Reston Ride

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I’ve been cycling long enough to have “enjoyed” several rides in heavy rain.  The 2011 Vasaloppet comes to mind, with 6 hours in an early March downpour adding to my fun.  The 2011 Reston Century was the only ride where I pondered my mortality as lightning streaked across the sky during a deluge of biblical proportions.  To that list I will add the 2012 Reston Century.

Several weeks ago, The Diesel casually mentioned that if there were any organized rides coming up that would be a good fit for her, she would like to participate.  I sprinted to my computer and quickly determined that the Reston Century would be a good candidate.  It was early enough that it wouldn’t conflict with her marathon training, well supported with a nice after party in the Reston Town Center, and a fair amount of the ride would be on the W&OD Trail, meaning she could minimize the sort of street riding that she is uncomfortable with.  It rained buckets last year when I rode the century route, but what are the odds it would happen again?

The Diesel was initially concerned with my proposal.  Believing the only route was 100 miles, she pointed out in the sort of exasperated voice that only a spouse can properly use that she was nowhere near ready to tackle that sort of distance.  When I calmly pointed out that the ride organizers also offered 64 and 33 mile routes, she demurred and was ready to sign up for the 33 miler, which would be almost ten miles further than she had ever gone before.

It rained a great deal on Saturday.  It rained through the night and was still raining in spurts when we arose on Sunday morning.  We drove through periods of drizzle on the trip to Reston and hoped that would be the worst of things while strongly suspecting that it would not.  We parked in one of Reston Town Center’s garages and readied the bikes for the trip.  Check in was a breeze – simply show your wrist band, grab a cue sheet and go.  Some riders had left as early as 6:30 in the morning.  I wanted to time our trip so we arrived for the 12:30 after party and thus we departed shortly after 9:00.

Immediately, it started to drizzle.  Then it started to rain.  Then it started to rain very hard.

My wife keeps the mood light while seeking shelter under a bridge with a bearded fellow

By Mile 4, the rain was coming in torrents.  I told The Diesel to say, “I’m having fun.  I’m having fun” repeatedly until she was actually having fun.  After several minutes of this, we sought shelter under a bridge and watched one rider scurry back to the start, having given up.  This was a major morale check for my wife and I.  We could easily have turned around and called it a day.  Others were doing it, so we wouldn’t be alone in our decision.

After the rain eased, we pressed on.  Eventually it stopped entirely.  Later, The Diesel would ask me incredulously, “Did you really think I was going to turn back?”  She is not in the habit of not finishing what she starts, even if it involves being drenched for an hour or three.

We pedaled westward on the path for another six miles.  I regaled my wife with stories about how this was once a railroad line that carried coal, and later commuters, to Washington, DC.  Many of the old stations (with names

W&OD Trail. This is the view for 10 miles, interspersed with road crossings and historical markers

like Herndon, Sterling, and Smith’s Switch) are preserved and are now small museums or shops with a historical marker describing their significance.  She politely feigned interest.  She was more interested in the types of houses we passed along the trail (town homes all the way out here?!).  At Mile 10, we pulled into a rest stop and sampled some of the many snacks that were on hand.  A helpful volunteer also described the twelve-mile loop we were going to embark on.  I asked him if the turns were marked and he said they were, but the chalk may be wearing off.  “Chalk?!” I replied, “on a day like this?”  He assured me the “chalk-paint” was still there.  It was just a bit difficult to see in the rain.  The Diesel had the cue sheet tucked into the clear panel on the top of her touring bag.  It was getting soggy despite the protection, but it was still legible.  We pressed on.

Within two hundred yards, the heavens opened once again.  A true gulley-washer ensued as we trudged northward on Ashburn Road.  I am not sure if my wife was still saying, “I’m having fun” to herself as she rode behind me and dodged the rooster tail of spray coming off my rear wheel.  I suspect she wasn’t.  She did appear to be having fun as the small river of runoff water we were plowing through was high enough to splash water onto our lower legs.  That was encouraging.  She certainly never came close to quitting, and gamefully shouted out navigational instructions despite being terrified of riding on a road in the pouring rain.

