Sluggish

CHARLES TOWN, WEST VIRGINIA

One thing about distance riding is that you have plenty of time to let your mind take over and absolutely enjoy the peace and solitude on a bike. But when things aren’t going so well it can be too much time fighting the cycling demons.

While it sometimes felt that I have made this 70-80 mile ride a hundred times, in truth I have made it less than 15 times. The distance is nice but it’s also a dangerous ride with up to 10 miles on some hi-speed two-lane roads with no shoulder. It’s a matter of pick your poison depending on which of two major routes to take.

Having a family gathering at Bethany’s, it was a perfect day to bike. It was 32 degrees when I left the house. I was kitted up and was toasty warm. I rolled out of the house towards Manassas. I wasn’t concerned about time and thought it was a good thing because in the first 10 miles I seemed a little sluggish.

In Manassas I came to a road closure for their annual Christmas Parade. It took me down to Wellington and then over to Ashton Ave. I hadn’t gone this way, even in a car, but realized I was parallel to the very busy Sudley Road and was thankful that even though it was a mile or two longer, I have found a safer way through Manassas.

After a stop at the visitor center at the Manassas Battlefield Park, I headed west on Sudley Road. This is a dangerous two-lane road with no shoulder. Coming to the Aldie Market, I stopped and bought two Snickers bars. I was sluggish.

After crossing US 15, I stared ahead at Bull Run Mountain. I got on Mountain Road but was thankful this road was parallel to the ridge and I would mostly be going around the mountain and not over it. At Mile 40 in the town of Aldie, I stopped at the country store and bought a king size Snickers. I was sluggish.

Snickersville Turnpike, aptly named today, is an unmarked two-lane country road which is a beautiful ride. As it approaches the Blue Ridge it may trend slightly uphill but is mostly rollers, some of them pretty steep. It is a continuous ride of up and down.

After 15 miles you reach Bluemont at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountain. And here the road goes straight up. I was worried. I wasn’t feeling it. I was sluggish.

On November 9 I had ridden 50 miles but it wasn’t really a 50 mile ride. I rode to a doctor’s appointment and back and added a little more. That is important because the last long ride I had was on October 21 in Austin at the Livestrong Challenge. I had plenty of short rides but nothing more than 30 miles since.

I felt great that day. After 80 miles in Austin I pedaled faster — I averaged more than 21 mph over the last 20 miles. Solo. Not drafting in a group of riders. And I know that when the body is trained it knows how to release fat stores so that you can ride as fast, or faster, after 80 miles. Today, I was sluggish. And it was always on my mind. 

Even the flattest section, Sudley Road, I struggled to average a pedestrian 15 mph. Actually, I didn’t average 15 mph.

Time dragged on. Every pedal stroke reminded me how unfit I am. The cell phone taunted me. Use it! Call ahead and tell them you can’t do it and come pick you up.

Every mile. Every mile I fought that temptation. I got to the top of Snickers Gap (US 7) and knew it was all downhill. Well, downhill to the Shenandoah River then flat, with rollers, the rest of the way.

Turning on Shepherds Mill Road every little rise in the road gave me trouble. As I passed Moose Apple Christmas Tree farm I pulled in and looked at maybe more than 50 cars parked. Although there was a big line waiting to pay for a tree, I went to the front “just to say hello” to the owner.

Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm

I told him I was there during Bike Virginia and he told me he remembered. He said I was from Woodbridge and worked for the Postal Service. I must be memorable. That good feeling was enough to power me the next five or six miles.

My thought was my next goal – Sheetz. Even though it was two miles from Bethany’s I knew I couldn’t make the last two miles with a food stop.

I stopped at Sheetz. I ordered food. After paying and standing while waiting for my food I didn’t see any seats in the store. I felt too tired to stand and looked for a place to sit on the floor. But I didn’t. I was sluggish.

After eating and resting I got ready for the last two miles. Crossing US 340 there is a slight hill and I struggled to get up it then celebrated as I knew that was the last hill to climb on the day. One mile later I arrived.

I went in the house to a number of concerned family because I was so late. I explained I was sluggish. Although it has been six weeks since my last long ride I explained how quickly one can lose fitness. I blamed the cold as one burns more calories, I think, keeping warm. And pedaling with tights I figured must slow me down some too.

I was almost too tired to put the bike away but I knew I would have to before I could shower and shave the Movember mustache. I had leaned the bike against my parents’ car and now walked it down the driveway. I didn’t think much that it didn’t seem to roll freely. In fact, I had to coax it down the small hill on their driveway.

At the car I went to remove the wheels. Since I had been pedaling in low gear the chain was on the top sprocket and it’s easier to remove and replace the wheels if one moves the chain to the lowest sprocket. I lifted the bike and turned the crank with my hand and shifted gears. The wheel spun. Then stopped. Crap!

I looked at the rear brake and it had somehow been misaligned. The left brake shoe was solid against the wheel. I had just ridden 78 miles with the brake on.

Left pad was snug against the wheel

Stupid!

Of the thousands of miles I have ridden one thing I don’t normally do is check to see if the brakes are misaligned. But they can get pushed or knocked out of alignment and it’s an easy fix to put them back. One thing you don’t want to do is to ride 77 miles with the brake on.

You’ll feel sluggish.

