Shenandoah Mountain Adventure

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA

When it came time to sign up for the Jeremiah Bishop Alpine Loop Gran Fondo I decided to go for the Medio Route (76 miles) instead of the full 100. Since I always sign up for the most difficult challenge this marked a big departure for me. And a little guilt.

 

But last year, my friend and a very good cyclist, Mike Reyes, went the Medio route which made me think I didn’t always have to do the biggest challenge. Besides the 30 mile difference the big difference for me is gravel. There are two sections of nasty gravel on the Gran Fondo full route which, frankly, aren’t fun and aren’t good for my bike. Many people bring cyclocross bikes or change their tires to 28cc. I wasn’t prepared to do either and didn’t want to subject me or my bike to miles of gravel.

 

Joe Dombrowski

 

At the start line I was next to pro riders Jeremiah Bishop (host), Cameron Cogburn (winner of Mt Washington Auto Road Hill Climb), http://ageinshape.com/st-olaf-interim-essay-help/ Steven Cozza (I think), Write A Research Paper For Me Joe Dombrowski (Team Sky), and Ben King (Radio Shack but soon to be Garmin). There are two ways to be on the start line at the Gran Fondo. One is to be a pro. The other is to be a Prostate Cancer Survivor. I highly recommend becoming a pro.

 

Start line: link Steven Cozza, Joe Dombrowski (back turned) , Ben King

 

One minute before the starting gun and I looked down and noticed a bubble sized bulge in the sidewall of my front tire. I was screwed. Maybe that explained the two blowouts on the Civil War Century, the last time I used that wheel.

I did the prudent thing. I rolled out with the pros for two blocks then peeled off and went back to my car. There I switched wheels and rode back into the group.

It was a chilly start. While it may have been close to 60 in Harrisonburg, out on the road my Garmin showed 52 degrees in the wooded section approaching Shenandoah Mountain.

The climb went OK. I passed more than I was passed by, many more, and initially was pleased. The first year I did it in 48 minutes. Last year it was 35. Today it was 34 and change. A personal best but not a great improvement.

 

Honey Baked Ham Sandwiches

When I came to the Medio/Gran split I was glad I was not headed up the gravel road. And I was rewarded with a new view. The Medio route was called the Shenandoah Mountain Adventure which differentiates from the Gran Fondo.

The second rest stop was at the base of the Reddish Knob Climb. Not good. Well, the food was great! Ham sandwiches along with fruit, drinks, energy bars. But after 10-12 minutes of standing around, the lactic acid built up. The start of the climb was painful. But once I settled in it got better until there was a downhill and no pedaling. Then it was like starting over.

This climb is beautiful. The paved road is so much better than the dirt road of two years ago. It was also much harder than I remembered from last year.

 

Robert Hess of the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project

After the last rest stop I was following familiar roads, until I wasn’t. Somehow I managed to miss a turn. Usually there are enough cyclists in front that one doesn’t need to rely on the painted road markings. But I messed up. When I saw the open road and it wasn’t familiar from the past two years and no cyclists ahead, I knew I messed up. I decided not to go back but keep going. I would find my way. And I did.

 

Near Bridgewater

It was a good day. It was fun. I don’t regret giving up the gravel and doubt that I would sign up for that option again. I hope they pave all those roads.

Ride of Silence

WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA

I never participated in a Ride of Silence before. But when I got a call on September 6 asking if I was OK because a cyclist was killed on Spriggs Road, I knew I needed to do something.

I first went looking to see if the Washington Area Bicycling Association or Potomac Pedalers had planned a Ride of Silence. I couldn’t find anything. Then I realized that this was something I would have to create. I contacted my friend, http://truckingjobsatlanta.com/write-a-college-paper-for-me/ Brad Hancock, and asked what he thought, and he said go for it. We picked today’s date, put up an event page on Facebook, and posted in the Prince William Cycling Group’s Meetup page and on Potomac Pedalers.

We had no idea how many riders to expect. With wheels down at 9:00 a.m. I rode to Forest Park H.S. arriving around 8:40 a.m. I was very surprised what I saw as I pulled in. There was a good turnout.

Walking around was get link Carol Callahan. She is the widow of the cyclist, source link Joseph James Callahan, 66, who was struck and killed September 6, 2013 while riding on a bike path next to Spriggs Road. She was so appreciative of every rider who came out to honor her husband. Two of her sons, Jimmy and http://www.catcoglobal.com/?elad-alon-phd-thesis Josh, rode with us.

At 9:00 a.m. Carol took a group picture. I then went over the rules (no cell phones, no talking, riding 10-12 mph) and had a moment of silence for Joe Callahan.

We took the bike path, single file, along Rte 234 to Hoadly Road. I led the group and kept it mostly around 10 mph. Once we got to Spriggs Rd we rode on the shoulder. As we passed Coles Elementary School I saw Carol outside her car taking pictures of us. Clearly this day meant a lot to their family.

We turned on Spriggs Road. This road is a four lane road, curb to curb with no shoulder. Although there is a bike path next to it, it is the bike bath that Joe Callahan was on when he was killed. We took to the road and rode in twos.

