Those yellow bracelets. Launched in May 2004 as a fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (Livestrong), they took the cycling world by storm. And indeed, a lot of the world. The majority of riders in the peloton in the 2004 Tour de France wore them.
It would be personal what the band meant to each wearer. Generally, it would mean, “I support people with cancer” or “Cancer research” or “Cancer awareness.”
I joined the masses and had one but wore it sporadically. But when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, I slipped it back on and wore it full-time, 24/7. Ironically, over the course of 11 years, the only time it wasn’t on my wrist was when I was fighting cancer. When I was being treated at Johns Hopkins I could not wear anything. Johns Hopkins had their own tubes and wrist bands for me.
In June 2013 I was in Durango, Colorado, where I met Bob Roll. Eight months earlier, Lance Armstrong had admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. So by 2013, most users had thrown their yellow bands away.
The yellow band represents Livestrong – the cancer-support organization. It does not represent Lance. But for most people, the yellow bands became a lie. Some believe that it was all a shame. Lance was a fraud. Livestrong was a fraud. And those bands ended up in the trash.
I continued to wear mine. And at Ride the Rockies, where just one year earlier most riders would be wearing one, now they were much less popular. But Bob Roll was still wearing one and I commented to him about it. He said he would never remove his. By last year on the Tour de France broadcasts, I saw Bob was no longer wearing one. (And maybe earlier than that too.)
I posted to our group, Cyclists Combating Cancer. I asked them if they still wear them or when they stopped. Most (who responded) still wear them. But two answers stood out.
Peter Collins stopped wearing them as they broke. But he added that (cancer) “no longer defines me. I am always ware of it but it is no longer in the forefront of my life.”
And a couple feel like the organization is a fraud. Jerry Kelly summed it up:
Jerry alleged that the CEO (Doug Ulman) and the Board lied about what they were doing with donations.
I hold no animus towards Lance Armstrong. Only he knows in his heart what was behind the creation of the Lance Armstrong Foundation (the nickname became Livestrong and the organization later took that name, erasing Lance’s name from the organization). And only Lance knows what was behind the creation of the yellow bracelet. It was alleged that this was to take pressure off him for doping allegations. One great big yellow distraction.
In June 2016 I was in the audience at Ride the Rockies in Aspen as Lance addressed the crowd. Moderator, Ron Kiefel, was selecting people to ask questions. He just called on raised hands with no idea what the question would be. I was not picked.
I wanted to have everyone stand if they ever wore the Livestrong bracelet. And then have everyone remain standing if they were still wearing it. And then ask Lance to address all those people who just sat down.
I would like to know. And what does Lance think of those of us who still wear that yellow band?
I hate cancer. I wish I never had cancer. I am a survivor. But I will not let cancer define me. And after 11 years of wearing this, I began to think I was being defined by cancer. My grandchildren have never seen me without the yellow band.
Today was to be the Livestrong Challenge in Austin. It was changed to a virtual event. And when the event went virtual, my band just went virtual.
I support cancer research. I support Livestrong and a number of other cancer-fighting organizations. But it’s time to turn a new leaf. I will wear my virtual band. You just can’t see it.
All my events and rides for 2020 have been canceled. When the Sea Gull Century announced their cancellation about three months ago, I decided I would do the ride anyway.
I came down yesterday and met Chey Hillsgrove in Bethany Beach. We went for a nice 25-mile late afternoon ride.
My plan was to stay in an Ocean City hotel rather than Salisbury. I checked in and no mention was made that the sign which stated “Breakfast Served Daily 6:30 – 9:30” didn’t actually apply. I would discover that in the morning when the nice young lady said they don’t serve breakfast “because COVID.” She handed me a bag with a mini-muffin.
This was not good. I needed those hotcakes or waffles. A muffin would not hack it but it would have to.
There would be two major differences about today’s route. First, I was starting and finishing in Ocean City rather than Salisbury. And second, I decided to ride the normal route backwards. I did that to see the route from a different perspective and it would also let me see who was on course today. Was I the only one or would there be groups of riders today?
Some allowances would have to be made on my ride because this was not an official event with SAG support and rest stops. There would be no water or Gatorade on course. No fruit or cookies. No port-a-johns.
I decided that because I knew where most of the country stores or gas stations were, I could stop and get water and food on the route. As far as port-a-johns, the route traveled through lots of forests. I could do this.
It was gray when I rolled out at 7:38 a.m. And it was windy too. I never did get a handle on the wind direction. Being a loop course, sometimes it was a headwind, sometimes it was a tailwind, and the rest of the time it was a crosswind. But there was always wind. Always. And the sun shone for about 15 minutes.
