Saturday, January 9, 2010

S1200 Photos Uncovered

I took a few photos with my cell phone during the 2009 Shenandoah1200, but had trouble getting them into my laptop. Finally, I found a cheap SD card>USB adapter and downloaded these pleasant surprises.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Belated "Thanks!"

Looking back, one piece of equipment was instrumental in making my ride at the S1200 successful. It, and the people behind it, deserve a post of their own.

I tackled Matt's ROMA 600K with a standard 53/39 crankset, and didn't suffer because of it until the climb over Edith Gap near the finish. That one gap convinced me a compact 50/34 would be wise for the S1200, but compacts with 180mm cranks are few and far between. Other than the beautiful but très expensive DuraAce 7950, options are limited. That is, until I brought it up with Curtis Dobbins, chief mechanic and manager of the shop at Durham's REI.

Curtis threw out a couple of ideas, and the one we settled on was a "custom" SRAM rig. SRAM's top-of-the-line Red crankset costs roughly half that of the DuraAce. But Red cranks top out at 177.5mm. SRAM's entry-level Rival crankset comes in 180mm, but I've heard of flexy shifting problems, especially for big guys like myself. Curtis' solution, one we'd both seen used at Gent-Wevelgem, was to combine the two. Take the beefy Red outer chainring, and mount it on Rival cranks. But could Curtis get everything in time?

Yep. The parts came in time, then ace mechanic Michael Booze got to work installing them. Michael recommended using my 9 year-old Ultegra front derailleur. Seriously? He said it works for him on a similar set-up, so we went with it. The only warning Michael had for me was to check the main bolt on the crankarm often.

Because I had cut it so closely making the decision, I didn't have time to test ride it more than a few feet before the start. Michael had, but not me. To compensate, I swallowed several Tums and packed a few extra tools in the Carradice.

At the start, not a creak from the crank. It was solid! Then, a dozen miles into the ride, a high-pitched chirp when I stood. Then it got louder. And louder. Then it started happening during hard efforts in the saddle. I worried all the way to Gettysburg. Looking over the bike at the control, I discovered that it wasn't the crank at all. It was my Carradice! A cinch here and there, presto! No more creak.

I never had a crank-related issue on the ride.

That hill-friendly gearing helped too. On several long climbs, I said a grateful word or three for the lower gears. I found myself using cogs that I never thought I'd need. Proof that you run what you bring. But I don't think I could have finished the S1200 on a regular crank.

So a belated "Thanks!" to Curtis, Michael and the entire crew at the Durham REI. I appreciate all of you and the work you do. Chapeau!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ride Report: Shenandoah 1200K

My legs burned with lactic acid. No snap at all. I was somewhere north of Lexington, Virginia, and had 60 miles or more to go up US11. Alone. Barely moving. Hearing David Byrne:

"How did I get here?
How do I work this?
My God, what have I done?!"

Panic set in.

Then, slowly, just as slowly as my legs were moving, the answer, and the solution, started coming to me.


Day #1 Leesburg VA > Gettysburg PA > Deerfield VA

The second Shenandoah 1200 began under a half-moon playing hide-and-seek with drizzle and clouds. Temperatures were pleasant. Most of us wore short-sleeve jerseys. The suburban streets of Leesburg, Virginia were empty save for the 40 or so randonneurs snaking out of town toward Gettysburg. Happy greetings and nervous conversations marked the time. I started with my buddy Glenn, just like we did at Paris-Brest-Paris in 2007. It was remarkable how similar the start felt to P-B-P. The only things missing were the crowds of spectators and a few thousand more cyclists. And my bike computer. The batteries I'd bought to replace the wonky ones were the wrong size, so I was attempting this ride the Chuck way: dead reckoning.

