sugary stuff (candy bars – no Mint Twixt, donuts, Pop-Tarts)
And that is the magic plan. From early July to late August – down 26 pounds.
There is a side benefit to this. My riding is getting better. I bemoaned the fact that 10 years ago I would do a long ride at 17 mph+. This year it has been more like 14.5 mph+. A few weeks ago I did a ride and set 23 PRs. Had another 48-mile ride where I averaged 17 mph. Dropping the extra 25 pounds has really helped my cycling.
It is embarrassing to admit this but this is public to hold me accountable. If I put future posts with my weight I have to be aware. And if I’m aware it won’t get away from me. No more Clydesdale.
Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in Vienna near Clark’s Crossing is Watervale Way. I don’t know who lives here that would make this a segment. It starts in a cul-de-sac and goes about 200 meters to the intersection with Layminster Lane.
I was exploring new roads on May 2, 2019, when I ended up in a cul-de-sac. I turned around and rode out to Layminster. When I looked at my ride I was in the Top Ten for a Strava segment. Who knew?
The KOM may have been :28 and I made a mental note to come back some day and go for the KOM. Eleven days later, May 13, 2019, I came back and took the KOM in :24.
One year later, November 25, 2019, I lowered it to :22. And today I lowered it to :21.
Currently, it’s the least-challenged of any segment I own – just 13 people.
Bicycling magazine once published an article about the toughest climbs in each state, probably around 2007 or 2008. Maybe not the toughest but most iconic. For Pennsylvania, Horseshoe Curve was listed with a description of a “Three lakes, a 200′ tunnel and an 18% wall, what could be better?”
It has become my go-to ride. My happy place. So let me tell you in my words what is so special here.
I first came here after I read the description. And I keep coming back.
I call the climb Horseshoe Curve. Technically, I suppose, Horseshoe Curve is really the engineering marvel which got trains over the Allegheny Mountains, completed in 1854. The New York Central could run a train from New York to Chicago in 16 hours but it tooks four days to travel between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh using canals, horses, train cars, and the Allegheny Portage Railroad. One can read about the history anywhere, I will link to an article at Uncovering PA.
Typically, I park at the Logan Valley Mall to begin a ride. Although gradual, one begins climbing the minutes you push down on the first pedal. It’s about 2.5 miles up 58th Street to Kittanning Point Road. Make a left here and it’s an easy three more miles to the Curve.
If you are lucky, there will be a passing train or two and you can hear the rickety-rack rickety-rack of the train. If it is climbing you can race it although eventually the sound will pull away.
You will pass three lakes – all reservoirs with the Altoona Water System. First is Lake Altoona, the largest and prettiest of the three. The second is the Kittanning Reservoir. The third is at the Curve itself.
The water in these lakes is pristine. But that is because of a unique water-diversion system. There is a lot of mine drainage in the area marked by the bright orange color of the acid water. There is a canal next to the lakes which carries this water safely past the lakes. I do not know where the water goes after bypassing Altoona’s water supply.
These three miles (3.2) are pretty easy. Yes, one is climbing but a lot of it is flat beside any of the lakes. I calculate this portion to be 1.9% grade.
At the Curve itself are the attractions. The Curve itself is the main attraction. This is a pay-attraction area. As of 2020, I think admission was $8 but one would need to check to be certain. At the Curve, one can climb 194 steps or take a funicular (Inclined plane) to reach the viewing platform. I come here to ride a bike and not watch trains so I cannot comment any further about the Curve.
For years the Curve was covered in heavy forest. Around 2018 they cut down acres of trees which was both disappointing but also pretty cool. Now as you approach the Curve you can see the trains on the tracks.
Traffic on Kittanning Point Road to the Curve is generally light and always courteous. In the three miles to the Curve one might get passed by 5-6 cars. Most of the traffic seems to be going to visit the Curve.
And then the fun begins. There is a 200 foot tunnel which goes under the Curve. Look carefully because there are two tunnels. One is for car traffic and the second is for water – that disgusting orange mine water that bypasses the drinking supply.
