Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bike Me DC! - Fireworks Pizza Ride

Scott and I got up not so bright and early to join the Bike Me DC meet-up group in Leesburg for a ride west to Purcellville, VA, and back. Happily, the meet up point was next to the same park that Scott and I had found during our last bike trip to Leesburg.

The Sterling chaper of Bike Me! DC in Leesburg before riding west to Purcellville, 9/25/11.
The Sterling chaper of Bike Me! DC in Leesburg before riding west to Purcellville. Photo taken by John, the ride organizer, , 9/25/11.

I rode in my Ruu-Muu which has pockets on the back in which I stowed my handkerchief and camera. The ride to Purcellville is mostly uphill and I kept both hands on the handlebars while struggling along. Happily, for me anyway, I was not the slowest rider in the group: Scott and I jockeyed for position one of the four slow-pokes. :)

Scott and I round the bend, 9/25/11.
Scott and I round the bend. I've forgotten where this was. John, the ride organizer, was waiting for us slow-pokes and snapping photos of everybody, 9/25/11.

Scott and I reach the western terminus of the W&OD in Purcellville, VA, 9/25/11.
Scott and I reach the western terminus of the W&OD in Purcellville, VA. Photo taken by John, the ride organizer, 9/25/11.

Scott and I jogged across the street to check out Trail's End Cycling where I spotted a sweet-looking Specialized Allez in red and white. I'm still not buying a second bike until next summer at the earliest, and I'm starting to think I might want an actual road bike if I'm going to start riding in half- or metric centuries. Or maybe I'll just get some slicks for my hybrid. That decision can wait until next spring. I did buy up a bunch of Honey Stinger waffles in preparation for long rides on the Outer Banks.

Coasting downhill back to Leesburg, 9/25/11.
I finally pulled out my camera and started snapping photos. Coasting downhill back to Leesburg, 9/25/11.

Scary steep switchback next to Dry Mill Rd, 9/25/11.
Scary steep switchback next to Dry Mill Rd. It doesn't look it in this photo, but the patch ahead is SERIOUSLY steep. The climb up nearly killed me. There's a scarier switchback to my left which I didn't photograph because I needed to control my brakes and watch the wet leaves so I didn't fly off the trail, 9/25/11.

Scott in the tunnel, 9/25/11.
Scott in the tunnel. I couldn't get the camera into my hand fast enough to photograph this stone bridge as I approached but I did snap Scott riding through the tunnel behind me. Too bad it's so blurry, but I'm not too disappointed with this blind, over-the-shoulder shot, 9/25/11.

Coasting REALLY fast along Dry Mill Rd, 9/25/11.
Coasting REALLY fast along Dry Mill Rd. Wheeeeee! Most of the ride to Purcellville is uphill which means the return trip is mostly downhill , 9/25/11.

Celebratory pizza, salad, and cold beverages at Fireworks Pizza, 9/25/11.
Celebratory pizza, salad, and cold beverages at Fireworks Pizza. Three newbies and two veterans. The other half of the group is sitting at the table to our left. Photo taken by John, the ride organizer.

We had a blast and I'm looking forward to riding with these fine folks again. I'm seriously considering the 24 mile route of the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton on October 22. And then there's the 1st Annual Halloween Bike Ride & Party (in costume!) on the 29th. Very, very tempting...

And lastly, today's stats: 21.2 miles in 1:41 with an average speed of 12.5mph. I started to think that the downhills must've increased my average but then I realized that I made it Purcellville in 53 minutes. Hm, that means the return trip was 48 minutes... Yeah, I guess the downhills did improve my speed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not ready for actual traffic

I felt so good when I got up this morning, I decided to bike to work. I averaged 12.9 mph on the 4.7 miles in. It was awesome. I had so much speed (and so much weight thanks to my heavier clothes, shoes, and laptop) when I crested Rte 28 that I was able to coast all the way to the entrance for the W&OD parking lot, a distance of a third of a mile. Heh heh heh.

Scott and I decided to meet at his gym after work. It's the same distance from my office to his gym via the trail & Pacific Blvd as it is from the office to home but it's only 3.27 miles if I brave the traffic on Waxpool. There may or may not be a footpath along the road -- I can't remember -- and the shoulders are dicey. The traffic is pretty crazy and I have rarely seen cyclists on Waxpool. I'm talking a handful in the eleven years I've been driving that route.

So... I lost my nerve and took the longer and presumably safer route and wound up breaking this morning's speed record: 13.1 mph. RAWR. And the best part? Even though we left our respective origination points at the same time, I got to the gym first. Heh heh heh. Of course, I was too limp and noodly from soaking in the hot tub that I loaded Rose into the truck and let Scott drive me home.

Backroads Century: Extended Quarter Century Version

On Sunday, Scott and I rose at 6am. We showered, dressed, loaded bikes and gear onto and into the truck, and headed west to Berryville, VA, for the Backroads Century. We met up with L, B, and J in the fairgrounds parking lot and pedaled over to Clarke County High School where the actual ride started.

