I haven’t posted much of late; how many different ways can you say, “Got up at 5 am, got out on the bike, went to Starbucks, got a mocha (and sometimes breakfast), rode some more, came back home, showered up, went to work?” Exactly.
I do love my pre-dawn rides, though, predictable and boring as they may be. And I have to say that riding 6 out of 7 days, fast, does a lot for your speed. I’ve gotten significantly faster over the last month or so: my average pace is now in the high 14s, approaching 15. If you're a guy, that may not be much. But for a female in her 50s, that's no small potatoes.
And today, I set a PR for all time, for a ride in Lancaster County. Not bad for an old chick. More about that later.
It was just me, this weekend -- Jeff’s off playing in the Baltimore Mid-Atlantic Regional (bridge tournament, stuff that whizzes over my head). I haven’t done any organized rides since the Delaware Double-Cross, and there were two rides this weekend I wanted to do. So I did ‘em, completely solo, and had a grand ol’ time.
Being a natural-born klutz, though, (believe me when I say that my middle initial “G“ does not stand for “Grace”), I managed on Friday evening to nearly derail my entire planned riding weekend. Here’s what happened: I was fixing dinner while absently listening to a work conference call on my speaker phone. While cleaning a (very sharp) chef’s knife with a too-small sponge, I accidentally sliced open flap of skin on the knuckle of my left index finger. It would not stop oozing, so after half an hour, I hied myself over to the local walk-in clinic, figuring I’d need stitches. Well, they GLUED it back! With surgical glue! It was almost like new, and I could bend my finger normally, with no pain or pulling. (I was admonished that I’d have to keep it uncovered AND be careful not to pull the glue off.) My visions of having to cycle with my finger in a splint (or something equally awkward) evaporated, and I happily returned home and packed the car for my weekend of cycling, sans Jeff.
I’ve never, ever cycled in the Cumberland Valley, so Saturday was my chance. While perusing SCU’s listing of bike events, I’d discovered the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club, and its annual Cumberland Valley Century. The Cumberland Valley is in Washington County, home to Hagerstown and a lot of Civil War history. I elected to do the shortest ride -- 25 miles -- as I was not sure of the hilliness of the terrain, and the next ride up was 65 miles. I’m just not sure my knee’s ready for that distance, after what happened during the Bonkers Metric earlier this year.
I got up really early, fed the cats, and then headed out I-70 to Clear Spring, the ride start. CVCC could not have ordered up a better day. Sunny and cool - almost too cool in the shade. I started the ride with sleeve extenders, in August. Amazing. I shed them not too far into the ride, but was glad to have had them, starting out.
The CV Century is not a large ride. There were maybe a couple hundred cars parked in the field, and I would guess that most of the riders did either the 65 or the 101 miles. But I was happy doing the 25, and let me tell you, I had the road COMPLETELY to myself. Other than one guy passing me early on (he turned off to do the century), I saw no other riders -- none -- until I got to the end. Fortunately, the roads were pretty well-marked, and I had a cue sheet, which I consulted compulsively every mile or so. (Remember, I’m the directionally-challenged rider in the family.) I stopped to take pics, to view roadside shrines (there were several elaborate ones), read roadside markers. Traffic was practically nonexistent. I finished the ride at a decent pace; in the 13s, mostly because there was quite a bit of rough, patchy road (mostly in shaded areas where I couldn’t see it well; why is that, anyway??).
I still have the lousy camera phone, but here are a few pictures:
Washington County has a lot of rocky outcroppings; that's why it's probably more dairy country than farm country:
So utterly peaceful . . .
So udderly bovine:
(By the way; it's fun to mooooo at cows when you pass. They look at you strangely, and their ears twitch. After all, you're probably horrifically mangling their accent. "I am zee French cow, madame, how dare you speak to me in your lousy American dialect?")
Near the end of the ride (mercifully, I don't have to climb that mountain ridge in the distance):
After the ride, I took my time going home. I stopped in downtown Hagerstown for a bit -- found the Square Cup Cafe; sat and read for a while. I also took a short walk around the square, and discovered a couple of restaurants I want to come back and try: The Schmankerl Stube (Hagerstown's famous Bavarian restaurant), and Rhubarb House. Rather than get back on I-70, I took US Route 40 back (it’s pretty linear, so even I can’t get lost), stopping at a couple of my favorite antique malls along the way.