It was only my second 1200K, and some things had changed since I finished my first at P-B-P. I had ridden a lot more brevets, learned more about myself and my equipment, hopefully what worked and what didn't. I was still riding my 9 year-old Serotta CSi that I used for P-B-P, but gone were the boom rack and the wonderful Arkel Tailrider sitting on it. They affected the handling of the bike to the point that I couldn't safely ride no-hands, so now I was going with a Carradice Barley. Gone also was the Schmidt E6 in favor of the newer Schmidt Edelux. Also, I traded in my Speedplays and Sidi road shoes for
Shimano PD-A520s and Sidi mountain shoes. Hot spots were greatly reduced by that change, and walking around much more carefree. I also had asked Curtis and Michael at the Durham REI to set me up with a compact crank at the last minute. They rigged up a "custom" SRAM 50/34 crankset, and in record time. (Thanks again, guys!) Finally, I weighed 7 pounds less at the start compared to my weight at P-B-P. I hadn't hit my overly optimistic December target of 190, but at 208, I was as light as I had been at the finish in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. I felt good, and nervous.

A big group stayed together through the hills of the Virginia, across the Potomac to Brunswick, Maryland, and toward the hallowed ground of Gettysburg. Justin, a f
ellow NC Randonneur, jumped out of the pack with me to contest the sprint for the Mason-Dixon Line. The results were inconclusive, so without a replay, we turned to figuring out just how many points would the Mason-Dixon line count, anyway? Dr John from Durham was right with us, and we saw Glenn roll up behind us at the Gettysburg control, in the shadow of Big Round Top. Volunteers Carl and Scott signed us in and had a very nice breakfast spread for us, including lemon-lime HEED. We didn't dally, and we were off in minutes, heading for another Civil War battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland. A steep climb past Fort Ritchey awaited.

I met some new faces along this stretch, Mike S from Arizona and Greg C from Iowa. We all commented on how beautiful the scenery was, even if it included a decent amount of suffering on the constant hills. Greg and I entered the Antietam battlefield together, the route bringing us through the East Woods, and across The Cornfield, infamous for changing hands no less than 15 times on the bloodiest single day in American history. It's impossible to grasp such carnage in a place so beautiful.

Justin, Dr John and I regrouped at the control and headed out. We were making great time with Justin on the front when my rear tire flatted. Nothing poked my fingers as I felt around inside the tire, so in went another tube. Dr John and Justin waited for me but my penance was to pull them once we got rolling. It wasn't meant to be. Another flat, same tire, less than 2 miles down the road. They left me to change this one in peace. Two other riders slowed to check on me, including Ian, but I waved them on as I searched for the culprit. Finally, a tiny piece of wire got my attention. It had worked its way entirely through the casing and I couldn't pull it out. Desperate, I got out a thick Park adhesive tire boot, and hoped the extra thickness would keep the wire and tube apart. I was down to my last good tube, worried I'd break the stem off as my tired arms worked towards 100 psi. Rolling again, I had several phantom flats, where every little bump was cause for alarm. But the boot worked like a charm, and after a while I had forgotten it.

These solo miles in the afternoon were wondrous. The sun and clouds chased each other, and the northern Shenandoah Valley farmland was beautiful. Riding into a small crossroads community, I thought the name sounded familiar.

"Hopewell. Where do I know that from?"

The answer presented itself a mile later on a church sign. Hopewell (Centre) Friends Meeting House. Stunned, I realized this is where my 7th great-grandfather lived and worshiped before he migrated to North Carolina in the 1750s. I had read about this place in Quaker records, but had never seen it. To come across it purely unexpectedly moved me deeply. Lifted, I continued on towards the Winchester control just a few miles away.

The Sheetz control in Winchester was a welcome sight. I was hungry- too hungry. Looking back, this is where my biggest mistake was starting to show: I was not eating enough, nor often enough. I don't like big meals on a ride, but I do need a small sandwich often. Here, in order to stay with / catch the group, I was violating the cardinal rule of randonneuring: ride your own ride. Too bad I hadn't recognized this yet.

