Monday, October 20, 2008

The Showdown @ Black Creek 200k

The days trip to Black Creek, NC began in north Raleigh where many of the usual suspect gathered. When I arrived on the scene, Mike D. and Dean were already unloaded and were doing a final check of gear. A short while later, Jerry arrived with the coffee and Branson brought the chocolate au pain (I think). This was a perfect start to a great day in the saddle.

The only concern was the weatherman's accuracy. The rain pelted the area most of the night. The day would prove to be cold and breezy; a few scattered sprinkles. Nothing for Randonneurs to fret.

The other riders arrived, Byron had a pastry and we were off. The ride started and ended with 10 miles of rollers. I felt last weeks run on every single incline. I dropped off the back early and rode most of the day with Dean. We wouldn't see the other riders until we were outside of Black Creek.

Stories of the desolation in Black Creek were way off. On Saturday, there was a festival on Main. People were everywhere with their hot rods and tractors. Some wore costumes (very tall cowboy). A country & western band performed in the town's gazebo. Dean and I didn't waste any time. We got our cards signed and were off.

We found le peleton finishing a biscuit or two at Bojangles and rode to the next control together -- mostly. A quick regroup and a snack and we were off. This theme continued for the next 40 miles. Riding - regroup. The group was splintered by strong pulling in the wind! I fell off on a long uphill and rode solo for a while. I looked at my clock when I hit the century mark and was motivated. I was making great time and riding strong. Until I wasn't.

New theme: "I feel strong...until I'm not." This makes me chuckle because when the energy runs out, it takes a while to figure out exactly what happened and a while longer to do something about it. It is a feeling of helplessness.

The next regroup was at the Sheetz 10 miles from the finish. The lead group was sitting in the outside cafe seating sipping lattes. Perfect, I gulped down a cup of coffee while we awaited the other riders.

Like I mentioned in the begining, the last 10 miles of this ride roll right up to the finish. I found myself riding alone for the last few miles of the day. I would also finished with the...ahemmm, distinguished honor of Lantern Rouge.

125 miles
Moving time: 8:26
Stopped time: 1:18
Total: 9:45

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Road 2 Recovery Ride -- Day 2 and Day 3

I met Kevin on the road outside my house on Saturday morning for the 15-mile ride to Little Creek. We left early enough with the promise of free breakfast before the day’s event. A blustery headwind greeted us as we headed north along the Atlantic Ocean. Even with the wind, it was close to my quickest time for the route.

Jeff from the USO did not let us down. When we walked into the gym, there was a nice spread of chow waiting. With an hour to kill, we mingled and waited for all of the riders to file in. Riders of all ability levels began arriving for registration. Half dozen Marines from Yorktown were given full kits and borrowed bicycles from R2R. None of the Marines had ridden any real distance in their lives [they did 60]. On Monday, learned that my buddy Jimmy actually built them at Contes. Thanks Jimmy!

After some introductions and the standard safety brief [something regarding speed and spacing] we headed towards the VB Oceanfront and down to the Contes at Redmill. This leg of the ride was enjoyable as the winds were in our favor. It actually felt like sailing, I’m not sure I did too much peddling. I knew that we would eventually have to earn our lunch.

We took a break at Contes and were off for a tour of the Pungo farmland in Virginia Beach. Winding around the creeks and farms we eventually reached Creeds and began heading north to the Pungo Ferry Bridge. This is where the ride started getting difficult for many riders.

A pattern of riding and slowing to pick up stragglers began shortly after the bridge. We would ride then the motor escorts would slow us to a crawl for a ½ mile or so keeping the group together. This routine would continue for the next 30 miles.

We finally reached NAS Oceana and the chili cook off. NO, we didn’t have any chili but they only give out Dixie cups any way. We were offered our choice of chow from one of the vendors. I devoured a chicken wrap and some nachos. WOW, there is no shortage of chow on this tour.

The number of riders began thinning at Oceana. The Marines and several other riders were dun. I bailed out as the ride passed near my house. Overall, the ride took us 80 miles.


Sunday began very similar. I rode by Kevin’s house and we once again rode hard to breakfast. We mingled and awaited our safety brief. The day’s route would take us 40 miles through downtown Norfolk, on to the Naval Station for lunch and return to Little Creek.

I decided to ride the COHO today and that brought some good conversation. I talked to USA Today reprter Sal Rubial about cycling in Virginia and France. He has ridden several tour routes and has covered the tour several times. We discussed Paris-Breast-Paris and both of us have the desire to ride it in the future. I’m sure I’ll see Sal on one or two brevets in the next few years. There’s less than 3 years until the next PBP.

Sunday also brought out another newbie cyclist, John. He dawned a kit, was fitted for a bicycle and we were off. John finished the ride. He mentioned at lunch that he had never hit the wall as bad as he did on Sunday AM. He also mentioned that he was helped with some pushing from other riders over more than 1 bridge. Good job John!

Actor Mike Vogel lead the way for the first leg of the ride and screamed his best rendition of Axel Rose for the first few miles. Look out Axel!