Livestrong Weekend

AUSTIN, TEXAS

It’s not about the bike — is both a how long in advance should i take viagra symptoms spondylolisthesis professional dissertation writersВ https://www.carrollkennelclub.org/phrasing/examples-types-of-essays/6/ how to format a research paper go here crestor medical center lancaster tx follow url witing a business plan https://ramapoforchildren.org/youth/american-revolution-essay/47/ buying viagra in the uk cialis jemez pueblo https://earthwiseradio.org/editing/same-day-essays/8/ https://heystamford.com/writing/where-to-buy-resume-paper/8/ il viagra farmaco generico high-flying paper airplanes by jack botermans buying cialis in tijuana viagra lake lindsey enter https://www.nationalautismcenter.org/letter/how-to-write-newsletter-to-parents/26/ academic plans essay criminal justice research paper how to write a cover letter for an unadvertised job pdf healthy man viagra radio follow site cialis cleveland source link how to do my homework watch students essay writing thesis for a persuasive essay go to site Lance Armstrong book title and frequent comment of cyclists. But it’s not about the cyclist either. Arriving Friday for the Livestrong Gala was a bit weird. With a damning USADA report just released outlining years of doping and Lance electing not to defend himself, this would be his first public appearance since the report. But nowhere would people be more supportive than at the 15th Anniversary Gala.

 

Yellow Carpet Entrance at the Gala

I was conflicted as I knew I would be. Lance, the founder of Livestrong deserved the benefit of the doubt. But fresh in my mind was the report detailing 15 years of cheating. Of lying. And with all his teammates lining up to take admit their part, the time was right for Lance to take responsibility. But he seemingly never addressed any of the allegations other than to rely on the tired statement that he passed 500 drug tests.

Minimum Bid for Lance’s Seven Podium Jerseys:  $10,000

From backstage Lance appeared and the crowd stood. I wanted to remain seated but also wanted to see so I stood too. It was weird for me. During his prepared remarks he only talked about Livestrong. But there was a technical glitch so he and Matthew McConaughey appeared together and Matthew referred to the past few weeks. Lance said he has had better days – but he’s also had worse. That seemed sincere until …

Twelve minutes before the Gala

…This morning I was in line with the 100 mile group to roll out of the Palmer Event Center for the Livestrong Challenge. I couldn’t quite see the stage but I could hear Lance. And he told the crowd that he has had better days – but he’s also had worse. It left me wondering if it was just a line that his PR people came up with.

In Memory of Jake the Hero Grecco, 8

But it’s not about the bike. And it’s not about the cyclist either. Livestrong is about the 28 million people with cancer (or is that fake too?).

Memory and Honor Bibs at the Livestrong Village

Yesterday I made a “bib” in Memory of Jake the Hero and promptly hung it at Livestrong. I made another. I hung it there too. I made one in my hotel room and the wind tore it off. I made a fourth.

 

None of my bibs survived the strong winds

We rolled out of Austin on a warm morning. The temperature was already in the mid 70s. I never felt comfortable in a pace line and did very little riding on other’s wheels. If I was going to I was scared off around Mile 22 when some guys started to pass me and when one got right beside me to went down hard and took out three riders with him. He just missed taking me down.

 

I think every farm in Texas is a ranch

The wind was quite strong but never so much that I complained. I love riding with the wind in my face — maybe not quite this much, but it was fun.

Big flags. Big wind.

The elevation was listed as only 2,200′ for 100 miles which seems like almost any flat ride would have that. I expected more and believe that was off by at least half.

At Mile 48 we were riding on the flat plains when I could see cyclists ahead climbing a “wall.” My initial thought was “what in the hell is this?” followed by “alright!, finally a real hill.”

I’m not that good. But I like to climb. And this one was formidable. It wasn’t overly lengthy, maybe 3/4 mile, but it went from valley floor to what must be a butte summit and rose quickly. I had not used my granny gear and never thought I would but seeing this hill up ahead knew that I would.

Only about 200-300 yards in they had painted “16% grade” on the road and I’m sure it was. I would estimate that fully 2/3 of riders I saw were walking at some point. I passed many — slowly, but I passed. I would not let a hill beat me.
At the top was a rest stop manned by the Texas 4000 — the University of Texas group that bikes 4,000 miles from Austin to Anchorage. I had met some of the kids yesterday at check-in and a couple even called out my name. That was pretty cool actually.

Texas 4000 Rest Stop

The Livestrong Challenge is well-supported with a rest stop about every 10 miles. And I stopped at every one to fill my water bottles. At each stop I’m sure stronger riders kept on going so I may have lost my place in line with faster riders. Actually, when I lined up at the start I was at the end of the 100-mile group anyhow so basically anyone faster than me I probably never caught. I was here for a relaxing and reflective ride.

 

Some of the Texas 4000

Around Mile 70 we pulled into Blanco Vista, a new suburban community. While 3,999 riders stayed on the street, I took to the path/sidewalk which was about 20 feet wide. I curved back and forth making for a fun ride. Riders looked at me leaning into the curves of the empty path. I told them this was lots more fun. I was feeling great!

Bike on stand at rest stop. The back tire never was right.

At mile 78 I decided I could lift the pace a little bit. Once I hit the road I started pulling back people for the next 20 miles. Not once did I get passed by anyone. As I approached an intersection a policeman slowed me down to let out opposing traffic but told me not to stop and lose my momentum. Once traffic cleared he waived me on. I popped out of the saddle for an extra burst and he said “Wow! You look like you just stated riding.” I told him I felt good.

 

Texas 4000 Information Stand

And I thought about that. Maybe all the fast riders started before me and were gone but this is the place where lots of distance riding kicks in. For those riders who were pushing themselves beyond a typical 20 or 30 mile distance, the body simply isn’t used to it. And I actually felt better at Mile 80 than at Mile 10. For him to recognize that meant a lot.