A few folks were leaving as I rolled in. Dr John and Justin said hello as they left. I cleared a seat and sat down for a meal of a tomato & mozzeralla sandwich and a parfait. Glenn rolled in, looking good. We chatted as we fueled up. Don N from Connecticut also came in, and the three of us left together. Riding through suburban Winchester close to evening rush hour wasn't too bad, and soon we were out in the country again. I was feeling great after eating, Glenn was not. He urged me to go on, so reluctantly, I started pushing the pace with Don. We made short work of the rollers, soon passing Matt's house and flying down the familiar Back Road. The golden afternoon light was amplified by some low clouds on the horizon. The effect was spectacular. Riding the ridge into Timberville, we could see calves frolicking in the valleys on both sides. Don asked if we came near Broadway, where his parents have a cottage.

"We're going right down the middle of Broadway," I replied, but we didn't stop to say hello.

Both of us were gunning for the control in Harrisonburg, only 12 miles down VA 42. We turned on our lights as dusk fell, and Don put in a monster pull all the way to Harrisonburg, into a headwind! I felt bad sitting on his wheel the whole time, but it was hurting just staying with him. I said something along those lines out loud, but Don replied he was having fun. Soon we were in the control, being attended to by Patsy and Vickie T's mom (who came all the way from Texas to help), as well as Scott and his teenaged daughter, and Carl, and others. We were grateful for them all. It was 20:37 when we signed in.

Justin and Dr John were eating and resting. Dr John offered me his spare Conti 25mm tire, which I declined, and a spare tube, which I accepted. My extra tubes were at the next control in Deerfield, so I was still riding without insurance. My plan was to push on to Deerfield before sleeping. That would be 266 miles down in less than 21 hours, with a few extra for sleep. I wolfed down some food then struck out with Justin, Dr John and Don. It started raining on us in the dark, hard at times, but at least the terrain had eased. This section was on the ROMA 600 a couple of weeks before, so I assured everyone that "Jennings Gap Road" and "Hankey Mountain Highway" were not nearly as scary as they sounded. Sure enough, we arrived at the Deerfield Fire & Rescue Department just after midnight with a minimum of yawns. The official sign-in time was 00:22. I got a shower, grabbed a cheese sandwich from Ruby, and asked the napkeeper to wake me at 04:00.

Side note- we rode through four states by lunchtime: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Made me think of that old US Army advertising campaign: "We do more by 9:00am than most people do all day." We wouldn't add the fifth, North Carolina, until we'd ridden a couple hundred more miles.


Day #2 Deerfield VA > Mount Airy NC

It hardly seemed possible that it was already time to get up, but the napkeeper was insistent. He was right on the money, though I was sure that I had just closed my eyes. A quick trip to the mens' room and we were off. I saw Mary & Tom, good wishes to them, and we rolled. I can't remember now what exactly I had for breakfast, and that's not a good sign. My lesson about eating wasn't sticking.

This section from Deerfield to Buchanan was also on the ROMA 600 and it was a shame we were riding it in the dark. Marble Valley Road and River Road were some of my favorites. The rain was gone and the clouds were lifting. Justin and Don took off up the road, while Dr John and I moseyed along. John said he wasn't feeling great and that I should go on, so before we got to Goshen, I found a comfortable speed and focused on being steady. At the lumberyard outside Goshen, Justin and Don were waiting. The three of us descended through the Goshen Pass beside the Maury River as the sun rose. It was breathtaking as the mist hid in hollows and the sunlight lasered into the gorge.

Turkey Hill Road shocked our legs back into action and Beatty Hollow really woke them up. We lost Don on the constant grades, so Justin and I continued as a duo. We arrived in Buchanan as a big group was enjoying breakfast: Greg C, Catherine S, Jim S and Henk. Finally I listened to my body and ordered an egg & cheese sandwich, hashbrowns and coffee. Justin got something too and we took our time. Don arrived but didn't stay long, complaining of a bad bottom bracket, searching for options. We left before seeing Dr John.

A long stretch on US11, then Mountain Pass Road reintroduced us to the Appalachian Trail. We'd crossed it between Gettysburg and Sharpsburg, and I thought of my buddy Rich and his plans to through-hike it. Soon we were in Roanoke and we stopped for a Hardee's milkshake. Justin said he watched as they made these shakes the old-fashioned way: scoops of ice cream in stainless steel cups mixed by hand. No just-add-water-insta-shake here. They really hit the spot.

