Alpine Loop Gran Fondo


I need to rethink the sleepover component of this event. I stayed at home and got up at 4:30 a.m. to drive to Harrisonburg. Four hours of sleep is not enough.

Bib 19 – pretty cool

I arrived at 7:20 a.m. thinking I had plenty of time. I did not. Registration was slower than expected (efficient but there were a lot of people checking in at 7:30 a.m.). Each time I was ready to roll out from the car I seemed to be missing something. Glasses. A spare rear light. Arm warmers.

We were given timing chips to attach to the fork. I took mine to the start then wrapped it around the fork. Around the fork and a spoke. I didn’t notice. There was two minutes before the start. A rider next to me said, “Do you know you have that wrapped around a spoke?” Damn. I had nail clippers to trim the zip ties and cut them off. I simply put the guy in my pocket and off we went through downtown Harrisonburg.

South Fork South Branch Potomac River (WV)

We circled the block then as the group was headed out of town I went back to start and picked up two new zip ties. I then headed through town and saw the tail of the group up the road. I quickly made my way to the end of the group and found Robert Hess. Once I caught Robert we pedaled a little faster and we moved up through the group.

Kathy Mitchell

I caught a woman wearing a Spokes of Hope cycling jacket. I told her my other kit was Spokes of Hope and asked her what she knew about Spokes of Hope. She told me the jacket belonged to her father-in-law and “we’re from Pittsburgh.” I asked her if her father-in-law was Dave Mitchell. She was blown away that I knew, or knew of, her father-in-law. We stopped for a photo before the routes would split.

Welcome to West Virginia

Robert and I rode ahead to the split (Mile 8) where he would turn left (35 miles route) and I would turn right (100 miles route). Because I had to ride to catch the back of the group I was pretty certain I was the last on the road headed to the century route. I wondered if I would catch anyone.

I did catch a few riders before U.S. 33 and the climb over the mountain. I still had not stopped to properly attach my timing chip and decided it wasn’t worth it.* I am still recovering fitness from my knee replacement surgery and I wasn’t going for any KOM (King of the Mountain) segments. Still, I moved the chip from my jersey pocket to the seam in my shorts just above the knee. Maybe it would work.

Looking back at the climb out of Virginia

The descent off the mountain was fast. I made up for my slow ride up with a quick descent. Still, I felt I was more cautious than I had been before May 16. The risk/reward of a couple extra MPH wasn’t worth it.

My shoe didn’t feel right and at the second rest stop, also the base of the Reddish Knob, Kelly, from Rocktown BIcycles in Harrisonburg, fixed my cleat the best she could. She also took a photo of me going up the 18% climb.

As I pulled out of the rest stop, I was side by side with a 15 year old, Ben, from Winchester. He asked me about the climb, having been told it’s not has hard as the climb we did on U.S. 33. I told him it was much harder. Someone lied to him.

Kelly from Rocktown Bicycles and a young volunteer

We kept talking and stayed together for much of the climb. Perhaps two-thirds of the way up I was going faster and did not want to stop. I didn’t know if he stopped or was going slower but eventually I did not see him any longer.

And I felt cramping coming on. This is where a lack of serious riding since my knee surgery was catching up to me. I shouldn’t be cramping and yet I was. When I reached the summit I looked down the road and so no one. There was another rider waiting and he asked if I knew about a scenic overlook. I did not but decided to go up a narrow access road that might lead to one. I had gone about 1/4 mile and was cramping worse. I turned around.

View from WV/VA state line

The descent off the mountain was sketchy, Soaked with sweat, I had nothing to clean my glasses. They were foggy and with the rough pavement, I took the descent cautiously.

Reaching the next rest stop, I had a decision to make. Head on home or do a 20-mile loop to finish the century ride. Cramping is a sign of body fatigue and I thought on a day I was cramping it would be dumb to add what was now an optional loop. If I had 40 miles to finish I would suffer but I was 20 miles from the finish and didn’t need to add the loop. Also, Ben was doing the 80 (or 75, whatever it was) and we would stay together.

Barry and Event Director, Erin Bishop

At the finish, we were greeted by cheerleaders from JMU. Katie Yates, one of my referees who attends JMU, came over and joined us for a post-ride meal. A real surprise was Robert called Ben up to the podium. He had won the KOM for his age group. Since I took him over the mountains I think he owes me one of his polka dots.

Youth KOM winner, Ben

After our dinner, I went to stand up. Ouch. The legs hurt. It was a hard day on the bike and without a good fitness base, I made the right decision not to finish the century. Next year!