I stopped to help this deaf rider at Mile 69

For the next 10 miles I just pulled people back until I came to an intersection with about 30 cyclists waiting. Once we got the green I moved past them all except one rider, Mark from Irvine, California. He came with me and sat on my wheel. He told me he was glad I came along. He said he just wanted to follow me (in  my draft) as long as he possibly could. I obliged. I don’t really know if it costs me anything in terms of energy doing all the pulling. Usually we would swap off but I felt that strong I did all the pulling. I even backed off at a couple of rises in the road so not to drop him.

 

Riders on Course

With a mile to go in city traffic, we were in with other riders we caught. And after feeling good all day with no signs of cramping — it hit. A severe cramp in my right hamstring. I could not pedal. We were going downhill and I unclipped but any position hurt. I thought I might have to be sagged back with a mile to go. But I would crawl first.

We came to the last light before entering the river side park where the finish was. I unclipped, put both feet down. When the light turned green the cramp was gone and that was that. Mark and I rolled into the finish, I stayed to the right for survivors.

Still selling Livestrong gear

At Philly the survivor’s finish was a separate chute to the right. And that was special. In Austin it was just stay to the right. Still the announcer called out my name and I was handed a yellow rose.

 

My friend, Vanessa Beltran, came down to meet me at the finish. And that was special. It was the first Challenge where I had someone at the finish.

I don’t know the future for Livestrong. But I hope it remains a vibrant cancer supporting organization. At the heart of the fund raising are the challenges. They are wonderful events – to ride – to reflect – to remember.

The Survivor’s Yellow Rose – of Texas

As for Lance, I had a great day on the bike. When people passed me I didn’t feel challenged that I had to beat them. And over the last 20 miles I averaged more than 20 miles an hour – solo — which is the best I think I ever have done at distance by myself (wind aided). But it never was about beating every person I passed. It was simply me having fun. I hope that someday Lance can ride a bike for fun. Maybe Lance can find peace on a bike.

 

Five Weeks Later I Finished

THURMONT, MARYLAND

With a feeling that I left something unfinished, today was the perfect day to return and finish the Civil War Century. On September 8 I had begun the climb of South Mountain when severe storms hit. I cut the route short electing to return to the safety of the van.

 

Library at Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

A chilly morning, it was 48 degrees when I left home with a forecast of temperatures in the 70s. Arriving Thurmont, I discovered it was something called Colorfest Days and there was no free parking to be had anywhere in Thurmont. I drove up Catoctin Mountain Road about  two miles and decided I would pull over next to the stream, completely off the road.

Covered Bridge near Fairfield, Pa.

I decided to leave the jacket and long finger gloves behind, believing in the forecast. A mistake.

Tunnel in Md. near Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

I climbed over South Mountain, partly knowing where I was going and partly just exploring. I was surprised when I entered Pennsylvania that I was immediately in Blue Ridge Summit, a small town I had ridden through before on three occasions. And it made sense to me that this was the bailout route for the Civil War Century should someone on the full century route decide after 65-70 miles they wanted to go back to Thurmont. It really is all downhill back to Thurmont from here.

Sabillsville Rd aka Catoktin Mt Route

I had hoped the road markings from the CWC were still in place and they were. Except when they weren’t. At one intersection there was new asphalt down and my marking was gone. I went part on memory and part of feel. And I was right. Mostly.

A painted over marking on the road
Gettysburg, Pa.

Leaving Fairfield, Pa. I came to an intersection and did not see any markings and assumed no turn was necessary. After a few hundred yards I knew it felt wrong but I kept going. I sensed where Gettysburg was and figured I could still get there even though I missed the actual turn.

Fairfield Inn, Fairfield, Pa.

Arriving at the battlefield I got back on course. I found one of the markers and it had been covered in black. I wonder if the Park Service did that but wouldn’t be surprised if the CWC staff did that after the event out of respect for the battlefield.

Gettysburg National Park

Leaving Gettysburg I lost the trail, or so I thought, but picked it up again. The winds picked up and were in my face the rest of the day. And I was cold. Until about the final 10 miles, the temperatures held steady in the 50s and I didn’t have a jacket. 

I wasn’t feeling well. Only a 50-mile ride I had four packets of gels/GUs and ate them all hoping it would help. I was a bit light headed but managed to stay on my bike. Unlike most rides, a sense of relief came over me when I arrived back at the car. Fifty (miles) was enough. But five weeks after I started, I can now say I finished the ride.

EPILOGUE – As a testament to how crappy I felt or how strong the wind was, I averaged a higher speed the first hour which included the 7-mile climb from the start than I did the last hour when it was flat.
 

Knowing When to Say Yes

NAGS HEAD, NORTH CAROLINA

I don’t know if it’s me. Or if it’s men in general. But offer me help and I’ll probably turn you down. Maybe if I accept assistance it indicates a sign of weakness I’m not ready to admit to. So when Greg, and his daughter Sam (Samantha), from Rocky Mount, NC, saw me changing a flat and offered me a ride in their truck, my first instinct was to say no. But then I thought about I had one CO2 cartridge and if I messed that up, I’d have to walk 3.5 miles back to where I parked. And I had wedding to get to.

Greg and his daughter Sam

I was here for the wedding of friends David Vito and Kelley Noonan. I came down a couple of hours early to be able to ride. I parked in Nags Head and headed south on S. Virginia Dare Trail, the road parallel to the main highway. No shoulders but a reduced speed limit. Still, one “local” (I assume, he had North Carolina plates) gave me an ear full of horn even though I was all the way to the right and there was a wide open lane to the left. I gave him a friendly (true) wave.