Moving on, we played leapfrog with the group we'd seen in Buchanan. At a T, a rider came screaming from the right. Local cyclist? Nope, it was Don, still searching for a fix for his bottom bracket. Justin and I were held up by a loooong 5-locomotive freight train. Across the river and the steep climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway began. Justin left me in the dust after I reminded him that he shouldn't wait for me. Reaching the top, I had some confusion about the cue. I thought it was too early to turn but the cue sheet didn't mention the major intersection with Mill Mountain Park. I called Mike D to see how they were in Mount Airy, blogged a pic, and waited for someone to catch me and help make a decision. Finally, I started down a big hill in the hopes I was guessing right. Soon I saw a sign for an overlook that looks just like those signs on the Parkway, even though I wasn't supposed to be on the BRP yet. Confused, I turned around, back up the big hill. A local cyclist happened to be at the intersection. She confirmed that I had it right, and that the ride to Floyd was "rolling." Her husband used to manage a local shop, and once rode back to Roanoke from a music festival in Floyd. After climbing the BRP and US221 to get to the Floyd control, I now know why he chose that direction.

The BRP had some incredible overlooks, but it was almost all climbing, much of it in the direct midday sun. They were repaving this entire section too, so the brand-spankin' new blacktop was cranking out the heat. I kept thinking,

"Hey, at least it's smooth."

US 221 was a very narrow highway that a lot of 18-wheelers used. One church elder who offered me water at the Copper Hill Church of The Brethren told me to be careful as 221 was consistently ranked as "one of the most dangerous roads in all of Virginia." Oh boy. 20 more miles. Not sure I'm happy to hear that. Sure enough, Don and Ian later said they were rattled by a rear-end fender-bender right behind them.

I finally arrived at the Floyd control weary, unhappy, and hungry. I still think that leg was the toughest of the entire ride. But it was done, now some rest and refueling. Bill P
, a good friend of Glenn's from Bristol, was manning the control at the Pine Tavern Inn. There were a lot of snacks but no real food. Unwilling to spend a lot of time eating in the highly-regarded restaurant, and unsure of the prospects for food ahead, I wolfed down several fruit cups and bags of pretzles. Don and Ian came in, cooled off, and we all rolled out together.

The terrain didn't let up. Soon it was just Ian and I, and we found both the pace and the conversation to our liking. Ian's from Liverpool, England, but he's called the great state of Georgia home for 20 years. He hasn't lost his wonderful accent though, and I often asked silly questions just to hear him talk. Consequently, the time flew, and the hills suddenly didn't seem so bad. Once again, the late afternoon light made every scene a painting in motion. We crossed the Parkway and began a rip-roaring descent. We shouted "Attaboys!" to Jon P as we dropped like rocks past him, down to the Piedmont and my native Old North State.

Another bad cue, which we caught quickly, and then, we were at the best control I've ever had the pleasure of checking into. Sure, I'm biased, but the NC Randonneurs really have the art and science of staffing a control down. Mike, Jerry, Chuck & Nina, Byron, Lin, Mark, Tony and Jimmy humbled me with all of their attention and care. They gave me the greatest gift in a time like this: I completely forgot about the aches and pains and the ride, and just enjoyed their camaraderie and friendship. A veggie burger with cheese, then it was time for Ian and I to hit the sack. I think it was 21:45 when we signed in, and around 23:00 when we went lights out.


Day #3 Mount Airy NC > Harrisonburg VA

The knock on the door came way too quickly again. Three hours, already?! I stumbled outside, had some eggs and a bagel from the guys, all still hopping and cheerful at 02:00. Don had made it in, his bottom bracket now fixed, and we left again as a trio. We stayed together until The Big Climb everyone had been talking about for the entire ride: Willis Gap. We got a good look at it the evening before on the descent into the control. I was not excited about the climb back up, but it had to be done. As we climbed, several riders flew by, still heading into Mount Airy. Several steep sections slowed us. I had estimated an hour to finish the climb but suddenly, I saw Ian passing a "No Commercial Vehicles" sign ahead of me. I couldn't believe it: we were already at the Parkway, and that meant we were done with The Big Climb! It didn't seem nearly as bad as I had expected. Climbing it at night was a big help, limiting our view of what was ahead, but it seemed like the climb was a series of linked ramps, instead of one long grade. I would tackle a steep ramp, spin easy on the flatter section, then tackle the next. Ian agreed- it wasn't so bad after all.

