Hillclimb Worlds Redemption Tour

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA

Four years ago, retired pro cyclist, Phil Gaimon, invited me to race in the Hillclimb Worlds Championship in Santa Barbara. “It will be fun,” he said. I went but knew everything was against me.

Pacific Ocean – West Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Earlier in 2018, I had a memory-loss head injury. I had a knee replacement. And I was carrying way too many pounds. If that wasn’t bad enough, I rode two of southern California’s toughest climbs, Palomar Mountain and Mount Baldy, the previous two days. I had no legs left.

Two riders climbing Gibraltar Road

What happened that day was that I finished dead last in the world. We went in waves by age group although these were individual time trials. I got dropped by my group before reaching the base of the climb. So I truly was racing the clock.

Gibraltar Road

I think had I stayed with my group I may have been able to win a 2-up sprint at the end. But it doesn’t matter. I am the world’s worst hill climber.

Today was not the ideal day to attempt a do-over but it was the only day I had. I left the Hampton Inn and Suites Hotel in Agoura Hills precisely at sunrise and drove to Santa Barbara. It was farther than I thought but had always been my plan to ride here no matter what. So I would make it happen.

Hang gliders just chilling

It was a beautiful sunny day although a little on the cool side. I wore arm warmers at the start knowing they would be coming off. And I had a technology failure. I’m not sure how it transpired but it did.

I needed to do two things before this trip. The first was to find the hillclimb segment on Strava from four years ago and “star” it so that it would show up in my Live Segments on Wahoo when I rode. The second was to “pin” the route so that the route would show up. Alternatively, I could create one from scratch.

Gibraltar Road

I do not remember doing the former. But I did find the route and edited it to remove two miles of riding back and forth in Santa Barbara. And then I needed to sync this with my Wahoo, which I did around midnight before leaving for LA. I think.

The Pier in Santa Barbara

Actually, I thought I synced this and checked to see that it was there. When I reached Santa Barbara I turned on my Wahoo and did not see the route. And I certainly did not remember the turns we took from the oceanfront to the start of the climb.

However, on my Wahoo app on my phone, the route was there. I don’t know why or how it’s on the app but not on the Wahoo computer itself. So I looked at the map and tried to remember the turns I needed. This would be a mistake.

Gibraltar Road
Rattlesnake Canyon Park

Some did look familiar to me. But every canyon road looks the same after a while and I was climbing. But it didn’t feel right. I stopped. I tried to find out where I was and could see that I was not on the right road. I went back down, turned, and thought I was on the right road until I came to the intersection of Coyote Road and Mountain Road. It wasn’t right.

Gibraltar Road (for real – here’s a sign)

I had to ride back DOWN Mountain Road to get to the start of the climb. But it was a pretty road. Along the way, I passed a house that I didn’t really notice. I noticed the mailbox. It was a piece of art – a cyclist with deliveries in the rear. I would learn this house was owned for 20 years by comedian Steve Martin.

This was Steve Martin’s house for 20 years

I got to the start of the climb and thoughts about abandoning the day came over me. I did not have all day to ride because I would have to return the rental car by 2:00 p.m. in El Segundo.

“Delivery in the rear,” Mailbox sculpture in front of Steve Martin’s house

Without a map, I was playing in my mind how I could time the climb. I knew that I could ride it and once it’s uploaded to Strava the data will be there. But I would like to know how I was doing.

I decided that I would make it a Lap. And then I could display Lap data which would include time and distance. I would switch to kilometers knowing it was a 10 km ride. And I would have to average 6:00 per kilometer to finish in 60 minutes.

Gibraltar Road
Rattlesnake Canyon Park

My time, which got me dead last in the Hillclimb Worlds, was 1:12 (one hour and 12 minutes). I wanted not only to beat it but beat it by enough that it would be clear it was not the worst time in the world.

And thus I started. Whether it’s a canyon road or a cliff road, it sure is pretty. To my surprise, the Live Segment popped up so I would not have to resort to a mishmash display of lap data.

