I never imagined a time when I’d complete my year’s first century in JANUARY. Forecasters were abuzz about the wonderful weekend ahead with temperatures in the 70s and almost no chance of rain. What cyclist can resist riding on such a weekend?! I rode 42 miles with Chuckatuck Chainring to loosen up on Saturday. It was foggy and damp, but expected to warm to 67. Then the fog got heavier and the roads got wetter. We didn’t see the sun or dry roads. The observed high was only 55 degrees. “Curse you, Weatherman!” Sunday’s inaugural Windsor-Woodland 203km permanent was forecast with a high of 70 degrees and almost no chance of rain. I cleaned up my bike, lubed the chain and washed my gear. You know the drill! 😉
I awoke Sunday to temps in the low 50s and no rain on radar. NICE! I wore shorts, knee warmers, a thin short sleeve base layer, a summer jersey, arm warmers, and a lightweight vest. Then I walked out the door to see wet roads. It was the same as Saturday. “Curse you, Weatherman!” There was still a record turnout, though. Seven riders, four of whom were on recumbents, signed their paperwork, got their receipts and hit the road. I removed my glasses since they were fogged up and covered with mist droplets. Eventually, a few riders made a stop to visit some trees at 12 miles or so. I didn’t need the stop. So I continued. Three faster riders were ahead and already out of sight. This was my first stint of riding alone.
I took this photo in an attempt to capture the droplets forming on my visor. It’s blurry. But so is my uncorrected vision. Therefore, this is an accurate depiction of what I saw. 😀 The riders who had stopped eventually caught me as expected. They continued without me. A benefit of riding alone was I no longer felt compelled to work harder to keep up, perhaps riding beyond my comfort zone for far too long. I played songs in my head. Paying attention to the cue sheet kept my mind engaged. I caught the group briefly at our first control point in Newsoms, VA at the 35 mile mark. I learned that one rider had DNF’d due to having no fun in the cold/wet. I saw the group again at my 60 mile mark about five miles from the control point they had just left in Woodland, NC. It was finally warm enough to remove my arm warmers. They told me they left the remainder of their water purchase and a bag of Fritos to await my arrival. While in Woodland, I spoke with a nice young man who thought it was “just awful” that I was left behind. 😀 I assured him it was okay. I removed my vest and left.
As I left Woodland, I realized my overall average speed (including stops) was dipping pretty low at just 10.5 mph. Less than 9.3 mph can result in a DNF. I used a tailwind to speed me up a tad. I rode between 15-18 mph for a stretch, bringing my average up to nearly 12 mph before stopping for a late lunch at a McDonald’s in Murfreesboro, NC around 2:30pm (~80 miles). I removed my knee warmers. I was back on isolated roads in no time. Later, I missed a turn and rode some “bonus miles” (see the map below near the VA/NC border). I got back on course, took this photo, rode another 15 miles or so, and then stopped at the Hardee’s control point in Franklin, VA. It was getting cold, dark and time to don my vest, arm warmers and reflective gear. I set off into the darkness with just 22 miles to go.
Temperatures were dropping. Dense fog kept me from riding fast enough to stay too warm. I missed more turns in Carrsville due to the fog. I was amazed, actually. The fog was so dense that I could not see the street signs on the other side of the road nor the fact that there were side streets at all! I overlooked two intersections due to a total lack of visibility. WOW! My smartphone with maps was great for returning to the course. I made my way to an “information control” where I had to answer a question about a house. “Hmmm… darkness… fog… hunt club country… Shining a light on a house is an AWESOME idea!” 😉 I was on the home stretch after that. I got a little nervous when my glasses started to fog up. Riding without them in the dark was not an option! The limitation was temporary. The ride organizer met me ~10 miles from the finish to check on me. I assured him I was more than able to continue.
I rolled into the final control stop, Windor’s Dairy Queen, for dinner and to load up the car. The other riders were long gone. My extra navigating made my 126 mile ride into a 131 mile ride. Regardless, I had completed the ride. Although this was my slowest 200-km ride to date at 12:38, it was a good experience and excellent training for night riding. I’m taking three lessons from this ride: 1) Carry a small flashlight because some signs are far enough from the street that mounted lights won’t shine on them; 2) invest in an asymmetric headlight which neither blinds oncoming traffic nor reflects back in fog; and 3) mount a second cyclocomputer to measure individual segments separately from the overall distance. Once a turn is missed or even the smallest of odometer errors comes into play (mine or the route designer’s), riding in foggy darkness is not the place to do math while reading a cue sheet! Sure, I could go the way of a fancy GPS unit. However, I’m simply not committed enough to make that leap until I’ve mastered the more traditional methods. I’m compelled to wonder how riders did brevets before GPS and cyclocomputers. Answering that will have to await another day. 🙂
Initiated by Darkness,