We rode on amid the pastures and fields under the still dark sky, yelling encouragement to the riders aiming for Mount Airy. Ride organizer Matt Settle flew by, lantern rouge. We stopped at a crossroads store where we'd left a gallon of water the afternoon before. Don leapfrogged us, but we reeled him in after a few miles and lost him in the hills. The sky started to lighten and my legs started to burn. Just before the control in Floyd, I took some shots of the sunrise and Ian. Then we signed in around 06:30. Sadness at seeing the bike of my buddy Glenn inside the control. He'd abandoned here the day before. Still sleeping, his ride was done, and I felt a pang of jealousy.

Don joined us again in the control for coffee and fruit cups. We didn't want to waste much time as we'd be on the dreaded US 221 again, all the way to Roanoke some 20 miles away. Hopefully the early morning Saturday traffic would be lighter.

Patsy scared the dickens out of us as we ate. "There's a huge hill between here and Roanoke!" she said enthusiastically. She must have seen our faces turn white, because she started explaining. "I mean a huge DOWN-hill!" Holy crap,
I was thinking about abandoning right then and there.

US 221 was a much better road on the return, but it was still hilly. Ian and I traded pulls for an hour until a convenience store beckoned. The sun was really starting to heat things up. A couple of miles after our pit stop, "Patsy's Hill" was a blast to ride down. Several miles of a constant grade, maybe around 6%. Ian was fearless in the curves, I was starting to hurt. My eyes were on the lookout for a Subway. On the outskirts of Roanoke, we caught Don, who passed us during our pit stop, and the three of us stopped at a local espresso & sandwich shop, "The Mojo
Café." The two young women running the place were full of energy and questions about our ride. They made one mean tuna salad sandwich too. Definitely stop in if you're ever in the neighborhood. It was a great find, and we left full of their food and infectious optimism.

Bombing through Roanoke's green lights took a toll though. Seemed like we were never getting out of the urban maze. By the time we got over Mountain Pass Road, Ian was dropping me like a wet paper sack. He pulled us all the way into Buchanan, some 15 miles. My legs had really started to burn. I should have eaten again, but with the sun beating down, all I wanted was ice cream. Digging in the control's cooler turned up nothing really appetizing, so after signing in at 13:00 or so, we backtracked into downtown to a real old-fashioned pharmacy/soda fountain. I got a little ahead of myself and ordered one milkshake, one ice cream sandwich, and one chocolate milk. It was all good, but I had to apologize to the waitress when I couldn't finish everything she'd made by hand. I waddled out and we started the next leg, some 80 miles to the Harrisonburg control, all of it on US11.

Just out of town, Ian noticed a weird sound coming from his rear wheel. We stopped, but couldn't find it. He decided to just live with it since it didn't seem to be a catastrophic, show-stopping issue. We caught Don again, just as the road started pitching up out of the James River valley. He'd had more bike problems, but he was plugging in his iPod for the long stretch. This was the last time I saw him, and later learned he had abandoned, but I don't know where or why. He overcame so many problems on this ride, always with a calm cheerfulness, that I thought he was destined to finish successfully. I hope he's okay.

Not long afterwards, Ian asked me if I was feeling all right. He'd noticed that I just couldn't pull through. I told him to not hold back on my account, so we said "hasta luego" and split up. He quickly gapped me without trying hard, and it would be a few hours and lots of miles before I saw him, or any other rider, again.

Slogging through the afternoon heat and the rolling hills, I practiced moving my hands around, using different leg strokes, anything to keep the wheels turning. I crawled past Foamhenge, creeped past Lexington's beautiful old homes, and sweated by Sam Houston's birthplace. My thoughts turned to what was wrong with me. The only other ride I'd done this long was P-B-P, and I had nothing like this then. So I worked out what the differences were: the heat and the food. It was hot today, and US11 offered no shade, but I've ridden in hotter temperatures without issues. So that left food as the problem. And that's when it finally dawned on me: I wasn't eating enough.