Hang gliding from near the top

The Live Segment data displayed includes distance remaining (10.0 km), time elapsed, prior best time (1:12:23), time ahead or behind, and provides an ETA for the pace one is riding. Just to punish you, it also displays a graphical representation of the entire climb that is color-coded by section depending on the steepness. (Avoid the red)

Gibraltar Road

Almost from the start, I was ahead of my pace. I expected that. Then I started to focus on the ETA. The first time I looked I was on a 58:00 pace. Good, I wanted to continue that. Based on my experience over the weekend at Phil’s Fondo, I seem to improve more significantly on the lesser grades. When the road really gets steep, the 2022 Barry does not seem significantly better than the 2018 Barry. I could see the second half was steeper than the first.

In fact, I went through the first five kilometers in 28 minutes and I knew that double that was 56. Yet my ETA had slipped to 1:00. It also knew there was real pain ahead.

Hang gliders in flight

I gave it my all. My bike was a little clunky. Shifting wasn’t right since I landed at LAX and rebuilt the bike. I did not have access to a pump. Normally that would be OK but since my Saturday flat was refilled with CO2, it bleeds faster. My tire was low. And I did not have perfect rolling resistance as my rear brake rotor was out of true and rubbing.

The last kilometer seems to be the steepest. My ETA was showing 1:00:30 and I was getting it down to 1:00:10. I was watching the countdown to 0 meters remaining and it came and went. It was -4 then -20 and so on. I’m not sure when the climb ended and if it ever displayed my final time. I was deprived of seeing PR displayed on the screen.

It would not be until I finished the ride and uploaded it that I saw the “official” Strava time. And Strava time is official whereas Wahoo time is not (although it is usually the same).

But screw the disappointment of not breaking one hour. I shaved off 12 minutes. That’s huge. But I wasn’t even close to the best of the day. It looks like five of us rode and I was 4th. But all are younger and I’m doing OK for tackling this climb.

Hillclimb Worlds – Proud to wear these socks (now)

In terms of speed, at Hillclimb Worlds, I averaged 5.1 mph. Today was 6.0 mph. That’s 18% faster (than a turtle). But 18%!!! I’m happy.


DISTANCE: 10 km
TIME: 1:00
WEIGHT: 177 lbs.


THE TWITTER VERSION


LOGISTICS

And a word about the logistics of this trip. I wanted to minimize car rental costs which I did in two ways. First, I did not rent at LAX. The additional fees heaped on the rental cost are best borne by business travelers. Go offsite somewhere.

I rented offsite at Enterprise Car Rental in El Segundo. I avoided the LAX fees. Many places allow you to return vehicles to a different location. Three years ago, Enterprise charged $100 to return the car to LAX. I didn’t even inquire this time.

I arrived Thursday but didn’t need a car until Friday when I drove to Agoura Hills. I made my reservation for 2:00 p.m. Friday returning on Monday at 2:00 p.m. A three-day rental was enough.

LAX shuttle to the hotel

I took a free shuttle from the airport to the Hilton Garden Inn – El Segundo. On Friday I went for a long bike ride (70 miles) and finished at Enterprise Car Rental. I put the bike in the car, drove back to the hotel, and picked up my stuff.

The car was inadequate based on its description as a midsize SUV. It would not hold my bike and my bike case. I asked and the staff (Marissa, actually) at the HGI, told me that I could check it there. I also asked if when I return if I could take their shuttle and they said of course.

Jeep Compass – A “midsize” SUV

I returned the car today at 2:00 p.m. and the Enterprise staff took me back to the hotel. I picked up my bike case, tore down and packed my bike, then took their 4:00 shuttle to LAX. Keep in mind I stayed there on Thursday only, having to stay in Agoura Hills, Friday through Monday.

Bike packed and ready to fly

So a 3-day car rental. No additional shuttle charges to or from hotels. I am quite pleased with how that worked out.

Phil’s Fondo

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA 

I was out the door of the hotel shortly after sunrise for the six-mile ride to the start of Phil’s Cookie Gran Fondo. I watched the Chocolate Chip route depart at 8:00 a.m. then got in the back of the line for the Sugar Cookie route when Reggie Miller rolled up. I asked him how he was feeling and he said OK. He had a stiff back yesterday and was walking gingerly. Frankie Andreau called for more riders to go to the front. Reggie went up front. I stayed in the back. 

