Monday, June 7, 2010

Gettysburg Gallop 200K

I rode yesterday with Brandon Hoyt, Gardner Duvall, Theresa Furnari, and Janet Bodine, all friends with the SPP, from Rockville, MD to Gettysburg, PA and back. A total distance of 203K or 126 Miles. This is the 6th ride in my goal to complete a 200K ride (or longer) at least once each month this year and earn my R-12 award from Randonneurs USA. I'm halfway there!!

The trek started at 7 am sharp with temps in the mid 70s and humidity 80%. It was warm and muggy, and the forecast said it would get worse before a chance of T-storms in the afternoon. Welcome to summer time in the mid-Atlantic. We also learned just before starting that another friend, Clif, had to withdraw from a 600K ride (yes you read that right, 3x as far) on Saturday due to acute dehydration. 3 liters of fluid by I.V. and the E.R. sent him home to rest. So we resolved to be diligent about keeping ourselves properly watered and set out.

Shortly after starting the cloud cover moved in. But no rain. We settled in to a steady pace and made really good time towards Gettysburg. Because the route is almost a straight line to Gettysburg there was only one required control stop in the middle of the route at a convenience store in Mt. Airy at mile 25. Mt. Airy is also aptly named as it marks the high point in elevation for the entire ride. From there it's a net drop in elevation over the next 38 miles to Gettysburg. The wind also filled in from behind and the miles just rolled by.

The course is almost entirely rural and we encountered no significant traffic. The vistas across some of the farm land were really spectacular and in several areas you could smell the wild flowers in bloom. The route also passed a large sand and gravel mine. Quite a contrast to see the big industrial mining operation in the middle of the farm country. But I guess we need the building material for roads and other concrete structures from somewhere.

The last few miles before lunch pass through the Gettysburg National Military Park. That was a real treat. We didn't stop with the tourists to read the monuments and plaques, but we did slow a bit to take it in as we climbed right up the back of "Little Round Top" and past many of the other markers honoring individuals and units who fought that terrible battle. I plan to go back and take a proper tour around the park with the kids some time. It's a part of history they should understand a little better. I expect I'll learn from it too.

We ate lunch outside at a very nice Irish restaurant and pub in downtown Gettysburg. It was nice to take a break from the bike and the weather was actually cooling down a bit so it was a very pleasant lunch.

Then it was time to go. Cooling down was now turning in to dark clouds, a gusty breeze and some light rain. It was still pleasant to be out but looked threatening as we headed back through the National Park. The road surface got a little wet, the wind blew in our face about 15 mph when were out in the open, and then.... that was it. The T-storms must have blown around us, the wet road and the wind were mildly annoying for next 20 miles or so and then it was over. The temps were cooler, the humidity was dropping and all we had to do was climb back up Mt. Airy.

Brandon and I managed to flat at exactly the same time around mile 80. Not sure how that happened, neither of us found a sharpie in the tire. We took care of business in a private driveway to stay out of the travel lane. Then we were back on our way.

My legs weren't as strong as I would have liked on this stretch. I stuck to the mantra, eat a little, drink a little, keep pedaling. We made a quick stop in Unionville to refill the water bottles and then confronted the hills up to Mt. Airy. My legs didn't have any zip left and I felt like this second trip over the hump was a bit of a grind. I keep eating and drinking and finally we were at the top. Then another two miles to the control, the same store we hit on the way north.

At mile 111 we stopped because Theresa was feeling left out and wanted a turn changing a tire. After that it was a relatively easy ride back to the finish. Total time 11 hours. I lost the last 15 miles on the Garmin due to operator error. I stopped the timer for the flat and forgot to restart it. But it followed the same route in reverse that we used northbound and our pace was about the same we'd made to that point for the entire the southbound leg.

Many thanks to my riding friends, one couldn't ask for a more supportive group to share the day with.

I also want to offer congratulations to Clint Provenza, Chip Adams and all of the others who rode the DC Rand 600K on Saturday 6/5 - Sunday 6/6. What an accomplishment! Clif filled us in on his challenges by email. He had to pull out about halfway through due to dehydration but he bounced back quickly after the I.V. treatment. 12 riders out of 44 at the start did not complete the ride. It's a tough, tough endurance test which takes not only incredible stamina and fitness, but careful management of your body's fuel and water demands while you push so hard for 30 - 40 hours of continuous riding.

One thing I've come to really admire about randonneurs is that there are no failures. Most rides you finish, and some you don't, but they are all an opportunity to learn something so you can be better prepared next time. Most riders are also eager to share those lessons learned from the finishes AND from the rides that come up a few miles short. I'm looking forward to reading about the lessons learned from the 600K as the particiapants recover and publish their thoughts on the day. I'm sure there will be some entertaining stories and a few gems of wisdom.

So what did I learn this weekend...? I felt great a few weeks back after a very fast 200K to Solomons Island. I was ready to just keep pedaling and go for 300K! Well Sunday I was reminded that Solomons is a very flat route. Mt. Airy is not exactly an epic climb, but the second time up my legs were really burning. I learned I still have plenty more training to do....

LATE ADDITION: Brandon put up a nice slideshow of our day.

Here's the GPS summary from Sunday.


  1. Top effort mate, your progress is very impressive and more importantly spurring me on! I can't have a squid besting a grunt now can I? :-)

  2. Good job, Mike!

    The BBC was doing a ride Saturday through the area, too (the club version of the Civil War Century), but I elected to do 115 miles on the Sunday BBC club ride instead.


  3. Great photos, the scenery really looks like Worcestershire England where I do a majority of my rural pedalling. Very beautiful.

  4. Clive -

    Yes once you leave the cities, our countryside is beautiful here in MD, PA and VA. Biking has been good for me to get out the city and see these areas more frequently.