Go through the tunnel and everything changes. First, the road turns up. Second, one is in a deep forest. Nothing to see but trees and water of the Glenwhite Run. It is absolutely beautiful here. (And I typically do not have photos from this area as I don’t want to stop then have to restart.)
The legs may slow down as the body notices, even if the eyes do not, it is getting harder to pedal. By my calculation, it is 3.3 miles from the tunnel to Coupon-Gallitzin Road. And the grade works out to be 5.3% which doesn’t sound like much. But that also includes a downhill section near the top.
There is a half-mile section which averages more than 12%. The “Wall” is 18% or 19%. Two things always happen when I go up this road. First, I always battle myself and wonder if this will be the first time I have to get off and push my bike. And second, there is an immene feeling of satisfaction and pride from having made it.
I am almost always alone on this stretch. Traffic is light – often only 1-2 cars will come up the road. But I’ve had my moments with others too.
In 2009, I met Richard and Stacey Fiore riding up the road. Stacey had never made it before without walking and I sent her husband up the road while I rode with and encouraged her. I thought we had it but she dismounted only about 50′ from the top of the Wall.
For my first post-cancer ride, I brought some friends here from Northern Virginia. Kelley Vito said she understood why I find peace here because “you only think about dying while climbing that hill.” In 2017, I was with Chey Hillsgrove and Chelsea Johnson when Chelsea saw a curve ahead and then she saw it – “Oh my God, is that where it begins?!” I laughed and told her the truth – “Oh no, that’s not the Wall – the Wall is much worse.”
I would have bet against Chelsea that day but she found her inner strength and made it. So proud of her.
But Kelley was right. When I come to these mountains, all I can think about is the next pedal stroke. Pushing up that hill. Or descending at crazy fun speeds but 100% focus on the descent. There is no time for cancer in my life when I am in these mountains and on this climb. And this is where I find peace on a bike.
Until November 2019, I was running the Garmin 510 bike computer which was not one of the newer ones capable of live Strava segments. I bought the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and slowly made a transition to running the Wahoo.
There was a learning curve for advanced features although the basic stuff of speed, time, and distance, were ready immediately. I rode through spring and then in late spring, upgraded to a paid subscription for Strava.
Before subscribing, I would check known segments after each ride. Sometimes I would set a new PR (personal record). Sometimes not. Nowhere was this more evident than in the summer of 2019 when I was chasing a segment in Prince William Forest Park.
Each day I would go to the segment and go full out for 45-50 seconds. Sometimes I thought it felt good. Other times I knew I didn’t have it. Then one day I got home and uploaded my ride and found I had the KOM.
Live Strava Segments are just that. As I approach a segment I am notified. Then the big GO! appears on my screen. Throughout the segment, I can see my progress.
Looking back on those Prince William Forest Park segments, I always went as hard as I could. So seeing that I was one second down may not have been enough to find that one second. But when I’m on the 3-5 or 10-minute segments, one can find the energy to push it a little harder to match the last time when you are getting feedback.
Live Segments have changed the way I ride. I do a lot of LSD (Long, Slow, Distance) rides. I also know that interval training is necessary to improve. Live Segments give me those intervals that require me to go hard.
Nowhere was that better shown than today’s ferry ride. The W&OD was crowded but I came to the Kincaid Climb just before Leesburg. I was worried about getting a good time in here because there was a slight headwind and there were lots of people. If I had to slow while waiting to pass I knew I was toast. But bad luck avoided me and my computer said 1:38 which was down from my previous PR of 1:55. Actual Strava time was 1:39.
Without Live Segments, this is one I would normally just roll through with no effort. In fact, my last ten rides, before today, were: 2:27, 2:17, 2:43, 2:28, 1:55 (old PR), 2:18, 2:24, 2:31, 2:44, and 2:23. I went hard and was rewarded. It’s not great – I am 33rd overall but that’s out of 16,292 athletes. So in that regard, this old cyclist is in the top 99% – 99.8% to be exact. And I am number one in my age group.
