Cycling Behavior and My Dog: The Connection

On Sunday morning, I took my dog to the local school yard where we met up with a neighbor and his canine friend.  The dogs like playing together and we often let them run free for a while and chase a tennis ball which we throw with a device that looks like it came off a Jai Alai court.  My neighbor and I marveled at the energy of the dogs.  They simply wouldn’t quit chasing the ball no matter how hard they had worked.  I recalled some piece of trivia I once read or heard that sometimes a dog will work himself to death in these situations.  They don’t have the sense to take a break when they’re near exhaustion.  Silly dogs, I thought, this is why humans rule the Earth and you don’t.  We have enough sense to stop ourselves before we die playing a game of fetch.

Then I went for a bike ride and proved that we are not so far up the evolutionary ladder as I assumed.

My goal for the ride was to simply log some miles before next weekend’s Great Pumpkin Ride and check out a few roads that I have not yet been down.  The list of roads I have yet to visit is ever shrinking and I intended to check three of them off my list: Fleetwood Drive, Flory Road, and the eastern portion of Valley View Road.  The weather was nice and the sun was shining.  When I hit the Occoquan River at Mile 11, I checked my average pace and was very surprised to see it was 17.0 mph.

17.0 mph is pretty darn fast for me, especially considering that the first part of this route is mostly uphill.  My personal best pace for a ride over 30 miles was 16.3 mph.  There was plenty of flat land ahead of me and I could build on my initial success.  Lord only knew just how fast I could go!  Throwing caution to the wind and with the same sort of thoughtfulness routinely displayed by my Golden Retriever, I decided to go for it.

Westward on Fleetwood Drive I went, onto six miles of my favorite roads in the area.  They’re flat, straight, and virtually without cars.  I kept my pace around 20 mph.  I could have done a tick more, but this ride still had 30 miles to go and I didn’t want to use up all my energy.  As I swung back onto Aden Road and enjoyed the Church Fall Festival Display ( complete with “Welcome to the Holy Land” colorfully painted on plywood placards resting on hay bales) my Garmin GPS informed me my average pace was now at 17.7 mph.

I zipped past Nokesville Community Park and turned onto Parkgate Drive.  I rolled steadily past farms.  I was feeling really strong.  The sun was shining.  There were bugs in my face.  I rode through small clouds of chaff from nearby farms and the stuff got all over me.  Everything was great!  I turned onto the Eastern (unexplored) portion of Fleetwood Drive and checked my pace – 18.0 mph after 22 miles.

This was just crazy.  I’ve never held such a stratospheric pace after such a distance.  And the ground ahead was fairly flat for another six miles.  Then I would face over 10 miles of uphill grades on Bristow Road to get home.  I grabbed a Multi-Grain Marathon Bar (which was delicious – thanks, Cathy!) and refueled while pedaling.  I decided I wouldn’t have a break on this ride.  This would be approximately 45 miles without a break.  I’ve never gone that far without stopping before.

And nothing could possibly be amiss about any of this, could there?

I hit the Eastern portion of Valley View Drive and fatigue set in.  I still felt strong, but the end of my endurance was now in sight.  It was just a matter of hanging on now.  I had no hopes of holding the 18.0 mph pace through 10 miles of hills, but the personal best mark of 16.3 was well in my sites.

I hit the hills at Brentsville and pushed through them in good form.  I did dismount ever-s0-briefly to take the mandatory picture at a historical marker and I was once again on my way.  I was feeling drained but I continued to make good progress.  I came out of the hills with six miles to go and hammered it as hard as I could.  I finished with a pace of 17.0 mph, a very significant increase over my previous best, which I sent on a ride 13 miles shorter than the one I just completed.

I then put away my bike, stretched, showered, ate some protein and began to feel terrible.  I slept a bit, drew a bit of a fever, and generally laid about the house not being much use to anyone.  At one point, my dog walked up to me and gave me a look which seemed to say, “Look who the dope is now!” 

And I have to admit, my dog had a point.

In any event, I woke up this morning feeling much better.  The chronic knee pain I’ve been experiencing for 6 weeks is largely gone, thanks either to a lowered seat or improved stretching or both.  I’m looking forward to the Great Pumpkin Ride on Saturday.  Although I may be able to ride it straight through, I have every intention of stopping at some rest areas!

Virginia Historical Marker Segment.  Here’s today’s marker, taken outside Brentsville.  There are a couple of interesting tidbits here.  First there is a cautionary tale about backing sides in a revolution:  choose the wrong one and you’ll find your land taken from you and turned into a local village.  Second, there is the endearing local custom of referring to the Civil War by its lengthier, Confederate, name – even if it means using twice as many characters on a sign clearly pressed for space!

click for details

By the way, if you want to check out my growing collection of these markers, click on the “Historical Markers” folder to the right of the screen.

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