August was a down month. I only rode 893 miles whereas a summer month should always be over 1,000 miles. I was tired and I knew it. Not sick, just tired.
Last year I rode 1,200 miles in August. In 2019, I also rode 1,200 miles in August. This is what August should be. But 300+ miles less this year, it was an average of 10 miles per day that I was off.
August was hot. The day before my first big Punxsutawney ride I rode 30 miles in Virginia with Tim. It was 95º. That left me drained. The heat continued into the second week.
By the third week, I cut back. And maybe it was too much. There was not a ride the entire week of 20 miles. The longest was August 20 in Concord, New Hampshire. I rode 10 miles in the morning and 11 miles in Maine in the afternoon. For the week I rode just 103 miles.
Some of it was travel. Two trips to Pennsylvania then a long trip to Maine. It’s hard to get long rides in when you are driving most of the day. But then Mount Washington came. I had hoped to have a PR on Mount Washington but instead had my worst time ever.
Maybe not worse but I was completely drained afterward. For the next 12 days, it was total blah. Nothing there. It took me 12 days to feel like my legs were coming back. And then on Sept. 2, I recaptured the Walton Drive Sprint KOM (52 sec.). I also picked up the longer Walton Roll KOM. I could not have done this in the prior two weeks.
I went to Richmond on September 12 for the Climb to Conquer Cancer. Riding solo instead of in a group this year, I was one mph faster than I was two years ago, the only time I had ridden this course. I marked a number of segments and I PR’d on every one of them except for two near the end that I held back on for a reason.
The reason was that I was riding well. I was spending a lot of energy but wanted one PR on the day. And that was on Libby Hill. Ultimately, I had the same exact time as I did two years ago. So no PR for me. But it was in the Top Ten All-Time age group. “Officially” I am 9th out of 53. But many of those are on trainers in their basements riding the Zwift Richmond Worlds Course. Not the same thing. I did not see anyone on Sept. 12, 2021, in my age group that was better. I think I won the age group for the event but never heard back from anyone.
Then there was Sunday. The Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. I had my best ride in 10 years. Second overall for my age group – need to work on first. I was energized by my granddaughters cheering me on.
There are times when one is tired. Worn down. And for me, I hit the way in August. I started to question whether I’d get my mojo back. But I am not alone.
Even the best in the world will hit the wall. Richard Carapez of Equador won the Tour de Swiss then finished third in the Tour de France. He went to Tokoyo and won the Olympic road race gold medal. Then he returned to Spain to race the Vuelta a España and withdrew during Stage 14. It just caught up to him.
So no need to worry when I don’t have it – even for weeks. Sometimes the body is tired and needs a rest. And what little mojo I have, will come back.
I did not have a good feeling about this weekend. Tires, like most bike parts, have been in short supply since last year. It caught up to me on Monday when I had a flat on my front wheel.
I bought replacement Schwalbe tires and installed them on Thursday. On Friday I rode to Fosters in Manassas. While I was eating the rear tire went PFFFFFFT. That was strange for a new tire but I pulled out my repair kit, put in a new tube, and was ready to roll.
The tire held well despite only 40 psi. I stopped at home, brought the pressure up to 90 psi, then finished my ride. After I put the bike back the rear tire went PFFFFFFT. I changed the tire and one hour later the third new tube went PFFFFFFT. Well, it was time to learn my lesson. I inspected the wheel and saw there was a hole in the rim tape. It was 7:00 p.m. on Friday and no place for repair. I would travel to Harrisonburg with a wheel needing repair.
Yesterday I went Rocktown Bicycles in Harrisonburg. This is a very nice shop and Sean greeted me. I told him what I needed and in 10 minutes I was out the door and ready to roll.
As the top fundraiser for the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project, I was invited on a private ride at noon with Jeremiah Bishop. But my phone decided to bring in every single saved email and put it in my phone’s inbox. With thousands of emails, I could not find the one about the ride info. I tried unsuccessfully to contact someone about the ride.
My alternative was that I went to Brothers Craft Brewing and then the Hotel Madison, two locations we had used in the past. No ride. Since registration was at 2:00 p.m. and I decided to ride around town. And that was OK because I did not need a 30-mile ride before the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo.
I stayed in town at Tru by Hilton. Who uses alarm clocks? Well, the guest before me, that’s who. At 5:00 a.m. the alarm went off. I was not ready to get up. And I didn’t know how to turn off the alarm. I unplugged the clock and started my day with one less hour of sleep than planned.
I drove to the venue after thinking I would ride there. But U.S. Rte 11 looked sketchy (curb to curb, no shoulder). Once I arrived I got my timing chip and then heard my name being announced as the top fundraiser. I went to the mic and told my “secret” to raising money. “You have to ASK people.”