VeloFix – Before rolling out I paid $10 to true a front rotor

We had a neutral rollout with a police escort for three miles. There were a number of riders up ahead. Even though we stayed together to the Westlake Blvd climb, I never saw Reggie again. Imagine that, a world-class athlete 10 years younger than me and I never caught him.

The Chocolate Chip route rolling out

I had no goals planned. Like I have for the past two-plus weeks, I did not display speed or distance. That was not a goal. Stopping at the rest stops was. This was a ride to enjoy. Take it slow if you must, And eat cookies. Lots of cookies.

Good Morning Thousand Oaks!

At the first rest stop, I ate a cookie. The second one came on Pacific Coast Highway and was much too close to the first one. But I stopped and had a cookie. The third one I rode by without stopping. 

Rest stop #1 – Sponsored by UCLA Cycling Club

I was pretty happy that I went over the Westlake Blvd climb in record time (PR). I wasn’t watching speed but Wahoo was displaying Strava Live Segments. I lowered my time by four minutes. 

Descending Mulholland

I was hopeful on PCH I could beat my prior time on a flat stretch. But that was set with a tailwind three years ago and today there was a stiff head or cross headwind. I was losing time on a segment which I wasn’t going to finish because we would turn to Potrero Road before the end of the segment.

View of the Pacific Ocean from Mulholland

A small group went by and it was the only draft I would take all day. There were six riders being led by a guy in an Israel Premier Tech kit. A pro kit by itself doesn’t mean that much as they are available for anyone to purchase. 

Mulholland Drive – The rider farthest up the road on the left is Rick Zabel

The rider was young and strong. I thought we might be trading pulls but he was nose in the wind all out and we were hanging on. It was glorious. 

Rest stop #2 – on PCH

After 4-5 miles he pulled off as we began the approach to Potrero climb. I pulled alongside side of him and thanked him for the monster pull. 

Cookies at Rest #2

As the group pulled away to attack the climb I was next to rider #101. We both remarked on how strong that rider was. As I was reaching the top of Potrero I saw the Israel rider headed back down the road. I remarked that he was probably going to ride it a second time. And I think he did. 

The Cookiemobile would lead us out on the ride

It turned out that was a pro. Rick Zabel who rides for Israel Premier Tech. I also saw him going back up Mulholland as I was descending. And he passed us on the descent on Mulholland. It all makes sense now. 

Rest stop #4 at the top of Potrero

Potrero Road is a beast. I hit the first ramp with a PR then had a mile and a half of a false flat (actually 2-3%) before the real climb began. It’s tough. Some people were walking. One guy broke his chain and had no choice but to walk. Another was paperboying so dramatically that he almost got hit by an oncoming truck. 

Riding on the PCH

Although I had a PR on Potrero, it wasn’t nearly as much as on the other climbs. I think the lesser grades I pulled back more time. But at 16% grade, I creep. I wasn’t going to pull back time on the steepest section. Or perhaps, this year we hit Westlake early and Potrero late in the ride. In the past Potrero was at Mile 8 and Westlake around Mile 20 so maybe I was fresher in the past.

Waiting for coffee at the start

At the top of Potrero Road, I stopped at the Rest Stop. Half of a cookie was enough. Plus a banana. The finish was just 12 miles away. 

A cookie on PCH

But first, three more Live Segments. The longest was an 8-minute effort in which I shaved off one minute. That was followed by two smaller climbs. Then finally it was downhill or flat, flat and windy, to the finish. 

Scary in Ventura County

SOME DATA TO PONDER

PR-Westlake Blvd Climb – 18:35 (Old 23:26) Today: 313/451 All-time: 4214/7108
PR-Potrero Grade – 18:06 (Old 18:52). Today: 214/432 Age 44/105 All-time: 3905/6704

Jersey

I took almost five minutes off the Westlake Climb but only 46 seconds of Potrero. Yet today I was only in the top 31% while on Potrero I was above the line (top 51%). I am thinking Potrero is so steep in its upper pitches that it didn’t matter how much I weighed – I was going to go slow,. But the weight difference in three years paid big dividends on Westlake.

Food!

