Yesterday, I completed my 12th 200k in as many months, qualifying me for my R12 award from Randonneurs USA (http://www.rusa.org/). This is a goal that I set back in February, and I cannot explain how happy I am that I have achieved it. I will post a blog entry at a later date to reflect on that achievement. For now, let me talk about the Nottoway Ramble because there is MUCH to cover.
There were a few requirements that I was looking for when I was choosing my ride for December. I wanted to ride on a dry day that was as warm as possible. Well, for those of you that have been awake for the month of December you know that pretty much the whole country has been experiencing a cold spell, and a 200k in San Tropez was not only beyond my budget, but probably would not count towards my R12. So, after days of watching weather.com's 10 day forecast I saw that Friday was going actually break into the 40's so I targeted that day. This weekend is my weekend with Emily so after re-arranging the travel plans that were already in place, I was able to make it work.
I requested to ride this perm from the owner (Ron Malinauskas) and we managed to get all the requisite paperwork done via email. He provided great support for me by way of recommending a hotel, directions from the hotel to the start, information about where to park, recommendations for lunch and map images of the route. In addition to all this, his cue sheet was excellent. It was detailed and the cue's were extremely accurate.
So after a night in the hotel (which was nice) I headed out to the start. The temp was a balmy 24 degree's, but I knew that it would warm up into the high 40's so I was not too discouraged. I was layered pretty well with my Shower Pass jacket, a couple Under Armour layers and the moisture control system. As I started out, I was bit chilly, but soon I was toasty warm pedaling to the first control.
The first control was The General Store in Yale, VA. Well, I would be willing to bet that it was the ONLY store in Yale, VA. It was definitely a step back in time. The woman that was behind the counter was very kind and very southern. I asked for an egg sandwich on and english muffin and she said they didn't have english muffins just biscuits and toast. OH YEAH, I forgot... I am in the south, so it is biscuits with everything. I got my egg sandwich on a biscuit, sat down at the dinning room table that was in from of the store and enjoyed the warmth. After about 30 minutes there I jumped back on the bike and headed to the next control.
As I pedaled away from the store, I did a quick mental inventory of how I felt. I was fed, I had water AND some hot coffee in my insulated bottle (thanks Dave) I had been diligent up to that point in regards to my e-caps, my back, legs and toucas felt fine... so far so good.
The next control was an information control at mile 58+. I made it the information control, gathered the information, enjoyed a Snickers bar and some coffee and headed to Waverly. The route owner had mentioned am Italian place in Waverly where he likes to stop for lunch. I wasn't really hungry at the time that I arrived there, but I did need some water so I bought a bottle of water from that place and headed on my way. Again, a mental inventory showed that I was in a good place.
The ride from Waverly to the 2nd control, again was uneventful. I did notice that most of the roads that I was on were tar and chip and seemed to rattle quite a bit. I did notice that my shoulders were getting a bit sore, and I attributed that to both lack of riding prior to this ride and the vibration of the road surface taking its toll. I arrived at the 3rd control, which is at mile 82+. It was a small store that was operated by a woman that did not speak very good english. It was about lunch time so I asked if they sold sandwich and all they had were frozen sandwiches that could be microwaved. I chose the philly cheese steak sandwich and added some chips and a coke. I lingered at the store for a good while, struck up a conversation with the ice cream delivery man who happened to be from Salisbury Beach, MA originally so we talked Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics for a while.
Before heading out to the next control I made a slight wardrobe adjustment. Knowing that the difference in temperature would be about 25 degrees, I knew that as the ride wore on I would be sweaty and my layers would not be able to keep up with wicking the moisture away from my body. So I brought along fresh moisture control system and an additional Under Armour base layer (all packed in a zip loc bag, in the pocket of my Shower pass jacket) After making the adjustment, I felt warm and dry, almost like this was the start of the ride. Mental inventory.... getting fatigued and ready to be done, but feeling good.