In Newark, I passed what was normally one of our rest stops and saw a group had set up a tent. I passed and said hello then went back to talk to them. Although the tent was for Mid-Shore, from Salisbury, the volunteers were from Virginia Beach. I asked them who they were supporting and one guy said “any cyclist who comes by.” They offered me something but I was only 17 miles in and hadn’t really started drinking so had nothing to replenish. I declined.
I was expecting hundred of riders but probably didn’t see more than 100. I saw some women yesterday from the Major Taylor Cycling Club which I assumed was Columbus or Dayton. But I see there are Major Taylor Cycling Clubs all across the country so dang me for not asking them where they were from.
It was perhaps a mistake by me not to carefully retrace the route backward. In building my course RideWithGPS seemed to follow some previous routes that I had done. I never checked the details. The first instance where I went off-course was in Newark. I recognized I was going to cross the dangerous tracks the course used 3-4 years ago where there were lots of falls. I made it through OK but there wasn’t a legal way to cross US 113. But I’m on a bike and I can do anything.
I had made myself a deal that I would stop near Snow Hill at the Assateague Bay. Except the route I was following never took me there. I knew there was a port-a-john in the park there so having missed it, I would have to improvise. I also hoped that I would follow the perimeter of the Salisbury Airport but rode past the entrance. There may have been a detour in place though so it worked out.
But the biggest change was in the town of Berlin. In the regular route the ride returns through Berlin. It is routed through a residential area before hitting the country roads. Going backwards today, my Wahoo took me right into the downtown. And what a charming, beautiful place Berlin, Maryland is. What a great discovery. And I also understand why the organizers would not want to send 8,000 cyclists through here.
In Salisbury, I stopped very briefly at a Royal Farms, store and gas station. Should I replenish or not? I check my water levels. I had eaten just one of my gels at that point and was 57 miles in. I ate the second and through away the wrapper. I decided I was good to go, and if not, could stop near Assateague.
The winds were brutal at times. Approaching Berlin I was overtaken by a tractor. I was riding at 21-22 mph and wasn’t sure he could go much faster. But her did. Once he passed I sped up to 28 mph and was sitting in his draft. I thought I could ride all day at 28 mph in his draft but probably only got a half-mile of draft before he turned off.
The groups never really materialized. I did see a peleton of about 40 irdes going in the opposite directions outside of Berlin. And turning onto Assateague Road I was passed, then integrated, with a group of cyclists. They were a group from D.C. (or near D.C.). We only had three miles to the Assateague parks and they went into the state park and I went to the National Park.
I have a lifetime pass to U.S. National Parks. I thought my chance of spotting a wild horse on Assategaue Island was better in the National Park. I saw lots of horse poop but no horses. I don’t remember seeing a seagull either.
The line to enter the park was enourmous. Seemed to be at least one mile long. But there was a bike path so I rode on the path. As I approached the ranger station the path went away from the station and into the park. Although I have my pass there was not place to present it. Not sure if it’s intended but it looks like you can bike into the national park for free.
I wanted to do a six-hour century. I never checked my time but figured that I would get back to my car around 2:00 p.m. A six-hour century requires one to average 16.7 mph. I wasn’t sure if I could but needed only to look at my past rides here. In 2016 I averaged 17.1 mph. In 2018 I averaged 17.3 mph. In both of those I was pulling for some slower riders.
I was pretty excited to see that I averaged 17.9 mph today. While it was my best ever, it wasn’t appreciably better. But what was different was I was solo the entire ride today, except for a brief interlude behind a tractor and with a cycling group. So I am pretty happy with this ride. Very happy.
Distance: 105.4 miles Average: 17.9 mph Weight: 174
I have really mixed feelings about my performance on this ride. At first I was pretty happy with the average but upon review, it’s in the ballpark with other rides I’ve done here. It was only 0.2 faster than last year and I didn’t ride in any groups last year although sometimes just being around others and you pick up the speed.
The wind? In a loop course, if the wind remains steady all day then some is headwind and some is tailwind. Then just a little protection by riding with others is helpful. But does it even out? I suspect not, much like a flat ride over 50 miles will be faster than a mountainous ride of 5,000′ of gain and 5’000′ of descent. There is something about the energy used in climbing that you don’t get back with the descent. And maybe riding into the wind takes more out of you than riding with a tailwind gives back.
Losing 35 pounds has been very helpful on rolling or hilly courses. But maybe it makes not difference on the flats, especially when it’s windy. I felt at times I was getting shredded by the wind yesterday – maybe a bigger me wouldn’t have been as bad.
It wasn’t going to be a day of PRs because I rode the course backward. No baseline to measure me by. But I did PR on the one “climb” of the day – the Assateague Bridge Climb. So maybe shedding weight helped there. I could have gone faster – much faster – but would have to be a jerk and pass riders on that narrow bridge. Still, 4th all-time age group.
