For many randonneurs, Easter weekend is the time for a 360-km ACP 24-hour team event, known as the Fleche (French for “arrow”). Ideally, several five-bike teams ride from different origins, departing Saturday morning, and converge on a single point at the finish, often ending with Easter morning breakfast. It’s a really cool idea. A Dart is another team ride in the form of a 200-km RUSA 13.5-hour event. Tidewater Rando hosted its inaugural Dart on April 4th. We originally had two teams that were going to ride separate routes and meet at a common finish point. Unfortunately, personal schedules shifted and we fielded only one team of five.
Rain was in the morning forecast. Fortunately, it was relatively warm, with an expected high of 62 degrees. Rain is tolerable at those temperatures. The winds were from the NNW at 16 mph with gusts over 20 mph. As you can see on the map below, NNW winds were sure to make the first 80 miles more challenging. We began our ride at the Burger King in Windsor, VA (near Zuni). The sky was gloomy (photo above) and we felt a few rain spritzes here and there. But the rain stayed away and the day just kept getting better. We had a sympathetic chuckle when we learned that one of our riders had packed two right shoes for the ride. Far from home, he had two choices: Go home or endure. He chose to endure by riding 128 miles with one cycling shoe and one rubber sandal. That’s hardcore!
Two things made this ride different from other rides for me: First, since the ride is a 13.5-hour event, the team had to manage its pace and make longer stops than usual to avoid getting ahead of schedule. The rules require us to ride at least 25 km (15.5 mi) during the last two hours. Therefore, we couldn’t leave our final control point at the 109-mile mark until 6:30pm. No sweat! There are worse places than Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor to be forced to stay. Second, Dart riders travel together as a team. We had a few split-ups due to staggered “nature stops” or when we spread out to stretch our legs. Otherwise, we were together for most of the ride. It was a nice change of pace (pun), compared to my usual 200k’s, where I often wind up riding alone after 10 miles or so.
The ride was relatively uneventful. Isle of Wight and Surry counties both have their fair share of loose dogs. They provided a little excitement… but only a little. I don’t even bother trying to outrun them. Most dogs just run alongside to escort me away from their property. We made our lunch stop at a McDonald’s in Waverly. It was not a control point, so we had to manage our time wisely. It was after 12:00pm and another 21 miles to the next control city, which has no restaurants. None of us wanted to ride that far, a total of 79 miles, without lunch. So Mickey-D’s was our best option for fuel. It was good to get out of the wind for a bit, too. The next control was in Claremont. There’s very little there. The store is lightly-stocked. I bought a sandwich… an ICE CREAM sandwich… and then enjoyed some rest for a bit. Our route out of Claremont was unfamiliar. I had no idea there was a 12% grade in the area! Thankfully, the worst of it was only 1/4-mile long, followed by another 1/2-mile of lesser grades. As mentioned above, our final control was in Smithfield. I think we were there for about 45 minutes. I had a tuna salad sub. Good stuff! The sun was setting; so we donned our reflective vests and turned on our lighting as we left for the final 15-mile stretch.
We ended our ride at the Burger King without much fanfare. I had a “recovery shake” and turned in my paperwork. I also checked my computers. I had done some calibrating during the ACP 200 km ride two weeks ago. This ride was when I got to see the results. Ride With GPS (RwGPS) measures the route at 127.6 miles. I did about 1/4-mile of “bonus riding.” So, I’d say the measurement is extremely close, especially over such a distance. The wired computer (left) is my primary distance-measuring device. It was cool to see that the wireless computer was only 0.05-mile (264 feet) different. I’ll apply another correction to the wireless to reduce that error. I believe the distance shown on the smartphone reflects the reduced accuracy inherent with most smartphone GPS receivers. I’m not displeased with it, but it’s good to know about the difference. By the way, my Cue Sheet app stopped working last week. I want to learn why that happened. In the meantime, I opted to try RwGPS’s navigation feature. I was VERY pleased with it. I think I’ll write a separate entry to review the app. It’s that good! It’ll have to wait since I’m packing for a weekend of bike camping. I’ll blog about the navigation app and the camping trip later. Until then…
Loading the Pack Mule,