The choice today was 78 or 100 miles. These are the same routes except for the addition of a 22-mile loop. At the start I wasn’t “feeling” 100 miles. I got my bottles ready, grabbed some food, and went to the starting area. It was 48º. I put on a vest and arm warmers.
We rolled out of town. Once we turned on Switchboard Road I let people pass me. The road is crowded and it’s tight. I just don’t trust the big group. And I had a bigger goal. At 10 miles into the ride I would “celebrate” 1,000 consecutive days of riding at least 10 miles. I didn’t want to be taken down in a crash which almost happened beside me when a rider clunked his gears, came to a start, and was almost rear-ended.
Also, further back was Robert Hess. I pulled over to wait for him. I didn’t see him so I continued. But when we came to At Whitmore Shop Road I waited for him to arrive. We chatted for a few minutes and then he went left and I went right. I already let the main group gain 4-5 minutes on me.
I told Ashley and Bryan they could expect me to roll by at 9:00 a.m. And at 9:00, I saw them up ahead on a pull-off area just before George Washington National Forest. They had signs cheering me on. I stopped for about five minutes, gave the girls a hug, and told them I would see them at the top.
I hit the climb which is a timed KOM segment. After four or five minutes I looked at my Wahoo computer. I was only eight seconds behind my all-time best which was 10 years ago. I had no idea.
Another minute or so and I was only down six seconds. I started to think that maybe I could get a PR. I was 10-12 minutes in when I saw I was ahead by two seconds. And I was catching people. I was feeling good. Every previous attempt I was trying to count the distance to the top. Today I didn’t even notice. Everyone up the road was just a new target to reel in.
In all, I caught and passed 11 people on the climb and did not get passed by anyone. Of course, I was almost dead last when I started so who was left to pass me? I was up 1:02 when I reached the top. A PR! I was very excited.
At the top, the girls were waiting for me. My day was made. No matter what else happened I PR’d Shenandoah Mountain and I saw the girls on course. It would be a great day. When they told me that they would be in town in the afternoon I decided I would do the 78-mile ride so they could see me finish.
I bombed the descent on Rte 33 to Brandywine. I made it over to the rest stop which is at the base of the climb up Reddish Knob. After a short break and a small can of Coke, the climb began. I don’t know what happened but almost immediately I was 40 seconds behind my best time. But the time began to come down. And I was catching and passing people. The Live Tracking on my Wahoo stopped working and I would have to wait to find out if I set another PR. (I did.)
I passed two girls from the Miller School of Albermarle. I had been chatting with them at the rest stop and they were pulled over. I really admire these young kids. Since they weren’t in immediate distress I continued on but decided when I reached the top I would turn around and go back to shepherd them up the climb. I passed the KOM finish but realized it was about a half-mile short of the Strava segment. So I had to keep going to the end when I could turn around. In all, I passed 10 riders on this climb. I was passed by no one.
Going back down I met the girls then turned around. One of them had to stop to take on a gel. But other than that they were riding well. When we reached the summit we started down Reddish Knob. I warned them the pavement was crap but they did not heed the warning. They flew! At first, they gapped me but I eventually caught on. They were taking too many risks for my liking as I hung on.
As the road started to level out, we slowed down and just chatted. As we left the steeper part of the mountain which was mostly traffic-free, I went to the front and they stayed on my wheel until we reached the next rest stop together. They told me they were riding the 78-mile route.
Actually, I was feeling good enough now to ride the 100 but had the granddaughters waiting for me in town. I texted them that I would finish between 2:30 and 2:35.
In the valley I saw lots of Amish, at one point maybe more than 30 buggies pulled by horses. I passed one buggy, announcing my presence as loud as I could so I did not spook the horse. I waved at very single one that passed me in the opposite direction and almost all waved back – and smiled too. The time was 1:45 and they appeared to all be headed to a 2:00 gathering.
Most surprising to me was a young Amish man passing me in the opposite direction. I waved but he couldn’t wave back as he had one hand on his handlebars and one hand holding a cell phone to his ear. It appeared to be a flip phone, not a smart phone.
The last timed climb was Mole Hill. I wasn’t sure I would have anything left but saw that I got a PR on it too. And there were three more segments on the way back into town. I PR’d them all.
At 2:32 p.m. I came to the finish. The grandkids were waiting. I was introduced to the crowd but without anything that I had written on my application. We took a family photo and I hung out for a while.
After they left I checked Strava. PRs on the three timed climbs and all three I was in the Top Ten Age Group. Then I checked to see if there were any times better than mine in that list for today. And there was one. I found a guy who beat me by 2:00 on Shenandoah; 1:00 on Reddish, and I beat him by a minute on Mole Hill. So he got me by 2:00 total and I knew I was not the KOM for my age group. But I did finish second in my age group in the climb. And this year a sprint was added. I finished second there too. Maybe there were only two of us.
