Monday, May 17, 2010

Sailing to Solomons - my best performance yet!

Author's note: This post will be all about self indulgence and thumping my chest. You're free to close your browser now if you're not interested. (okay, that's true about most of my biking posts, but it's my blog).

This was by far my best long ride to date. Everything just came together correctly to make this one work and I feel great about it. A year ago I couldn't go 30 minutes on a bike without huffing and puffing and feeling worn out. I rode to Solomons Island and back on Sunday in a record time for me personally, and for the first time, felt like I could have kept going.

Chris, Shane and I set out at 6 am from the Crofton 7-11 to start the Sailing to Solomons RUSA permanent. It's a 200K ride with approximately 5000 feet of hill climbing. I chose it this month because May was getting jammed with family and work schedule commitments and it starts so close to home, so it's easy to get to the start and back home. It also represented a change after two much more hilly rides around MD, PA and VA farm land in March and April.

Chris and I ride together routinely. But we'd never had the pleasure of Shane's company before. Turns out he worked as a bike messenger in Pittsburgh, PA for a couple of years. He's a strong rider and good company. I hope it works out that he'll join us more often.

At the start the temps were around 60 deg F, the wind was calm and the clouds looked threatening. gave it only a 10% chance of rain but it looked much more likely than that. But the weather dudes got it right, we saw only a few sprinkles around mile 20 and were dry the rest of the day.

We set a steady pace from the outset and after 5 miles or so of warm up picked it up a notch. We frequently reminded each other to eat and drink. We ate and drank, we chatted with Shane getting to know one another, and the miles were ticking by much more quickly than I'd ever experienced before on such a long ride. Were we over doing it, showing off for the new guy?, Would we pay the price later and bonk or cramp up? Eat some more, drink some more, have another e-cap. Keep pedaling. Everyone reports they're feeling fine.

We hit the convenience store at mile 25 to refill the bottles, send a text back home to let 'em know it's going well and back on the bikes. An 8 minute stop!

Back on Route 2 the wind is starting to pick up a bit. At first it's confused but then begins to settle from the north. We're getting a push the last 20 miles to Solomons. The pace is really cracking now. Keep eating, keep drinking, don't worry about the north wind we'll deal with that after we turnaround at Solomons. The sky is clearing as well, just like the forecast. So any worry about rain is gone.

We get to Solomons and my 'puter show's a rolling pace of 17.7 mph!! How strong WAS that tail wind? What are we in for now that we have to start riding north again? We all agree the food we're eating on the bike is working and none of us wants to stop for a sit down meal. So we hit the 7-11 to get our control cards signed. We each grab a small snack, I had a banana. We stay long enough to munch them down. Put on sun screen, adjust wardrobe, etc. Maybe 15 minutes, then we're off to see what the north wind will be like.

Riding south with no wind or following wind, we rode side by side much of way and enjoyed the chance to talk as we rode. Now we rode in a tight pace line and agreed to rotate the lead in 5 minute intervals. Team riding at it's best and we made great time to the last turn off of Rt 2 at Prince Frederick. But the performance in to the wind wasn't free we were definitely burning more energy. As soon as we got off of Rt 2 the trees close in and the wind is blocked a bit, but the hills start. Shane paid the price with some leg cramps, but he felt he could continue a couple of miles to the next convenience store. We hit the country store at mile 78 and took a more extended rest. Food, water and e-caps seemed to work.

The next stretch begins the really fun part of the ride with several views of The Bay and rural roads with little or no traffic until we got to North Beach and the control at Sweet Sue's coffee shop. The food there is awesome and we always look forward to riding there either on the permanent route or just an extended weekend ride directly from home.

Shane selected the biggest eclair I have ever seen. I would have exploded, or puked, on that much sugar. But he's a bit younger and his body apparently more forgiving of excess.

Leaving Sweet Sue's we were still on the curvy flats along the Bay when we came up on a motorcycle accident. At first seeing the bike on it's side in the grass I thought it had just fallen off of it's kickstand. But a second look showed one rider laying down, two others standing over him and lot's of broken green plastic scattered about. The plastic used to be the wind screen and front structure of the bike which shattered. All three riders appeared to be wearing the right gear with leather's that included the skid pads and sturdy helmets. The hurt rider had no externally visible injury though he had clearly hurt his shoulder either by dislocation or perhaps a collar bone fracture. The other two riders had their cell phones out and others were stopping to help with more resources available to offer than we had on the bikes so we opted to continue on.

The rest of the ride in to the finish went as well as things had started. This is the hilliest section of the whole ride so the pace slacked off slightly as a result. But we all finished riding strong and feeling good.

For the first time I finished a long ride feeling like I could continue on for a further distance. I've toned down how much gear I carry and adjusted the menu and fluid in take to where it feels right. I ate something every half hour whether I felt "hungry" or not and took several swigs of water every other mile. I've found that alternating fig newtons and Hammer Gel products I can eat while rolling and stick to that 30 minute schedule very well. At the stops I added in bananas and juice from the convenience stores, peanut butter crackers and granola bars. I take an e-cap with every bottle and try consume a bottle of plain water every hour by drinking two or three mouth fulls every couple of miles.

When we finished, our total elapsed time was 9 hrs 14 minutes. This is a personal best and shatters my time of 10:30+ in March going Over to Dover and the time of 11:04 the last time I did this same course in February. It feels GREAT!!

Chris and I have begun scheming for a 300K ride, probably in September and I'm now quite confident I'm ready to try it.

Shane about to dive in to the biggest eclair I've ever seen.
Click the picture to view slideshow | Click here to view album

P.S. besides our feats of speed and endurance on this ride, Chris also gets kudos for the classic "changing of clothes while riding" trick. I watched from behind as he reached back to fetch his wind vest from the top of the trunk bag. He managed to free it from the bungie cord, don it and zip it without stopping or falling. It was all very entertaining to watch as he timed each move for the next flat spot between rollers. But I don't yet have a helmet cam suitable to catch such moments underway.


  1. Wow! That puts my little 50 miler to shame, well done to you and your mates Mike!

  2. All I can say is WOW! What an impressive ride.

  3. Fantastic!
    You are an inspiration!