Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Century Ride

I probably haven’t ridden a century in 10 years. The last time I would have done it would have been for the AIDS Ride and the last time I did that was in 1999. And I was riding with other people not by myself.

Anyway my adventure began very early. I got up around 3:40 in the morning. I’d hope to be off by 4 am but quickly decided that was not going to be possible. There is a lot of stuff to do before you head out. I had to get my sun screen on even though the sun wouldn’t be up for a couple of hours and I wouldn’t be directly in it for a couple more. I had to fill my camelback. Make sure all my food was packed (proper placement of pop tarts is essential).

I set out just at 4:20 am. It was dark but not as dark as I thought it would be. The street lights really made it easy to see things. For added safety I had two flashing amber lights. One I put on my back pack underneath my seat and the other won went on the back of my helmet. If I decide to do this again I think I’m going to get some sort of light. It would have been handy for a couple of things that happened later in the trip.

The trip through the city went off without a hitch. Funny thing at 4:30 in the morning there’s not a whole lot of traffic in DC even Georgetown was empty. I crossed over the Key Bridge and then the fun really began. The Custis Trail which what connects DC to the W&OD Trail is not all that long but there’s where I had the most fun of my trip.

The first occurred while I was crossing a bridge. I heard a rustling to my right. I’d obviously spooked an animal. Now it wasn’t some cut bunny but something else entirely. I couldn’t see what it was but all of a sudden it was making loud noises at me. Sort of like a cross between a cat hissing and a dog barking. Needless to say it scared the hell out of me. My immediate reaction was to pedal much faster even though I couldn’t see all that well ahead of me. And I kept peddling for a while to get out of range of, as I like to call it, the monster on the bridge. I can’t blame the animal it felt trapped since I was about half way across the bride when I spooked it. I sure it felt completely trapped with no place to go. I’m also sure I didn’t hit it because I know I would have felt that.

The next incident occurred about twenty minutes later. I’m coming down a hill and making a right hand turn on to the last part of the Custis Trail before it links up with the W&OD. There are lights along this part of the trail but none of the lights are on. It is dark. Not pitch dark but still very dark. I slow way down. For the next half mile or so none of the lights are on. The street lights nearby are on. The lights illuminating the express way are working too. This gives some light to the trail but not a great deal. Finally I come up over a small hill and the lights are back on again. The only thing I can think of is that the storm we’d had the night before must have knocked the power out of this section.

I make it to near where one of my friend’s live and use the port-o-potty that is near the dog park. It has taken me an hour to go just a little over 10 miles. I’ve very pleased with my progress. Now on to the W&OD. Here I pull out the cord to my odometer so I loose the recording of some mileage. I figure it is just about 3 miles. There’s a lot of stopping and starting since the trail crosses several roads. I slow down and stop for all but one. Dawn is still 40 minutes away.

All of a sudden I start to hear the birds. It’s funny to think I started out before the birds were up. With more light it is easier to see and easier to go faster on the bike. There are now joggers out on the trail as well as other riders. At 6:02 the sun officially rises. For the next hour or so my glasses fog up from time to time.

I’m making very good time. Much faster than I expected. The plan was to be by my friend’s house around 6. I beat that by forty minutes. The next goal is Smith Switch Station which is approximately mile 26 on the trail. I’m beginning to pick up some speed. There are a few towns I’m passing through. Vienna, Reston and Herndon. But because it is so early there is hardly any traffic either on the roads (several of which I have to cross) or on the trail. At this rate I’ll be at the Switch Station right around 7.

I reach the Switch Station right around 7. I stop and have a banana and use the rest room. I figure Leesburg is ten miles away I stop there and get something more to eat. But I’m now really moving. 17, 18, 20 miles an hour on the bike for long periods of time. I decide to head on to the end of the trail at Purcellville. I’m getting a little hungry now but decide to keep going.

I reach Purcellville at 8:20. 4 hours (take out the stops and it’s closer to 3 hours 40 minutes) to cover 50 miles not bad at all. I’m also over an hour ahead of when I expected to get here. I thought 9:30-10:00 at the earliest. I thought I stop at a store and buy some more water and maybe something to eat. But nothings open around where I am. I take a moment eat my chicken sandwich and call some people let them know how fast I got to the half way point. I’m completely blown away by it. My legs feel really good. I don’t feel tired.

I take a little time to rest up. Around 9 I start back.

I took things a little slower. Part to conserve my energy and also in part because I was a little tired. The ride around Purcellville is really nice. The path is like a tunnel because of the trees. It’s very shady and the temperature is moderate.

I begin to gain some speed again. I find that this goes in cycles. My legs seem to be spent and then slowly I start to speed up. I’m going 17, 18 19 miles an hour. I do this for 10 or 15 minutes at time and then I slow back down. I don’t have any real problems until I suddenly run out of water. I’ve emptied my camelback. Thankfully the Switch Station isn’t all that far away and there’s a water fountain there. There are vending machines that sell water too but all I’ve got in my wallet are 20s. Not very helpful.

I reach the Switch Station and fill up my camelback. I take a good 15 minutes to rest. There are a couple of hills yet to come which will be hard and then it will be flat. I’d called my friend and said I’d be stopping by his house around 1. It turns out I get there are 12:20. 40 miles in 3 hours 20 minutes. Once again I’m really impressed by what I’ve done.

I stay at his place until 1. I figure I need the rest. The sun has come out and although not extremely hot I can tell it’s taken a toll on me.

Finally at 1 pm I head out. The last hour. Back onto the Custis Trail the majority of which is down hill. I don’t have to expend as much energy. I cross the Key Bridge again which brings me into Georgetown. Now there is traffic in every direction. I weave in and out of it and maintain a good pace. I go around Thomas Circle. I’m about 20 blocks from home. There is one last obstacle the hill on Rhode Island Avenue that starts once you get past North Capitol. My legs are screaming when I go up this but I know it is the last hard thing I’ll have to do for the entire ride. Slowly and I mean slowly I get to the top of the hill. Then it’s a nice coast down.

I finally turn on to my street and get to my house. It is just 2:10. The whole 100 miles including stops in 9: 50 minutes. According to my odometer (this is minus the 3 miles it lost because the wire was out of it) I went 97.08 miles in 7 hours 29 minutes and 12 seconds. My average speed was 12.9 miles an hour and the maximum I reached was 25.5. Not a bad days work.

And what did I do today — I got up and went to my hour spinning class.

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