I started chowing down like a madman. Every chance I got, I was ducking into a convenience store or Subway. Quickly, my legs stopped burning and I was feeling much better. A simple bonk. Geez, I felt stupid, but I also felt faster, and that's all that mattered. I also got a lift when the route joined a stretch me and my friends rode on the ROMA 600 just a couple of weeks before. Thoughts of Mike, Jimmy and Carol and our blast down this road gave me wings. A crash of thunder behind me announced a storm on the way, and I welcomed the cloud shadow and cool tailwind. A smile formed on my face, and the race was on.

I rode hard, happy to have figured out the way back from the dead. A Subway beckoned, but the storm was gaining. I hopped in and got a tuna salad sub with extra pickles to go. Back on the bike quickly, the storm caught me anyway. Big, fat drops of supercooled water pelted me for a few minutes, then stopped. The temperature must have dropped by 15 degrees, and I was flying with the tailwind. I had 35 more miles to Harrisonburg, and I realized that's a quick training ride back home. My pace picked up even more.

Somewhere before Staunton, I spied Ian's bike outside an empty post office. I swung in but didn't see him, or anyone else. Maybe he's around back taking a leak, I thought. I sat down to start on the sub I picked up earlier. After a few minutes without an Ian appearance, I looked around. Opening the door to the post office, there's Ian on the floor, napping. One eye cracked open with a cheery "oh, hello!" It was a trick he learned a while back: most US Post Offices are unlocked for 24 hour access to rented mailboxes. Great napping spots. We shared my sub, then we took off.

Another heavy downpour called for our rain jackets. First and only time I used mine the whole ride. Within minutes, the rain was gone and Ian pointed out a big, beautiful rainbow arcing across the whole eastern sky. I haven't seen one so vibrant and whole since I was a kid. This one even doubled at times. I asked Ian if we should detour to find the gold, since it was obvious that tree just a few hundred yards away was where it was. Ian wisely replied our Carradices wouldn't hold enough to justify the trouble.

Staunton was a pretty town but it was hilly. More confusion from the cue sheet and we stopped to ask for directions. We figured it out with their help and we picked up the pace for Harrisonburg. Passing the Augusta Military Academy, I had a wickedly strong sense of
déjà vu. I'm still positive I've ridden past it before, from the opposite direction, but I can't place when. Eerie.

The evening was beautiful as the storms and late sun fought for control around us. Talk turned to family, friends, connections. Ian is a very modest Kevin Bacon: every randonneur is connected to him in less than six names. Seriously, his RUSA member number is two digits. For comparison, mine is #3752. It was a lot of fun sharing the miles with him.

We had yet more cue sheet confusion in Harrisonburg trying to find the control. Darkness fell just as we rolled in, somewhere around 9:00pm. The mood was light though- everyone knew we had just over 200K to go. Talked with John P (Florida) as we were cleaning up. He lives in Florida now but used to call Raleigh home. He said his GPS was already registering 47,000 feet of climbing, with Edinburg Gap still to come. We ate while debating sleep strategy. Ian's a big proponent of sleep in 90-minute multiples, which is accepted as the usual time frame for one REM sleep cycle. 3 hours had been the norm for us, but with gobs of time in the bank, I was lobbying for 4 1/2 hours of sleep. Sold! We turned in.


Day #4 Harrisonburg VA > Leesburg VA

I think I slept well. I say that because I don't remember a thing. The dorm-room accommodations felt as nice as The Waldorf-Astoria. Big thanks to the folks at Eastern Mennonite University for the hospitality.

Again, I can't recall eating breakfast, though the spread was amazing. Apparently, I had still not gotten it through my thick skull to eat often. Patsy announced Jon P (Virginia) and Tim C had reached the finish together at 2:11am.
Respect for them, and a round of cheers, then Ian and I shoved off.

