GEORGETOWN, WASHINGTON, D.C.
After some incessant nagging, Kelley Noonan and David Vito invited me to ride with them. I had been used to seeing them on The Bike Lane shop rides out of Reston on Saturdays but it has been a while since I have been there. The last time I saw Kelley was when she was wiped out on our group ride on May 2. I last rode with David on April 17. I looked forward to seeing them again.
Although I wanted to bike from home to meet them, I didn’t leave myself quite enough time to bike the entire distance so I drove to The Bike Lane in Burke and rode from there. I intercepted Kelley and David at Gallows Road on the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail and we rode from there to the Custis Trail to Crystal City then across the Key Bridge into Georgetown.
We met with a group of cyclists riding from Revolution Cycling. It was their shop ride. While they had two groups, and I would have preferred to ride with the faster group, Kelley and David were looking for an easy spin preparing for the Patriot Half Ironman in two weeks. Kelley had warned me that the pace would be slow as some riders were not comfortable in a group.
Kelley was right. On the route towards Great Falls (Md.) I dropped to the back to find Kelley, and she and a couple of riders were missing. I rode back to the front and told the ride leader, Katie, that we had dropped Kelley. So we waited and had the group reform.
Once we got rolling again, we weren’t far from “the hill.” David and Kelley had either warned me or told me that I would like the hill up to Great Falls. One mile long, it wasn’t overly steep, but enough to shed all the other riders. David had said I would win the King of the Mountains on this hill.
Just as we approached it, and it has a subtle rise, not a wall, announcing its presence, David pointed it out and we took off. David is less than half my age and I figured, even if he’s not a true climber, I still had no chance. There’s no way my legs could produce the power that young legs can. I did what a savvy veteran would. I let him pass and then I sat on his wheel up the entire climb.
I kept wondering when he was going to drop me, and at one point he did pull away by 10 – 15 feet (4 meters) or so but that was it. And then I got back on. I also figured I couldn’t hold him off if I tried to drop him too early. One big problem I had was that I didn’t know where the hill ended. I know, “at the top” but with each rise and each curve, how close were we to the top?
And then it happened. Sarah Brown, who probably weighs no more than 85 pounds, came flying by us. She is a new rider, maybe 23 years old, stands about five feet tall, and has the skinniest legs I have ever seen. She has no weight or body fat on her at all. Maybe worse, she couldn’t have been on our wheels when we left everyone behind and must have decided after we were gone 100-200 yards that she was going to catch and pass us.
I told David to go, and I think he tried, but neither of us could catch her. I found out later that she ran cross country and track in college. I bet she flies.
Nearing the top of the climb, I was able to pass David and take second in the KOM – but first in the Men’s Division. Or first in the Over 100 Pounds Division. Or the Over 25 Division.
Maybe at one time, when I was 25 like David, it would bother me, but I am just happy to be alive and do what I can do. I’ll gladly lose to Sarah (weighs half of what I do) or David (is half my age) and still be in the top group climbing the hill.
On a day when the temperature hit 92º, I ended up riding 65 miles. I loved another great day in the saddle.
Note: Photograph from Princeton Athletics website, http://www.goprincetontigers.com