Action shot at the intersection of Broadlands Blvd and Clairborne Pkwy

After a couple of miles, the rain abated once again and we set about enjoying the loop around Ashburn.  Dating from Colonial times, Ashburn was originally called Farmwell until the early 1800s (we crossed Farmwell Road during our trip).  Nobody is quite sure why the current name was chosen, the leading contender being that when lightning struck an ash tree on the estate of the town’s leading citizen – a U.S. Senator – and the smoldering tree became a tourist attraction for the next several days.  Nowadays it is part of the suburban sprawl of Greater Washington, DC, and is filled with bedroom communities and shopping centers.  We saw the ride SAG wagon at several points and were pleased to see the volunteers valiantly repainting the navigational arrows that were beginning to wash away.

After 12 miles of suburban bliss, we pulled back into the Ashburn rest stop.  My wife was very happy to be off the roads and back on the trail.  A ride volunteer happily offered to fill my water bottle up for me, which has never happened to me before in an organized ride.  I noticed another rider wearing the same West Point cycling jersey I was wearing and learned that he was a fellow grad – Class of 1971.  Small world.

Herndon Station

The sun began to peek out from behind the clouds.  As we cycled back to Reston, we were happy to be mostly dried out.  I noted another group of dark clouds up ahead and my wife and I agreed we could avoid more rain if we just thought positively.

About two miles from the finish, it began to rain.

Fortunately, the rain wasn’t severe and we pulled into the Reston Town Center (which is happily under a glass roof) in fine form.  We presented ourselves to the volunteers at the information booth and picked up our race tee-shirt AND insulated water bottle.  I’ve always wanted an insulated water bottle and have been too cheap to buy one.  But I have one now and am looking forward to putting it to use.   My wife then changed clothes and waited for lunch to be served.  I took off my wet jersey and shoes, put on my new tee-shirt and some flip-flops, and called it good.

The Diesel enjoying the post ride meal and proving she can take a photo without making a silly face.

I asked my wife for her thoughts on the ride and she gave me the following statement.  “It was cool.”  Her biggest challenge was overcoming significant back pain which accompanies most of her rides.  I had lowered her seat on the recommendation of a Virginia Beach bike mechanic and that seemed to help a bit.  Otherwise, she was in great shape and was surprised at how she didn’t feel wore out like she does after most of her long runs.  She did experience two normal post-ride symptoms: a healthy appetite and a desire to sleep.  She solved the first problem at the after party and took care of the second issue on the car ride home.

And thus concluded the 33 mile ride of 2012 Reston Century.  I was very happy with the race volunteers who seemed to be doing all that could possibly be done to make the event a success.  The tee-shirt and water bottle are nice and the after party was great.  However, what I will remember most about this ride is my wife and her personal best under terrible conditions.  As she received her tee-shirt, I said, “You definitely earned that one!”

Now it’s back to running for The Diesel with a marathon looming in the not-too-distant future.  As for myself, a 200 km brevet over the mountains between Gettysburg and Sharpsburg is two weeks away.  This will probably be the toughest ride I’ve attempted to date.  I can’t imagine anything going wrong, so it should be good times!

Soaking wet and pleased with achieving our goal


19 thoughts on “Reston Ride

  1. First of all, that woman is FAR too lovely to be riding around in the rain with the likes of you.

    Second, I respect and admire you far too much to ever wish poor weather (or worse) on you or any of your rides, but dang if it doesn’t make for some entertaining blog posts!

    Third, congrats to both of you on not giving up and finishing it together. Well done. And HUGE I’m-in-awe congrats to The Diesel for still having the stones to navigate during such horrible and frightful conditions. She is truly Army Strong.