PR-Phil’s Cookie Fondo Westlake – 15:47 (Old 19:35) Today: 307/459
Potrero Wall – 10:12 (PR – 10:02). This was surprising. Hmm

Pizza chefs

PR-Potrero Final Ramp – 3:56 (Old 4:02). This section is 0.27 miles at 14% grade. I’m going to go slow no matter what. Or fall over. Today 199/430 Age 45/106



DISTANCE: 59.6 miles
AVERAGE: 14.9 mph
WEIGHT: 177 lbs
COOKIES: 2.5 (plus one more at lunch)


It's Phil's Fondo. It was a good ride with lots of cookies.
At the silent auction, I was the high bidder on an ELEMNT Roam

Hanging with Mr. Miller

AGOURA HILLS, CALIFORNIA

My plan was simple although I blew it yesterday. Today I would ride the shorter of the two routes offered for Phil’s Cookie Gran Fondo. I was already in a huge deficit by accidentally riding 70 miles yesterday.

Riders gathered at Whizen Plaza

I left the Hampton Inn Agoura Hills hotel and rode the mile and a half to the Whizen Plaza. Retired pro, Frankie Andreau, was the emcee getting the rides started. The 45-mile “Chocolate Chip Cookie” ride would leave at 9:00 a.m. while the 35-mile “Sugar Cookie” ride would depart at 9:30 a.m. While 35 miles doesn’t seem like much, these have some big climbs in them. In this case, there was 4,500′ of gain over 35 miles.

Phil Gaimon and Reggie Miller lead the riders out

At the start, there were only about 20 of us remaining for the Sugar Cookie route. Almost everyone went with the first group. Frankie asked how many first-timers there were and more than half raised their hands. But I knew from my ride four years ago not to do the longer route to have something left for tomorrow.

The Cookie Car

We rolled out and followed the “Cookie” car for two miles until it pulled off. We were in a group although it was splitting up as the roads turned up. I did not want to ride in the front of the group but it was the pace I was comfortable at. So there I was in the front group of nine when we came to rest stop One. While some were debating whether to stop I knew we must get a chocolate chip cookie.

Rest stop one – Cookies!

We stopped and I got a chocolate chip cookie. I split a banana with another rider and was debating whether to roll out with the group again and let them go. That decision was made for me. I got my bike off the rack and the rear tire was flat. A quick inspection and I found a goathead in the tire.

Goathead. An invasive species normally in grasses – not on the road.

There were still three riders behind me as one had a triple flat – also goatheads. They stopped at the rest stop and saw me. But they left before I was finished. I thought they might wait for me but two of the riders, Razzle Dazzle, were clearly together, and I think the third one was too. So they were a unit and I can see that they may not have even thought about waiting for the last rider on course.

Cookies. Why we ride.

Decision made. The CO2 gave me enough air to continue but I did not want to ride the route without a spare and another CO2 cartridge. I told the guy at the rest stop that I was turning around. He seemed surprised but I was comfortable with that decision. I just wanted to get back, and get a new tube and CO2.

Mulholland at Malibu Creek Park. I caught and passed the rider in blue.

I held my breath. On the descents, the bike did not handle well. The squishy tire required me to brake more than I wanted to. But I came to the Mulholland climb I had done before a couple of times. And this time I was more than one minute ahead of my PR, even with a soft tire. That alone made the ride wonderful.

Barry with Frankie Andreau

Arriving back, I was first. Well, I didn’t complete the miles anyone else did. I got a new tube and CO2 from VeloFix. I grabbed lunch and sat with Frankie Andreau. Reggie Miller, the former US Olympian and NBA All-Star joined us. It was fun meeting Reggie. I called him Mr. Miller and he corrected me – “please call me Reggie.” I guess I was hanging with Reggie.

Barry and Reggie Miller



DISTANCE: 22.4 miles
SPEED: 14.5 mph
WEIGHT: 177

The Best Highway — to Avoid

EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA

It’s one day before Phil’s Cookie Gran Fondo. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn – El Segundo. Yesterday I did a short test ride after I rebuilt the bike. I reserved a rental car and would pick it up at 2:00 p.m. I had time for a ride. Even a long ride.

Bike trail in Santa Monica

Pro cyclist, Krista Doebel-Hickok, posted a ride yesterday on Pacific Coast Highway. It looked like a recommendation and I scrubbed plans for a shorter ride (35 miles) and decided I would do this. A quick search and I found a site called Spinlister that referred to PCH From Santa Monica To Malibu as the “perfect California bike ride.”

