I've been looking forward to this for a year. I participated only on the Eastbound leg to OC last year and had a great time. This year I was very much looking forward to making the round trip. Saturday was a great ride. The temps started in the upper 40's as predicted and quickly warmed. The wind was mostly on our beam and not a significant factor until the last 3 miles on Highway 1 in Ocean City. The sun was bright and the company was fantastic, there was nothing not to love about this leg. 17 riders set out. 2 had planned all along to turn back after the breakfast stop at Dave's Place about 37 miles in, so they could keep part of the weekend available for their families. The remaining 15 of us continued on to Ocean City and had great stops at Dave's Place in Ridgley, at Irish Eyes in Milton, the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Dairy Queen in Middleboro and finally to the finish in Ocean City. You couldn't hope to find a more fun group to spend the day with.
Saturday evening in O.C. we enjoyed a happy hour and Italian dinner to toast our great day. It was fun and I had a great time.
But Sunday was a lot tougher. I didn't feel hung over, but I suspect one or two too many servings of wine and beer set me back a touch before I even got out of bed. My job intruded as I was getting myself sorted for the day and I had to get online and solve a problem before heading out. Thank goodness Chris brought his laptop. If I'd had to try to talk the data center staff through it over the phone it would have been much worse. I was a few minutes late to breakfast, and the service was slow. The forecast was for a stiff headwind all day. Then we got held up as soon as we clipped in when the keys were accidentally locked in the SAG van. None of these were really a big deal. The day was clear, the temps were mild and this was the same group of great friends I rode in with. Yet for some reason my water bottle was half empty Sunday morning and I couldn't figure out why.
Our peloton now numbered 12 as Jim, Fran and Neil met their wives in O.C. and took Sunday for some time to themselves. For the first 8 miles due North the wind was on our beam, but we knew we had to turn left in to the teeth of that breeze. For those not familiar with the terrain, the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware is very FLAT terrain. Much of it is cleared for farmland, some still forested and dotted with small towns. On a windy day, there's really nothing to break it up. We had to head North-West to get home and the wind was out of the North-West at 15+ miles an hour nearly the whole day.
The occasional break of trees would provide some shelter, and the odd turn would head slightly South-West or North-East until we connected to the next country lane going our way. But these breaks were short and provided only a tease before we were back in the open plodding in to the wind. By the time we got to lunch 55 miles in to the day, I seriously considered climbing in to the SAG van and quitting the ride. I was tired and didn't feel right. But I decided it would be better to eat first, then ride a little to see if I felt better before making that call. I'm glad I did.
I didn't eat and drink enough that first 50 miles. To conserve energy in the wind, we rode in a tight line most of the way and still managed a respectable 17 mph average rolling speed. The stronger riders graciously shouldered a disproportionate share of time in the lead. But with gusty winds riding in close quarters at a brisk pace, letting go of the bars even with one hand to take a gel, a drink or fig newton was harder than usual. So I didn't take in as much fuel as I needed. I'm glad I put off my decision to drop. As we were suiting up after lunch I could feel my rear tire was soft. I opted to pump it up without changing the tube since it hadn't gone completely flat and likely wasn't a complete puncture, but I was still thinking my day may need to end short of the finish.
5 or 10 miles in to this next leg things started looking up. As I digested my lunch I started feeling much better. The wind was still tough but it was becoming clear it was not going to get the best of me. I took a brief turn at the front, once. I forced myself to eat my snacks and drink more regularly. I learned, AGAIN, that proper fueling is THE key to success on a long ride. Training and fitness, proper equipment, navigation, and other factors are important. But they can all be addressed within the limits of Murphy's Law before the ride. Your eating PLAN can also be set ahead of time, but you have to discipline yourself to stick to it while you're riding.
Fully half of us were setting new two day personal records for distance on this ride. I wasn't the only one feeling stretched a little too far and each of us worked through it in different ways at a different pace. But we stuck together as a team and the miles kept ticking off. Stronger riders literally took position to the left of those who needed a hand, reached out with their right hand on the small of our back and gave us a brief push we needed to close a gap and tighten up the line. The miles were clicking by. As we approached Centerville with just over 20 miles left we finally detected a slight drop in the wind speed.
We pulled in to Stevensville Middle School before dark about 5:45 in the evening. We popped a celebratory beer in the parking lot and the group started to break up to return home tired and happy. 7 of us extended the evening with dinner at Rams Head before driving over the Bay Bridge to return home.
I'm really glad I didn't pull the plug at lunch Sunday. In January I rode a 200K ride in subfreezing temperatures. That is still the toughest ride I've ever completed, but Sunday's head wind is a very close second. At 230 miles, the weekend represents a two day personal record for me and at least half of the group who rode both days. But we did it, and it proved a very effective team.
I can't say enough about the people I was with. John and Janet Bodine each rode one way, and drove their van one way to provide SAG support. They also hosted the Happy Hour Saturday night in their suite at the hotel. Thank you. Clint and Chip provided leadership as always, thank you. Dan, Ben and Jeff took the brunt of the head winds at the front of the pack on Sunday, thank you. Earl has been riding less than a year, and completed 3 century rides this month.. Wow! Randy is preparing to compete as a solo rider in RAAM next year. Talk about an epic ride! I'm looking forward to watching that contest and to watching his finish in Annapolis. Each of us has our story, and they're all fascinating.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading along and tolerating my "it's all about me" narrative. Others have documented the day quite well, and addressed details I've omitted. To learn about pole dancing, Halloween costumes, riding the whole way on a fixed gear bike and other interesting bits, I recommend Earl's blog and Clint's pictures and video.
At The Start