Monday, April 30, 2007

Bike Ride Report - The Mother

Now that the pain has subsided, it's time to write a report on the DC Randonneurs' Lost River 300k, commonly referred to as "The Mother of All 300ks", or as I like to think of it, just "The Mother."

It's so bad. It's so hard. It has so many hills. And they are so steep. 192 miles. 14000 feet of climb. Several 20% grades.

It's so bad I forgot to take a picture of myself at the end of it.

It started at 5:00 am, in Middletown, VA, at the Super 8. I slept in the back of the Element parked on the street in a nearby residential neighborhood.

For me, the night before a brevet is like the night before Christmas. I never sleep well because I'm always waking up to see if it's time to start yet. I didn't sleep well, but I was up at 4:15 raring to go. I managed to be on the road only 6 minutes after everyone left.

I started with the idea that I would stop and eat something after each hour of pedaling and then take a picture. I made myself some ham and cheese wraps, and also had a good supply of goo packs and energy bars. I was drinking Cytomax in a Camelback bladder.

Here's the scene after the first hour of riding. It's just getting light on Middle Rd.

Here is a couple hours later, climbing up Wolf Gap, near the top. This is looking down the way I came, but it's hard to tell.

Here's just past the Lost River control. The creek is Kimsey Run.

The scenery on this ride is fabulous, and this was a perfect week because all the redbuds and apple trees were in bloom. There was phlox all over the hillsides. There were many birds newly back for spring. I saw a wood thrush, several brown thrashers, a pair of hairy woodpeckers, a cerulean warbler, and I heard a northern parula. This was along with all the usual cardinals and goldfinches and so on.

Despite the wonderful views, I felt weak all day, and I was not in the least speedy. I was dragging, and I never managed more than about a 90 minute cushion, which would drop down to less than an hour every time I had to grind up yet another giant hill. The payback was fun though, I was over 45 mph on the downhills a couple times.

I don't know where this picture was taken. It's after Lost River and before Slanesville.

Maybe it's Points. I know it's not Kirby, because when I got to Kirby, I was out of water. I remembered there was a store there, but I forgot it is now an antique store and not a grocery. It wasn't a grocery anymore last year either. The guy in the antique store said I could get some water from the spigot behind the house across the street, though. I took the opportunity to clean out my Camelback bladder and mix up another batch of Cytomax.

Every brevet I try a new fuel experiment. This time was a half a wrap or an energy bar every hour, and no sit-down meals. As it happened the time I spent snacking by the side of the road added up, and I never had enough cushion for a sit-down mean anyway. I have to figure out how to eat while riding a recumbent.

I was doing pretty good with my snack-an-hour plan, which I stuck with to the Slanesville control.

At Slanesville, I had a wrap *and* a goo pack, and I decided to try to push it clear through to Wardensville. In retrospect, this was unwise.

Here is the 7-11 at Wardensville, three hours later, where I had a V8 and a giant hot dog.

That blue thing on the left is a kerosene pump. The grassy area behind it is where I threw up.

There is nothing that really takes the life out of you when you need to eat, but then you throw up and you are still 50 miles out and you still have to climb over Wolf Gap. And it was 7:00 and 13 miles and 1500 feet of climb from the top, which pretty much ruled out any hope of going down the very steep and twisty descent on the other side in daylight. Also, it was raining.

I was pretty much convinced at this point I would be getting in around 2:00 am, well after the 1:00 am limit. So I rinsed out the Camelback and filled it with two bottles of Gatorade. I set out slowly up the big climb as it got darker and darker.

By the time I got to the petting zoo (elk! monkeys!) just below the steep part before the top, it was thoroughly dark, and I set up all my lights and put on a fresh hat so I wouldn't freeze on the descent. I was over the top around 8:30. I rode the brakes the whole way down, keeping myself under 20 mph so I wouldn't plunge over the edge and die.

At the bottom of the hill when it flattens out, about two miles from the Larkin's store control, I saw another cyclist riding towards me. At this point, I was not in a particularly coherent state of mind. I was convinced I was by far the last person left on the ride, and I decided it was so late that Larkins had closed, and Liz or somebody was manning the control after hours and was riding back to tell me to get a move on so they could go home. But the rider went by me, and I figured it was just some person out for a bike ride. In the dark. In the middle of nowhere. With a really high quality headlight.

They turned around and started following me and catching up. When they caught up all I could do is incoherently holler "WHO IS IT? WHAT? ARE YOU RIDING A BREVET?"

It turns out it was another randonneur, named Andrea, and she couldn't figure out where the Larkin's store was, and she'd been riding all over looking for it. I told her don't worry, I know exactly where it is. She followed me there. We decided to ride in together, and she said she didn't mind at all if I was pitifully slow because she didn't want to get lost out by herself anymore. She also said this was her first ever brevet! I assured her that this was by far the hardest brevet on the DC Rand schedule. She said if she had known that, it would have made her even more determined to do it. I like Andrea. She is all right. I feel kind of bad for hustling her out of Larkins, but at that point it was 9:20, with 31 miles to go in 3:40, and I had my doubts about making it in on time. Those 31 miles include the "scenic but gruelling" Back Road with it's relentless rollers, and the unspeakable misery of Minebank Road, which is twisty, steep, hilly, stripeless, and utterly dark.

But it's so nice to have another person to ride with in the dark. That extra headlight makes so much difference. And somehow, for the first time all day, I started to feel strong. The moon came out, and there was a tailwind as we rode Back Rd. Back Road runs along a ridge, and it was incredibly beautiful in the moonlight.

We got to the end of Back Rd. at 11:00, with only 12 miles left. We were home free! I felt so good. I faced the Merciless Minebank with grit and determination. So did Andrea. It was smooth sailing on Chapel Road into town, and we got in at midnight.

There were still people up, and everyone applauded when we rolled in to the Super 8!

Here's the map for the route, with the very generous DeLorme elevation.

Here's the MotionBased link.


llamoure said...

Hi Drew,
I think the mystery picture is the Exxon Gas station/store/Restaurant at the intersection of Rte 50 and CR5. I don't remember the town name.


Anonymous said...

Brother, the throwing up bit ... I feel your pain. It's why I haven't done anything more than a 200K since 2003.

Jon Gardner

Vik said...

Congrats on a great ride. The eating on a bent thing is eluding me as well. I can't free up my hands to eat and still stay on the road!

I was thinking about chopping up some cliff bars and putting them in a zip lock for snacking on the go, but I haven't figured out where to put the zip lock!

Anonymous said...

You guys need a small "fanny pack" on your belly for food - would that be a belly pack?
I call them "bum bags".

Jimboblay said...


Awesome ride - getting sick 50 miles out just sounds horrible - glad you were able to keep going and keep a positive attitude.