 

David, Barry, Kelley

But what’s up with the road rage in North Carolina? David and Alistair Hastings had a couple incidents yesterday and Pierce Schmerge said he was yelled at also today. Hey North Carolina: Bike Belong.

 

At the south end of Nags Head is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I headed south on the main road, Rte 12, Cape Hatteras National Park Road. Although the speed limit was 55, there was a decent sized shoulder. I went into Bodie Island to see the lighthouse and was disappointed to see that it was covered by scaffolding. 

Bodie Island Lighthouse. Closed for Remodeling.

Heading south again, I wanted to cross the sound but only went about 200 yards on the Oregon Inlet bridge. No shoulder. None. And 55 mph. I turned around.

 

Oregon Inlet Bridge

I headed back to explore a little more of Nags Head and thought I might try to make it up to Kill Devil Hills and photograph the Wright Brothers’ Memorial. But on my way I flatted. I’m not sure what it was that I pulled out of the tire. Possibly a sand spur, which I pulled out of my skin. Ouch!

Pier at Nags Head

My track record with CO2 cartridges is about 50%. If I was in a group ride and messed it up I could always borrow another tube or cartridge. But if I messed it up it now it would be walking time. So Greg and Sam offered and I accepted. And I’m glad I did.

One Property is Footloose. The next is Fancy Free.

I got to the wedding with plenty of time to spare plus I was able to change my flat in my room with a floor pump. Thanks to Greg and Sam and for once I knew when to say yes.

Oh My God – I Killed Chey

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA

I was very pleased that Chey Hillsgrove could join me for Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo Presented by the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. Chey was Jake Grecco’s Pedal Pal and while I had met him in Baltimore before his cross country trip, I had never ridden with him. So today would be the first day.

Barry Sherry, Chey Hillsgrove

Last night we checked in then went next door to Dave’s Downtown Taverna. By luck we ran into Erin Bishop, the event director, who invited us into the Gala. That solved our issue of where we would eat. After the ceremonies we met Robert Hess and his sister, Jodi, as well as Jeremiah Bishop. Robert presented me with a cycling jacket from the Prostate Cancer Foundation Project. My friend, Scott Scudamore was the emcee so we got to see him and his wife, Margaret, as well.

Barry, Jeremiah Bishop

Today in the parking lot, my cousin, Krissy Harlan, came over from JMU to say hello. When we got called up to the line they called fund raisers followed by cancer survivors. I was the only survivor who went to the front. Strange, I thought. There are more of us.

Krissy Harlan, Barry

I found myself on the front row with Ben King, racer for Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek. Ben was U.S. National road race champ in 2010. We chatted briefly and had a photo op.

 

Ben King, Barry, Robert Hess

As we rolled out I went just a one block then pulled over looking for Chey. As he rolled by I moved up and caught him.

Chey was on his new Lightspeed bike and hadn’t yet been fit to it. After 18 miles as we came to the base of the first time climb, we pulled over to adjust his seat. There were probably 15-20 people at this point who had also pulled over. It appeared to be a woodsy-bathroom break too, but not for us. Although we had discussed doing the climbs at your own pace, and I thought he’d pull away from me, I pulled away from him. Chey hadn’t been on a bike since the 4K ended August 4 and his bike was stolen in Tacoma. So it was fair enough that he had lost his bike fitness.

Top of the first climb, looking back towards Va.

Last year I did this five mile climb in 48 minutes, just riding a comfortable pace. And I was passed early by a number of riders. Today was different. Although I was passed by one rider, I pulled back 10 riders on the climb. My time was 35:05. It’s not going to win me any prize but I love seeing the 13 minute improvement over last year. And it was rated eighth out of 18 in my age group so it was above the line.

At the top I waited for Chey. Then we bombed the descent on US 33. I pulled back another 10 riders on the descent, at one point passing a motorcycle as we both cornered. I was flying. My top speed was 46.7 mph.

After the first rest we came to the Medio/Gran Fondo split, off the main road and up a three mile dirt/gravel road with 15-18% grades. Rough. Last year I, along with everyone else, walked most of the way as this section was all mud. Today it was dry and while I made it most of the way, there were two sections that had so much gravel I simply dismounted and walked for 100 yards. And I’m not ashamed.

Meadow at the top of the gravel climb

As I waited at the top I talked to Richard Canlas, from Texas, who made his way up. He was waiting for his buddy, Ronald “Zeke” Smith, from D.C. Zeke tried the route last year but couldn’t finish so he had his friend from Texas join him. While Richard expressed concern we might miss a cutoff point, I told him whatever happens, happens. 

After Chey crossed the top we hit a dangerously steep two-mile descent then pulled into a rest stop. The other two riders pulled in after us but rolled out one minute ahead of us. And then we were last. The last riders on the Gran Fondo course.

One tough gravel climb

As we started to climb, Chey was struggling with his bike. It may have a bottom bracket issue but being set up with a 39 tooth small front ring, the bike was slowing him down. He needed a compact. Still, we rode together and could see the two riders in front of us. I went ahead and caught Zeke who by then was alone. I think minutes before he told Richard to go ahead and make the cutoff without him.

Arriving at the cutoff we were told we had missed the time and would be rerouted over to the Medio climb to get us back on course. No problem. Although Zeke took off, I quickly hit the descent, passing him going 40 mph. When I got through all the sharp curves I sat up and let Zeke catch and pass me. I looked back but didn’t see Chey. At the bottom I soft pedaled for Chey to catch up but he didn’t. I was only three miles from the top and I stopped at the rest stop. And waited. After about 10 minutes and asking about Chey we heard he had crashed hard. I was sick.

