I spent a lot of time worrying about whether to do this brevet. I knew that it was going to be hard (8200 feet of climbing!), and that I wouldn’t have enough time to train (2 out-of-town work conferences!). But I didn’t want to wait until the fall to do a brevet– I wanted to ride before I got into the summer physical and mental burn-out. I’ve been biking throughout the winter, but not long rides. Finally, after annoying my bike friends going back and forth on the subject, I bit the bullet and pre-registered.
All was well at the start. Eric was kind enough to give me a ride to the start at 5:30 in the morning. We made it to The Waffle House in time to meet and greet folks, and got rolling right on time. The forecast called for rain, but mercifully, that happened before the ride, and the roads were mostly clear and dry, and not slippery at all.
Folks started passing me after a while, and that was fine. I chatted with some of them before they passed me by. I was at going a comfortable pace and I felt pretty good. And then the hills started. Before the first control, those nagging thoughts began. I’m not going to make it. Why did I sign up for this? I’m not ready. I had a moment of panic when I looked at my watch thought it was 10 am. Crap! I missed the first control already! It turned out that it was actually 9 am. Whew! I made it to the first control with half an hour to spare.
From then on, I knew that I couldn’t afford to waste any time at the controls, but if I did end up at one past the official time limit, that would be my signal to abandon the ride and call R to let him know to pick me up. That thought was somehow reassuring to me.
Catoctin Mountain Park was a major climb. I felt myself slowing to a crawl. I struggled my way up the hill. In the distance, I saw a tandem (John and Lynne) crawling as well. We would pass by each other several times throughout the ride. At every control, I would see them and a few other folks also. It was encouraging to see friendly and familiar faces, and they cheered me up between the times when I was riding by myself.
The reward for a grueling uphill climbs were thrilling descents. Whee! I love going downhill.
There was some beautiful countryside. Lots of farms– lots of cows, roosters, goats. I got to ride the Mason-Dixon line– I got a kick out of that, as I am originally from Pennsylvania. The sun finally broke through when I got to Antietam. That was a lovely sight.
I think it was sometime around Sharpsburg when I was really having trouble with the hills, even the small ones. I attributed it to being really tired. I stopped near the War Correspondents Arch because I thought my tire was flat, or something got caught in my wheel, but I didn’t think to check the brakes for some reason. I kept hearing a whirring sound. In retrospect, I think my handlebar bag or my light got jarred and was affecting the brake cables, but I didn’t know that at the time.
I looked at my watch again, around the 115-mile mark. 7:15 pm. I was not going to make it in time to qualify, but there was no turning back now. I had to make it to the finish no matter what. It started to turn dark. Around mile 119, I saw a van stop ahead of me. It was Eric. He was worried about me, since I missed the official end time, and was looking for me to make sure I was all right. I gasped out some incoherent babble: “I’m okay– so tired– want to finish the ride.” He told me he would guide me back to the finish, and with his help, I made it to the end, where a group of fellow riders had waited for me and cheered when I dismounted at Ledo’s Pizza. That was really kind of them, even though I was over an hour late.
I was so relieved when the ride was over, and there was still some pizza left!
I’m so grateful to Eric, who was a great help to me, and to Bill Beck, who coordinated a terrific ride. Would I do this ride again? You bet.