Alpine Loop Gran Fondo – Virtual

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA

An annual event that I look forward to attending is the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg. But with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in full force, the Gran Fondo was canceled as an outdoor event but it was still run as a virtual event.

The event itself would normally feature a ride, some friendly climbing competition, and food. The outdoor ride was off. The food was out. But the friendly competition was on.

Unfortunately (for me), it was a Zwift competition. If you had an indoor trainer and the Zwift app, you could compete on certain courses and post your time versus others. The problem for me is I do not have a trainer. I ride outdoors – period. Outdoors is free.

But they also introduced a quasi-outdoor competition. It involved Strava and local KOMs or PRs. And I was on a roll. I had snagged some KOMs in northern Va. after going years with none. And, not to be underestimated, I had changed age groups. Moving on up.

Bib 1 – Alpine Loop

September was a good riding month. I had snagged a couple of KOMs and lots of PRs. And to be sure, I was certainly aided by weak participation. While I embraced the outdoor competition, I am sure many did not and some may have participated only in the Zwift competition.

The Minnieville KOM. I am most proud of this one.
Former had been 5:23 and I smoked it in 4:56. No one has been close since.

One thing going in my favor is that Strava KOMs including climbing and sprinting or sprint/climbing. I will never be a great climber. I am built more like a sprinter. But this competition fit my strengths whereas being first up Shenahdoah Mountain or Reddish Knob never will.

Polka-dot jersey for the 65-69 year age group, Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

At the end of the competition, I was announced as the KOM for the 65-69 age group. And that earned me a polka-dot jersey. A virtual polka-dot jersey. Wait, the jersey is real.

The Awards Ceremony. I am recognized at 21:40 in this video.

Horseshoe Curve – My Happy Place

ALTOONA, PENNSYLVANIA

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?”

At the Curve – May 5, 2018

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.

Canal diverting mine water – May 5, 2018

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.

Lake Altoona Reservoir – 19 Mar 2020

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.

The canal the diverts water past Lake Altoona Reservoir

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.

A foggy, wet, day – 19 Mar 2020

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.

Mine runoff – ugh

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.

Glenwhite Run

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.

16 Aug 2020

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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.

The third reservoir – at the Curve itself

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.

All PRs on September 24, 2020

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.

Horseshoe Curve – Sept. 24, 2020

Distance: 20.4 miles
Average: 15.4 mph
Max Speed: 41.8 mph
Weight: 179

The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania

JERSEY SHORE, PENNSYLVANIA

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.

Start in Jersey Shore – An access trail to the rail trail

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.

Caboose in Jersey Shore – probably the true start/finish

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.

Some of the scenery on the Pine Creek Trail

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.

Pine Valley Trail – Mile 37

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.

WellsboroJersey ShoreDifference (feet)
1,306′ elevation604′ elev.702′
Distance (mi.)Elevation Change (feet)Grade
627020.21%
Elevation Chart (If you can’t do the calculation yourself check out this elevation grade calculator by Kenneth Alambra.)

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.

Pine Valley Trail

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.

First Trestle

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.

Near Rattlesnake Rock Access Area

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.

End or start of the trail – Jersey Shore

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.

Pine Creek Trail

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.

Pine Creek Trail

I decided to ride for two hours then turn around. I would return around 5:00 p.m. which was a good day.

Turnaround point for Day 1 and start/finish for Day 1

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.

View from Rte 414 near Cedar Run

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.

Cammal – MP 35. Follow the worn path.

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.

The second trestle

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.

Start of the trail near Wellsboro

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.

Start of the trail near Wellsboro – a bridge to grass

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.

One lane bridge at Slate Run – MP 4. This can be seen from the PCT or ridden on Rte 414

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.

Cottage on the Trail

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.

Marsh Creek – Around MP 8. About one-half mile south of here the Marsh Creek flows into Pine Creek and begins the gorge, or Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

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.

Swinging Bridge (Private Property) – Crosses Pine Creek to four cottages

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.

Two Women Riding around MP 5

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.

Barry and the second trestle

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.

Zip line across a gorge to a house

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.

Wellsboro

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.

The Road Less Traveled – Rte 414 high above the trail

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

Brunswick Doublecross

LEESBURG, VIRGINIA

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.

W&OD at Hamilton (MP40)

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.”

Hamilton, Va.

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.

Purcellville

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.

Purcellvile

But an alternative would be the C&O. The paved C&O. Well, so I thought.

Road Construction in Hillsboro

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.

Doukenie Winery, Hillsboro

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.

Lovettsville

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.

Welcome to Maryland (Brunswick)

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.

Horine Bldg (1910). The man is Dr. Arlington Grove Horine (1863-1956) owner of Horine’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain Shop. He was a surgeon with the B&O Railroad (1891-1903) and Brunswick’s mayor (1906-1914).

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.

Brunswick, Maryland Train Station

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.

Bridge Out on the C&O

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.

C&O

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.

Point of Rocks, Md.

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.

Point of Rocks, Md. US Rte 15 connects Loudoun Co. Va. with Frederick Co., Md.

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.

Monocacy Aqueduct

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.

Whites Ferry

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.

Monocacy Aqueduct

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.


I sort of smashed my PR. It is good for #1 overall for my age group but just 67th total (out of 2691)

Distance: 55.0 miles
Average Speed: 16.3 mph
Weight: 181

A New BlueRidger

MARSHALL, VIRGINIA

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.

Rokeby Road, Upperville, Va.

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.

General Store at Airmont

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.

House on Snickersville Turnpike near Bluemont

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.

Bluemont, Va.

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.

General Store, Bluemont, Va.

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.

Ashbys Gap, US Rte 50, Paris, Va.

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.

Paris, Va.

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.

Ashby Inn, Paris, Va.

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.

Naked Mountain Winery

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.

Strava PRs


Distance: 55.2 miles
Time: 3:45
Average: 14.7 mph
Weight: 180

KOM: Minnieville Spriggs to 234

WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA

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.

All 1s

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

Skyline Drive to Big Meadows

THORTON GAP, VIRGINIA

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.

Tunnel

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.

Old Rag Mountain

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.”

Looking west

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.

Skyline Drive at Thorton Gap

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.

Looking west

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.

Big Meadows

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.

Same tunnel – different view

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.

David Thatcher

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.

Looking west

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.

Skyline Drive Tunnel

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