Once back on Little Creek, JW, decided to showcase a little speed. With around 1 mile to the finish, Sal and another rider had about a ½ mile lead on the pack. Our pace began picking up and JW clicked his shifter twice. Here we go. I shifted a couple times and was surprised I was able to hang. We rounded the final corner and JW put down the hammer. The acceleration was quick. I felt like I was watching from a stand still. FUN!

The R2R is a class act. It gets the wounded warriors out of the hospital and on the street. It gives them a purpose and a goal. The project also introduces cycling to active duty military that might not have the means to try the sport of cycling. I talked to a few of the Marines that were on the ride and they were planning to purchase bicycles in the very near future.

A huge thanks to John Wordin (JW) from R2R and Jeff Hill from the USO for putting together a class ‘experiment.’

Friday, October 10, 2008

Road 2 Recovery Ride -- Day 1

This weekend I am participating in a ride for wounded warriors. It is the Road 2 Recovery sponsored by the USO. The ride started at the gym on Little Creek Navy Base. After some introductions and a safety brief, we were off and headed towards Norfolk.

This ride is supported to the hilt for maximum fun. The best part is the police escort. 8 motorcycle officers rode block for us at every single intersection. They also enabled us to use the entire lane on the busy VB streets.

We road through eastern Norfolk then back towards the VB oceanfront. We turned around and cut through Ft Story. When we passed by the USMC Amphibious Recon School, all of the Marines were standing online outside the compound clapping and cheering. Very cool mandatory fun, thanks guys!

We left the base and headed back to Little Creek. About a half mile from the Lesner Bridge, one of my riding buddies asked me if I wanted to sprint to the bridge. I told him we probably shouldn't because the motor escorts probably wouldn't like us to pass them. Then I told him YES I do want to sprint. The pace was like being a caged up tiger, ready to pounce. A few moments later I looked at our cruising speed and said, I would like to hold this speed over the bridge. We agreed and blew over the speed bump!

We had to slow down for the rest of the pack. There were several novice riders and a few recovering warriors on todays ride. Everyone did a superb job from the riders to the support staff.

Pulling into the gym parking lot, I felt hungry. good thing too, there was a full taco bar awaiting. We finished the ride with some good grub and good conversation with our hosts!

Tomorrow and Sunday promise to great rides. Stay tuned for more stories and pictures.

The 2009 RUSA Calendar has been published. There are 4 different regions near the tidewater offering a full brevet series.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Wounded Warrior Unity Tour -- Day2

Day 2 started with a very early reveille which is not usually a huge deal; especially when you hit the rack at 8:30-9:00pm. Our departure from Ft AP Hill was scheduled for 0630 and breakfast began at 0500. This is where logistics began to get a little shaky.

At 0500 there wasn't any chow. I finished packing my gear and headed back to the chow hall at 0530 and they had some fruit, pastries, PB & J and Sunny D. Look carefully at what I typed, you will notice one key, NO COFFEE. Houston we have a problem. Well at least all of the food was edible; I once awoke in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago to a breakfast of sardines, watermelon covered with flies and rice.

After breakfast, we began loading our personal bags into the truck. One of my riding buddies, CS decided to top off the air in his tires. SHSHSHSHSHSH came from his tire when he removed the pump from the valve stem. The valve stem broke. CS, a Sailor, can curse with the best of them! No worries, he grabbed a spare tube, switched it out and BOOOOM. Oops the bead wasn't quite seated and popped the tube. This battle would continue for the next 20 minutes and 3 more tubes. CS managed to get the tire issue worked out a minute or two before we began the ride.

The day's first leg would take us 30 miles from AP Hill to a veterans memorial in downtown Fredricksburg. We took some photos, met the Mayor topped off the H20 and we were off for a 'fun' leg to Quantico Marine Corps Base. The hills on VA Route 1 are pleantiful. Leaving Quantico, we contiunued up Route 1 to Ft Belvoir and then into DC.Riding past the Pentagon and across the Potomac towards the Lincoln Memorial is amazing. Riding into DC was the highlight of the 210 mile ride. After an hour of stop and go in the district traffic, we finally reached Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The ride raised more than $4000 for the Wounded Warriors.

I do have a couple of complaints and it isn't about food, lodging or coffee.
Safety. Too many riders participating that thought they were in the pro tour this lead to several crashes. There were also several support vehicles supporting riders. Some offical some just family members in a convoy. The vehicles were cumbersome and often got in the way of riders.

There were several riders that didn't have the fitness or stamina to ride an event of this distance. Several of them had never even finished a century, not to mention back to back centuries. Some of these riders motor paced at least 60 miles per day.

I also observed that some riders were super strong. They would come from nowhere and zip past me at 25 mph, even on the up hills. Somewhere between Quantico and Ft Belvoir, I noticed they would get in their POV at the bottom of the hill and get SAGed to the top. WHAT THE...? I say to all of you, don't tell yourself that you completed this ride. Don't go home and tell your friends and families you finished when you spent much of the day in a car!

Last, we spent too much time off the bikes. We stopped for 30 minutes after every 25-30 miles.

This ride is a good cause and with some logistical tweeking it could be even better. I had loads of fun and I enjoyed riding my COHO. I'm glad I rode for this cause but I think I will stick with brevets.

Note: All photos in this post courtesy WWUT.