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Monday, September 13, 2010

Seneca Rocks WV 400K

This brevet would have to rank as one of the toughest rides I have done. I rarely get off and walk, but on the return trip to Front Royal VA from Seneca Rocks WV, walking up some of the steeper climbs was a regular occurrence. Memories of my first (unsuccessful) attempt at the Assault on Mt Mitchell haunted me, yet I never entertained the idea of quitting. What was I going to do on Wolf Gap at 1 a.m. with no cell coverage - ask a bear for some help? Dismounting and walking can actually relieve stress, and moving forward at 2 mph is still making progress. I kept telling myself that there had to be an end and to push through the temporary discomfort of being wet, tired, alone, and sore.

Matt Settle (romabrevet.org) is running a late season set of brevets, all featuring the beautiful mountain scenery between Virginia and West Virginia. I noticed this new 400K scheduled for Sept 11, and since I felt reasonably fresh (had only ridden a few 20 milers since the 300K Aug 28), decided to go for what was advertised as a "challenging" route (as opposed to the "very challenging" 600K coming up Sept 25). Challenging is an understatement. For starters, the ride kicks off at 4 a.m. (Matt seems to like these pre-dawn start times). The Super 8 motel in Front Royal is very close to the beginning of the Skyline Drive, and served as our meeting place. It was a small group of 3 (Chris Mento, Joel Dillon, and myself) decked out in arm and leg warmers, vests, and jackets for the rather cool (for early September) morning. Temperatures started below 50 and didn't rise much for another 3 hours. Chris stopped at a 7-11 a couple blocks from the start and I waited outside while Joel pushed on without us.

Chris and I rode the first 100K together, and then I couldn't stay with him on one of the climbs so it was at the turn around in Seneca Rocks before we saw each other again. I stopped for a leisurely lunch of a deli turkey sandwich and Pepsi at the Yokum's Vacationland store in Seneca Rocks. Returning through the Monongahela National Forest to Petersburg WV, the McD's beckoned and I loaded up with another sit down meal. It's pig out time! Next stop was the control at the Moorefield Sheetz station, where extra water was purchased as there would be no services for the next 57 miles.

I gained a new appreciation of mountain gaps - there is Edinburg Gap and Wolf Gap to test your endurance. Howards Lick Rd through Lost River State Park also provided some tough climbing. This is an out and back course, so the screaming downhills on the outbound half are a mixed blessing. It was dark on the return (after leaving Moorefield WV), so descents were marked by heavy braking and extra caution. As I was on one climb, a vehicle came down the hill slowly and the driver called out that there was a bear on the road and to be careful. So I turned all my lights on (backups and all) and started making noise - ringing my bell, yelling, anything to avoid surprising that bruin. I dismounted and walked, carefully scanning the area on each side of the road. No sign of a bear (thankfully).

I was expecting some rain showers after nightfall, and was not surprised when rain started around midnight. It continued pretty steadily for the next 5 hours. I was alone for the next several hours and was just starting down Wolf Gap when I saw Chris stopped on the side of the road. He had lost two hours trying to second guess the cue sheet. I was glad to have some company for the last 40 or so miles. We took a break to get a steaming cup of coffee at the penultimate control (Bo's Express) before starting the climb back over Edinburg Gap, and we rolled into the Super 8 parking lot with about 25 minutes to spare. Matt was there with some welcome sandwiches and sodas. Joel had finished a few hours earlier.

The good: No cramps (leg or stomach), no mechanical issues, all new scenery, no dog bites
The bad: Cursed at twice by motorists, bike is dirty again

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day Brevets

The 1000K riders took off at 7 am this morning from Greensboro (at least one 200K and a couple of 300K riders among them) under almost clear skies. I will add more to the blog as the ride progresses, but will have limited exposure as I will be focused on areas between Greensboro and Henderson. Meanwhile, here are some pictures from check in last night and the departure this morning.

9/4 0800 UPDATE:
The 600K group started at 7 am, with several 200K and a few 300K and 400K riders. As of 9 pm last night, there were 3 DNFs from the 1000K. Tony reported that the first group reached Fayetteville (approx 400K into the 1000K ride) around midnight. Today's temperatures should be more moderate than yesterday's (the high temperatures contributed to the cramping suffered by those who decided to end the ride).

More pictures have been posted HERE

Now it is off to Fayetteville to deliver 600K bags and pick up 1000K bags, then on to Henderson with the second set of 1000K bags.

LAST UPDATE (timeline 9/4 through 9/5)
I picked up John Guth at the first control after Fayetteville, and we had plenty of time to chew the fat due to a 40 minute traffic jam on I-40 near Clinton.
We stayed the remainder of Saturday (9/4) at the Henderson control (Scottish Inn), and Maria drove up from Raleigh after work on Saturday to help at the control. Thank you Maria! Your coffee was much appreciated by everyone. The first riders came into Henderson around 1:40 am on Sunday and the last group of three arrived a little after 2 pm. DNFs were up to 6. Patty from Flemington NJ drove in sometime before noon in her "mobile motel" (motor home), bringing us the latest updates from the "back third" of the riders. John Guth was now rested, rehydrated, and raring to ride the last 200K with his wife Nancy.

Ian Hands was suffering some bad right knee pain, and had removed his shoe cleat to try and get some relief. I drove down the road to Wal Mart (the Henderson phone book doesn't list a single bike shop in its yellow pages) to try and purchase some cheap flat pedals, but the store was all out of them and the clerk wouldn't let me buy a set off an assembled bike. So it was over to Lowe's for a roll of duct tape and some scrap wood in an attempt to fashion a temporary flat pedal out of an SPD. By the time I got back to the Scottish Inn, Rob D and Ren had arrived and gotten a shower. Ian was icing his knee and refueling. Meanwhile, Tony called to tell me Kevin K had decided to bail out at the control after Henderson, and needed a ride back. So I picked up the remaining drop bags and cleared out, leaving Patty to give any final help to Rob, Ren, and Ian.

Kevin and I got back to Greensboro around 6:20 pm and thankfully none of the first riders had departed yet (they got in about 5:15), so drop bags were available for pick up in time. Tony was at the control (Best Western) and had plenty of food set up in the room. I hung around for maybe an hour, so missed the opportunity to congratulate the final riders in person.

Congratulations to everyone who completed their first 600K or 1000K. All of the pictures I took have been uploaded HERE

Thanks to Tony G for the great amount of work he put in to bring this set of rides to the NC brevet calendar.