After I got back home, I checked the weather for Sunday. I knew there was a pretty strong prediction of rain, but I really, really, REALLY wanted to go up to Lancaster County and do the LBC's Covered Bridge Metric Century. So, I searched for some good weather news . . . and got it. Weather.com was a little vague on just when it would rain, but accuweather.com’s POP predictor indicated that showers would most likely hit in the early to mid-afternoon. Aha. I figured that if I left Baltimore extremely early, and got there just when registration opened at 7:30, I’d have a good chance of cycling on dry pavement, and perhaps I’d even have a chance to do the full metric. I packed up and headed for Big B, after a large-ish, carb-filled dinner.
<<beep>> <<beep>> <<beep>> Ugh. Getting up at 5 am on a Sunday morning is not usually my idea of fun, but making it to Lancaster by the ride start calls for SACRIFICE! I managed to drag myself out of bed and leave the house about 6:15 am. I zipped up I-83 and turned east onto Route 30, confident that I’d be at the Greenfield Center in no time.
However, a funny thing happened on the way to the ride . . . seems that everyone else had the same idea I did. I sat in a backup on Route 30 for probably 20 minutes, just waiting to get off at the Greenfield Road exit, and then spent maybe another 10 minutes waiting to turn into the Greenfield Corporate Center, park the car, and unload my bike. Geez Louise, I haven’t done the Covered Bridge ride since 2002 . . . guess it’s grown a little, huh? (I later found out that it attracts about 3,000 riders.)
After registering, and deciding on the half-metric in the interest of time and incipient rain, I set off . . . this time surrounded by dozens of other riders. Quite a switch from yesterday! And unlike 5 years ago, when I weighed nearly 170 and was super-slow, I found myself this time in the position of having to pass other riders. A lot of other riders . . . a veritable boatload of other riders. Either these are really slow bikers, or I’ve gotten faster . . . way faster. The only riders passing me were the male mini-pelotons, for the most part. How cool is that?
About 6 miles into the ride, I pressed my Cat Eye computer for my average pace. “14.3?? Huh? And after that big hill, too? Guess those morning Starbucks rides are paying off,” I mused, wondering what was going to slow me down this time. You see, I’ve seen early high numbers before, but they usually get whittled down by ride’s end: hills, headwinds, fatigue.
Not this time, though . . . I got a little help. During the first half of the ride, there was this much younger chick, wearing a Tour de Cure jersey (and gym shorts; bet that was uncomfy), who kept passing me. She’d power past me, and then I’d catch and pass her. She was slightly better than I on the hills -- but only because she was working a lot harder . . . she was using way too much upper body motion; pure wasted energy. And I was easily faster than her on the flats and downhill, while not working nearly as hard.
I think my passing her actually was pissing her off , and after a while, it got to be a silent game. I finally called it by deliberately pulling over (while I was ahead) to flip my cue sheet. She got past me, but then I started gaining on her again. I would have caught up, in fact, except for a little incident involving cars that had to slam to a stop behind a clot of riders (causing me to slam to a stop as well, on a 5%+ grade). I had dismount and manually spin my rear wheel while gearing down, before I could get started again. (And as I did so, I discovered I was actually standing on a pancaked squirrel . . . oh, double-gross. The things you don‘t notice at first . . .)
I have to thank her, though, because she pushed me hard enough that I set a new personal speed record for ANY Lancaster County ride I have EVER done: I finished the 30 miles at an average pace of 14.8. And I probably could have made 15, except for the hill incident and a few slow clumps of pedalers. I felt so incredibly strong today, it was almost scary. And after the ride was over, I went back through my ride records. I found only one Lancaster County ride that was anywhere close, and it was, I think, a 14 pace.
I’m not getting older; I’m getting faster.
After I got back to the starting point, I partook of the usual apres-ride Turkey Hill ice cream (vanilla bean; no chocolate this year), and also had a banana and a soft pretzel. I was pleased to see that the Lancaster Bicycling Club is a Floyd Landis supporter:
Incidentally, the ride went right through Farmersville, Floyd's home town, where at a water stop Floyd supporters had set up a "home town hero" booth.
Crowd scene (quite different than my return to the CVCC starting point; I was the only rider there):
I wandered around for a bit, visiting the various vendor booths (oh, that Orbea Orca!), and then I packed my bike up again and went off to the Route 30 Starbucks, to change, grab a mocha, and sit and read a while. (I noticed it started to rain in earnest around 1:30 or so; thank you, accuweather! You got it exactly right.) Then I headed off again to Baltimore. Got caught in an I-95 backup (mental note: next time, take I-83 again; less traffic) and took 2 hours to get home. Oh, well.
Jeff wrapped his highly successful bridge tournament up about 5:30 (he got something like 30 gold points) and we headed off to Helen’s to celebrate our respectively kick-ass weekends. Have you ever had bacon risotto? Yummmmmm . . . .