About 250 yards from Hylton I could hear a bagpiper playing. This was a nice touch. We left the street and crossed over to the bike path, pulling up in front of the makeshift memorial at the school. The bagpiper was playing Amazing Grace. When finished, he stood at attention. We were, true to the ride, silent. He played another number. When he was finished we left.

Amazing Grace

It was only a couple more miles back to Forest Park HS. Even riding down Spriggs we feathered the brakes and kept the speed around 12 mph. Words cannot describe what it’s like to ride in silence. Maybe these words can:

The Ride of Silence

Tonight we number many but ride as one
In honor of those not with us, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons
With helmets on tight and heads down low,
We ride in silence, cautious and slow
The wheels start spinning in the lead pack
But tonight we ride and no one attacks
The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Remembering those we held so dear
Tonight’s ride is to make others aware
The road is there for all to share
To those not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride

go here Mike Murgas

(Source: http://www.rideofsilence.org/ros_poem.htm)

It was one of the shorter rides I would do and certainly the slowest. But it truly was one of the most meaningful. May God Bless the Callahan family and it is my hope that this day brought a little more healing to their lives.

Barry, Jimmy, Josh, Brad

What’s in a Jersey?

THURMONT, MARYLAND

Group rides that aren’t timed often lead to small talk on the road. My experience is when I wear a destination or event jersey someone will talk to me about it. Be it the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hillclimb or Alpe d’Huez, I will have people asking me about the event or sharing their own experiences.

I brought my Ride the Rockies and Spokes of Hope jerseys to wear today unsure of which I would go with. When I wear a cancer jersey very few people will say a word. But I had a feeling and decided to go with my newest kit. I wanted to display the first blue Spokes of Hope kit made (last week).

It was 52 degrees as I rolled out of Thurmont. My legs felt heavy. Very heavy. I refereed a soccer match last night. As the assignor, I had a late turnback of a game and rather than scramble to find someone to take the game I took it myself. 

A Pretty Barn and Horse near Myersville, Md.

When I referee I am not one to stand in the center circle. I give the game the effort it deserves and I worked my butt off running with the U16s. I got home after 10:30 p.m. I showered and went to bed.

Now pedaling my legs felt very heavy. I was conscious not to go out too fast but still found myself passing people on the low part of the seven mile climb over the Catoctin Mountain which greets the riders on the Civil War Century.

Rest Stop at South Mountain

I was passing people and eventually realized that everyone I had been riding with were now behind me. I was going out too fast.

Not the bike I rode

At Mile Nine I felt a twinge in my quadriceps. I knew I was in trouble. I was cramping just nine miles into a 100 mile ride. I decided to back off and take it easy and hope to make the full route. It was a beautiful day for a ride warming up to the mid 80s.

Antietam National Battlefield

Navigating through Boonesboro, Md. was interesting. A quaint little town it apparently held a community yard sale on this day. Traffic was backed up or cars were simply double parked. It was a little bit sketchy at times getting through there safely.

A lasting image of the community came when I rounded a curve and saw three kids in the yard, probably 7-9 years old. I called out “Morning!” One of the kids yelled back “GET OFF THE ROAD!” It sort of reminded me of Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles stating “the little bastard shot me in the ass.” I just thought these kids have already learned this from their parents. They don’t have a chance to grow up and be a compassionate member of society.

On the climb up South Mountain headed towards Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., I was passed by five riders. One said “I like that jersey.” Once over the top I caught the group (meaning they stopped) and stopped with them. There I met Kim Goldman and gave her my card. We talked about the jersey, the organization, and cancer. She invited me to ride with them.

Save for the last hill before Fairfield, Pa., I stayed with them but even then quickly caught back up to them. I generally felt good. After the rest stop we pedaled on to Gettysburg. Fighting off the cramps there were times when I felt good.

The moment of truth came while riding through the battlefield. I had dropped to sixth wheel (last) as we were required to ride single file through the park. There were even three volunteers with signs to remind us. Out of the blue came a loud pop. My front tire blew.

Help at Gettysburg (Josh Sayre)

This was the second time on the day. I never had a tire blow out on me before but earlier, as I was leaving the rest stop at Mile 50, I had a tire blow. Rather than change it on the side of the road I walked 200 meters back to the fire station where I changed the tire. Now just 20 miles later, it happened again.

Would my new friends keep going? Or would they stop and help this stranger? Without a spare tube (already used) I was screwed, But Josh Sayre, riding in front of me, heard my faint yell of “flat” or at least heard the tire blow. He stopped and gave me his tube. The SAG was right behind us so I could use their floor pump. This change was easy.

After a group photo we were rolling again. At Mile 85 we were riding along at a good pace when we came to the last rest stop. They indicated they were not going to stop but I was low on my fluids. Any thought about continuing with them immediately disappeared with a cramp. Our pace up the small climb to the rest stop was just enough to induce more cramps.

L-R: Ben Herbert, Josh Sayre, Kim Goldman, Ben Aiken, Mike Davis, Barry Sherry

I pulled over and could barely lift my leg over the frame. Looking for something, anything, with salt, I found Doritos (yes). I refilled with Gatorade. I drank five bottles on the day with seven bottles of water. I took off for the final 20 miles. And I was deep in the suitcase of pain.