Total time was 6:14 with just 20 minutes stopped. There was a chat with the tri-guys in Newark and offloading trash in Salisbury. A few photo ops. A couple of stoplights. One break au natural. Last year I was stopped for 1:14. In 2018 it was one hour even. In 2017 it was a more reasonable 35 minutes (and also a 17.9 average). In 2016 it was a ridiculous 1:33 (I joined with three riders from Blair Cycling Club – one had a flat which we stopped and waited to repair).
My other decent time – 17.9 – was three years ago. On that day I did form up with some others and was in a group a lot. So today was a solo effort.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, there was nutrition. Or lack thereof. The hotel did not offer breakfast as advertised. No rest stops meant no snacking on the ride. And no water. I rode with two water bottles and three gels. Surely a little more fuel would have helped.
In early 2008 Bicycling magazine published an article about the toughest climbs in each state. Maybe not the toughest but most iconic in each state. 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 was then I knew I had to ride it. And 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 completed in 1854 which got trains over the Allegheny Mountains. The New York Central could run a train from New York to Chicago in 16 hours but it took 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 clickety-clack clickety-clack 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. The first is Lake Altoona, the largest and prettiest of the three. The second is the Kittanning Reservoir. The third is at the Curve itself. It is smaller than the first two and I’m not sure that it is named.
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 orange 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 one of the three 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, 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. And the passengers on the Pennsylvanian (Amtrak, twice daily) surely must enjoy the view.
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 that 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 that 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 immense 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. Today, there was a logging truck followed closely by a car. And that was it.
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 in 2010, I brought some friends here from Northern Virginia. None was more special than my good friend, Scott Scudamore. I am sure glad he got to experience this climb and we had a blast twice bombing the descent on Sugar Run Road.
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. Chelsea would see a curve ahead and then ask – “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. I was 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.
I was feeling quite down this morning. And I looked on my bike and the stem cap says “I am a Survivor – 10 Years.” And my bad feelings went away. Let’s enjoy this day!
I didn’t have any segments starred in Strava so none displayed as I was riding. But at the end of the ride, I saw I was averaging more than a 15 mph pace. And I don’t think I ever did a ride with this climb that I averaged 15 mph.
I looked at Strava. I averaged 15.4 mph. And I had PRs on all the segments. Most of those I am #1 in my age group as well. Although my times are nowhere near the best times – I can’t compete with the young guns. But in competing against myself (PRs) and in my age group, I did pretty well.
My earliest rides were not recorded. The first record ride I can find of Horseshoe Curve was August 2, 2009. I had lost a lot of weight prior to my cancer diagnosis. In addition, I was “training” for the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. And on the same route as today, I averaged 14.2 mph. Of course I was 11 years YOUNGER!
For one day, I felt strong(er) in the mountains. My times pale in comparison to the young riders but I was better today than 11 years ago. And only in the last five years have my rides been uploaded to Strava for those comparisons – and I broke every personal record there too. On a heavy gravel bile.
This mountain is where I come to get away. And this is where I find peace on a bike.
Distance: 20.4 miles Average: 15.4 mph Max Speed: 41.8 mph Weight: 179
I read about this “destination” trail in Pennsylvania called the Pine Creek Trail. It is a 62-mile rail trail that runs between Wellsboro and Jersey Shore.
I love the open road. I don’t like traffic. There must be a happy balance between the two. Rail trails are especially nice if they are paved. Most are not. And this trail had a crushed limestone surface.
Most riders choose a hybrid bike to ride this trail. I chose my Trek Checkpoint, a gravel bike. I used road tires, 32 cc width. I think 25 cc would be ok too although 28 cc would be better. I do have 40 cc gravel tires with small knobby tread but decided that would be overkill for this trail. The 32s were fine.
And I was right. Especially near the Wellsboro and Jersey Shore trailheads, the path is packed down pretty solid. In the middle, I found a bit more loose gravel but it was no problem for my road tires.
The literature often suggests that the trail runs downhill from Wellsboro to Jersey Shore. I’ve seen estimates as much as a 2% grade. I call nonsense. Let’s resort for a minute to facts.
The elevation change over 62 miles is only 702 feet. That computes to 0.2% grade. Or for those who claim it’s one percent downhill, they have overstated the grade by fivefold. For this cyclist this trail is flat. But I didn’t know that before riding.
I wanted to ride the entire trail. Ideally, I could ride 62 miles and meet my ride. That wasn’t an option because I was riding solo. Actually, it could have been an option had I researched this because there is an outfitter in Wellsboro that will drive your car to Jersey Shore for $120.
My options for riding the entire length would be: (1) ride 128 miles in one day; (2) Ride from one city to the other, overnight, then ride back the next day; or (3) ride out and back on two days to cover the distance.
