It was Drew and I amidst a sea of gears and derailleurs. And brakes... did I mention we were both riding brakeless too?
With eager eyes, I arrived at Outpost early to make the final preparations for my bike and gear. Friends and familiar faces were starting to roll up. It was almost time to begin and I felt ready. Looking at the crew forming before me I could tell this wasn't going to be easy. A champion racer in the 60-plus category, an ultra-endurance racer, and a handful of super-strong riders, I had no doubt the pace would be high. Well, at least for a track bike anyway.
Out of the whole bunch, there was only one other weirdo who was crazy enough to take on the whole 200k night ride without coasting. It was Drew and I amidst a sea of gears and derailleurs. And brakes... did I mention we were both riding brakeless too? Whatever was going to happen that night at least we were in it together.
The ride set off right on schedule at 6:30 p.m. We made our way out of the city at an easy pace. It wasn't until after we passed all the traffic lights and intersections that someone started to turn up the heat. Maybe it was the crew, maybe it was the night, whatever it was the pace felt right. A little fast spinning, but I knew the longer I could hold on the better off I'd be. Though Drew and I hadn't discussed a game plan, looking up I noticed we had the same idea. As we settled into our new speed I noticed the group's numbers had thinned. The pace was only partly to blame, however; light rain and heavy mist were wreaking havoc on the spectacle-clad in the bunch. Forcing some, understandably, began to turn back. Those of us left had one common goal; 200k at night in as little time as we could. We buckled down and started churning out the miles together.
And then in an instant, I was looking up at the sky sliding 20 feet across the asphalt. F@#K. This wasn't good.
A bush protruding several feet into the bike path had caught everyone off guard. With only enough time to brace and shoulder through it, no one was able to warn the rider on their wheel. While everyone else managed ok, my extra-wide flat bars had different plans. Before I knew it Eric was there to make sure I was ok - fortunately, his boss handling skills saved him from enduring the same fate as me (despite going down inches in front of him). In fact, everyone had stopped to make sure I was ok. After collecting myself I was able to see that my hip, elbow, and shoulder took all the impact...
And my glasses, DOUBLE F%&K.
I'm very blind without my glasses, so this definitely was not good. One arm was completely broken off. Fortunately, Braden came to the rescue with some emergency gorilla tape. While far from perfect, it would have to do. After mending my glasses and giving my body a few minutes to tell me how much it hated me, I decided to hammer on - to complete the nearly 100 miles left of the ride. Back in the saddle things were tough but I was still able to hold pace. In fact, both Drew and I managed to keep pace all the way out to James Island before the crew turned things up even more and started to slip away. But not too far away. We managed to keep their lights in sight and after some busy intersections, we managed to catch up again. A perfectly timed security patrol changed our plans for a loop around James Island so we hit some extra miles on the road before returning on the path. Again the crew began to slip away; Drew and I knew it was about time to set our own pace. A few miles later we caught up with the gang at the halfway store stop. We all refueled and said our goodbyes as the rest of the crew set off at a pace Drew and I knew we could not keep.
And then it was just the two of us.
We set off back into the night, with many miles ahead of us still. Engaged in conversation and riding at a more sensible speed I was doing my best to ignore the burning feeling growing in my hip. The minutes turned to hours, and the miles rolled by. Our conversation eventually slowed, even settling into silence for long stretches. Our headlights illuminated a small glimpse of the world before us.
Neither of our glasses could handle it and mine had to come off more than once while riding. Did I mention I'm blind without my glasses?
We rolled through sections of fog so thick we might as well have been in the clouds. Neither of our glasses could handle it and mine had to come off more than once while riding. Did I mention I'm blind without my glasses? We felt like we were riding in a dream. And not the best dream to be honest.
But we were out there fucking doing it, and that felt good.
Before we knew it signs of Richmond started to pop up (literally "Richmond 14") giving us the moral boost we both needed. We were on the home stretch now. And then suddenly there it was lit up on the horizon, that sight everyone returning on the cap trail is longing for: that beautiful Richmond skyline. We were almost back to Outpost; the sense of accomplishment helped turn every remaining pedal stroke. The clock rolled over to 3:00 am right as we rolled into the parking lot. Sore and exhausted, we wrote that time down next to our names on a clipboard, officially bringing this whole crazy night to an end.
Sore and exhausted and filled with accomplishment it was time to say goodbye and head home. Time to start recovery and time to tend to my wounds. And time to smile.
How do you make a big, dumb ride even dumber? Do it on a track bike.
and now for another take on these mysterious events...
Braden's Big Dumb Ride Recap.
I get that the idea of riding your bike for more than 7 hours at a time is not going to be appealing to everyone. But for some of you, for some strange reason, it seems to be fun. Maybe that type 2 fun that’s best looked back on, but regardless of how enjoyable it is, here we are having completed another 200km ride.
We set out a little after 6:30 PM. It was still hot but with the sun starting to drift towards the horizon, we made our way from Forest Hill across the river and to the Shiplock Park trailhead of the capital trail. The first all too familiar miles ticked by at a sensible pace as we made our way east. By the time we reached Malvern Hill, the sun had set and the pace was picking up. At night the Cap Trail takes on a different character. Tunnel vision sets in as landmarks and mile markers become harder to recognize.
