Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tappohannock 200K

The ride began in Ashland, VA on a frigid, wet November morning. The starting temp was 40F and the rain had just stopped leaving the streets and atmosphere wet.

I was terribly miserable during the first 10 miles. I thought that if I didn’t warm up by mile ten, I would turn around and be done with the day and a 20 mile training ride. With my “luck” at mile 9, we encountered the first long hill of significant grade. After a few minutes of peddling, all hints of cold disappeared. Funny, the sun decided to poke out from the clouds for about 10 or 15 minutes at the same time. I considered ditching a layer but I was too busy spinning a small gear up the grade.

We cruised into the first control in good time. When I dismounted by bike and looked around, I didn’t see Ron anywhere. I checked in, used the head and began to freeze. I stuck around waiting for a while then decided to head down the road. Not a clue where he was until I saw his yellow jacket in the ditch repairing a flat. I waited for him (he was after all my ride back to VB). Overall, we lost about 35 min. with this incident. I told him don’t worry, we will catch the riders in front of us by the next control and we did.

At mile 75, in Tappohannock, the control was at Java Joe's, nice little café and coffee shop. For some dumb reason, we decided to sit and have a sandwich. All I really needed was a latte. We spent an hour at this stop, pretty ridiculous. I thought, it is in the spirit of randonneuring. See the countryside and take in the local fair! I thought of Adrian Hands, he says that if the limit is 13.5 hours, you should get your money's worth and take all 13.5 hours.

We headed down the road chugging and churning and reached the next control just as a couple riders in front of us were leaving. (I didn’t see them and figured we were hours behind anyone.) When we left the control, we headed into a state forest. No traffic on these roller coaster rides and the scenery was fantastic. Especially on the hilltops, the fall colors were visible from an overhead view of the countryside.

We arrived at the next control in the dark. I didn’t realize it was even a control. I just wanted to get a little water and some spare batteries. We departed the control and headed down the road. The pace was quick. I forgot to look at the cue sheet and had no idea where we were heading. I guess we were on track. Eventually we could see the orange glow of Ashland but first a small detour.

By this time the temp was back down to 40 degrees and I was freezing. The route called for an information control at a farm along a dirt road. The route took us 2 miles to cross the rail road tracks, another mile to the farm house and a 4th mile to pavement and the crossing over I-95. We got the farmer’s name off the sign. We had to take this entire 4 mile stretch painfully slow. Ron’s recumbent wasn’t having the off road terrain and he nearly crashed numerous times. By the time we hit the pavement, I couldn’t feel my feet or a couple fingers.

On a lighter note, our spirits were up as we only had a few miles to the finish. The pace quickened as we passed by the college in Ashland. When we arrived at the Ashland Coffee and Tea Company, members of the DC Randonneurs were sitting in side waiting with smiles. This was a welcoming sight as I was down. I didn’t want to be on a bicycle any longer, I feel that we were spending way too much time in the cold for a 200k ride.

Lessons Learned:
Take everything to the start and decide what to leave behind there, not at home. My shoe covers would have been a very nice piece of gear.
My new wind proof winter riding gloves suck! I need to try something else.
Need a different winter riding philosophy for clothing. I was freezing for the last 2 – 3 hours.

Ride Stats:
131.2 miles
Overall time: 12:45 hrs.
Ride Time: 9:55:04
Avg. speed 13.1

I feel like I had energy to spare at the end and felt strong…and cold. This is a great feeling.
I would have finished well before the sun went down without unnecessary stops. Do the math, more than an hour total for this distance or even a 300k is too much. The rule is usually 10 min at controls. Eat on the go.

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