About to take off on the Backroads Century 30-mile route, 9/18/11.
About to take off on the Backroads Century 30-mile route with L, J, and Scott, 9/18/11.

We started out strong with L far ahead, Scott and me in the middle, and U bringing up the rear. We'd switch up positions every so often and those who got too far ahead would pull over and wait for those bringing up the rear. We rode over gently rolling hills through gorgeous farmland with amazing views of the mountains. I loved the stacked stone walls lining the roads. Scott said the part of the route through a tree-covered lane with stone walls on either side reminded him of Scotland. I asked if the chilly and slightly damp temperature would be the depth of summer and he said "yes". I told him we're not moving to Scotland.

We rode through the tiny and picturesque township of Boyce and arrived at the first rest stop (~mile 13) at the Burwell-Morgan Mill. A trio of musicians playing harp, hammered dulcimer, and banjo provided upbeat background music while we stretched, refilled our water bottles, and snacked on bagels, boiled potatoes, and fruit. I think we rested too long, though, because I was cold when we hopped back on our bikes and took off for the hilly portion of the ride. We overheard the leader of the Potomac Pedalers "C" group tell his riders that there was a big hill coming up and he'd be pushing his bike up. That did not instill confidence in our tiny cadre, but we were game to try.

It wasn't a hill. It was a freaking mountain. I got up to the next level by using the granniest of my granny gears, but it was a struggle. I also had a pickup truck right behind me and I was too proud to hop off my bike in front of a vehicular spectator. He finally passed and I caught up with Scott and pedaled along enjoying the view. We passed a farm with a large black steer, an emu, a llama (or alpaca; I'm not sure which), a blonde horse, and a donkey. We then came to the next mountain. I got halfway up and then threw my chain. That was scary. J was awesome and set my chain back onto the chainwheel without much difficulty. My gears made a weird clicking noise for the next half mile or so, but then finally cleared up in time for the next mountain.

Scott raced ahead and I hopped off to push my bike. A guy on a road bike shot past me and then threw his chain. I walked slowly towards him and asked if needed another set of hands. He said sure, and I held his bike while he wrestled with his chain. J arrived shortly thereafter and assisted him, too. L caught up with Scott and panted "Mel... Help!" as she rode past. Scott came running back down the hill and also lent a hand until a rider with the Spokes, Etc maintenance team rode up and was able to wiggle the chain back into place. We "lost" about ten minutes but I felt good about trying to help another cyclist even if all I was able to provide was a baby wipe and bandage so he could clean and bind the cut he got while messing with his chain.

We took off again and fairly quickly arrived at rest stop #2 (~mile 20) where we refilled water bottles and dined on energy balls, Goldfish crackers, and Nutter Butters. The guy we'd helped was getting his bike checked out by the mechanical support crew. There wasn't much atmosphere to this rest stop and we took to the road again.

Unfortunately, we came upon the worst mountain of the ride. Most people pushed their bikes up this particular stretch of road. Some insane people actually rode up the hill, then coasted down the hill so they could ride back up. What. The. Hell. Scott rode up out of sheer pigheadedness. I only made it a quarter of the way. Oof. A lot of cyclists thought the rest area should have been at the top of the hill, but honestly, there wasn't a good place to put it. Ah well. After catching our breaths, we climbed back onto the bikes and took off again.

This part of the ride wasn't quite as picturesque. We kept climbing hills and passing cows. I pushed my bike past a couple and exclaimed, "Hills are not my friend!" The lady of the couple said, "It's okay to walk up as long as you get back on your bike at the top!" I also told either L or J that I wouldn't complain about the Rte 28 bridge ever again. And then we got to the highway and we had only three more miles to ride. Hooray!

We pedaled through downtown Berryville in a mostly-single file pack. We had to contend with vehicle traffic and most cars gave us plenty of room. One truck even held up the right turn lane so the bikes could all get through the green stoplight. We thanked him as we passed. With only half a mile to go, we got to the optional bike path and rode that (up another hill) to the High School. Scott and I kicked in the after burners and rode across the finish line together.

This is how I felt when I got off Rose:

All smiles after the 30-miler, 9/18/11.
All smiles after the 30-miler, 9/18/11.

Scott was happy to see kindred spirits:

Where there are Vikings, there's Hubbyfink, 9/18/11.
Where there are Vikings, there's Scott , 9/18/11.

We picked up our swag bags filled with goodies such as a ride t-shirt, a water bottle, coupons to Spokes, Etc. I was going to purchase a jersey, but they were out of my size. I'm still trying to decide whether or not I'm going to order one... Scott and I wandered over to the food area where I got a hotdog, bag of chips, and a ginger ale. We walked back to our bikes and I started sniffling and wiping away tears. Scott asked what was wrong and I told him that I was so proud of us and completely overwhelmed with emotion. He gave me a squeeze.

B, who'd been reading at the fair grounds, joined us and took our victory picture:

We finished, whoo hoo! 9/18/11
We finished, whoo hoo! With Scott, J, and L. The 'fink is not flipping off the camera; he's doing some weird victory sign.