 

Chey’s lack of riding for six weeks plus learning his new bike left him tired. At the Medio/Gran split I should have taken the Medio route. Instead, being macho, we turned up that awful gravel road and Chey started walking almost immediately. That should have been my clue.  And now, he crashed. Damn me! I thought I killed Chey.

A few minutes later the SAG van came in and Chey was in it. I saw a smile on his face which was a relief. I hadn’t seen a smile since he began the climb on gravel. He got out and stood up gingerly. He was bleeding and his shorts were ripped up.

The guy running the rest stop was packed up and ready to go. He already had his son in the front seat and could take two passengers and two bikes. The quickest way back to get Chey treatment was to get him back to Harrisonburg. Maybe that was even quicker than calling for an ambulance here in a remote part of West Virginia. And Zeke decided he had had enough. So the two of them took the car back to Harrisonburg.

 

I headed up the 7.5 mile climb. This was the second climb on the Medio route. It was paved now but last year was dirt. Unlike last year, there was no timing station setup.

Jake loved blue butterflies and we are left to wonder about some mysteries in life. I have never seen a blue butterfly in my life. But since Jake left us these blue butterflies seem to appear at the strangest times.

Jake’s Memory was with us

 I knew I was last on the course. I had the 7.5 mile climb all by myself. As I started off without Chey I became very emotional. I felt that I had pushed Chey to ride the long route. Maybe he even crashed because he was tired. And here I was all alone on this climb. Just as I was to start to cry a blue butterfly fluttered by. What the hell?! I had never seen a blue butterfly before. But I thought of Jake. And I knew that Jake’s Pedal Pal, Chey, would be OK.

My mind turned to the climb. After a mile or so the SAG van passed me then went about 1/4 mile ahead and waited. I passed and the van leapfrogged me. And so it went. I believed the driver was watching the clock and at some point was going to tell me I was beyond the cutoff and to jump in the van. Sometimes he walked down the road looking for me. But I kept the pace and kept going.

I was so sure he was going to pull me off course that I had my speech ready to go. He can’t make me get off the road. He could have my timing chip and my race number but I have the right to the road. I was going to finish the ride for Jake and that was bigger than his cutoff time. In fact, I probably had an hour in the bank. But nothing was going to stop me.

Then I started thinking about taking the lanterne rouge award for being the last finisher. Reaching the summit I flew across the top of Reddish Knob and began my descent. I was flying and got halfway down the mountain when I saw a number of riders. I caught the last guy going about 35 mph then tagged him. “You’re last,” I told him. He looked at me not knowing what I was talking about. Then I drifted back – to last – and waited for the SAG van. “I thought you said I could be last.”  He laughed at me.

I pedaled ahead and came to a rest stop with lots of cyclists. I wasn’t going to be last.

Just 18 miles to go and the roads in this section were rollers — undulating ups and downs with some flat sections. On a gravel road I passed a farmhouse with the name Wenger on the mailbox. Then about 100 yards away I passed another farmhouse. A Mennonite woman waved to me. I stopped. 

Her three young daughters were watching from the door and I asked if their name was Wenger. It was. I told them my great-great-great-grandmother was Mary Wenger. There was a pretty good chance we were distantly related. (This from my knowledge of Wenger genealogy) The girls, dressed in their plain long dresses came to see me. I gave them my business card. We were so different. They in their very conservative dress and me outfitted in blue/black spandex. With FUCANCER on the jersey. They must have wondered where I went so wrong.

I pedaled to the finish. Crossing the line the announcer called my name and said I was on a hot list. Then he found it to read that I was a survivor. I would have preferred him to say what I wrote — I was riding in memory of Jake Grecco – the toughest superhero I know.

 

Finisher’s Medal for Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

Chey was waiting at the finish. He was banged up and bandaged up a little. Nothing broke, he didn’t go for X-rays. Lots of road rash and some mechanical issues with the bike that will have to be fixed. But hopefully we can do this another day. And I didn’t kill him.
 

Storms on the Mountain

THURMONT, MARYLAND

I planned to get to Thurmont early for the Civil War Century because severe storms were forecast to move into the area around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. Up at 5:15 a.m., I still got caught in traffic north of Frederick as a “mudder” event with 20,000 participants was also being held and traffic was backed up for miles. I was wheels down at 8:18 a.m. – an hour later than I had hoped.

Ominous looking early morning sky to the west

After a seven-mile warm up climb through Catoctin Mountain Park, ones comes to Wolfsville, Maryland. Just beyond Wolfsville is a hill. It has no name – I just call it “50 mile hill” because two years ago I hit 50 mph on the descent. Like last year, I didn’t recognize it when I descended and only hit 47. So I decided I would double back one mile and try it again. I had a head wind and gave it my all and hit 49.1 mph. Sigh. I decided there would be no third time.

I caught, Jeff, who was wearing a RAGBRAI XL (40 years) jersey. I had talked to him in the parking lot briefly and we would ride together the rest of the day. We chatted about family and RAGBRAI. He attended this year with his 16 year old son. As for RAGBRAI, like me, he was basically one and done unless his son wanted to do it again.

Jeff

As I rode I didn’t feel particularly well, especially approaching the climb on South Mountain. I never thought about abandoning or sagging back, I just thought it would be a day where I would suffer through. I usually finish what I start.

South Mountain rest stop

The route took us off South Mountain to Sharpsburg and past the battlefield and cemetery at Antietam. I think there’s a 50 mph hill in the park. I’m not entirely certain because when I rode it during Bike Virginia my Garmin was in a pause mode. I thought briefly about riding it today but decided to ride on ahead.