In fairness, there were some warnings that this trip wasn’t for everybody. But I decided it was good enough for me. The views of the ocean, the sound of the surf breaking on the beaches, and the smell of the fresh salt-water air would offset any negatives the highway experience might throw at me. Right?

El Segundo Trailhead

The trip through El Segundo to the beach was through a mostly residential area with lots of stop signs. I counted 12 and most were four-way stops with traffic so I had to stop and put a foot down for each one. It wasn’t bad, in fact, it was a pleasant ride. But it wasn’t one where average speed would be great.

Presented without comment

Once I made it to the beach I got on a bike trail. It was the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. It is generously wide and weaves back and forth along the beach. At Culver City, it becomes a combination of urban bike paths and bike lanes through Venice. There I picked up the bike trail again.

Riding between the water

In Venice, the bike trail next to the ocean got very crowded. I am sure it was nothing on a Friday morning in October compared to a Sunday in August. Large parts of the trail were two paths. One was marked exclusively for cyclists while the other was for pedestrians. Despite the presence of the large green markings for Bikes Only, this did not stop many people from walking among the cyclists. We shared the trail with many roller-bladers who were logically welcomed on this path rather than with the walkers.

Rollerbladers. Welcomed,

The trail came to an end north of Santa Monica and then the adventure on the Pacific Coast Highway began. This is a four-lane highway with a small shoulder. There are stretches where cars and parked, and worse, a food truck. The food truck, in order to open to customers on the grass side, parked right up to the white lane. Cyclists have nowhere to go except into the traffic lane.

World-famous Santa Monica Pier

Traffic here, Santa Monica to Malibu, was heavy. While a Friday morning around 10:00 a.m. seems better than rush hour or possibly weekends, it may not have been. Bumper-to-bumper traffic creeping in this stretch would be safer than the cars whizzing by at 50-55 mph.

Diversion off PCH and through Malibu
Malibu Road – it runs parallel to PCH for 2.5 miles

My ultimate destination was Point Dume Recreational Area. There were no signs to the area from the south as I went in through a residential area. It looks like a beautiful area for hiking with absolutely wonderful overlooks. It is here where there are some of the best viewing areas for humpback whales migrating from December to March.

Point Dume Natural Preserve

Going north, there were a number of pinch points where I had to merge onto the highway. At each one I stopped, took a photo, took two looks behind me to make sure it was clear. And I relied heavily on my Garmin Varia radar.

Food trucks blocking the PCH shoulder

Going south, there were a lot more times that I had to ride in the traffic lane. Despite the presence of one sign which said Bikes May Use Full Lane, I wondered if any drivers saw the sign. More importantly, I felt that none cared.

Point Dume

I was so thankful I got back safely to Santa Monica and picked up the trail again. I diverted to In-N-Out Burger in Culver City. It was busy and I found a dad with his son, maybe 13 years old, and told the son I’d give him $1 to watch my bike while I went in to order. It was perfect.

In-N-Out Burger, Culver City

I head back to El Segundo to pick up my rental car. On the trail.

I gave him one dollar to watch my bike

The bottom line is the ocean views and saltwater air did not counter the angst of riding on the PCH. I would not recommend this stretch of road. I’m glad I did it once but I am not looking to ride it again.

To be certain, this is only the stretch from Santa Monica to Malibu which is a 💩 show. About eight miles north of Point Dume on the PCH is where Mulholland Highway meets the PCH. We ride this stretch north during Phil’s Fondo. And this stretch is fine for most road cyclists. Wider shoulders and no pinch points. Also better ocean views. In short, avoid PCH from Santa Monica to Malibu. But further north, enjoy the ride.



DISTANCE: 69.5 miles
AVERAGE SPEED: 15.3 mph
WEIGHT: 177 lbs

When the Magic Happens – Sea Gull 2022

SALISBURY, MARYLAND

Last night I stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites, West Ocean City. I was asleep at 10 p.m. hoping to get a full eight hours before getting up at 6 a.m. I was most interested in my Whoop Band recovery score which seems to always be poor before a big event.