It was the coolest morning so far, and I rethought my decision to start without arm warmers. I forgot about that quickly though, as a much more immediate issue was causing grief. My saddle area. My bad planning had tons of Lantiseptic in the other drop bag, none in this one. It was hard to sit down, so I stood up most of the time. Not a great way to wrap up a grand randonnee, especially when it could have been prevented.

The moon was peeking above Massanutten, with a bright red friend in tow. Mars? I wondered aloud. I was talking about anything, the need for distraction from the pain in my
derrière. We pushed through Broadway and I thought about Don. We hadn't seen him in a while, and I hoped he was still in the ride. The red dot had turned white, so we ruled Mars out. (This sky chart says it was Jupiter.) In Forestville, the route continued straight on Middle Road as opposed to the usual turn for Getz Corner. Talk turned to family, geneaology, the rivalry between generals Montgomery Meigs and Robert E. Lee that turned an ancestral home into a national cemetery, and the current state of things in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The climb over Edinburg Gap was much easier than I remembered. Fort Valley Road was a treat in the early morning, though the rollers were not appreciated so much. My legs were burning from the inside again. There was no place open before Front Royal, so the 7-11 control there was were I grabbed a tuna salad sandwich. 7-11 is not taking Sheetz' expansion lightly- most stores have a refrigerated case in the back left side of the store with really good sandwiches neatly wrapped in green "Fresh" stickers. Great stuff, keep an eye out.

Jim S joined us just before Front Royal, and the Henk and the Gang caught up to us at the control. Ian and I launched just after Jim, and my thoughts turned to the route to Linden. I was nervous. I had been to Linden before, from the east on the 2008 DC
Flèche, and I knew a climb had to be between Front Royal and Linden. A road name on the cue sheet didn't help: Dismal Hollow Road. Turned out to be a piece of cake, a very gradual false flat, and soon we were on the familiar VA 55. Giant rollers gradually losing altitude, it was a great road for Jim with his 55 tooth big ring. He flew by us with a grin and a thumbs-up.

We were in horse country. It was beautiful. Dry-stacked stone walls snaked for miles around manicured pastures. My head tried to work out how much the walls would have cost, let alone the farms they contained. We passed through Rectortown, a much prettier place than its name. Gorgeous old churches, well-kept historic homes, and more importantly, giant trees shading our way. A wonderful place, I decided to try to arrange a vacation with Loree here soon.

My legs were past burning, they were downright sore. Bonking wasn't the problem- it was all of the standing I had to do. Time for serious conversation.

"Ian, you're an ancien several times over, but did you learn anything on this ride?"

He replied that Lantiseptic is, in fact, the Real Deal, and that the 90-minute sleep thing works without fail. At least I think that's what he said because as he said Lantiseptic, my brain immediately remembered how my ass was on fire.

We came up on an old general store with a lunch counter in the back in Atoka. Another tuna salad sandwich, bought by Ian. We sat on a the stone steps of a Victorian home and watched several cyclists and a parade of old Model Ts ride by on US50. Henk and Catherine S and Greg C rode up, and some other cyclists stopped and asked about our ride. They gasped in amazement as Catherine told them how far we were riding, and Ian and I took off.

The sandwich helped but my legs were done from the constant standing. Ian dragged me over hill and dale. Then, we saw more cyclists, sporting numbers pinned on their jerseys. It was the Tour de Cure out of Reston. We mixed in with them, chatting. Ian talked with one fit rider, all kitted up. He had an accent.
"Where are you from," I asked.
My reply made him happy.
"Eddy Merckx is a god."

A young woman in pink dangled in front of us, but we couldn't close the gap no matter how hard we tried. Her technique suggested she was a new rider, but she was strong. We caught her only when she sucked her chain on a big roller. We asked if she needed anything as we passed. Her short answer was full of competitiveness and frustration.

"Nope- fixing my chain."

Two riders in matching jerseys walked their bikes up another giant hill.

"Y'all okay?"
"Not so good, unless you have the cure for the common cramp."
"I have it right here," pulling my Endurolytes out of my jersey. "Take as many as you need. I'm almost done with my ride."
Gratefully, they helped themselves as they explained they were riding the century. "How about you," they asked.
"Me and that guy up there, we're at mile seven hundred & thirty-something." I couldn't help but smile as I rode off, their mouths hanging open.

