“The Lone Wolf”
“What the hell am I doing?”
“Just Hanging On”
Titles for this blog entry go racing through my mind.
Wheels down at 8:15 a.m. which was later than I wanted as the course opened at 7:00 a.m. I completely underestimated the time it would take to drive here. I headed out of town with little knowledge of where I was going. Although I was handed a cue sheet, I don’t like to use those. Besides, if I got lost I could always program Garmin “back to start.”
I started out on an empty road and saw no one ahead and no one behind. I figured starting so late I missed any chance to jump into a group. I was resigned that I would ride by myself so I turned around to get a cue sheet then did a 180 and decided to forgo it. I would simply take it slow and enjoy the scenery.
The markings on the road were very small and it was easy to blow past a turn and go for miles waiting for the next mark, which would never come. But I found my first turn and stopped to take a picture of the road and the sign marking – an Amish horse and buggy.
While I was stopped fumbling with the camera, I was passed by two guys. I thought that if I hurried I might be able to join them but they went by pretty fast. I counted and they were 17 seconds ahead and wondered if I should hammer it to join them. And what they would think. I let them go.
Settling in enjoying the scenery, I came upon an Amish horse and buggy. Or horse and wagon. I respected the driver’s desire not to be photographed and be recognizable by snapping a picture from the distance. From the rear. (At least this is my belief. I could be wrong.)
Over the next couple of miles, I passed eight buggies including one charming family of eight. On the back, and they could see me approaching, were two older girls facing backward on the top bench and three smaller boys sitting one bench down. Up front were dad and mom driving with a baby in between. It was actually pretty cool in an Amish sort of way.
The horse took off on the downhill section, approaching the steep uphill. And I did the same. I was side by side by passing with a wide berth. I didn’t want to scare the horse. Then we hit the 12% grade wall. And I flew by that horse. Ha! (Of course, I wasn’t pulling a family of eight.)
It was Amish market day as I assume every Saturday is. I passed one young Amish man on his bike and just wanted to stop and show him my bike. But I didn’t. I wondered what he would say about a carbon fiber bike with a Garmin GPS unit on it.
Just as I was catching a group of riders, riding a bit too slow for me though, I was passed by the same two riders: John Phillips and his boss, Enrico. I didn’t know who these two guys were and I caught their wheels. I can only imagine that they were wondering why I was hanging on and I wondered if they were trying their best to drop me. They didn’t. Eventually, I said I was willing to work and took a couple of pulls. We were now in a group of three.
As is typical of group riding, we didn’t say much or introduce ourselves at first. Why should we? We may ride together for one mile and then split. But eventually, we did. At the first rest stop.
The first stop was at Coltons Point on the Potomac River. Here the Potomac is five miles wide, not real far from the birthplace of George Washington across on the Virginia side.
After a brief stop to fill the water bottles, and it would get hot today, we headed back out to complete the first 50-mile loop. The more I rode the more I felt I wasn’t going to be able to hang on with these two guys. Although I had jumped in with them, they were much younger than I first thought and I thought that would wear me down.
We neared the end of the first 50 miles and came to a bit of a climb — more a roller than a climb but one where I have some problems keeping a fast pace with younger riders. I started to lose contact with John and Enrico and actually felt good about it. But then I saw Enrico sit up and wait for me. Nice gesture but damn — that meant I was going to have to ride hard the entire day.
Back at the start at the College of Southern Maryland in Leonardtown, John told me the farthest he had ever ridden was 70 miles and that was just a few weeks earlier. I was impressed that he would try to increase his max mileage by 50% on one ride. Enrico had just flown back from Italy and wasn’t feeling well and decided to call it a day.
We had ridden the first section at 19+ mph without the benefit of a large group. I was hoping to ride more sensible in the second half. That was way too fast for me today.
Now without Enrico, John and I left the rest break with six other riders and it appeared that we would stay together. But at the first rise in the road about three miles in, John and I pulled away. We weren’t hammering it, just keeping it comfortable.
And that would be it – John and me, for the next 50 miles. There was one stretch where a group of four was catching us and I told him we would sit up and they could latch on, which we did. But there was no real formation in that group and the leader was hammering it. After a couple of miles, I told John I was going to drop back and ride at a more reasonable pace. He did too. And about 50 meters later, the group broke apart.
The remnants of that group all pulled into the rest stop at St. Mary’s City together. I don’t know what happened to them after that. Perhaps they departed before us or passed us when John flatted about five miles later.
The day was hot (upper 80s) and four rest stops hardly seemed like enough places to fill our bottles. On our way out to Piney Point, we passed a small beer store and stopped in for a Coke. It’s not quite the same as the Cokes I had in France in July but it was good enough. It was the pause that refreshes.
John is a younger, stronger, and faster rider than me. But around Mile 85 he had pulled for the last time this day. It was just the two of us working together and we had not been passed by anyone the entire day, save for the group of four that soon splintered after we dropped off.
I was in front for a mile or so and pulled to the side to let John pull. But he was no longer on my wheel. I looked and saw him about 200 meters behind so I soft-pedaled. And this would continue all the way back to the college.
I (we) caught another rider and I went to the front thinking I was pulling both but realized I had dropped both. I could have gone on home solo, and I think most roadies would have — in some ways, it is survival of the fittest — but sitting up and waiting seemed like the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do.
We made it back, John accomplished his first century ride and said the last 15 miles were the hardest miles he had ever ridden. Funny thing, our bodies. After a summer of long-distance riding, it knows how to dole out the energy stores for a 100-mile ride. John’s body simply had never been pushed to that limit and quit around Mile 85.
The organizers of the St. Mary’s Century are very proud of their work, and they should be. It was just $40 and they provided a nice T-shirt, four fully stocked rest areas, and showers at the college. Except for our (the 100 milers) first rest stop at Coltons Point which had a port-a-john, every other rest stop at fully functioning restrooms, including some nice facilities at Piney Point.
The welcome package was full of information on St. Mary’s County including discount coupons. At the finish, they had a band plus a grill with hamburgers and hot dogs and Brusters Ice Cream.
With many century options available to me and wanting to sample each one, I don’t know if I will be back to this one but highly recommend it to anyone if they have never ridden it. Well down, Paxvelo!
DISTANCE: 103.3 miles
SPEED: 17.5 mph