With Katie Yates

*Perhaps not the exact measured climb but on RideWithGPS my time in the past has been 30 or 31 minutes. Yesterday it was 40 minutes. Reddish Knob I’ve done in 45 minutes, today was 1:02. I was right. It was not worth race timing.

Chasing Strava


I ride, not race. No worries about bumping elbows or going down in a mass accident in the pack. I’m old. I’m slow. And I’m recovering from or learning to ride with a knee replacement.

I track my rides with RideWithGPS and Strava. All the cool kids are on Strava.

Prince William Forest Park

When I do a ride I look at the summary and am always surprised to see there was a Strava segment. When I rode through Twin Rocks and Nicktown in Pennsylvania this summer I was almost distressed to see I went through two segments with awful times. I went back the next day just to improve my times.

Turkey Run

I don’t envision ever being the overall leader on any segment. Called KOM for King of the Mountain for hill climbs. There are just too many cyclists, too young, too fast.

This summer brought a new interest in riding in the beautiful Prince William Forest Park. And with it were new segments. Most are out of my reach but there was one I saw I knew I could get a pretty good time.

The segment, Turkey Run, is a “false flat,” a mostly straight segment. My first “efforts” were just riding: 1:25 and 1:14. I saw the Top Ten came in under one minute and thought I could get into the top ten. On July 17 I smashed my best time and came in at 0:51 on July 17. That was good for third overall.

The record was 0:47 and I set out to try to beat that. I got to 0:48 which was good for second but couldn’t improve no matter what I tried. I don’t have a power meter so can only measure my effort by feel. Or heart rate.

It’s too long of an effort to go 100% full gas all the way. Actually, I can go full gas all the way but it’s not efficient. If I go all out the last third of the segment I really scrub the speed.

I tried going full out all the way. I tried going at 90% for the first two thirds so I have something left in the tank. I did 0:52. I did 0:56. On July 31 I did 0:51 again. On August 18 I got 0:48. And then..

..there was today

I made two efforts. The first was record breaking. Not just a PR but best all time. 0:45. A KOM. Out of 554 riders. The second ride wasn’t bad – 0:48. I tried one at full gas all the way and the second at 90%. I don’t remember which one was faster.

But for now, I have a Strava segment. I don’t anticipate it will last long. But the lesson to me is to always keep trying. Even when it looked like I would never get faster, keep trying. I will still try to lower that time (doubtful) and no, there wasn’t a tailwind.

APRIL 27, 2019 – This time I flew! I had been at soccer at Howison Park and was going to ride the shoulder on 234 to the soccer fields at Ali Krieger Soccer Complex. Actually, on 234 I took the bike path until the last crossover before Waterway. I left the path and got on the shoulder.

The shoulder still has a lot of road dirt and sand from winter and will, largely, remain that way. I got in a tuck and pedaled. I was passed by an 18-wheeler and thought “what a jerk” (for not moving over to the empty lane) but also noticed he created a brief respite from the wind.

This segment (Waterway to Country Club) also involves hitting the traffic light at Pattie Elementary correctly. Anything other than an extended green spells disaster. It was green. Extended.

I sat up right before the light at Country Club then soft-pedaled to Brittany. When I uploaded I saw the damage:

I was the previous KOM holder on the first segment, from Prince William Forest Park entrance to Country Club Drive but was tied at 1:15. Today I went through in 1:13, an average of 33.3 mph.

So I simply broke the tie and claimed that one as my own. The second segment incorporates this first one. On March 23 I went through in 2:07 which was one second off the all-time best. And today I went through in 2:04.

The Strava segment is mine. Not sure how long I will keep it but sure feels good to grab it. It would be cool to break 2:00 someday but this stretch is sketchy. The traffic light has a big impact and the traffic behind you has to play nice as well.

But for now, I am the holder on three segments, never believing I could every grab one segment.

OCTOBER 19, 2019

I was in Purcellville watching youth football. A cool day, 60 degrees, I wanted to get in 19 miles. We ate at Chick-fil-A so my route would take me to Hamilton, down Ivandale Road to the W&OD trail and then to Leesburg an back.

After I passed Harmony Middle School I remembered Madison Avenue, a traffic loop or circle that took me off the main road. I was surprised to have discovered it was a Strava segment but hadn’t studied it for today. I didn’t know how much of it was a segment. Turns out the entire route was.

My first time I rode it in 4:04 which was 7th out of 8th. Today I didn’t know what I was going for but I got 3:16 even while relaxing in the final fifth. That was good enough for first, betting the 3:24 which was in first.