Monday, October 17, 2011

Big Night and Day on the Bike

I did it.  227 miles in just over 20 hours.  That's a new personal record for me in a 24 hour period.  Here's how it all unfolded...

Eastern Shore Reversed

I opted to drive to the start of the Wallops Island ride Thursday evening and spend the night in a hotel. It allowed me to coordinate my work commitments more easily Friday from one place all day with phone and internet (instead of spending all afternoon driving) and let me arrive at the start fresh, rather than stiff from the long drive.  It worked well for me.

Seven of us met in Wallops Island for a 7:00 pm planned start.  By the time everyone arrived, unloaded bikes and checked in to the control, we were a few minutes late pushing off.   That made some of our crew a little impatient since everyone prefers punctuality.  But it's a flat route and there was never any pressure on us trying to meet the control time limits the rest of the evening. The turn around control shuts it's doors at midnight but the brevet time limit gave us until 1:52.  So had the business been closed we would have had to find some other "proof of passage" but as it was we arrived about a half hour before they closed for the evening.

Each rider had one or two bright white head lights on the bike based on his preference, and a helmet lamp.  Multiply all of this times 7 riders and we must have made a very imposing sight for on-coming cars and trucks on a dark country road.  Several times through the night the drivers coming the opposite direction would actually slow down until they could better see what was coming at them and be sure we were clear of their travel lane.

Probably 2 dozen or more deer crossed our path in the course of the evening.  Once or twice they crossed the road so close as to startle the lead riders and cause a bit of sudden braking.  After that we tried to make a habit of scanning the open fields with our helmet lamps, looking for the reflection from their eyes and saw several more groups at a distance that let us enjoy the spectacle without risk of collision.  One group included two small fawns following the larger deer across the road.  Really beautiful creatures, even in the dark.

If I'd written a script in advance, I would have been pretty darn close the night we actually had.  The weather was about as perfect as we could ask for.  Clear, with cool temps, a bright moon, a light breeze that was mostly a cross wind and not really a factor in the ride.  This route is also on mostly rural roads with very little traffic allowing us to ride two or even three abreast most of the night and talk while we rode.  I've written before that even though randonneuring is designed to emphasize individual self-reliance, I enjoy the friends I've made,  the camaraderie, and the team work that often makes for a successful finish.   126 miles cycling in the dark is a great adventure and lot of fun when riding with friends.  It was my first all night ride and also the first half of what would be my longest day on the bike.

Many thanks to Chip, Dave, Bryan, Dan, Jeff and Earl.  It was a lot of fun, and I appreciate that some of you might have preferred a bit of a faster pace but that instead we rode together and enjoyed the great night on the road. 

The Garmin reset after the first 9 miles, this is the rest of the ride.

Seagull Century

We finished back at Wallops Island at 4:30. From there Dave, Dan and Bryan were heading home for a weekend with their families.  Chip, Earl, Jeff and I were headed 40 miles up the road to Salisbury for the Seagull.

I grabbed a quick breakfast sandwich and juice at the Royal Farms, changed in to a fresh kit, then packed the bike and headed north to Salisbury. Once safely in S'bury I managed about an hour nap in the truck before the 7 am start.

Earl and I had planned to ride together for both events.  At Wallops Island we were 7 guys in the dark.  No SAG van, only each other for support.  It was prudent to stick together on the night ride. At Seagull we were with 8000 other riders on the best supported charity ride on the East Coast, with bright sunny weather.  There was no reason for concern and it made sense to regroup so everyone could ride at his preferred pace.  Chip and Jeff rounded up a few like minded friends from home at the start and set of at a brisk pace.

Earl and I set out to finish. And with a little help we did just that.  It seemed at every turn we were saying hello to friends from home there to enjoy the great weather. They knew what we were up to with the double ride and kept offering encouragement.   Some went zipping by, others were at the rest stops the same time we pulled in.  But it was Mike C, Doug and Alex who hung with us much of the day and pulled in to the head winds when the course turned west.

Somewhere around mile 50 Earl got bored and decided to liven things up with an acrobatic display.  He touched Mike C's rear wheel and lost control of the bike.  If he'd had a shoulder to work with he probably could have pulled it out.  But instead the roadside was tall, wet grass leading down to a dry, sandy ditch.  As the bike stopped abruptly in the sand Earl was unclipped and ready for his big dismount.  The crowd roared it's approval as he launched over the bars, tucked his shoulder and rolled to a safe landing on a bed of pine needles.

Okay it was really one of those moments where time stops and the action unfolds in slow motion.  I was behind Earl and swerving to avoid him hoping I didn't crashing in to any other riders.  Watching him flip off of the bike was a terrible sight.  A small crowd, including at least one car stopped to make sure he was okay, and remarkably, he was.  He jumped up, we brushed the sand from rider and bike, inventoried all the critical parts on both and got going again.  The whole thing was over in 5 minutes.  Fortune was smiling on us.

At the Assateague stop we took the time to refuel.  If you've ever ridden the Seagull you know the support stations are extremely well stocked with food, drink and helpful volunteers.  We took full advantage of this at each stop and enjoyed the hospitality to top off our tanks.  But we also knew the tough part was still coming.  Up 'til now the wind had been either a cross wind or tail wind the whole way.  Now it would be a head wind most of the way to the finish.

Mike C, Doug and Alex stuck with us the whole way and we accepted their assistance, especially Mike's as he pulled much of the next 40 miles in to the wind.  We still owe you guys a few beers.  Some confusing hand signals from the police directing traffic at a busy intersection caused a sudden stop and another incident of bumper bikes though I was lucky the incident started at slower speed and I had more room to work with to the right of the road than Earl did so I managed to stay up.  But the decaleur holding my bar bag broke loose. We jury rigged it with velcro and zip ties and kept going.

At the last stop at mile 85 they serve ice cream and apple pie.  After I found a patch of grass to lay down the bike and sat down myself I was too tired to move.  A few minutes later Earl was shaking me awake. Mike brought me my pie and filled my camel back for me.  I was exhausted and frankly a little embarrassed to realize I let them wait on me like that.  Thanks guys.

Then we mounted up and rode 15 more miles in to the wind and the finish.  227 miles in just over 20 hours time!!  My longest stretch on the bike by over 40 miles.  After the ride everyone stowed their bikes, and changed clothes, then we regrouped in the beer garden to congratulate ourselves.  It was a big day. I was exhausted and very satisfied that it turned out so well.

I knew I'd be in no shape to drive at that point and had another room reserved a mile from campus. A hot tub and then a bed, never felt so good.   I slept 12 straight hours Saturday night.

Seagul Century


  1. An amazing achievement Mike. I'm totally in awe of you and your two century rides in a day. I think I'm a long way off achieving a distance like that. Kudos to you.