Continuing my run for a Super Randonneur Award, I entered Tidewater Randonneurs’ ACP Suffolk-Lake Gaston 300-km event. Staying at the host hotel last year worked really well, so I decided to stick to that practice. I packed my car Friday morning, the idea being to go straight to the hotel after work. It seemed like a perfect plan… until I realized I had forgotten my arm warmers. “No biggie,” I thought, “I’ll pick up another set.” All was good! Knowing the ride would start at the same time as the hotel’s free breakfast and that the hotel room had a refrigerator and a microwave, I opted to buy some breakfast items on the way to Suffolk so I could eat really early in the morning.
My plan was really coming together! I began to prep my bike for the morning so all I’d have to do after waking up is get dressed, eat, ride the elevator down to the lobby, sign the paperwork, and be ready to roll. Then I noticed something missing: my headlights. DOH! Those are pretty important! I had left the entire rig on my CrossRip after the previous weekend’s camping trip. Ironically, I didn’t even use the lights on that trip, not even as flashlights at the campground. I called my wife and arranged to meet her to grab the light rig. The extra stress gave me a “reason” to deviate from my diet and grab a hot chocolate (one of my comfort foods). I think I was in bed by 10pm. It was not as early as I had hoped, but it was better than discovering this omission in the morning.
I was beginning to wake on my own as my alarm sounded. My room was cold and I didn’t want to get up. I turned off the AC and crawled back into the warm bed to check some e-mails and the weather report. It was in the upper-50’s and expected to warm to mid-70s. The weather was almost perfect. The winds were expected to be in our faces, but light, on the outbound leg of the ride and then push us home in the afternoon. Instead, they were re-forecast to shift throughout the day and be in our faces in both directions. Thankfully, they weren’t expected to be very strong, perhaps 7-mph. I went down to the foyer and signed-in. Thirteen riders entered the brevet and were ready to go. Then I realized that I hadn’t pumped my tires due to the confusion the previous evening. No worries. Adjusting my tire pressures provided an excellent excuse to let the other riders get ahead of me.
I have a bad habit of overworking myself early in a ride by trying to maintain a pace that’s set by other riders. Allowing the group to get out of sight helped me to ride at my pace. With the cool weather and an early climb at an overpass, I was glad to be riding at 14 mph instead of 18 or faster. It didn’t take long for me to warm up and then decide to remove the arm warmers. Let me sum up the irony about these arm warmers: I forgot mine, so I bought another pair. Then I wound up meeting my wife to get the lights, meaning I could’ve had her bring my arm warmers. Then I wore the new arm warmers for just 15 minutes. Ah, the things I do to stay comfortable on the bike! I guess one can never have too many arm warmers on hand. I can always donate some to the Wounded Warrior Project. Back to the ride, I was pleasantly surprised when I caught Bob B. about seven miles into the ride. We had ridden a few miles together during March’s ACP 200 km brevet as well as the RUSA Dart. We continued together at what seemed to be a very compatible 15 mph. Before too long, we eventually caught up with Robert O. He had ridden the ACP 200 km, too. The three of us rode together for 20-30 miles.
Bob’s choice to wear an orange vest instead of the common neon yellow caught my eye during the RUSA Dart. He and another rider were far ahead of me as I was playing catch-up after a brief stop. The other rider was wearing neon yellow, just like I usually do. Bob’s orange vest was FAR more visible. I took a photo of Bob and Robert from about 1/2-mile and shared it below. To be fair, Robert was wearing a red and black jersey and not a neon yellow vest. But the difference is still substantial from 1/2-mile or so away. Seeing this in the Dart, I decided to retire my aging yellow vest and get an orange one. It matches my orange jersey.
Our second control was at the Subway in Skippers… time for a foot-long sub! Bob and I enjoyed a relaxing lunch and then continued along to the turnaround point in Gasburg, VA, where I snapped this photo of an antique communication device. The 50 miles from the Subway to the turnaround and back was the hilly section of the ride (see elevation profile in the top photo). I tended to ride a little faster than Bob on the flats. But he clearly rode stronger in the hills. If I were to guess, I’d say he gained about a mile on me during each 25-mile stretch before we regrouped in Gasburg and Skippers.
I had a run-in with a pit bull near the NC border. He was one of those stealth runners who was clearly different from other dogs that normally “escort” us to their property lines. He charged swiftly from behind, crossed the road, and approached close enough to coerce me to the edge of the road. I yelled at him and unclipped from my left pedal as he appeared to focus on my ankle. I wasn’t poised to deliver a good kick. Instead, I sort of flicked my toe outward, making contact with his cheek as I rode off the road. It got his attention without hurting him. I managed to bring my bike to a quick stop at the edge of a ditch and felt lucky that he had stopped his pursuit. I doubt my little kick would have stopped him if he was really on the attack. Still, I think it may be time to carry some pepper spray. The purple flowers above have nothing to do with the dog. They’re just prettier than him.
As I continued back to Skippers, I was reminded that farm equipment shares our roads. This guy was big enough to take the entire road! He still moved over to make room for me. I stopped and waved as I took this photo. Once in Skippers, I joined Bob at Subway and had ANOTHER foot-long sub. The weather was great as we continued back to Suffolk. We had a small headwind, but it wasn’t too awful. With the exception of a train crossing near Skippers, our ride on this leg was uneventful. I had some neck pain and found relief by standing to do some head rolls. I need to see about raising my handlebars for the upcoming longer rides.
We stopped at our last control point in Boykins. The usual stop at Boykins Ice Cream was not an option since the owners were on vacation. Instead, we stopped at a convenience store in town and had snacks. Before leaving, we donned our reflective gear since the sun was going to set soon. It was completely dark as we passed through Franklin and the temperature dropped as we entered Carrsville. I had to stop and put on knee warmers because my knees suddenly began to protest. They react poorly when it’s below ~67 degrees. I felt much better after a few minutes. We continued into the darkness at a slower pace than usual. I was missing my helmet-mounted headlight. I didn’t forget it; instead, I opted to leave it behind. Having a steerable light adds a margin of safety in corners. I’ll have to bring it on the 400-km ride.
We finished at 10:55 pm, about 15 minutes sooner than my previous best time and nearly three hours faster than last year. We were greeted with pizza and a variety of snack foods. My neck was pretty stiff and had a good burn. Thankfully, I wasn’t in total pain all over like last year, especially in my back. The experience has me reconsidering a recumbent. I’ve always wanted one, even long before meeting the recumbent riders of Tidewater Rando, but haven’t felt the “need” for one. Keeping up with proper eating during longer rides appears to have made a significant difference in my ability to maintain a decent pace and to stay awake. We’ll see how well that works on this weekends’ 400-km brevet. That ride will certainly put my nighttime endurance to the test!
I’ve shared the rest of the photos from the ride below. I took the cyclists’ photos as they returned from the turnaround point. The photos are not as good as I had hoped. I can be a good rider or I can be a good photographer… or I can be mediocre at both. HAHA!
Smile for the camera!