Onward to Charles Town


The last time I rode this route was Father’s Day one year ago. Today’s ride was uneventful. I stopped a lot to take pictures. That killed any average speed I had going.

It was hot. It hit 99 or 100 in D.C.

Cyclist on Pr. Wm. Parkway Bike Path

On the bike path near Manassas there was a couple walking two large retrievers — one a black Lab and the other a Golden. If they had been paying attention they would have seen me coming and made sure I could get by safely at speed. Instead I had to slow to almost a stop. I was nice, thanked them, and then regretted that I didn’t dismount and take a picture. I know, they killed my momentum so I should at least take a picture.

 My route took me on Sudley Road through Manassas and past the Manassas Battlefield.  

Manassas Battlefield Park

The dirt portion of Braddock Road in Loudoun County was worse than I remembered. I am thinking that they recently put down more gravel. There was no place to find a track in which to ride. I was “greeted” by two large dogs. Maybe it was too hot for them to give serious chase. I talked to them while maintaining my slow speed and they never became aggressive.

 Braddock Road, Loudoun Co., Va.

As I rode along I was going slower and slower and felt my rear tire become sluggish. I pulled over to change a flat and then was delighted to see that I didn’t have a flat — it really was that crappy to ride in.

Snapping Turtle on Braddock Road

Once I reached the far end of Braddock Road I flew passed a huge turtle in the middle of the road. I turned around, at first wanting to move it to safety. But I soon decided it could protect itself better than I could.

Country Store in Airmont – A Cyclist’s Oasis

My only stop was at Airmont for a bottle of PowerAde, bottle of water, and a Milky Way candy bar (they were out of Snickers).

Barn on Rte 9

The climb over the Blue Ridge on Rte 9 was uneventful. However, my wife and son passed me, while I was hugging the shoulder, and NEVER SAW ME!!!! I will die on the road some day by motorists who somehow manage to pass cyclists without seeing them.

Jefferson Co., WV

Comparing my stats to last year the biggest difference is in heart rate. Last year I averaged 132 bpm and hit 160+ on a couple of the climbs. Yesterday I averaged 122 bpm and went to 150. I want to believe that I am more fit than last year and I should be. Last year I was battling an e.Coli infection for weeks which led to the diagnosis of cancer. Well, at least that’s gone.

Shenandoah River

Garmin Map and Stats

Air Force Cycling Classic


Strange day. Almost one of those if it can go wrong it will go wrong days.

There was a two-day cycling event in town. The second day was the Air Force Cycling Classic but featured an open ride before the pros raced. The course was closed to traffic. It was a 12.5 km course that goes around the Pentagon and climbs up to the Air Force Memorial.

It is open to anyone which meant rider beware. Especially in the first couple of laps it was dangerous passing or following anyone.

They offered a bronze medal for anyone who could complete two laps; a silver for four laps; and a gold medal for 8 laps (100 km or 62 miles) within the 3:30 time limit.

Last week I put out a feeler to see if anyone I knew was riding it. I wanted to get in a group because I was reasonably sure I could average 18 mph in a group; the speed necessary to make the cutoff time. On the other hand, only one time had I ever averaged over 18 mph on my own — that was an 8.5-mile “time trial” just to see what I could do going all out. I averaged 19.3 mph.

No one responded although I was told that it’s easy to hook up with other riders. I went to bed last night thinking about it. Registration opened at 6:00 a.m. and I wanted to get there early.

I cleaned my rear cassettes (two rear wheels) then went to bed. When the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. I decided I would go for it. I got ready to go, put my “race lite” wheels on, and found the gears didn’t work. I fiddled with the bike for 15 minutes before taking the cassette from one wheel and moving it over to the other wheel.

I headed off to Arlington, parked the van, jumped on the bike, and rode to registration. It was hot, high 80s although it reached 94º (35º C) during the day, and realized I forgot my Chamois Butt’r to lather up with (prevents chafing). I got to registration and they only accepted cash. Feeling that it wasn’t my day, I decided to leave. But on the way out I passed an ATM, grabbed some cash, and decided to go back and register.

