Some of you may recall that my first brevet of last year was the Urbana 200K, which landed me a trip to the ER. Knowing how ridiculously hilly the route is, and knowing that once again, I would not have had adequate training and riding by this point, this year, I– wanted to do the Wilderness Campaign ride. But I had just come back from my annual out-of-town conference, and I also had a final paper to write for a class, so I bowed out. I did want to get a ride in March, so I signed up for the Thurmont populaire instead.
Driving to the Start
I had been having some late nights leading up to the ride day, so I was running on inadequate sleep. I woke up reluctantly at 4:30 am, stumbling in the dark, getting dressed. I rented a car and shoved my bike in the hatchback. As I was heading to the highway, I looked in my side mirror, and saw a car with a Co-Motion tandem on top of it. I did a double-take. I only know a handful of people with a Co-Motion tandem, and only one couple in my area who owns one. I slowed down a bit– and saw Felkerino and MG waving at me! They were on their way to another ride, but it was nice to see their smiling faces so early in the morning.
At the Start
The start location was at the Waffle House. Mike W. gave me a hug and ushered me to the registration table, where Barry signed me in. I then sidled up to the counter and ordered a pecan waffle. Both Mike and Nick told me that even though the populaire is shorter than the brevet, it’s not an easier ride. At 6:30 in the morning, I was too tired to worry.
At 7:00 am, we were off. Temperatures were in the high 20s Fahrenheit. I was dressed in several layers, including pants over my tights. That proved to be a good decision. The water in the bite valve of my Camelbak froze– that’s how cold it was.
To the First Control
The hills started within minutes– one of which included a gravelly downhill. And then climbing, and more climbing. I figured out that when a hill up ahead looks steep, it’s actually not too bad– the downhill from the previous hill will carry me up at least halfway up the next one. But when a hill looks flat, it isn’t– it’s a long, grueling climb. Mentally, this helped me to relax and back off from attacking what looked like a level area. If I slowed down, I just kept a steady pace until I reached the top, and then coasted down.
Mike was there at the first control. He assured me that I was making good time, and told me what to expect for the rest of the course. One of locals looked at me with amused curiosity, and let me cut in front of him in line.
To the Second Control
My legs were feeling a little wobbly, but okay. I was alone by this time, but every so often, I saw glimpses of others ahead of me. I was thinking to myself that at least the winds were gentle, not like the gusty winds that have been buffeting me during my commutes. I thought too soon. Not only were there headwinds, but they were bitingly cold, and on the uphill. It was maddening. Apparently, it was too much for one of the 200K riders, who had caught up to me and told me he was going to bail. I wished him well.
I got to the second control, which was an open control. I decided that I had to get some decent food to fuel up, so I ordered a turkey bacon avocado sandwich. The woman at the counter took a long time to fix it, so when I looked at the timestamp on the receipt, I was a little disheartened to see that I lost some time. But the workers were friendly enough. “Where are you heading to today?” the woman at the cash register asked me. Not expecting the question, I stuttered, “um, to the mountains and back.”
My heart sank when I saw the mountains. But mercifully, the populaire route did not go into the park. Whew!
To the Finish!
After the control, the roads were flat! I figured this would be where I could gain some time. I rode as fast as I could without over-exerting myself. Luckily, the winds were calm at this section. The sun was shining, and it seemed to have warmed up somewhat. I shed my pants in a farm somewhere, and stuck them in my trunk bag, just in time for the return route home. Climbing, winds, climbing, winds, and then a glorious downhill where I coasted for a few miles. Whee! And then climbing up the gravel hill, a couple miles on the road, and then the finish at Ledo’s Pizza.
“Lisa! You’re early! You still have fifteen minutes left!” exclaimed Mike, who greeted me at the finish. I was so relieved to make it in time!
According to my GPS, I rode 72.2 miles and climbed 4,343 feet. That’s a lot of climbing!
Many thanks to Mike W. and Nick for organizing the rides, and special thanks to Mike for his encouragement and advice long the way.
Next up: the lessons learned from Thurmont.