Now, where was I?
Oh yes – just heading back after a lovely sandwich and Mountain Dew at the Spotsylvania 7-11. Did I mention I had a slight breeze at my back all the way down from Bristow?
It was in my face now.
Nothing serious, mind you. It was only 5-10 mph and only as annoying as a dripping faucet in the middle of the night – always there, always bugging you, but nothing that you can’t deal with. Stupid wind. It would be my companion for the next 60 miles.
I left the 7-11 within a few moments of two other cyclists. I quickly learned they weren’t together as one dropped the other. Then the slower one dropped me. We each made our way over flat roads to Chancellorsville Battlefield and another information control. As I was about to leave, another group of three riders came up and kindly (if unknowingly) posed for the below picture.
With the sightseeing officially over, all that remained was the ride home. My first task was to pedal through 13 miles of hilly boredom known as Elys Ford Road. Or maybe it’s Eleys Ford Road; nobody seems to know for sure what the correct spelling is. I saw both versions on signposts and I saw an Eleys Baptist Church. Finally, I saw a gravestone in a cemetery with a large Eleys engraved upon it. It would seem the Eleys faction has a stronger claim. This road has almost nothing to see and only the tiny town of Richardsville to pass through for entertainment. On my previous two trips down this road, the hills and boredom sapped my strength. I was better prepared this time and paced myself.
There is a steep descent on this road where I always make great speeds. In fact, my personal best speed of 46.0 mph was set on this stretch and I once again made a run at the record. I topped out at 44.7 mph. Stupid headwind.
Eventually I reached the turning point of Eleys/Elys Ford Road and began the descent to the Rappahannock River. I was thinking about how I felt better than I did at this point last year when my leg began to cramp. Not good. Not good at all.
I pedaled to the bridge on one leg and dismounted to stretch and grab some energy food. I’m not sure what caused the cramping. It is either a nutrition issue or the fact that my longest ride of the year was 37 miles and I was currently at Mile 98. Perhaps it was both, but I have decided I need to eat a little more at these rest stops. I see other riders getting by with small sandwiches and fruit, but these riders tend to weigh about 30-50 pounds less than me. I’m burning more calories than they are and need to take in more to compensate. Some folks take the time to have a sit down meal at a local restaurant. I’m thinking that’s the way to go when I tackle the 300K next month.
I arrived at the bridge five minutes behind last year’s pace and took another five minutes stretching, eating some shot blocks, and taking photos. I now needed to travel the remaining 30 miles ten minutes faster than I did last year just to equal my time. Things were becoming desperate. But maybe I could keep my cramps under control. Maybe my lighter weight would help. Maybe I could shave some time by being quick at the final control point. Maybe there was still a chance.
So off I went, climbing a steep hill out of the river valley and continuing my ride into the slight breeze. In ten miles, I reached the final control point of the day – a humble convenience store at a lonely crossroads in Fauquier County. Ed and Mary were there, enjoying a leisurely break with several other riders. I learned that they also took a lengthier lunch break at a proper restaurant. Ed and Mary are extremely experienced randonneurs having completed the legendary 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris ride amongst many other feats. Maybe I should learn from them.
On this day, I was not in a learning mood and politely declined their friendly invitation to sit and relax with them. I had less than 80 minutes to complete the final 20 miles. When fresh, I could easily do that but I will remind you, Dear Reader, that I had logged 108 miles at this point and any “freshness” that I once had was long since gone. I pushed hard for the first ten miles on a slight downhill but blew a gasket as I turned onto Hazelwood Road. I could hear the immortal cycling announcer, Phil Liggett, in my mind:
“Oh dear, it certainly looks as if Martin has cracked. So close for the American, yet so far.”
Having given up my chase, I sat up and spun my way home. Amazingly, Ed and Mary’s group reeled me in only a couple of miles later. Apparently, I wasn’t going nearly as fast as I thought I was. It was also apparent what a well-rested set of legs can do and the pace a group of cyclists can do that a soloist cannot. As always, they were very cheerful. Mary even managed to take an exceedingly rare photo of your author riding a bicycle. This is how I looked in their rear view mirrors.
I put forth an honest, if not herculean, effort and made it back to the Carribou Coffee Shop with a final time of 9:49, nine minutes slower than last year. As always, I was greeted with clapping and offered congratulations by the riders who finished before me. Pizza, soda, fruit and other goodies were laid out and I was grateful to partake. I signed my official control sheet and turned it in. I chatted briefly with the group and decided I needed to be on my way home.
And thus ended 2013’s running of the Wilderness 200k Brevet. The start at freezing temperatures was the coldest of my humble career but the day turned out to be quite pleasant. I was disappointed in my finish time and I had plenty to think about on my way home. I shall share my poignant observations with you in my next post!