I even hesitated to go for a PR on Kincaid. Part of me wanted to save myself for the next climb. And that, too, is the beauty of Live Segments. Had I seen that I was down even 5-6 seconds I probably would have just sat up and soft-pedaled to the end.
I was expecting to compete for four segments today. The ones that show on my Wahoo are the ones that I have selected (starred). I was on the shoulder of US 15 North when I got the GO for Sprint to the SHIP and don’t get TRUCKED. Instant feedback – I went through in 2:01, lowering my time from 2:12 three weeks ago. My Strava time was actually 2:02. But I was two for two. I was on a roll.
I came today to improve my time on the climb after leaving Whites Ferry. Three weeks ago I did this climb and had a PR (9:17). I waited at the top for my friend, Tim Casebere, at what I thought would be the “finish” line. I was actually short of the finish which was located over the top of the climb and about halfway down the next dip in the road.
When I got home I saw that I was second on the day – beaten only by Tim by three seconds. I laughed. I guess the clock was ticking while I waited. So I knew that if I simply didn’t stop at the top today I would improve my time on Climb Outta Whites Ferry. I went hard, saw that I was 45 seconds up, and then saw the PR on the screen (7:25). Wow! Almost two minutes. Note the “official” Strava time was 7:26 – I’ll still take it.
I was happy. I was riding well and I headed next over towards Edwards Ferry then back into Poolesville. There was one segment remaining, that I knew of. It was a climb on Martinsburg Road. And I was three for three and drenched with sweat. And it felt great.
I made my way over to Beallsville and decided if Rt 28 was closed five miles ahead (there was a bridge out at the Monocacy River two weeks earlier when I rode it) that I would take the road which now would be less traveled. It was closed ahead and as I hoped, I had no traffic for the next two and 1/4 miles to the turn onto Martinsburg Road.
Immediately I was smacked in the face with a GO! I was on Power Station Hill Sprint. I could see it wasn’t long and went through in 0:39 – down from previous best, 1:07. (Actual Strava time was 0:38). I was four for four.
I turned on the beautiful concrete Martinsburg Road and again, GO! I got into a big gear and watched my advantage over my PR increase. I went through the Concert Grind up to Wasche Rd. in 2:28, lowering my PR from 3:14. (Actual time was 2:27.). I was five for five and knew at least one more segment remained.
The reason it was one more is that three weeks ago the Martinsburg Rd Spring Climb popped up while I was riding with Tim. My PR was 1:01 that day and I knew it was ahead. But would I have anything left after going five for five in previous segments?
These Live Strava segments have been wonderful but not perfect. Some that I have starred and are supposed to show up on my Wahoo, haven’t. And I had starred some segments before today and they did not show up as race segments. Yet. So I knew one remained but thought there could be more.
I hit the downhill portion of Martinsburg Road pretty hard then started up the climb. Then came the GO! and I dug deep. I finished in 0:45 which surprised me. And now I was six for six.
It was a good workout and I was prepared for more segments. I didn’t know how much more I could find if there were more segments to pop up. But that would be it.
Without Live Segments, I probably would have ridden “medium-hard.” But I never would have dug deep for six segments on this ride. I can’t see not being a premium member of Strava simply for this benefit. It has changed my riding for the better.
In the end, I had 17 PRs on this ride. For some of those I wasn’t even aware of but I got them because I went hard on the segments. Because of Live Segments.
The Remaining PRs
Trailside School to Catoctin Circle (17:47) N. Kind St. from North St. (2:16) 1/2 Sprint to the Ferry (3:37)* Jerusalem to Darnestown (6:46) 109 to Dickerson on 28 (6:34) Martinsburg Road (11:56) ElmerSchoolRd2 – Whites Ferry (6:38)* Run to Whites Ferry (3:36)* Whites Ferry Last Sprint (2:37) Come to Think of it I Did Just Get Off the Ferry (5:58) Belmont Ride to Clairborne Bridge (2:49)**
__ *These are starred segments in Strava but did not show up on my Wahoo to race. But I still did OK.
__ **I didn’t know this segment existed but two dicks went flying by me at the light at Catoctin Circle. It was a red light that another cyclist and I was waiting for. Just as it turned white (for pedestrians and cyclists), they had a head of steam and went flying by us dangerously close. I thought what dicks but then I caught them. I wanted to follow but they passed a couple of people dangerously close. When it was finally clear, I went by never to look back at them. I kept my speed up simply to get away from them. No one likes to ride near dicks.