    Fourth, I thought about you several times today as I embarked on my first ever “rain ride” – meaning, knowingly going out and riding in the rain – as opposed to getting caught out in the rain. As I looked outside at the wet streets and showers coming down, I thought “Steve would do it” – and so I put on my rain gear and rode 28 wet miles. It wasn’t bad, though I was lucky not to ever have anything more than steady showers – no gulley-washer.

    Fifth… 200K??? Holy Madone, Batman! I cannot wait for that ride report!

    • Fizz, I totally agree with 1 and 3. I’m a lucky guy. As for 2, drama definitely makes for a better story (but you would already know that!) and weather definitely adds drama. You give me too much credit in #4 – I probably would wuss out on any sort of training ride in the rain. I only don’t give in when I’ve signed up for an event! As for the the 200K, it will be my second one this year, although this will be much tougher than the relatively flat one I did in May. I doubt it is anything significant for a climber such as yourself, but for this Flatlander it will be a big deal!

  2. Perhaps you could issue bulletins of when you are going to ride in an organised event in the interests of the public so that they can plan ahead to stay indoors and avoid the terrible weather.

    I think that if I told Mrs Tootlepedal to say that she was enjoying herself while cycling in pouring rain, I might wake up in hospital. Either your wife is a saint or you have a winning way with you. Or possibly both, of course.

    That’s a very fetching picture of her (and the bearded fellow too.)

    She’ll come to realise that cycling is much better than running in the course of time. I didn’t think so when I was young either.

    Good post. Thank you.

    • I lean toward the sainthood theory, myself. Thanks for the kind comments and time will tell if she sees the wisdom in your words about cycling. For now, at least, she is a runner who cycles in her spare time and I am a cyclist who runs in his spare time.

    • Praise from you re: beards is high praise indeed! I’m not sure how hard the climbs will be. I’m guessing about 8,000 feet of total climbing. You’ve done better several times, but I am not up to your level. I’m sure it will be a great experience for me!

  3. Don’t you know that facial hair increases wind resistance? 😉 I thought that sort of thing was only for mountain bikers and scruffy commuting types.

    But,seriously, congrats to both of you for sticking out to the finish. The worst trips always make the best stories.

    • So THAT’s why I felt so slow – it was the beard! You’re absolutely right about terrible trips. Who wants to hear that everything was just lovely? That only gets you so far as a story teller.

  4. Good post, for a good ride. At the rate you are lucky enough to enjoy rainy rides, how about adding to that mantra, I’m having fun, get great rain gear…I’m having fun, get great ra….

    And it’s good to read, after so many of your other experiences, that you had a well-organized ride.

    • After three years my equipment and wardrobe collection is substantial, but there is always something else to buy, isn’t there?

      A well-supported ride is something that I will no longer take for granted. My 200K in two weeks is unsupported, so I’ll be counting on myself and whatever DC Randonneur who may take pity upon me.

  5. Steve,

    I shared your pain as I got caught in the rain at The Reston Century. Like Diesel, this ride was the most I’ve ever ridden, as this is my first year cycling seriously. Man was it tough out there. Also the cue sheets were crap, but that’s a complaint for another day. The t-shirt was nice and so was the water bottle. Congrats on completing the ride and kudos on the epic beard!

    • Nicely done! No matter how long you’ve been cycling, 33 miles is a serious distance and to reach that plateau on such a nasty day is quite an achievement. FYI, I found the cue sheet to be acceptable. My wife was also confused by the instructions, shouting things to me through the rain like, “What does TI mean?” but once you get the hang of the format, they’re quite useful. The other key is to have a place where you can store them and still refer to them regularly – some sort of water-proof case. As you probably would guess, they make these in all shapes and sizes.

  6. Hey… I recognized that bridge underpass and intersection and caboose. 🙂 I’m glad to hear that y’all enjoyed the Reston ride. Will you two be coming out for the Backroads Century?

    • Hi, Meanie. I’m sorry to say the Backroads Century will pass us by this year. My final organized ride will be a 200K brevet with the DC Randonneurs and my wife is busily focused on training for the Marine Corps Marathon. Maybe next year!

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