Mount Aetna Rest Stop – Before the Storm

At the second rest stop, halfway at the Mount Aetna fire station, there were some guys with radios and Jeff said they told him the riders should take the bailout route back to start as the storms were very strong. I have no pictures available to share on this blog but looking to our left the sky was already an ominous black color. And it wasn’t yet 1:00 p.m. We knew some massive storms were close.

Quietly it seemed riders massed as though there were safety in numbers although I’m not sure that is the case. Just outside Smithsburg we began the climb to go back over South Mountain. And South Mountain stood between us and Thurmont.

Then the rain came. Hard. And lightning. Thunder. COLD rain. Wind. Although it was a tail wind, it also contained lots of debris, mostly leaves and small twigs although it was certainly knocking down branches and trees too — but we weren’t getting pelted by those. It wasn’t fun being on the road. Pounded by a driving cold rain and being hit by debris, we stayed on the shoulder and hoped any passing motorists would see us.

When we traveled through Boonesboro an hour earlier the temperature hit 90. Now on the mountain the temperature dropped to 66 degrees. This was a massive storm front.

We were guessing the best way back. I know the official bailout route was up ahead in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., but it seemed we could do better. We passed a road marked Md. 77 with a sign towards Thurmont which really was the best way back. That would have connected us to the road we rode out on in the morning.

Instead, we stayed on course and began the climb up Raven Rock Road (491). Two miles up there is a turn on Ritchie Road, a lightly traveled heavily forested road. Jeff and I opted to stay on the main road hoping it was a direct, or least a shorter way to Thurmont. Turns out it wasn’t. In fact, when we reached the top of the mountain we were probably 200 meters from where we would have been had we stayed on Ritchie Road.

Fort Ritchie Road

We turned down Fort Ritchie Road and saw it was littered with tree debris. We were told a power line was down in the other direction.  We found our way through the debris.

Drenched – but safe

Arriving back at Thurmont the rain stopped. Briefly. I started to second guess our decision to abandon but accepted the fact that getting back safely was the most important thing. There were more storms behind this first one and the most important thing was that we made it back safely and can ride another day.

I didn’t get to Gettysburg but this still is one of my favorite routes. But I learned additional roads to ride on. And for the first time, the lines weren’t too long for the Antietam Dairy ice cream.

24 Hours of Booty

COLUMBIA, MARYLAND

First the name. The “Booty Loop” is an area in Charlotte, NC in the Myers Park neighborhood where a number of fit people, runners and cyclists, go to exercise. Or maybe look at booty.

A fundraiser for cancer, the 24 Hours of Booty started some 10 years with loops around the neighborhood. Someone else can check my facts but this is pretty close.

Five years ago it came to Columbia, Maryland, then Atlanta (or maybe that was before Columbia) and this year, Indianapolis. Again, check my facts.

Each event is a 24 hour event and benefits the national beneficiary – the Lance Armstrong Foundation (Livestrong). Each also benefits a local charity. For Columbia it is the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

Credit: Mark Ricks

I was asked to ride for Team BootyStrong by Bryan McMillan. And so I accepted the invitation. 

My legs

Arriving at registration, I made a “Memory bib” for Jake the Hero Grecco and asked a volunteer to write his name on my legs. I then took my position at the front of the group as survivors were asked to come up front to lead out the Survivor Lap.

Bryan McMillan honored Jake too

There was a DJ who introduced Basil Lyberg, Executive Director of 24 Hours who gave short remarks. After the National Anthem, we were off.

Credit: Mark Ricks

I hadn’t been on this 2.1 mile loop before and had no idea where we were going but followed one or two guys in front. After 1.5 miles and a slight downhill I could see the Start/Finish which had a half mile uphill “climb,” about a 4% grade. Here I took off just enough to be the first to complete the first lap. And then I rode.

Bootyville

I soon started catching people — lapping them — and almost immediately I saw Kevin Barnett, one of the Team San Francisco riders. Kevin and I rode together for a while but eventually I accidentally pulled away. But then I caught my Pedal Pal, Patrick Sheridan.

Kevin Barnett

Patrick or Kevin and I, rode together most of the day. I also rode with Liz Kaplan, a 2011 alum of Team Seattle.

I had decided I would do 20 mile loops, 10 laps, and keep fresh. I stopped at 20, 40, and 60 miles. At 80 miles I pulled over for dinner then turned on the front light that I had borrowed to ride at night. For the next 10 laps I rode with Kelsey Jones, a cancer survivor.

Kelsey Jones. Credit: Mark Ricks

I also surpassed the 5,000 mile mark for the year, the earliest that I have ever hit 5,000 miles. Well, it was only the second time, and that was two years ago in late November.

Credit: Mark Ricks

After 120 miles, just before midnight, the light went out and so I pulled off and went to the midnight pizza party. With no front light, I called it a night and checked into my hotel (even though it was a primarily a camping event).

Night riding at Bootyville

And I’m glad I did. A storm came through and the course was closed for safety. After a short night’s sleep and the morning storm I came back and discovered my friends had left. But I found another friend and we rode for 25 miles. Then lunch. Then another 22 miles.

Although there were few people left at 2:00 p.m. I thought it was appropriate that I ride the last lap as well as the first. And we swept up any riders on course so that eight of us finished together. In a storm.

I was first and I was last.

Just as we finished the sky opened up and it was a matter of getting to the car safely.

After the 24 Hours I got home and signed up to do it again next year — this time riding for Jake’s Snazzy Pistols.