Eventually, we pedaled back over to the fair grounds, loaded up the truck, and headed home. After showering, I took a three hour nap and spent the rest of Sunday evening drinking lots and lots of water to rehydrate and thinking about doing the Half Century ride next year. The 30 mile ride had 1,400 feet of climbing while the 50 mile ride has 2,500. I think we'll be ready for that next year.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hard core

I LOVED watching the cold front roll in today. The sky was turbulent as the weather changed abruptly and wind whipped through the trees and across the pond. I mentally kicked myself for not riding in today (yeah, I don't know why I didn't) because it would have been SO BADASS to race home in the wet and rain (yeah, I think I'm certifiable).

So, I drove home in horrific traffic, changed into several layers of workout clothes, and hit the trail with Rose. It was sprinkling a bit and the headwind was strong. I grinned from ear to ear and raced over Rte 28 to Pacific Blvd. I tootled around through the car dealerships and then headed back home where I discovered that my EPIC and HARD CORE bad weather ride was only four miles with an average of 10.5 mph.

I need to reset my definitions and expectations. :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Lady Cyclist dream versus my sweaty reality

I am fascinated by the Lady Cyclist movement. That is, women who wear regular work/play clothes while biking instead the Under Armour tees and Canari padded shorts like I do. These women are wearing slacks or dresses and heels whilst biking city streets on their way to their places of work or meeting up with friends at a pub or market. It seems so much more elegant than wearing workout gear. They hop off their bikes, dab away the sweat, and get right to whatever they want to do at their destination. I hop off my bike, lug my trunk bag into the gym locker room, shower, dress, apply make-up, and then settle into my cube while still sweating a bit and being red-faced despite the shower.

I want to be elegant like them.

Monday night, I experimented. Scott needed to run some local errands and I wanted to ride my bike. We combined our needs and wants and rode to the drug- and grocery stores in street clothes. Well, sort of. Scott donned his pair of shorts which look like normal shorts but have a padded bike short liner, a t-shirt, and sneakers. I kept on the shirt, camisole, capris, flats, and jewelry I had worn to work. I'm not wild about riding on Sterling Boulevard and don't like riding on sidewalks -- even though it's legal in Virginia -- now that I'm getting more comfortable with riding in traffic, so we took the scenic route through the neighborhood and rode through parking lots to the drug store. I was huffing and puffing from the hills and a little sweaty. I realized that I should have brought a rag of some sort for mopping up. Oops. Scott, for some bizarre reason, had removed his trunk bag and all groceries went into the basket on the back of my bike. By the time we got home, I was drenched. I'd soaked through my bra and the waistband of my capris wasn't faring much better. The worst part is that it was the cool part of the day and we'd ridden only three and a half miles round trip.

So, I suppose the moral of this story is that I shouldn't try to be an elegant biker just yet. I'm not cruising down the streets of New York or Seattle or Chicago to get to work. I'm cycling past industrial parks and car dealer lots and a golf course and open fields. Plus, I'm lucky enough to have a shower at my destination and I don't have to wear sweaty clothes all day.

However, none of this is stopping me from browsing Cruiser, Townie, and Euro-style bike manufacturer sites and dreaming of being an elegant biker cruising around a picturesque town in a dress and heels.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Yesterday was my bike fitting at Spokes, Etc. I've had wrist and hand pain, including numbness in my fingers, as well as back pain when cycling for more than 15 miles. The guy gave me pointers for improving my bike posture and assured me that most of my issues are novice cyclist problems and will eventually work themselves out. Scott had suggested a ride before I left, and when I got home he added his bike to the carrier. I didn't want to deal with the Rte 28 overpass and did want to go further west than ridden to date. We jumped on the W&OD at Smiths Switch and rode to a park in the middle of Leesburg (8.61 miles) where we stopped to gulp Gatorade and rest our legs. My body is used to riding for five miles and then stopping for a break mostly because my commute to work is about five miles. My legs and lungs were fussing at me to stop around mile five, but I pushed on through. I was pretty tired by the time we took our break, though.

Once we caught our breaths, I was ready to keep on going west but the weather had other plans and the rainstorm started. We raced over to a gazebo and tried to wait out the storm but Scott saw a huge band of intense storms coming our way. I suggested we ride hard towards Smiths Switch.

Now, everyone who reads my journal knows that I'm incredibly accident prone. Part of the reason I didn't want to deal with Rte 28 was in case it was damp from an earlier shower. I figured me + bike + wet trail = spectacular crash. Happily, despite the pounding -- and at times blinding -- rain we made it through the storm unscathed by asphalt. I was grateful for the deep brim on my new helmet because it did a fairly good job of keeping the worst of the rain drops off my glasses. I was also grateful for the light jacket I stow in my seat bag; it did not keep me dry, but it did keep me warm. We exited the rain just before Belmont Ridge Road and rode a little easier (and a little more slowly) back to the truck. Scott suggested we go to his gym and let the hot tub work out our sore muscles, but I was simply too tired. Plus, I just wanted to be dry.

I'm a little concerned about the thirty mile ride. My longest ride to date is just over twenty miles. I may have to drop down to the 25 miler, but I want to aim for 30. Two weeks to go...