By around 8:30 PM we were skirting the edge of a storm to the south and getting hit with intermittent light rain. Not enough to dampen our spirits, but certainly enough to dampen the trail and wreak havoc on visibility. Not far from Charles City an unchecked tree branch encroaching onto the trail grabbed someone's bar and tossed them to the ground. The call of “CRASH CRASH” rippled through the group and we all came to a stop. I doubled back a few dozen yards to find Phil picking himself up off the ground while others looked around for his now missing glasses. The glasses were found BUT one of the ear pieces had been mercilessly ripped from its hinge. Lucky for us I learned a great tip on my Pittsburg-DC through-ride (link to blogs) from my friend Wilson. I reached into my flat kit and brought out… a tire lever. But not just any tire lever. This trusty pink Pedro’s lever was wrapped with GORILLA TAPE. I peeled off a few inches of tape and handed it to Phil. A short time later the glasses were repaired and we are all back on our bikes.
By now the original group had been broken into smaller cohorts of riders and the rain was coming down just a little bit more consistently. We stopped briefly at Charles City Courthouse to refill bottles but made a point to keep it quick. I’ve always found that on long rides like these it’s best to keep the stops brief so the heart rate doesn’t drop too much and the legs stiffen up. We continued in the dark.
The rain blew out, but between the trail surface still being wet and the increased humidity, visibility was poor. Those with prescription glasses were in a bad spot. I drifted to the back of the group took off my clear glasses and started fumbling around with the light settings on my computer. Between the extra dark conditions and the mist in the air, what I thought was going to be a dim enough computer screen was becoming increasingly distracting. After a few moments of messing about, I looked up to see that I had managed to drop myself from the group. Dammit.
The group ahead was 6 or so strong and I was having to push harder than I wanted to limit my losses. My foolishness resulted in chasing the group solo for the next 10 miles. Shortly before Williamsburg I caught up to Phil and Drew when a moment later Chris T came ripping by me. Somehow back in Charles City, the group had been split more than I had realized. Chris and Perry (on his e-cargo bike) came by fast enough that after my previous effort chasing, there was no way I could get back on. I ended up riding the last 2 miles into Williamsburg alone again with Phil and Drew just slightly behind.
We regrouped at mile-marker 0 and prepared to make our lap of James Island. Now the one thing about this ride that is important to remember, is that the island is closed at night. In years past we have made a lap of it anyway without incident, but this year was different. As luck would have it, as we turned right onto the last few hundred feet of the Colonial Parkway an SUV rolled up behind us. I looked back and I knew in an instant that it was a park ranger and we would NOT be taking a lap. We all paused near the entrance to the island as the ranger told us to “beat it”. We turned back around in disappointment.
In a moment of brilliance or utter foolishness, I decided that since we would not be making the roughly 6-mile loop of the island, we may as well ride out and back on 3 miles of the parkway to make up the mileage before turning back for home. For some reason, we decided that we may as well get this over with as quickly as possible and we sent Chris to the front to pull. And pull he did, at 25mph. On the rough surface of the parkway, this proved to be an even bigger effort than it sounds, but we were getting it done quickly. Deep down though I knew that I would be paying for this later.
We wrapped up our 6-mile detour and zipped to the 7-11 as quickly as possible to refuel again. Electrolytes and calories were obtained, and we kept the chit-chat as brief as possible. Phil and Drew (who were both on single-speed fixed gear bikes) told us they were going to rest a bit longer and bid us farewell. Our reduced group of 7 got back onto the cap trail and made a beeline going west.
The storm had completely blown out and the humidity had dropped a bit. But I could feel the fatigue creeping into my legs. The pace was still fairly high and when I reached the Chickahominy bridge the elastic snapped and I came off the back of the group along with Mike W. We watched powerlessly as the taillights of the other 5 riders drifted further and further away until vanishing into the night. We knew that it was just going to be the two of us the remaining 50 miles of the ride and settled into a manageable pace. The ride back in was slower than the ride out for sure, but we managed to keep it steady and watch as all the mental markers ticked by. Haupts Store, Charles City, Roxbury, Malvern Hill… when we hit the parking lot of Four Mile Creek we knew it we were almost done (less than 20 miles to go!). I thought about the ice cream sandwich and recovery bottle waiting for me at the shop and mustered what I had left to lift the pace. The mile markers counted up and finally, we made the final downhill into Rockett’s Landing. While we were not done yet, we knew it was all but over. After crossing the T-pot bridge it was just a short ride to the last ascent from Reedy Creek to Forest Hill. The final ride up that hill always stings a bit, but the knowledge that you are all but done blunts the pain.
We rolled into the parking lot at 2:00 AM on the nose. I had made my personal goal of keeping my moving time under 7 hours (6:53) and had only given up 34 minutes to planned and unplanned stops.
I said goodbye to Mike and went inside to eat that Nightengale ice cream sandwich and take a few minutes to relax before heading home to shower and pass out. What a night.
A big shout out to not only those who finished ahead of me but also to those who came in behind. This ride is always hard and for those with prescription eyewear, it was particularly challenging. If you did the whole deed, congratulations. If you scratched, don’t be discouraged. There is always next year to try again.