But I was happy. My best times were 10 years ago and who would have thought I could PR at my age? I am not a climber and this improvement was very satisfying. I accept that there are better climbers. I had a great day on the bike and a better one off the bike with my granddaughters.
Note: At the beginning, I was right behind a safety bump and was not clipped in to start. I awkwardly pushed off with my feet losing a couple of places and forgetting to start my Wahoo. This file is missing the first 0.4 miles.
I came to Richmond wanting to set a PR on Libby Hill. And if it was good enough, maybe win my age group (fat chance). I failed. I tied. Ugh.
The Climb to Conquer Cancer is an event run by Amy’s Army of Cancer Warriors benefitting the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. I first did this event two years ago. In that event, I climbed Libby Hill three times, one pre-race, and twice during the race. Today I climbed it to get to registration and then during the event. I also did the climb once when I rode from Williamsburg to Richmond. So this was my sixth time.
In the COVID era, some events haven’t come back (Livestrong-Austin is canceled next month). Others are modified with smaller fields. This was an extreme modification. They offered no rest stops. None. Nada. I would have to carry everything I needed with me or stop along the route.
Unlike past years where there was a small ceremony, National Anthem, then a police-escorted roll-out, today was “show and go.” For me, it meant not forming up with any other riders.
I left the house around 6:15 a.m. which was a little late. My ETA was 7:45 which was later than I wanted to arrive. I parked at Great Shiplock Park which is convenient enough. I had iced my bottles and took Skratch mix with me. Added that to one bottle, poured ice water in both. Grabbed two packs of entry chews from Skratch and one gel. And that would be my nutrition and hydration for the day.
I rode up Libby Hill, even stopping to take a picture of the cobbled route. It is much bumpier than I remembered.
Registration was giving your name and being handed a timing chip plate for the bike. With one zip tie, it never fit well on the bike. I should have forced the issue and used two ties. There were “bibs” for survivors, in honor of, and in memory of. But there were no Sharpies to write names on them. And there were no safety pins to attach and wear them.
I signed up knowing this would be a “lite” version. I was OK with not having support. But I wasn’t prepared for not having a Sharpie or safety pins. I had those in my car. I would have taken some to registration. But this was a major disappointment.
On a cancer ride, there is great community among the riders when they wear the names of others or even themselves. These are talking points. Connecting with others. And today, this ride missed that.
It was a beautiful day. The temperature at registration was 65º. There were some riders milling around and I wasn’t sure if they were waiting to register or not. I leaned my bike against a tree and registered. Then I rolled out by myself.
My Wahoo GPS seemed slow in drawing the route for me so I navigated from memory, a little, before it picked up the track. I only missed one turn but knew it right away. And then I was off and riding.
I had marked a number of segments, most were in the first half of the route, that I would compete for PRs. And they started coming just one after another. And each one was a PR. I caught and passed some riders. Twice I was passed by a paceline but it was actually once. After having been passed the paceline took a break at the 7-Eleven while I kept going.
I rationed my food and water and never stepped off the bike. I put a foot down in the first block at a traffic light, then again crossing Rte 5, and finally, I took a natural break on a deserted side road (in the woods). No riders went by. I literally was by myself all day long only occasionally seeing riders up the road and passing them.
Around Mile 50, with no additional food or hydration, my Wahoo tempted me with GO! I decided not to contest any more PR segments, waiting instead for the finish. I came to Libby Hill. There were a couple of volunteers at the base. I turned onto the cobbles.
I have a bike better equipped for climbing the cobbles this year than I did two years ago. And I have a body better equipped. I should have set a PR. I looked for the gutter where I could ride the concrete instead of the cobbles. When that ended I turned the last corner. I saw a photographer so I naturally stood because standing photos are so much better than seated. But I quickly took a seat. It was too rough to be standing.
I finished. I asked about the timing chips and was told I could keep mine. There was nothing at the end. I wanted to take a photo of someone finishing. No one came. I left.
Other than Libby Hill, I’d say there are no hills on route at least after the first five miles. It’s a rolling country route, mostly roads but some on the Virginia Capital Trail. It’s neat to finish on Libby Hill. And it’s a good cause. I hope they can get back to a fully supported ride. With safety pins.
I don’t know about the timing on the climb. I sort of trust Strava uploads more than the chips on our bikes. I do not know what triggered the start of my climb. I did not see any timing mechanism at the start, only at the finish.
I don’t know what age groups the event has. If they use what Strava (and Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb) uses, I would be in the 65-69 age group. I was 9th overall, all-time, in my age group and five of those were done on Zwift in the comfort of their homes. And no one today was faster. But there may be someone who doesn’t use Strava. Or timing – maybe mine didn’t record for the event. I don’t know. And maybe they use a 60-69 age group and I can’t see the 60-64 age group. But it does look like maybe, just maybe, I won that age group today.
Overall, of people who uploaded to Strava, I was 16th out of 40.