Assateague State Park

It did not disappoint. Yesterday I did an easy 22-mile ride in Easton on the way here. I didn’t want to not ride at all and this short ride would not stress me. My Whoop score for the ride was an easy 13.0.

I went to breakfast at 6:30 a.m. I sat down to eat and then looked at my recovery score. It was only 31%. I was already in the red. That signifies that I have not recovered but not riding was not an option. Riding and sucking would be.

Whoop Recovery score before the ride. This is not good.

I knew no one who was riding today but hoped to see some riders from the Blair Cycling Club (Altoona, Pa.). I used to see them but haven’t for 3-4 years so either we don’t have good timing or they no longer come to this event.

The weather was cool. It reached 80℉ (26.7℃) and I certainly hoped for more of the same. But a cold front came in overnight. It was 55℉ (12.8℃) at the start. Despite a brief appearance of the sun at the rolling start, it was gray and windy.

I didn’t want to be fixated on speed. I removed the speed display from my Wahoo. And I switched the units from miles to kilometers. It’s different. They go by faster than miles but to see “164 km remaining” on the head unit at the start was sort of daunting.

The sun peaked out for a minute at the start

I wore my red Roosters kit, arm warmers, and a vest. Many riders had knee or leg warmers. Even spotted some with balaclavas. I started riding and passing people. I should have been mindful of riding the first third easy, the second third normal, and having enough to finish strong.

Instead, I had a tailwind and took advantage of it. I was passing many riders and passed a guy on a blue bike. I noticed that he picked up the pace and followed me. He never quite sat on my wheel but I knew he was behind me. Eventually, he came beside me and complimented me on my pace. Then he added that he hoped I didn’t mind him “hanging back here because I kept a great pace.” Ha! After a compliment it was OK.

Rest-2, Newark, Md.

About 10 minutes later, a guy wearing a Marines jersey came flying by, followed by two riders. The third rider was the guy that had been following me. I jumped on. We went a mile or two when the guy with the big engine pulled off. Apparently, he thought he was pulling friends and asked “Where are they?” And then he sat up.

Crossing the Pawpaw Creek

The second guy took a turn. When he pulled off he dropped too. I then followed the guy who had followed me for so long. That was fair. We came to a Live Segment on Strava and I wanted to set a PR. But not by sitting on. So I moved to the front and pulled him to the end. I got my PR. We turned the corner and he was gone. Damn.

Snow Hill, Md.

I came to Rest-1 at MP23 in Snow Hill and kept going with a brief foot down because of the foot traffic. There was a group there called Heavyweight Cycling. Most were big guys. I asked where they were from and was told Raleigh-Durham. I never saw them after the stop although they were motoring before it. Pretty cool kits.

Chincoteague Bay

In Newark (MP42) I kept going through Rest-2. The location changed from last time. I did not see if it was a water-only stop or food. Actually, I put a foot down and opened my second pack of Energy Chews. I ate a couple then took off.

Chincoteague Bay

It started to rain. It was more spitting than anything. But it was gray and windy and I thought if I’m getting soaked then I will look to turn this boat around. I’ve ridden this event enough times to know that I don’t need to. The roads were wet but the rain didn’t last long. Actually, my kit wasn’t even wet. The gray soon gave way to sunshine.

Train station in Newark, Md.

It was a nice run into the state park at Assateague. The port-a-johns were busy. I went for food. I took a bagel. One bagel. Then I turned my nose into the wind. It would be a 30-mile headwind.

The Verranzano Bridge at Assateague Is.

My goal, if I had one, was a six-hour century. I would need to average 16.7 mph. I had no clue how I was doing because I wasn’t displaying speed. And if I did, it was in kilometers so that may or may not have been useful. But I knew this. When I came through Berlin I knew I had 30 miles or so and probably two hours and finish by 2:00 p.m. – and that would give me a 6-hour century including stops.

Assateague Island

At 1:00 p.m. I had 27.5 km remaining and I figured I would finish by 2:00. As I came to Rest-4 at Adkins Mill (MP83) I rolled through.

Food tent at Rest-3, Assateague Is.

I also knew then that I was screwed on nutrition. One bagel is all I grabbed from four rest stops. No fluids. After the ride when I checked, I had consumed slightly more than one bottle of fluid over 100 miles.

Rest-3 at Assateague Is.

