In contrast to the weather as I am writing this post (high 90′s and humid) the weather on Sunday made for ideal riding conditions – just about 80, slight breeze, and a reasonable humidity. As I looked to the forecast ahead, I knew that Sunday would be the perfect day to ride my second 100 Miles of Nowhere, an annual event run by Elden Nelson of the FatCyclist.com Blog. The entry fee proceeds for this event go to cancer fighting in one way or another (Livestrong, Camp Kesem, etc.) so I am happy to pitch in an donate. Originally planned as a 100 mile ride indoors on rollers, this event has grown and people find ways to make tediously small routes that are incredible hard, to up the suffer factor. The problem is that I am neither a racer, or an Unracer (as defined by Grant Petersen), but probably somewhere in the middle, skewed to the Unracer side. Suffering is not something that I take pride in. Last year I rode loops of Hains Point to complete the 100 miles, it was tough but the suffer factor was relatively low. This year I told myself that such a perfect day should not be wasted on a loop I have ridden dozens of times, so my plan evolved. I would ride to Purceville, VA and back via the W&OD rail trail, as well as the Custis and Mount Vernon Trails.
I started the day late, and considered bailing out altogether, but I knew I had to do this ride. After forgetting the camera battery I turned around a Lincoln Park and added about a mile to the overall distance, but no worries – I felt fairly fresh that day. I even stopped by the Capitol Building to snap a photo:
From there I set off on the usual route to the Mount Vernon and Custis trails, but then a curious thing happened. While waiting at a light a cyclist dressed in all black eyed me up and down, then took off like a rocket. I passed him about 3 minutes later as he was standing under a tree, at which point he hopped back on his ride and chased me down. A few minutes passed and I again found him waiting at the side of the trail. The same series of events happened about 4 or 5 times. Eventually he must have turned or grown tired of this cat and mouse game, but it left me really puzzled. My Surly does not exude “race me” in any way. Maybe he felt better that he could beat a bike that probably weighs 20 pounds more than his and is geared for touring. Oh, he was wearing a sleeveless jersey as well. I’ll never understand that look on men.
Onwards I went, passing lots of familiar trail sights, passing many riders on the busy trail. I also practiced my out-of-saddle climbing, something I had been hesitant to do since the Surly wasn’t designed to carry a front load and it made the handling a little wonky. I think I learned a bit though, which is good because seated climbing seems to really slow you down and use more energy. Eventually I came to Vienna where I stopped and topped off water bottles and ate a snack from the Fat Cyclist goody bag. The snack was nice, but too pastry-like, it didn’t feel like it was providing anything to keep me fueled other than butter.
Onwards I went, riding fairly fast and trying to eat and drink enough to keep me going for the full day. Oh yeah, I should have mentioned that while I have ridden 2 other 100+ mile rides this year, my mileage over the past 2 months was way way down, I wasn’t trained at all for this ride. Through Reston and Herndon, and some other towns that are “way out there”.
Stop #2 came around mile 40, for a stretch and some water. Fortunately the trail has some nice shelters spaced every 5-10 miles that are perfect for this. It also allowed me to snap a photo of the Specialized Purist water bottles that came as part of the registration fee. These bottles are so great. Easy to open and close, great flow, easy to squeeze, no plastic taste. I think a few more might be needed.
At some point the grade in the trail starts to pick up, about 10 miles from Purceville. Not very perceptible at first, it starts to wear on you mile after mile. I was so close to the turn around point, but at this point energy was fading fast. The last 4 miles into Purceville felt like an hour.
But I made it. I explored Main Street for a few minutes, but then made my way back to the thrailhead, where Trails End bike shop stood like a cycling mecca in an otherwise boring town. Inside there were some beautiful bikes, and the shop folks were happily talking with customers about how they “knew Floyd Landis way back when”. I picked up some snacks and got back on the trail. But not before sighting this interesting sign painted on the side of a building. Unfortunately the shop was closed.
The nice thing about a long slog up hill is that it means a long descent on the way home. I thoroughly enjoyed this fact as I tucked in and let gravity do a lot of the work. I’d tell you more about the trail, in this portion, but really the lower 30 miles are below high tension powerlines and abut large townhomes or warehouse type buildings, and the upper 15 miles are in in a nice wooded area that is slowly being overrun with McMansions. Not much out there to see.
I did however spot a cool old truck.
I also passed a quarry that I really really wish I had stopped at and taken photos, but it was on a downhill and it felt a shame to lose the great momentum.
By mile 70 I was tired of water, shot blocks and clif bars. I wanted a real solid meal, something with salt, fat, carbs and other good stuff. On the way up I had noticed a trailside BBQ spot, and knew that this would be the perfect lunch destination. As I rounded a bend in the trail the smokey wood and meat smell hit my nose. But something was wrong. At 12:30 when I passed it there were dozens of bikes parked outside, but now at 3:30 there was only 1. I couldn’t believe it. The place had closed only a half hour before. And I had half a water bottle left to my name.
After a short break and a text to Kate stating my sadness I got back on my bike. And 8 miles later found a 7-11 that would be my lunch spot. In those 8 miles though I could feel energy draining from my body every pedal stroke, and a slight breeze turned into a headwind. I guess there had to be some suffering on this ride or it wouldn’t qualify.
I was cooked with 20 miles left to go. Either food wasn’t digesting fast enough, or I wasn’t eating enough, because it became a struggle to stay motivated. A few times I just had to stop and collect my thoughts – telling myself that even 10 mph was better than walking.
By the time I hit the turn to the Custis trail my spirits had lifted a lot, and the overall downhill gradient of the trail meant that I could once again pedal fast, upping my speed from around 12 miles per hour only a few miles back to 17 or 18 mph on the flat sections of the trail, faster on the down hill areas. I hit DC feeling fine, and with a projected finishing average speed only slightly slower than 3 of my 4 previous 100+ mile rides I was pretty happy.
All in all it was a good day. I had fun, challenged myself, and hopefully got back a little of the conditioning I had lost. Now to keep up with the longer rides and set a new PR for a century my next time out. Will I ride the 100 MON next year – I hope so! Will I ride the W&OD again, likely yes – but next time I’ll bring company and call ahead to the BBQ place. This year I will declare myself Winner of the Men 28-30 W&OD Out-and-Back Category of the event.