Monday, November 22, 2010

Sailing Down to Solomon's - R-11

After a funeral conflicted with last weekend's Flatbread 200K, I had to get in a 200K permanent this month to stay on track for the R-12 award. I used the old standby: Sailing Down to Solomon's. The route has become routine because it's so close to home. Most of the RUSA permanents accessible in this area require at least an hour's drive from home, and when riding alone would present a significant challenge should I break a rim or otherwise become stranded.

The Solomon's route on the other hand starts 15 minutes from home and at it's furthest reach would be about a 55 mile drive for my wife or son to come to my rescue in case of emergency. The route spends more time in the first half on a major highway than I would normally choose, but it has a wide shoulder which has recently been well marked through a couple of the towns along the way as a bike lane. So riding solo and with a full weekend schedule Saturday making sleep a premium, Solomon's it was.

The days are getting shorter with only about 10.5 hours of useful sunlight, about the same time this should take me. I set out at 6:00 am hoping to get all of night riding in early before sunrise while I was fresh and finish before sunset. It was 35 deg F at the start and after the sun came up it reached the low 50s at mid day.

I've been fighting a head cold all of last week and was a bit concerned. I'd never tried to ride such a distance while dependent on cold medicine to breath. But the SPP is a wealth of knowledge and experience, when I posted the question to our mailing list, the responses generally suggested it was fine to ride with a head cold and OTC cold remedies, but should be avoided if one has a cough or fever. I had neither, so off I went, with a day's supply of meds in my bag. As usual, such advice was spot on and it worked out fine.

I didn't try to push the pace. Instead I watched my heart rate and tried to settle in to a zone of around 60% of max. It was a clear day, the sun was bright the winds were calm. I made brief stops frequently to eat a snack, take the meds when it was time and adjust my wardrobe as it warmed up. Stopping to snack was necessary as I couldn't manipulate the food packages well with long finger gloves. So I'd have to pause to rip open the packaging then resume pedaling while I ate.

The route owner, Crista Borras made one small change since I last rode this route. At the turnaround in Solomons, it now requires a brief tour through the small town of Solomons to an information control. Previously one could turn and head north without actually entering town. The views of the river and the waterfront community were well worth the extra mile or two.

My only extended stop was at Sweet Sue's bake shop in North Beach where I had a chicken ceasar wrap. Otherwise I stayed fueled with the carbs I was carrying and refilled my bottles at every opportunity.

It wasn't my fastest ride by a long shot, but it's always satisfying to finish a long ride like that successfully. There's also a certain satisfaction in pulling it off while riding alone, though given the choice, I'll always prefer to ride with a partner.

I missed my sunset goal by about 10 minutes, but that affirmed my decision to start early. The last few miles in twilight were fine, but if I'd waited for sunrise before I started, I likely would have had an hour or so in the dark to the end and I would not have enjoyed that.

Only one more ride to finish the RUSA R-12 series. I'm looking forward to having this one crossed off of my bucket list.

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