I continued on. After going through Berlin, a larger group went by and I started to go with them. But this was a solo ride. I passed two accident scenes with a cyclist down. Both were in groups. I don’t know these people but I know they are not professional bike handlers. It wasn’t worth it riding in the big groups that form on this ride.

Muscrat Love. I see this guy almost every year.

I found a side road outside of Berlin to go down and have a nature break. As I got back on the road a group of Major Taylor Cycling Club riders went by. They were going just a little faster than me and I was drawn in. It was easier than fighting the wind.

The horses on Assateague. They were the only ones I saw but I saw some.

Not sure how long they were together but there soon was a split with half the group riding off the front. Since I was a passenger in the back I was caught out by the split. The new group was slower and smaller.

Salisbury cheerleaders at the finish

It was here that my ride changed. Every year I have done this ride there was something special about it. The first couple of years I met and rode with some riders from the Blair Cycling Club (Altoona, Pa.). In 2018 I met Sandra. She had been dropped by two friends and I basically towed her the last 60 miles. Then she left without saying goodbye or thank you. In 2019 I met Andrew & Staci, two cyclists riding their first Metric. There was always something magical but not this year. Not in 2022, nothing.

I rode solo most of the day. I was reflecting on this may be my last Sea Gull. There was nothing special about this ride. Around M90 we passed a young lady struggling. By struggling I mean she looked like she was capable of going faster but was pedaling squares.

I was at the back and I told her that she would do well to hang with us. She thanked me and she jumped in. We were in twos at that time so she was on the back with me. Sarah* made it a mile at pace but then tailed off. I quickly decided to drop with her.

Brief convo – “Have you done this century before (not have you done a century before)?” And Sarah told me this was her first. I knew then I would help get her home, if not at a great pace then at least at her pace. Although we rode side by side a little bit, I mostly tried to have her follow my wheel as we were into a brutal headwind (last 30 miles). I never could get the pace right as she kept losing my wheel.

But for the last 10 miles we talked and I encouraged Sarah. Some of it was cycling. Some of it was just about life. This may have been the best I felt towards the end of a century but it was nice for me too to have a diversion. She made it and I was as proud as she was. (But she refused to ride an additional 25 miles with me.)

The Finish

For a ride that had nothing for 90 miles, just being able to help Sarah gave my ride meaning. It was a great Sea Gull Century.

As for those additional 25 miles. I love the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry. I rode it yesterday on my way to Ocean City and thought that after the Century I would stop there on the way home. The reason was two-fold. First, this would be my last planned ride in Easton, Md. for the year. And second, I wanted to see how my body would respond to 125 miles. Even more, how it would respond to 25 more after riding 100 with a little break (driving).

A boat in the Tred Avon River, Oxford, Md.

I drove to Oxford and parked at the dock. I started riding and I felt good. There was no sluggishness in the legs. As I headed toward Easton I saw I was seconds off my best pace but could not lift the pace anymore. So the legs felt good but I really couldn’t dig much deeper.

I then had this fear. I would miss the last ferry. I saw a sign yesterday that it was at 6:15 p.m. I would have to ride hard the entire way. If I missed the ferry I would have to turn back and the 22-mile loop would be a 44-mile ride after the Sea Gull. And I would be pushing darkness.

Crossing the Tred Avon River

When I got to the last three miles I was rolling. I came in 1:00 faster than my previous PR. I had already been designated the “Local Legend” of the “Bellevue Breezeway” with four attempts in the last 90 days. This would be ride number five.

The Talbot, Bellevue, Md.

I got to the ferry as it was coming in. I wanted to think I made the last ferry of the day but after I disembarked I saw it make another trip to Bellevue.

The Talbot

I’ve been riding well and finished the Century with a 17.9 mph average. Maybe better, I didn’t have a drop off in my last 22 miles as I finished the loop with an 18.1 average. Overall, I averaged 18.0 on the day. Very well down (pat on my own back here).

A proper way to finish 125 miles

Maybe most importantly, this Sea Gull had a purpose. Maybe I’ll return. You never know when magic will happen.

End of a long day. Chesapeake Bay Bridge




DISTANCE: 125 miles
SPEED: 18.0 mph
WEIGHT: 176 pounds