Unlike Phil Gaimon who captures KOMs (King of the Mountain segments) on Strava then makes videos of his efforts, I can barely sniff one. And at my age, everyone is younger and faster than me so I realize that I might see another.
But only five days ago I saw I was 2nd overall on a segment called Dam to Waterway at 1:20. That was accidental – I was just riding along with no idea this was a segment. And yet, here I was second overall. But the top of the leaderboard was a 0:59 which looked pretty unobtainable.
The leader was a rider named Sam Kristy. Don’t know if that’s a real name or not. Can’t tell his age but his Strava profile picture makes him look to be quite young – in the 15-25 age range. Figures.¹
My 1:20 came without knowledge so three days ago I decided to improve my own time. I got it to 1:10. At that point, I just put more separation between me and third place (HokieQB Athlete).
Two days ago I tried again and finished at 1:07. Although the record was 0:59 when I first looked, I will swear on this day the record was 1:05 – my time to beat.
Yesterday I came through in 1:03. Garmin showed I had a new PR but no KOM. I checked later and, sure enough, the time to beat was 0:59, not 1:05 which is what I thought.
At this point at least I can say I wasn’t getting slower. I thought I was on pace for another PR when a car saw me coming and pulled out anyhow. It slowed my momentum.
The late Paul Sherwen, on the Tour de France broadcasts, often said “you don’t need good luck (to win the TdF), you just have to avoid bad luck.” And on this attempt, I had bad luck.
I took my granddaughters for some bike riding/training. On my way home I did the dam segment again. This time I came in at 1:01. Another PR but those two seconds were alluding me.
There always seemed to be a breeze in my face. I was resigned to the fact that I would need a helpful breeze – a tailwind. Hey, most PRs or KOMs come with a natural assist.
This morning, I came through in 1:01. Ugh. The segment itself is on a slight rise about 2/3 of the way and then a slight downhill. What makes it more difficult and even dangerous, is it appears that it ends right at the intersection with Waterway Drive. There is a stop sign there and a blind intersection coming from the left. One cannot see if the intersection is clear and maintain the speed into the intersection. A handful of brakes is necessary.
After I got home and showered, my granddaughters decided they wanted to go for a bike ride. I rode to Forest Park High School and we rode about six miles before I rode home. I had decided I would try again. I thought this time I would stand and sprint at the beginning before settling into a sitting position. I kept in my big gear heading the voice of Fränk Schleck yelling out “bigger gear, Barry, bigger gear!” (He did that in France, last year.)
Only when I was losing momentum did I downshift a little. Once over the rise, I was pushing it. I could see I was 0:04 seconds ahead of my PR (which was 1:01). I kept the push until the end although grabbed the brakes a second before I had to.
I looked left and saw no cars and rolled into the medium of the intersection before nearly collapsing on my handlebars. And up it came – KOM – 0:58.
Wow. I got a KOM. Those are so rare that I will celebrate and even blog about one. And now I hoped that it held.
With Strava Live Segments, what is on the screen needs to be verified. It’s almost as if there are cyber-referees with the real time. But at 0:58, I figured the worst it could have been was 0:59 which was tied for first.
When I got home and uploaded the ride, the official time was displayed – 0:57. I got it and with two seconds to spare. So I’m going to be proud. I don’t expect it to hold. If Sam Kristy sees he’s no longer the KOM he might go and destroy the record. Oh to be young. I wish we had Strava when I was young. But even if he does, I am still the Local Legend (according to Strava).
___ ¹ There is a Sam Kristy on Facebook. If it is the same Sam, he is almost 19, is a bike racer, and will destroy this KOM if he wants it. I am sure his 0:59 was set just riding along. You can have it back, young man, but thank you for letting me dream young for a day.