Mason English Department Chair's
224 miles, 24 hours!
We made it!
were only required
to ride 224 miles in 24 hours, we planned to go 229 miles to the Key
"controlled" (randonneur languge for having your presence documented at
a particular place and time) at the same 7-11 in Falls Church
where we began.
had just enough miles at 24 hours into the
We started out strong, with beautiful warm weather and had a
lovely ride paralleling the Potomac on the Maryland
side--only a flat tire slowed us down
continued good until
outside of Martinsburg,
when a powerful thunderstorm came
through--the winds must have been 50 mph (it had been getting steadily
and cloudier all afternoon).
Fortunately, a very nice family invited us into their
house, where we
waited out the storm.
Because of a steady headwind, the rain delay, and a number
of long climbs, we got into Berkeley Springs, WV
three hours later than we were hoping to.
Still, we had a good time in Berkeley Springs, where we
Department colleague Dean Tacuich for dinner at a place called the
which had just the right kind of food for hungry bikers--hamburgers,
and lots of French fries.
(We also ran into Department colleague Deb Shutika. Small world.)
By the time we left Berkeley Springs night was beginning to
fall--and so was a lot more rain.
road through the next storm, which was not as powerful as the previous
then it rained a good deal for the next few hours. We were heading for Winchester,
Our first miles to Winchester
were quite pleasant along a road
that climbed steadily, but not very steeply, out of Berkeley Springs.
But then--it was now about
9 pm--we got to
what my Team Captain, who planned our route, had made the heart of the
ride through Shanghai,
The approach to Shanghai
took us up an extremely steep ascent--and up, and up.
I can't say how many miles, but it went on
we just had our bike
lights, we couldn't see the end.
behind the other three riders, and found myself alone on the most
difficult part of the trip, with the rain continuing to fall, and the
temperature becoming much cooler as I climbed.
The wind was absolutely roaring through the trees.
It was at this point that
I decided this trip
was a lot like writing a dissertation--you just keep going.
I was working very hard
climbing the hill,
and getting chilled at the same time: it wasn't pleasant.
Finally, I saw the lights
of my riding
partners, who were stopped because one of our team member's handlebars
resourcefully fixed them
by making a splint with a stray piece of straight metal and duct tape
got into warm clothes.
By the time we made it to our control point, a convenience
store in Shanghai
where we were supposed to have our time and presence documented, the
no other businesses
pondered what to do.
pictures of ourselves at the store.
of this lost us more time.
resume riding until about 10:15 pm.
Because we were running so late, we decided to take an
easier route to Winchester
along Route 11.
wasn't too busy, and
it was blessedly flat compared to some of the smaller roads we had been
finally had some
we did not get
into our Winchester
control until 1:00 am.
We had less than six hours to go by the time we left the
control, and still about 70 miles left.
Our Team Captain suggested we again take an easier main
more time, though,
because we got lost in Winchester
trying to find 7.
ended up in a
residential subdevelopment where we got our second flat.
By now it must have been
2:00 am, and since there
were three other riders working on the flat, I thought I could help the
most by lying on the sidewalk, and, using my bike helmet for a pillow,
as we turned
directly east we had a strong wind at our backs, our reward for
same wind out of the west on the first half of the ride.
Our next challenge was Snickersville gap, a long climb
through the last of the mountains before hitting the piedmont.
It was indeed a slog,
though the descent on
the other side was very welcome.
at 4:00 am in the sleepy dark, the descent was also scary, as was our
trip to Leesburg on Route 7.
Captain was determined to finish the ride in the required time.
I was skeptical and ready
to take a nice trip
down the Washington and Old Dominion bike trail even if we did not (our
original plan was to get on the trail at its start in Purceville, where
odds we finished successfully--but it involved some hairy riding on 7
road is like an interstate highway.
cars and trucks were blowing by me.
Worse, I was feeling woozy with many miles and lack of
best condition to be riding on a busy highway.
I passed a sign at about 5:30 am that said "Falls Church
miles" and I thought, and thought, "this is crazy."
I had not known we could adjust our endpoint;
I believed we had to make it to Falls
then on to the Marriott in Arlington
But even 21 miles in an
hour and half at this
point seemed impossible, no matter how hard the tailwind (I don't think
it was as
strong as the headwind we fought on the way out, but that feeling may
The skies were brightening as we headed into Tyrson's Corner
(still on 7) and for the last effort to the 7-11.
Our time in was 7:05.
Apparently, you get a five-minute break on
your time, so that was okay.
At the ride's end I thought:
once is enough.
later, I've found myself thinking about how, if I did this again, I