Having run out of fuel at Mountains of Misery, I decided I would carry everything I needed. Or try to. I grabbed four packets of gel, Power Bar’s Strawberry-Banana — one for every two laps. I put two water bottles on my bike and carried my Tour de France bottle in a back pocket.

It was a slow-starting roll-out. I was pretty far back. I missed any organization at the front. Most of the first lap was carefully maneuvering around some very slow and very unsure riders. “On your left” or “on your right” didn’t seem to register with a lot of these folks. Just smile when you go by.

The route went out past the Pentagon and up to the Air Force Memorial. I flew by a lot of riders climbing the road up to the memorial. On the descent, I hit 35 mph and soon was behind a rider on S. Washington Blvd. He had just taken a drink from his bottle and seemingly fumbled as he tried to put it back in the cage. He wobbled once and I saw him put a foot down in front of me. At 35 mph. Oh boy.

Sparks flew from his shoe and then he veered sharply to the left. Thank god — my line was to his right. In less than a second, he went from upright to roadkill. Well, almost. He went down hard. Very hard. Thankfully he didn’t take anyone down with him. Pretty sure he was met by an ambulance.

I completed the first lap then briefly found two guys from James Madison University and rode with them a little on Lap 2. How or why I could drop them, I don’t know, but I did. They disappeared behind me.

I went through the second lap at 46 minutes total and knew I was looking at 23-24 minutes a lap. I quickly did the math — just about 3:04 — well within the 3:30 cutoff. I also figured I might lose some of that due to the heat.

Basically, I went through Laps 3-7 with no issues. They did have water on the course near the start line in which they handed the bottles to you as you flew by. It was a professional feed zone if you were willing. I never had to stop to take on a drink. I took one PowerAde and one water. Different laps.

I lost my Tour de France bottle at the end of Washington Blvd when it fell out of my jersey. I slipped it on the outside of the pocket underneath my race bib which is why it came loose. I didn’t stop for it and quickly figured I would pick it up on the next lap. Well, someone got a souvenir. The bottle was gone when I returned 23 minutes later.

I went through Lap 7 and my time was 2:45. At 25 min I knew I would be in at 3:10 but I also knew I could take an unheard of 45 minutes to finish Lap 8 and still finish under 3:30.

I held my line and finished it in 25 minutes. The race announcer told us we could take a 9th lap. Thanks but no thanks.

I discovered they ran out of gold medals, the prize for finishing eight laps in less than 3:30. Oh well, they took my name and said they would mail me one. Not sure why I really want one but gave them my name anyhow.

I went hoping, and even doubting a little, that I could average 18 mph on a hot day. I knew if I found the right group to ride with that I could but I missed the big groups upfront and didn’t see anything forming at the back where I was. Nor did it make a lot of sense to “sit up” and wait for the big groups to lap me. I would be giving away 23 minutes that way.

So I basically rode solo the entire day. And I was rewarded not only with making my goal of 18 mph but riding faster than I have ever ridden over distance before. I averaged 19.73. Rounded, I can call it 20 mph, on a very hot day where I did not put a foot down the entire time. It was a very satisfying day!

After the race I was parched. I went looking for water and didn’t find any. I heard they ran out which is understandable on a day so hot. I elected to ride back to the van and leave – simply to find a store and get some water.

I had a soccer tournament in Woodbridge at 1:00 p.m. and wanted to get there so it was a good time to leave. But I missed the mens’ pro race. I would have liked to have stayed and watched it and said hello afterward to Phil Gaimon. But I missed Phil and all the men racing simply to stay alive.

The Air Force Cycling Classic is a neat event and a tune-up to the Nature’s Valley Grand Prix. Whether I ride the people’s ride again remains to be seen but I will have to add it to my spectating calendar for next year.