My Last Hillclimb

PINKHAM NOTCH, NH

This was the last time. Write it down. I don’t ever need to do this again.
On the way to Mt Washington

Although I had registered (and paid) for the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb back in February, as the week got closer I just wasn’t feeling it. With a crappy weather forecast pending, on Wednesday I canceled my three hotel reservations for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Early morning. Parking area filling up.

On Thursday, I reevaluated and decided I would do it after all. I traveled yesterday to New Hampshire. I found a hotel and was on the road by 8:00 a.m. It’s probably not the best way to prepare for a race — no exercise and riding in a car all day long.
Mt Washington in the distant background.
Not the tall peak but the one to the left even farther away.

The Hillclimb requires every rider to have a ride down. And I didn’t have one. But that’s part of the charm of this race. Too late to pick up my packet at the Auto Road and meet someone in line willing to give a cyclist a ride down, I depended on an online forum. I posted my request at 7:00 a.m. and hoped that someone would call or text.
Tinker Juarez and Marti Shea. Don’t know the others.

Twelve hours later I finally received a reply. I was called by Alexa Gubinski. She offered up her family to drive and I was able to sleep well not worried about my ride down.

This year was different than the past five years. I didn’t worry about the hillclimb when I slept. It was just another night except for the early wake up call.

The Gubinski Family
Nicest. Family. Ever.

I arrived at registration early. Vic and Alison Gubinski and I met and talked for a while, all along while I was delaying them from going up too early and being too deep into the parking lots. It was a last-in first-out operation. They took my bag of warm clothes and headed up the Auto Road.

Unlike past years, I wasn’t anxious or nervous. I knew the climb. I knew it would hurt. How much — I never remember from year to year. I think the mind prevents us from remembering too much pain.

View from the very back at the start

While my group, the last group, was already queued up, I was still in
shorts and tennis shoes. Rather than an extended warm up ride I settled
for a quick one mile spin. I got in line with about 30 seconds to go and
took my place at the back of the group. I was the last of the last.

My goals remained simple. Finish. Don’t stop. Don’t crash.

I didn’t want to end my ride with a time that was worse than last year’s time but was resigned that time didn’t matter.

The gun went off and someone, near the back, asked if that was our group. I laughed. Yea, we weren’t moving. Although it may have taken just 20 seconds or so to roll out, it seemed much longer.

Tinker finished fifth

After a couple hundred yards of flat the climb begins. And never stops.
It’s 12% out of the box and just keeps it pegged there. I soon found
where I belonged. Having started last I wasn’t in danger of being
overtaken by anyone. It was just a matter of passing people.

Eventually I settled in — almost all of the race was in front of me and the folks I passed were behind me. I was slowly passing some of my green group but also was catching purple (5 minutes ahead), blue (10 min.), and yellow (15 min.).

But the race isn’t about people other people – except for the top 20 or 30 who are actually racing. It’s about you. You and the mountain.

Whether it’s mile one, two, or six, or every one of my 10,172 pedal strokes — at some point the body says to quit. Or in my case, almost the entire way. And today was no different.

It’s always easier when everyone is moving even at the same pace. I found it much tougher when I pass people who are stopped or even slumped over their bikes. And I heard the clunking of gears behind me and then a scream of “oh shit!” as someone fell over. Been there.

Mia – The Chalk Monster

Two things kept me going. One was the thought of Jake The Hero Grecco.
When I wanted to quit I thought of the fighting spirit of this little
boy who kept going. I even called out for a blue butterfly but at this
altitude nothing was taking flight. And I kept thinking that this will
be the last time I make this climb and I could not stop.

Looking up at the finish line

The weather was about 70 degrees at the base but was quickly too hot. As I climbed, especially above the tree line, it got much cooler. At the summit it was in the low 40s but with no wind.

As I approached the base of the last 200 yards I saw Vic and heard the rest of the family cheering for me. That was nice. Although I didn’t see it at the time they had chalked my name on the pavement at the finish.

This was the only time that I actually raced. I had felt the presence of a rider coming up behind me and I didn’t want to get caught or passed at the finish. It makes for a bad photo. I lifted the pace and climbed up the 22% grade. I saw the clock and thought I say 2:02 (which was really 1:42) but it must have been 2:07.

As soon as I finished I was met at the top by Vic and his son, Lucas. Since they had my bag of warm clothes I quickly changed out of the jersey which was as full of sweat as any I can recall. I was sweating but with the cold air the jersey and gloves weren’t wicking so well. It was great to change into dry clothes. Down at the car I was able to shed the shorts too.

Lucas Gubinski and Barry

At first I thought I had a personal best on the climb but then learned I didn’t. But my best time came when I was about five pounds less which does make a difference. But it doesn’t matter. But it wasn’t my worst time either. It was exactly in the middle.

Five Times

There is an immerse feeling of satisfaction of crossing the finish line. But I’m not so sure that feeling is still greater than the suffering on the way up.

But it probably is.

_____________
Photo credits: If I’m in it, Vic Gubinski. But I took the ones at the bottom of the mountain.

Mount Shasta Century

MOUNT SHASTA, CALIFORNIA

Mount Shasta is a long way from San Francisco. Who knew?

I came here for the Mount Shasta Summit Century. Having done four centuries in four days less than two weeks ago, I wasn’t worried about my fitness. I was, however, worried about my bike. I was on a borrowed bike – a steel Trek touring bike with bar-end shifters and 32cc tires. A flat one (tire) at that. 

Grand Depart – 6:30 a.m.

That was not the best bike for climbing. Heavy and sluggish, I struggled with it the first 25 miles. And those were rollers.