I thought I might not have enough daylight or energy for the first option. In retrospect, I would have. I did not like the lodging choices for the second option plus I did not want to carry extra gear with me to overnight. So that left me with the third option.
I decided on staying in Williamsport as they had many good lodging options. I left home early yesterday morning and arrived in Jersey Shore at 1:00 p.m. I would ride half the trail today and half tomorrow.
Based on the erroneous claims that the trail is uphill to Wellsboro, I wanted to start in Jersey Shore and ride uphill so I would have the downhill on my return. Of course, I would soon learn that the trail is flat.
I decided to ride for two hours then turn around. I would return around 5:00 p.m. which was a good day.
I parked next to a trailhead in Jersey Shore although I don’t think this is part of the trail. I think it is a one-mile access trail to reach the actual trailhead.
Once on the gravel trail, I had gone seven miles just south of Waterville. I came upon a woman on her bike and her adult son running. Except they were stopped and pointing in the woods. And there was a black bear. My day was made. My ride was made.
There are a lot of at grade road crossings. Although most are small roads that lead to cottages the trail does cross Pa. Rte 44 and 414 a few times as well. At each of these crossings, there were usually two gates to navigate. I soon discovered that rather than try to see how to get around the gates it was easier to see where the worn trail led. I thought that getting through these gates would slow my average more than riding on gravel.
There were three trestles in this section and I rode to the Black Walnut Bottom parking area (MP 37). I chose to ride for two hours then find the next or closest parking area where I would start today. So this was perfect. It looked like I had ridden 25 miles and averaged 12.5 mph – which is what I planned for a gravel trail.
I had stopped a lot for photos. And bears. So my moving average was certainly faster. When I turned around I felt dirty. Grit all over. The bike was dirty. I was dirty. And I saw the road beside the trail. I hadn’t studied the route ahead of time but felt the road would take me back to Jersey Shore.
I could not check my phone for a map. The Pine Creek Trail is in the Pine Creek Gorge which is more commonly known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. There is no cell service deep in this canyon. So I jumped on the road to see where it would take me.
Some of the time the road was pancake flat and stayed next to the trail. Other times it climbed high. It gave me views high above the trail that I would not otherwise see. But I was still in the canyon. I did not climb out of the canyon. To see the canyon from the top I would have to leave and go to one of the vantage points. That would not happen on this trip.
My return trip went much faster. Part of it was because I didn’t stop as much for photos. But part was because I was on the road. When I checked my data at the end of the ride I had averaged 15.5 mph. I was shocked because I expected 12-13 mph since I was on a gravel trail, at least for half the time.
Today’s ride would be a little more complicated. I did not want to simply do an out and back starting at MP 37 (Black Walnut Bottom) which is where I stopped yesterday. I had studied one alternative route back by road.
It was 50° when I rolled out at 9:30 a.m. Deep in the canyon the sunshine doesn’t reach some of the deeper parts until later. It would be one hour until I saw anyone on the trail. They were all keeping warm.
I just rode. At Blackwell,a group of eight cyclists was just ahead. I recognized the 2016 Ride the Rockies jersey on one of them. Another referred to me as a serious cyclist. I guess I was because I would pass them and they would be out of sight 30 seconds later.
I’ve read other accounts about this trail and how to get to the nearby waterfalls. I just rode. My road cycling shoes are not that good for hiking and I don’t really see me switching pedals and shoes for this bike. It’s a gravel bike but it’s primarily my second road bike. I’ll probably never have cycling/hiking shoes unless I put platform pedals on this bike.
I reached the end of the trail near Wellsboro (three miles away) and decided to execute my road plan of returning. I knew I would be riding more than 70 miles and only had two bottles with me, one banana, and one pack of Skratch energy chews. I should have stopped in Wellsboro for something to eat.
One reason I did not was because of restrictions in place due to COVID-19. I didn’t go for a bike ride with a mask. Maybe a store or restaurant would have had a mask for me or wouldn’t care, but I just didn’t want the hassle.
And I really wanted to keep riding. And so I did. This little city is quite beautiful. I had a 2.5-mile climb leaving Wellsboro and then a sweet 10-mile descent to Morris. There I picked up Rte 414 and had another five miles before meeting up with the Pine Creek Trail again. Although when I did I would stay on the road.
I arrived back to the car having ridden 71 miles (the road loop was shorter). My average, like yesterday, was 15.5 mph. The surface is generally pretty hard. Having ridden it once I now know I could have averaged 15 mph and done an out and back for the entire length in 9-10 hours. But for that, I would stop for lunch.
Distance: 123.7 miles Average Speed: 15.5 mph Weight: 178
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.