And continues to go wrong…

Tuesday, June 15 — A few minutes ago they posted the “official” times for the ride. I was listed as having completed just two laps. The first in 22 minutes and the second in 67 minutes. Geez! Can’t say that I’m impressed by their timing mechanisms. I sent them my Garmin data and will wait to see if they correct the record or if I would even consider riding this event again.

The website listing shows 1,023 riders and I was listed 999th. The listing is first by number of laps and then time to complete the laps. Since I was recorded as two laps and took more than one hour to complete the second one, well…

No one asked me but I think the problem came in where I wore the timing chip. After I was handed my bib I was instructed to remove the timing strip and place it on my shoe. But when the very nice volunteer saw my Louis Garneau shoes she wondered how to attach it. Then she said, “well, you can leave it on the back of your bib.” She made sure it was in place and off I rode. I have a feeling that the tracking mechanism is aimed at knee level and lower thus it only picked up two of my eight passes through the checkpoint.

I received an email on Wednesday informing me that the website would be changed. My actual time, verified by satellite mapping on my Garmin, was 3:09:55 or 3:10:14 – the 19 seconds difference being when I started Garmin as opposed to when I actually started moving. That moves my listing up to 85th – a top 10% finish.

A 65-Mile Pull


I arrived at the commuter lot in Warrenton but did not leave myself enough time to get ready. I wanted to change wheels and had to do a quick clothing change in the van. The ride, Airlie to Aldie, was listed as a ‘B’ ride, 65 miles and hilly.

I might call the route moderate and not hilly. I would think there would be an objective measure with climbing feet / miles but it seems to be a guess. Garmin’s corrected elevation shows 3,060 feet over 65 miles. Without the correction the altimeter showed 4,244 feet.

This is important to determine the ride class and speed. If this was a hilly route, and it may have been, then a B average was supposed to be 12-14 mph. A BB pace would be 14-16 and an A pace would be 16-18.

If this was a moderate route then the averages would go up by two mph per category. A B pace would be 14-16. A BB pace would be 16-18.

I made my wheel and clothing changes, grabbed a cue sheet, then rolled out about 10 minutes after the group left. They should have had two miles on me. I began my chase. I thought I spotted a rider after 10 miles but I caught some other cyclists not on this ride instead. Then, on climbing the hill up to The Plains, I spotted 3-4 riders near the top. Once I made visual contact, I took a natural break. And didn’t see the riders again until mile 21.

I didn’t ride 20 mph but I did ride 18 mph, solo, over the first 21.5 miles. It took a little more than an hour which is about right to bring back the two miles I gave up to the group when they left without me. They probably averaged 16 mph.

I had caught the trailing riders, maybe the true B riders, while there were other riders up the road who had stopped at the Safeway for a rest. As soon as they came out and were ready to roll, I jumped in with them. Actually, they left without me but only by 200 meters. I soon caught them and decided I would hang on the back. I lasted on the back about 45 seconds. I soon moved to the front to help with the pulling and didn’t move again for 43 miles.

I rode solo in the wind for 22 miles then pulled for 43. Strange. There were many hills, none were great, but on each one I separated from the group then soft-pedaled at the top to wait. I had thought about dropping the group but, on a group ride, thought that would be a little rude. So “the little engine that could” just kept grinding away and waiting where necessary.

With about four miles to go, a rider finally came to the front. I thought he was going to take over pulling but he seemed more interested in dropping the group. So I went with him. We quickly  dropped the other riders. I thought “Donkey, this is a friggin club ride, and you’ve been sitting on my wheel for 40 miles now you’re going to drop me?!” But we rode the last four miles to the end and I did pull away on the final climb to the lot.

On the day I averaged 17.0 mph. I am pleased with that because it was all solo or pulling. And if it was really a hilly route then it qualified as an A pace. And I just beat the storm that had been forming all day.