Well, that feeling changed rather quickly as I was headed to the next control. At about mile 85+ I see up ahead a dog that was laying on its front porch decides that it wants to take a run at me. The front yard that he is in is not the big, so by the time I get to his house, he is already in the road waiting for me and barking. Well, I accelerate to try to out run him and he is barking a way that you just know if he gets a chance... he would like nothing more than take a bite out of you. I manage to get past him and then I have a decision to make... the road bears right or goes straight...I can't slow up and look at the cue sheet or I will be minus one ankle... I chose to go straight... I chose poorly. After making the decision to go straight there was a speed bump in the road that I managed to bunny hop, but in doing so one of my snickers bars came out of my bento box. CRAP... I have lost chocolate. The dog did not chase me too long, but it was like he knew I would be back. He didn't meander back to his yard, he laid down by the sign at the intersection waiting for me. So, after stopping and thinking this through (here I am trying to out smart a f*%#in dog) the plan was to ride back to the intersection on the extreme far right hand side of the road and head back from where I came and then after the dog settles down again, ride past him again and bear right this time like I was suppose to. Well, things worked out better than I expected... kind of... I headed up the road, and the dog figured this time he would lead me a little bit more, which allowed me to slow enough to take the left hand turn that I need to take to put me on the road I needed to be on. I pedaled pretty fast, and was pretty proud of the way that worked out. I didn't hear any barking, a quick look over my left shoulder I could see the dog. Well, that was because he was in my blind spot just over my right shoulder... and when he finally barked, it scared the crap out of me and I about fell off my bike. I looked to my right and there was Cujo. At that point the dog looked HUGE. I could have sworn that I was looking eye to eye with him. I accelerated a little bit and he gave up the chase. Mental inventory... Not as good as it was before.
Over the next 20 miles or so, there were SEVERAL dog encounters. With the first encounter still fresh in my mind, I was VERY aware of any barking that I heard. In this area, the majority of the houses are farm houses with really long driveways. With me watching for ANY movement heading towards the road, I was pretty much able to pick up my speed as soon and I saw the dogs head my way, and none of them go very close.
However, there was one dog that almost put me over the edge. At just about mile 100 I saw a truck coming down a real long driveway heading to the road I am on, with a dog running along the drivers side. A wonderful... this guy is bringing the dog to the road, so much for my head start. As the truck turned on the road headed towards me, the dog was still chasing but now along the passengers side on the side of the road. Well, I tried to position myself so the truck would be between me and the dog and maybe the dog would miss me entirely. HA HA HA... you think that would happen? Not a chance. The dog saw me... went to all stop turned around and began the chase. This dog was fast and just would not stop chasing. I looked back one time and saw that the gap had opened a bit and I figured he has begun to give up, so I slowed a bit... he kept right on coming and was getting closer. I was winded and felt the twinge in my thigh of an impending cramp... I can't very well stop and chew and ecap at this point, so I slowed down and just figured if he catches up to me, I deal with it when it happens. I had my water bottle in hand if I needed it. After slowing up a little I looked back and saw that his tongue was hanging out of his mouth and that he had slowed a bit too, so I pushed for one last time and was able to discourage him enough to quit chasing. Now, because of the first incident with Cujo, I had become acutely aware of my next cue on the cue sheet. I knew that at mile 104.4 I had to take a left. I know that this encounter started at about 100+ mile mark and it couldn't have been too much more than a mile before the next cue, so I figure that this dog chased me for nearly 3 miles... which doesn't seem like much, that is unless your the one being chased. I made the left hand turn at mile 104.4 and did another mental inventory ... really BAD! I have ridden with riders who do not want to dogs to chase them because they are afraid they will get hit. I yelled "STAY" and "NO" and "GO HOME" like they do... to no avail. I have even seen riders almost get hit themselves to try to prevent a chasing dog from getting hit. I am not proud to say it, but at about mile 102 I was praying for a car to come along and either hit the dog or hit me.
To make my mental state even worse leading up to the marathon with the dog, my Garmin was showing "Low Batteries". I know why this happened, and I am pretty ticked at myself for letting it happen. I used the back light in the morning at the start of the ride while it was dark, and my intention was to stop when it was light to turn that off so each time I hit the joystick on the Garmin to change displays it wouldn't use the back light. Well, as I was riding, with the big gloves on, I was able to turn the headlight to flashing and the helmet light off, but the gloves are too bulky for configuring the light on the Garmin. So it finally died very close to the end (mile 116 according to the Garmin file). It tried to turn it on along the way to mark the points along the way, similar to what I did in July, and at a couple spots that worked, however the spot that I wanted it to work the most (the final information control), I turned on the power, but forgot to turn on the timer, so it did not register that. I did get the last few hundred yards to register the time that I finished.
So, yes, I finished. The R12 is complete and I now can take a month or 2 off from these 200k rides. After the 130 + mile ride I met Amanda and Emily at Chik-fil-A in Virginia Beach. We got our meals to go and Emily and I headed back up to Maryland. We got home just after midnight. That made for a very long day.