Monday, June 04, 2012

2012 National Capital Area Tour de Cure

Long story, short: I rode just over 55 miles, raised $1,225 with the help of many generous donors, and had a pretty good time.

The people for whom I rode.

Long story, long: I picked up my ride packet Saturday afternoon and was told that this constituted "check in" and I could hit the trail any time during the half century start window (7a-8a). With that knowledge, I altered my ride plan just a bit. Originally, I was going to ride from home to Reston, ride the Tour route, and then ride back home from Reston. That would have put me somewhere around 65 miles for the day and was way outside of my comfort zone. I did ride the Tour's 54 mile route; I just started and ended elsewhere than the "official" points.

The tropical print jersey was a tribute to a friend who died in March.
After breakfasting and dousing myself in sunscreen, I was ready for the Tour. The air temperature was in the upper 50s Fahrenheit and the mix of sun and breeze felt just about perfect. The W&OD trail looked pretty open at 7:30. I saw only a few blue/50mi folks but lots of green/107mi and yellow/81mi folks flew past me as I settled in to a comfortable pace. I passed Rest Stop #1 at Ashburn Road/Carolina Brothers BBQ in almost no time at all. As I passed the Spokes, Etc tent, I recognized Nate -- he introduced me to the Dolce at the Vienna shop -- and called out hello. Surprisingly, he recognized me/my voice and told me that my bike looked sweet. I grinned, waved, and continued on to Leesburg.

Somewhere along the way I hit a squirrel. I rode up between pedestrians on either side of the trail and a squirrel darted out. He froze, I dodged, he ran into my dodge, and we both chose poorly. I think I got his tail because there was a solid thudthud under my tires after my "Crap! Crap! Crap!" and before my "AUGH!" I don't know what, if anything, the peds thought about the collision. I'm pretty sure the squirrel was mostly okay. It wasn't dead, anyway.

Ashburn Road rest stop.
Rest Stop #2 at Raflo Park was full of cyclists and cheering volunteers. I munched on half a PB&J, noshed half a banana, refilled my water bottle, and continued west to Purcellville. Shortly after leaving Leesburg, a non-Tour cyclist asked me about the routes. He thought it'd be fun to follow the horse country route when it left the trail and bid me good luck. And then I began that hateful climb up Clarks Gap.

After crossing Leesburg Pike for the second time, the blue, yellow, and green routes left the W&OD for the open road of Simpson Circle and Meadowlark Drive. The climb up Meadowlark was almost like that huge horrific climb during the Backroads Century. My momentum slowed and slowed until I feared that I'd lose my balance so I unclipped, hopped off, and walked Circe to the top of the hill. That walk was totally worth the 35mph descent on the other side. WHOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!

I arrived at Rest Stop #3 in Purcellville at 9:15am and found it stocked with PB&Js, energy bars of all types, water, Gatorade, oranges, bananas, band-aids, and sunscreen. I posted an update to Facebook, phoned Scott, and rested for twenty minutes or so in the shade of a large hydrangea bush. At this point, I was 24 miles in and felt surprisingly good. Food and hydration didn't seem to be a problem and the mild temperature was a godsend.
Carolina Brothers BBQ.
The ride back to Ashburn was blessedly downhill and I coasted and sang most of the way to Rest Stop #1. I pulled up to the Spokes, Etc, tent to show off Circe's flame job to Nate. He thought that was pretty crazy., folks. I also gave Scott a five mile warning so he had time to get to the W&OD and ride up to Reston with me. East of this rest stop, the trail got extremely crowded as the longer distance riders started mingling with the 33-milers and general trail traffic. Side by side roller bladers: I feel about them the way that most drivers who comment to online fora feel about cyclists. I saw a lot of 33mi folks pushing their bikes up the 20-hate bridge. Bless their hearts, it wasn't that long ago that I was right there with them.

Scott joined me, GoPro-enabled, outside our neighborhood and I whined to him about how hot, sweaty, tired, and numb I was. Yes, the last two paragraphs were about mild temperature and coasting downhill. However, the tree cover ends east of Leesburg and the sun had been baking me for a good ten miles. The trail's elevation starts rising at Ashburn and that adds to the fun. But there were only five more uphill miles to go until the finish line and with someone I could natter at, my spirits bubbled back up.

The detour through Herndon to avoid the Herndon Festival was harrowing, but we'd navigated through it Saturday morning and we weren't as surprised as other Tour riders. The W&OD continued getting more and more crowded the closer we got to Reston and then we were at the finish line where yellow-shirted volunteers waved pompons, shook clappers, rang cowbells, whooped and hollered. One girl stuck out a red foam hand and I gave her a high five as I rode past. Scott and I pulled to a stop just past the Town Center fountain and spotted Bob and Laura (who had just completed the 33 mile route). Tamara, who volunteered with the media squad as a finish line photographer, had spotted me crossing the line and found our little group clustered on the other side of the Pavilion. I snagged some pork barbecue, half an orange, and a can of ginger ale for my post ride meal and nommed my way back to life as we waited for Barb to arrive from the fun ride route.