I could find no rhythm in pedaling. When I did I would stay there. Sometimes it was a slow cadence. Other times it was faster. But then a cramp would come and I would have to change position, cadence, and twice, stop to stretch. To make matters worse, although it was all flat, there was mostly a headwind to contend with.

My Salty Snack

The ride was a struggle. Actually, from Mile 60 to 85 it was a breeze as I was talking with the group. But the last 20 miles, riding solo, was very difficult. My skin was white with salt deposits.

The irony is I like distances. I often do my best in the final quarter of a long ride. But I was ill-prepared. I even had a jar of Endurolytes which would fend off losing all the salt and electrolytes. At home. In a drawer.

It was a difficult ride. And while I did set a personal best on the climb up Catoctin Mountain, I will remember the difficulty of the day and how ill-prepared I was. But I will remember most meeting new friends on the ride. All because of what’s on the jersey.

Spokes of Hope

TREXLERTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

The father of cyclist Davis Phinney and grandfather of Taylor Phinney, Damon Phinney, created an organization called Cyclists Combating Cancer (CCC) before he died from prostate cancer. CCC historically has been the largest single group raising funds for the Livestrong Foundation.

Spokes of Hope has grown out of CCC as an action group visiting cancer patients and spreading hope. I first met some of the Spokes of Hope last year at RAGBRAI. 

Valley Preferred Cycling Center

I was invited to Trexlertown to ride on the Velodrome during the last Friday night races of the season at the velodrome. This was a UCI (International Cycling Union) event with an international field.

The day kept unfolding with surprises and kept getting better as the day grew older.

Pros Warming Up on the Track

I arrived at the velodrome around 3:45 p.m. for a practice session on the track. Riding on the velodrome is unlike the normal riding we do. This was a 333 meter track with 28 degree banked curves. 

Pediatric Cancer Survivors

We joined seven pediatric cancer survivors including Duncan Micheltree who was being honored. Cindi Hart gave us a quick lesson in terminology and track riding and we all rode off practicing on the track. The kids stayed down on the apron and Cindi took us newbies (me?) in a pace line up on the track.

Paceline on the track

Wild. The bike of choice is a “fixie” which is a fixed geared bike with one speed. When you pedal it goes forward. When it goes forward the pedals rotate. There is no coasting. And there are no brakes.

My very limited experience tells me these bikes are actually safer than a typical road bike. Once on the track if I crept up on the rider in front of me in the pace line my options were to overlap wheels or brake. Braking was out of the question so I overlapped wheels which can be very dangerous on those 28 degree curves. Riding a fixie one can just slow down the pedals.

As I went on to the track I heard my name being called. Very strange because I knew no one here. I did a double take and heard my name again. I saw a woman and went over to her. “I’m Andrea Mitcheltree,” she said. “I’m friends with Stacey and Gary (Gravina).”

Barry with Duncan Mitcheltree

Then I remembered. I met Andrea last year in New Jersey at Jake’s funeral. I am guessing that Trexlertown is less than 30 miles from Phillipsburg, NJ.

And it was Andrea’s son, Duncan, who was the feature of the night. This was so cool.

Duncan with his parents, Andrea and Eric Mitcheltree

After our practice sessions we left the track. I then sent Stacey a message to “come see Duncan and me ride tonight.” She was confused.

Three Colors of Spokes of Hope

I left the velodrome and went across the street to the “track.” They have a one mile cycling track which is very cool. This is not an oval but a meandering road with three lanes – one for fast cycles, one for rollerbladers, and one for everyone else. What a great park.

The Track at Rodale Park

The people started coming in to watch the races. Once the events started I took a position at the top of the boards on Curve 1. I was shocked when Stacey tapped me on the shoulder. Although I had called her it certainly sounded like they would not be able to make it on this special night.

The Fast Lane

Before the last (feature) race of the night, we were introduced. Spokes of Hope with the pediatric cancer survivors. The crowd cheered heavily and for a minute I inhaled it all but I know it was for the kids – not me. I rode high on the wall and in the back stretch a number of kids held out their hands for me to “Low 5” them. I did. 

Pros at the Start of their Race

The last event was the 120 lap “Madison.” Teams of two riders would tag team. The “resting” rider would sweep down from one of the high curves and catch his partner from behind. As he did the front riding would grab his hand/arm then pull him ahead — a sling shot move, really. Then he would safely maneuver up to the wall and wait for the next lap to change places.

Keep in mind there’s no coasting or stopping with these bikes. So if one wants a rest they have to pedal farther during their rest period so they have longer in between their shift at riding all out. Stacey, Gary, and I stayed for all 120 laps. It was an exciting event.

Riding in the Countryside

On Saturday our Spokes of Hope group met at the velodrome and went for a 25 mile ride out to Topton and back. It was a great day for a ride and I think I saw more cyclists on the road than I did cars. This was a special weekend of riding and am looking forward to next year.

Spokes of Hope at a barn in Mertztown

Trexlertown

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Ride in the Country