After yesterday’s shenanigans, I took to the roads to ride the Reston Century, an event that I have never done before. Once again the weather could not have been better. And the ride started with about 30 miles of relatively flat, traffic-free roads that were free of potholes and debris. As expected my legs were dead but this forgiving start gave them new life.
Until we turned onto Woodburn Road outside of Leesville VA. The Reston Bicycling Club has a witty sign maker. They posted a road warning side (black text inside a yellow diamond) that said “Trending Higher.” I cracked up. Then I died. The road trended higher forever. Constant effort. Control your breathing. Stay loose on the handlebars. Wish you had brought a bike with granny gears rather than the one missing its second easiest gear. Ugh.
I made it and within a minute of soft pedaling my heart and respiratory rates came down from the red zone. More hills followed. Pretty farms. McMansions in the woods. Puffy clouds overhead. Gentle breezes. La di da. You’d never know my legs were toast.
The decision point came at 42 miles, wimp out and ride back to the start for a 60+ mile day or go for broke and ride the full 100 miles. Being a bear of very little brain, I went for it.
I knew where we were heading. The hilly area north west of Leesburg has several quaint colonial mill towns. Mill towns need fast moving water. Water moves fastest at the bottom of hills. Are you seeing where I am going with this?
We followed Hillsboro Road to Hillsboro, the first of the colonial era towns. Then afetr a brief and somewhat scary tenth of a mile on VA 9, a death trap for all travelers, we turned onto Mountain Road. I was expecting to die from climbing but instead Mountain Road turned out to be a road with a view of the mountain to the west.
We rode eastward. Good for us, no? Well, no. We descended at high speed into Taylorstown, one of those mill towns. What goes down must go up and damned if we didn’t. It was a truly brutal climb. I had nothing in my legs. People were walking. I refused. At one point I was going 3 mile per hour. My knees were on fire. My respiratory rate was waaay too high. I looked at the ground in front of me and persisted. Had I been able to get to it, I should have taken a hit of albuterol because nothing adds to the fun quite like asthma.
I made it to the top and recovered again within a minute. A very fit woman with long wavy gray hair was waiting for some walking friendsby the side of the road. She said “That’s the last hard one.”
Then we descended into Stumptown. Fast. I hit 42 miles per hour and I could easily have pushed it higher. For some silly reason I didn’t want to die so I feathered my brakes. The climb out of Stumptown made me curse my birth. As my mamma would say, Jesus Mary and Joseph. (I was thinking more along the lines of “Fuck me!”)
The gray haired woman was waiting near the top. “I thought you said there weren’t any more?” “Sorry. I forgot about this one.” Lady, I will go to my grave remembering “this one.”
On we road. My legs were burnt toast. Somehow they continued to push the pedals. Perhaps it was the knowledge that the last 20 miles of this ordeal were on the W&OD Trail, which is downhill for most of the way.
I stopped at the last rest stop. Ate some junk including a snow cone (shaved ice with sugary juice poured on it). We were right next to the trail but did we go on it? Noooo. First we had to do two more hills. Knowing these were the last two made them much easier. And truth be told, they were not in the same category of difficulty as earlier ones.
Finally. we hit the trail. With fresh legs I can easily cruise the trail from here at 20 miles per hour. Today, I had to settle for 16. For ten miles. Then my legs basically started calling me vulgar names and refused to propel me. I threatened them with no post-ride pasta and they quit their protest. It was a pathetic slog to the finish though. Even the walkers from the hills of death passed me.
I think I may have been the lanterne rouge. (The last finisher.) I got my t-shirt. And sat down to eat some pasta and salad. People started folding up the chairs and tables in the outdoor space we were in. Fortunately, my mouth still function. I snarfed my food and began to leave. I met Steve O and Erin. I recognized Steve O because we was wearing a Nats cycling cap. I’ve met Erin twice before. She lives less than a mile from my house. And my brain could not make the connection. It was the second facial recognition failure of the day. At a rest stop, I parked my bike and a cyclists said hello, gave me his name, shook my hand, and told me how much he enjoys the blog. I know we’ve met before. But my fusiform gyrus locked up once again. Sorry.
I deliberately did not use my phone to Instagram pictures of the ride. I treated this as work and I wanted to be focused on the task. Also, you can’t take pictures when your lungs and knees are working beyond their rated capacity.
Late in the ride I took a few pictures with my point and shoot camera. In Waterford, one of the colonial era mill towns, the road way had been milled. (Remarkably this was one of the only bad road surfaces for the entire ride. Many of the country roads we were on had recently been paved.) When I hit the bump at the end of the milling my camera bounced out on the road. A minivan came up behind me. I motioned for the driver to veer to the left and she drove so that her tires missed the camera. It’s supposed to be shock proof. And, thankfully, it is!
I have finished my weekend of torture.
Torture postscript: My family and I went out to dinner. During after dinner conversation, I had a massive muscle cramp in my right hamstring. I was splayed out in a booth going “Ow. Ow. Ow.” After about five minutes of pain (and laughter), I started sipping water and breathing rhythmically and the muscle relaxed.