Our little sub team: Laura, Barb, and me.
After a few texts and a phone call, Barb let us know that she was almost to the finish line. We all ran over to holler and cheer her on. I think she was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing, but in a good way. After group photos, hugs, and congratulations all around everybody but Scott and me took off for their respective homes. My raising over $1,000 meant that I was a "Champion" and would be given a medal. I've never gotten a medal for any kind of sporting event and gosh darn it, I was sticking around for that medal ceremony. We didn't get a "ceremony" so much as a group photo and then we stood in line to receive our medals. But I'm cool with that.

We are the Champions.... weeeeeee are the chaaaampiooooons.
After donning my medal and remounting Circe -- ow, my hands; ow, my thighs; ow, my [redacted] -- we made a bee-line for Red Velvet Cupcakery for celebratory cupcakes which Scott gallantly transported in his trunk bag. We passed several century riders and a half-century girl -- I'd complimented her wicker basket earlier, she congratulated me on the medal this pass -- and I hollered at Herndon Festival patrons not to take up both lanes of the trail. (Not my best moment, but they were taking up both lanes and wouldn't move when I called "on your left" or "bicycle approaching" or "HELLO" and I was tired and cranky.) But we eventually made it home and I ended the day with 55.8 miles in 4h 09m, two cupcakes, lots of chocolate milk, a good hot shower, a nap, a medal, and quite a bit of pride, if I'm completely honest with you and with myself.



  1. Congratulations!!!!! You made it through - and not only "through" but you did great and (as it sounds) you enjoyed a great portion of the ride. The hills are always my downfall on long (and short) rides. I'm a fairly competitive person (at least in my mind, even if my body doesn't cooperate), so when I can't get up as fast as I want, it frustrates me to no end. It sounds as though you took it all in stride and enjoyed the downhill on the other side. I will have to channel your calmness about it all the next time I'm faced with a long uphill climb.

    I don't blame you for sticking around for the pseudo-ceremony. It's a big deal and you should be incredibly proud of yourself. I enjoyed seeing the last shot of you with the medal around your neck too. :O)

    Somewhere along the way I hit a squirrel. I rode up between pedestrians on either side of the trail and a squirrel darted out. He froze, I dodged, he ran into my dodge, and we both chose poorly. I think I got his tail because there was a solid thudthud under my tires after my "Crap! Crap! Crap!" and before my "AUGH!" I don't know what, if anything, the peds thought about the collision. I'm pretty sure the squirrel was mostly okay. It wasn't dead, anyway.
    I have experienced this (well, fortunately, not the running over part - yet). The squirrels seem to be a little crazy some days and I am waiting for the day that it turns bad (mental note: perhaps a helmet would be good for me after all). One morning I was riding and there were two much faster cyclists coming from the opposite direction and we were arriving simultaneously to a short and narrow wooden bridge. This squirrel was right in the middle of the bridge and couldn't figure out where to go. I actually rang my bell (I think the other cyclists thought I was insane), and it seemed to help. At first he froze, but then he took off to the side of the bridge and ran directly underneath. I've had a few very, very close calls though. I always thought they were fairly good about moving, but perhaps I am incorrect in that assumption as I've had a lot of near misses lately with them. I'm glad that nothing disastrous happened to you while riding, and hopefully the squirrel survived relatively unscathed.

    Congrats again on a great ride! Hopefully, you recover quickly and are out riding again soon.

  2. Thanks, G.E.! I'm already looking forward to participating in the Tour again next year and maybe even increasing my mileage. I'll need lots of hill training, though, as the >50 routes are extremely hilly. But I'm not too proud to walk if need be. :)

    My husband thought that my running over a squirrel was the funniest thing ever. When he told his coworker, the coworker asked if I could come ride my bike through his attic. Heh.

    1. Our local over 50 mile rides are very similar, and it is also (at least partially) why I have avoided them. Unfortunately, they seem to put the hills toward the end of the ride when I'm tired and I have enough trouble getting up them without hitting exhaustion before I even arrive to the climb. I see nothing wrong with walking up a hill though.

      the coworker asked if I could come ride my bike through his attic I can't help but giggle. :O)

  3. Congratulations....Sounds like a really super ride...!!
    A great post of your event.


  4. Nice post! And a super picture of you and the medal at the end, too. Got a chuckle about the squirrel. What is it with squirrels anyway? Are they genetically suicidal? I think there are two living near my house that have permanent tire tread tattoos under their fur!

    1. Scott's always getting buzzed by groundhogs and I usually have to dodge rabbits or deer; those squirrels, though... they're all kinds of crazy! "Tire tread tattoos"... heeheehee!

  5. You get another medal for "Best Nonstandard Hazard Encounter". Good for you, great ride, great cause and great persevering as the ride got longer and the sun got hotter.

    1. I nearly spat out my drink with laughter when I read this response earlier today. :)