Spillway at Lake Siskiyou
Deron Cutright and Tamy Quiqley had set me up with the bike for which I am thankful. I never look a gift bike in the mouth. I may make fun of it in a blog for all to see but I will never look it in the mouth.

The day started cool, low 60s, and with a few rain drops but not enough to say it was raining. It would warm up considerably throughout the day.

Lake Siskiyou

The first rest stop was in Weed, California, always a good place for some jokes. Up until then the road was best described as rollers although there was a six-mile descent – never a good thing at the beginning of a long ride. Those are best saved as rewards at the end.

Weed, California
Climbing back to the City of Mount Shasta, the first real climb began. The scenery was gorgeous. We were in a forest with each pedal stroke climbing higher amongst the rocks and trees. Behind me was a great view of Mount Shasta which I would see on the six mile descent after we turned around.

Climb up W. A. Barr Rd
After the descent we immediately began the climb to Crystal Lake. This was a climb which took us to more than a mile high. Strangely enough, the 14 minutes down, at 30 mph, seemed longer than the hour climb up the mountain.

Mt Shasta from W.A. Barr Rd
After 72 miles the sweetest was yet to come. On the cue sheet it appeared to be a 13 mile climb up to 7800′. However, I was out of time. Having stayed on East Coast time, and knowing it would be another 2 1/2 hours to climb and descend, I knew I didn’t leave myself enough time to safely drive back to the San Francisco airport.

My legs felt good. My lungs felt good. My bike? Not so good. My body clock? Awful.

Tamy Quiqley on W.A. Barr Rd.
Had I been on my own bike I think I would have foolishly taken the time and made the climb. Foolish because Mount Shasta is a long way from San Francisco and I had a flight to catch. I briefly even had a reservation for a red eye which I would not have made.
Railroad Tracks in City of Mount Shasta
Given those circumstances, I called it a day. I had to get on the road. As it was, I did not get to my airport hotel until midnight and I had a 6:00 a.m. flight — and return the rental car at 4:00 a.m.

I am very satisfied with the 72 miles. There was a time when I first started that I had to prove myself I could finish. Today I knew I could finish, even on the “Family Truckster” borrowed bike. I just didn’t have time. I doubt that I get to try this one again but would love to — on my own bike and with more time before my flight home.

San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Rodrigo Garcia and I met at the Mill Valley Community Center parking lot. We rode to meet the 4K for Cancer group on the last day of their 70 day journey across the U.S. and were surprised when they went by us in the opposite direction. We turned, gave chase, and caught them – because we could.

Ever since saying goodbye to the 4K in Manassas, Va., two 1/2 months ago, I thought about finishing with them. I felt that I started with them, from Baltimore to Alexandria, and then to Manassas, and that I should finish with them.

Patrick Sheridan and Barry Sherry

On the bike path I rode first behind Kelly Schofield. Her rear tire was split and looked as though it would blow at any time. I was horrified, knowing the risks one takes on bad tires. But a number of the 4K cyclists rode on tires as bad or even worse than Kelly’s. With pride.

Tire splitting

But one need not have bad tires to cause a crash. On an easy roll out to San Francisco, Michael Wray crashed hard in Sausalito. No one seems to know why – one second he was upright and the next second he was down on the road. He had some pretty nasty road rash on his legs and arms and a busted lip. Ouch.

Michael Wray – Sucks to crash on the last day
We rode with the 4K to their photo ops on a foggy Vista Point and into Crissy Beach in San Francisco. Briefly riding up to Vista Point I rode again with Jeff Graves, Chris Chitterling, and Lauren Schoener. It was a reunion from the first day. Along with Patrick Sheridan, the four of them had been my riding partners the first day.
4K Team San Fran

It was also a bittersweet day for me. I started and finished the 4K as a Pedal Pal. The most inspirational Pedal Pal, Jake “The Hero” Grecco, did not finish. His health took a turn for the worse around Memorial Day. While he had hoped to be in Baltimore to meet his Pedal Pal, Chey Hillsgrove, he was too weak and tired. And just three days before the 4K ended, Jake passed away.

While the riders were wearing their 4K jerseys, I wore my special one. Cyclists Combating Cancer, I have written on the back “In Loving Memory, Jacob Grecco, 2004-2012.” I felt empowered riding with the 4K wearing Jake’s name.

My Jersey for Jake

I also met a Pedal Pal from Sausalito. She told me she found out about the 4K from an article in RoadBikeRider.com. Yes! I had contacted John Marsh about running an article seeking Pedal Pals and was very happy that it paid off.

4K on Crissy Beach, San Francisco

The riders enjoyed a closing ceremony — I said goodbye to my Pedal Pal, Patrick, and Rodrigo and I rolled back to Mill Valley.

Barry Sherry, Peter Bai, Rodrigo Garcia
Riding partners the day before

In Washington, D.C., I have to be mindful that many people on bikes are tourists and to be careful when riding near them. But Rodrigo and I both agreed that perhaps the single largest location for tourists to rent bikes is in San Francisco to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Approaching the bridge I had a tourist stop in the bike path and turn his bike width-wise and block 3/4 of the lane. I put my foot down to avoid a crash. And on the bridge itself, Rodrigo had a tourist step back (taking a picture) into his path. When he swerved it was in my path and I hit him. How neither of us crashed hard on the bridge I’ll never know. Somehow we stayed up.

It was good to see the 4K finish. While their bicycle journey across the U.S. ended today, it is my hope that their journeys as cancer fighters never end.

In Memory of Jake The Hero
2004-2012
Batman