The first DC Randonneurs ride of the year is in the books. I completed the Glen Echo Populaire. A populaire is a shorter randonneuring ride that is often 100-150 kilometers in distance (~62-93 miles) and is meant to be an introductory ride to the sport. (See RUSA’s glossary.) This was my first time riding this ride, and despite its “shorter” distance, it was still a challenge.
The Pre-Ride Ride
Since I live not too far from the ride start, I figured it made sense to bike to the ride. MG, Felkerino, and newcomer Joe met up to ride together, and we picked up Crystal and Adam along the way. It was a healthy ride to Glen Echo, with a ride through the tunnel and a steep hill, and a little climbing to give us a taste of what was to come.
Now that I’ve been riding with these folks for a few rides, it was nice to recognize more people, like Mike, Nick, Bill, and George. More Bike DC folks showed up– John, Justin, and Eric came out. We chatted for a while in the foggy morning before it was time to start the ride. Andrea made a few announcements, and then we were off.
I felt like took forever to get to the first control, which went up River Road. I thought I had paced myself fairly well. I did not try to race to catch up with anyone, and I let people pass me by without feeling bad about it. I had a nice cadence going, and even kept pedaling through some of the smaller downhills. I rode for a while with Joe, and we had a friendly chat before he went on. At the information control, I met up with Crystal, Adam, and Joe. Crystal discovered she had a flat, and Adam helped her out with changing it.
The fog lifted later in the morning, and feeling the warm sun on my face made me happy. I stopped to take the linings out of my gloves. There was a point where the ride started to feel laborious, but I pushed on. Around mile 25 or so, however, I became pretty demoralized as I was grinding up every hill with a lot of effort. I started seeing folks on the return part of the route, and had this horrible thought, again, that I had missed the time limit for the first control and that I would be disqualified. I was in despair until I saw Eric pass by, and Felkerino and MG waving and calling my name. That gave me the boost I needed to make it to the first control with half an hour to spare. John, Joe, and Justin were on the way out, and Crystal and Adam were to arrive in a few minutes. Doug, whom I had met in Urbana last year, recognized me and said hi.
I wasted a little too much time at the deli, although part of it was not entirely my fault– it took longer than I expected to get my turkey sandwich. I ended up eating only half of it before I decided to take off.
To the Second Control
At one point, I looked at my cyclocomputer, and noticed I was going about 4 mph– barely faster than walking speed– in granny gear. Sometimes I saw the hill coming and my heart sank, sometimes there were “false flats”– areas where it looked flat but the slight grade made me slow down. I struggled on. I made it to the second control on time, and saw Joe there. He also had a flat, and I lent him my pump.
To the Finish!
There were some nice descents, but it was a slog to the end. I saw Crystal and Adam on the side of the road again, changing out another tube. Crystal caught up with me on the last six miles of the ride, and she kept me company until we got to the ride finish. We made it with fifteen minutes to spare, and I was elated that it was still daylight at the end!
After the DC Randonneurs business meeting, our group headed home. It was a relief not to do any more climbing. Right before we returned to the tunnel, Joe flatted, and Felkerino and Adam helped out to get him set up with another tube so that he could ride home. We all went our separate ways, and I got home safe and sound. Exhausted, I fell asleep watching football.
All told, I rode nearly 90 miles that day. Many thanks to MG and Felkerino for leading us to the start and back, and to all the Bike DC folks for their fine company. Congratulations to Justin and Joe for completing their first randonneuring ride!