A whiff of the barn made us giddy. I did a terrible impression of Phil Liggett "digging into his suitcase of courage." Ian was much better, especially with the accent. He also did a hilarious "And who is that rider? It's Roche. It's STEPHEN ROCHE!" It was appropriate since we saw the Tour de Cure riders again on the WO&D Trail and-
holy crap!
There's our Pretty in Pink rider again!
How the --- ???!!
Maybe it's better not to know how she got back in front of us. The answer might have depressed us.

Ian hauled us over another roller.

"750 miles in the legs and you're still big-ringing it up these hills!"

But what's that sound? Yep, Ian's tick was back. It had disappeared for a few hundred miles, but now it was showing up again. We kept riding. He was also making me thirsty with his Sierra Nevada Pale Ale jersey. I had called Loree from Atoka so we could time a pick-up at the finish. I asked if she could bring us a six-pack of Sierra Nevada. I hadn't wanted a beer for the whole ride, but with the finish looming in the midday sun, I couldn't think of anything better. Loree offered to do her best at finding it.

I followed Ian into the Comfort Suites parking lot at 1:50 on Sunday afternoon. There were a couple of folks outside who congratulated us, as Patsy ran to take our pictures. My wife Loree had a kiss for me, then we went inside to sign in. Patsy gave Ian and me a Randonneurs Mondiaux 1200K medal and a hug. We took some pictures of the group arriving a few minutes behind us, Catherine S, Greg C and Henk, and offered them congratulations. Jim S had gotten in a few minutes before us and we shook his hand. Then it was off to shower and grab my bags. A shower had never felt so good.


I learned a lot on this ride. The most important lesson I learned, or relearned, is that your body will do whatever your mind decides to do. For me, I wasn't sure I could do another 1200K without the crowds and spectacle of P-B-P to keep me going. Happily, I did just fine.

Another lesson that I learned was to plan better. I had everything I needed, but often not in the places I needed. Lantiseptic in my Harrisonburg drop bag would have made the last day much more comfy. And getting the right batteries for my computer would have allowed me to navigate better, even with a cue sheet that bordered on basic information.

And, of course, I found out the hard way what happens when I don't eat consistently. My HEED and Gu strategy worked great, but it's not enough. A small tuna salad sandwich works wonders for me. And I won't forget.

Thanks to Matt and Patsy and all of the volunteers for putting on such a beautiful ride. "Spectacular" doesn't do it justice. My friends in the NC Randonneurs deserve extra kudos for their control in Mount Airy- thanks again, folks! And I want to thank Ian, Dr John, Justin, Don, and Glenn for making the miles so fun along the way. Finally, congratulations to everyone who completed this tough 1200K, and good wishes to those who didn't make it to the finish this time around.

Branson Kimball
NC Randonneur
Rider, 2009 Shenandoah 1200K Grand

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Talked w Dr J..

Talked w Dr J & he should be finishing any minute.. And thanks again to the NC Randonneurs who made Mt Airy the best!

Thanks, everybody!

Thanks, everybody 4 your good wishes- they worked. Ian F & I finished @ 1:50p. 81:50 total time. More details later- off 2 sleep..

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Harrisonburg, VA 9:10p SAT

Harrisonburg VA 9:10p. 200k to go! Had the Mother Of All Bonks today. Heat made it hard 2 eat & I paid 4 it. NC Randonneurs rock!

UPDATE: My phone wouldn't let me type more than 160 charaters so what I meant to say was:

"The NC Randonneurs at the Mount Airy control ROCKED! Huge thanks to Mike D, JP, Byron, Jimmy, Chuck (and Nina), S1200 vet Lin O, Tony and Mark V. I pray I didn't forget anyone. It was especially cool meeting Mark and Tony- hope to see you guys a lot more.

Don't forget to HOLD THE MAYO!"

Ian at dawn near Floyd, VA

Ian @ dawn of Day 3 near Floyd VA, mile 493