The Civil War Century is an annual event which takes place each September from Thurmont, MD. The ride has commanded such excellent attendance that organizers were forced to limit participation to 1600 riders for safety reasons. Registration opened in April and quickly sold out. I had hoped to stay in Gettysburg. However, I waited too long to get the hotel rate I wanted. I’ll get it right next year. I took Friday off and drove up to stay in Hagerstown, MD. I took advantage of early ride check-in to avoid crowds the day of the event. I was joined by my good friends Todd and Jen. The 104 mile ride featured approximately 7000 feet of climbing. There was practically no warm-up. Riders were climbing a 7-mile long climb with a 1200-ft gain within the first 2000 feet. UGH!
I was definitely out of my element on this ride! I live where it’s flat; and I don’t practice much on the small hills that we have slightly north of us. I spent much of the first seven miles being passed by much more acclimated riders. I think it took about an hour to climb that first section. My heart rate was 175 bpm for the vast majority of the time. All of that hard work was rewarded with a long, fast descent which lasted eight minutes, even at over 40 mph! My group carried enough speed over the rollers that we almost never fell below 30 mph. It was cool to “climb” at those speeds. There was one section along the way which yielded 48 mph! I was wearing a vest, arm warmers and knee warmers. I was ready to remove the vest after that initial descent.
But the descent was not over. There was eight more miles of descending to go! Our next descent was a little shorter; but certainly not shy of yielding speed. A few of us rolled around 45 mph down that stretch. Unfortunately, a few other riders missed the big “S L O W” marking on the road and wound up slipping off the road. I’m not sure if they missed the bend due to a loss of traction, if they ran off the road to avoid running into the intersection or if they collided with each other. I suspect I arrived about five minutes after the crash since police and medics were just arriving. I don’t think anyone was seriously injured. Regardless, it’s a bad way to end a ride and start the weekend. Todd, Jen and I regrouped and continued on our way.
The middle section of the ride can be described as “rollers” by the locals up there. Riders in my area would call them “hills.” Think of it like a day of riding in Toano, VA: not awful… just enough to feel the burn. The burn would change for the worse around the 57 mile mark. That climb was probably the longest five miles of my life! Climbing at only 4.5 to 5-mph, it took a painfully-long time to get to the top. Of course, there were plenty of riders passing me by. One pair of women got my attention. As they approached, I heard one of them say, “See, this isn’t so bad, is it?” “You’re right. This is really nice!” BARF! They were just chatting away while I huffed and puffed my way up the hill. HAHA! The back side of the hill yielded a pleasant eight mile descent.
It was time for the final “major climb” at 70 miles. It wasn’t terribly long. But I was plenty tired and unable to maintain a decent speed up the climb. Look closely at the map and you’ll see the false peak that fooled me as I approached it. It was a drag to think I was near the top and then see yet more climbing in the distance. I got in my last downhill blast for the day at about 75 miles. From there, the route took us through the battlefields of Gettysburg and then made its way back to Thurmont. Todd, Jen and I stayed somewhat close together for the first 75 miles. Todd is our speed demon. Jen, while strong, was pacing herself and unwilling to really fly down the hills. Both of them easily outclimbed me and I made up ground on the descents. Todd was usually the one waiting on both of us.
Once we lost the fast descents but not the small climbs, I eventually fell behind their pace and rode alone but with other riders in sight. I had been fighting cramps in my knee, a really weird place for a cramp, and made sure I kept my fluids up. I finished the ride in just under 10 hours. My average rolling speed was 12.8 mph, my max speed was 48.4 mph, my max heart rate was 177 bpm and I burned approximately 7700 calories. I was glad to call it a day and get some quality rest in my hotel room before driving home the following day. Perhaps next year I’ll stay in Gettysburg and take in some sights.
I’ve uploaded a video to YouTube which features footage of the descents. I have over 90 minutes and shared the best four. There’s music on the video to dull out the wind noise a bit. I play songs in my head as I ride. This video features the song I heard the most. I hate YouTube ads. But I like the music enough to tolerate one. I shot the footage with a Contour Roam set to HD. It’s mounted to my downtube so it points wherever the bike is headed (instead of the dither of the handlebars). Watch closely and you may see the brakes articulate a little. OOOOOH, EXCITING! 😉 Click here to watch the video at YouTube. The music industry has blocked the content from mobile devices. Mobile users may watch one of these versions: WMV or MP4. Enjoy!
Lights, camera, action!