Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Back Roads Century

The Back Roads Century is one of the premier cycling events in the mid-Atlantic region, and is also considered one of the most beautiful rides in America. - The Back Roads Century Website.

My wife and I frequently travel to Washington, D.C. on business, and because our son and daughter-in-law live there, we try to see them when we do. When we told them we would like to see them the weekend of September 22, they suggested that we ride the "Back Roads Century" together. Unfortunately, my wife could not because it conflicted with her business meeting, but the remaining three of us did.

Thank YOU, Potomac Peddlers, organizers of this ride! Unfortunately, I did not think to get a screenshot of the website until the event was over, but I think it still captures the beauty of the venue and professionalism of the event.

Although billed as a century, five routes of different lengths were offered: 25, 30, 50, 65, and 100 miles. All routes started and finished in the charming town of Berryville, in the northwest corner of Virginia. We opted for the 65 mile metric century:

There were 2,300 riders who attended this year's Back Roads Century, enough to nearly overwhelm the small town of Berryville. The morning of the event, highways leading into Berryville were backed up for miles with cars waiting to get into the parking. During the event, bicycles so crowded the roads that it was difficult for cars to pass. But all of this was managed with competence and grace by the volunteers and, in the end, rather than being a minus, this all contributed to the excitement.

The rest stops provided all the usual amenities, but in addition provided touches well above and beyond the usual. Case in point, the medieval musical group at our first rest stop at Burwell-Morgan Mill:

One special feature of the rest stops was that, in addition to the usual water, gatorade, bananas, oranges, and peanut butter sandwiches, some rest stops featured a unique snack specialty such as tomato sandwiches or Italian ices. The Burwell-Morgan Mill rest stop featured "fresh boiled potatoes:"

Both my son and daughter in law work in the government, and while at the first rest stop, they ran into a colleague of theirs, a completely unexpected but delightful encounter. He was also doing the 65 mile route, so the four of us chose to finish the ride together. As expected, my son and daughter-in-law had a lot in common with him and so the three of them had a lot to talk about. Less expected, so did I.  He had recently been high up in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House and I am a scientist. Not surprisingly, given where we met, he also turned out to be an avid cyclist. Between the two, he and I had plenty to talk about. To complete the participant pictures, I have added two more photographs which include me and my daughter in law.

Top, a friend of my son and daughter-in-law we met on the ride standing next to my son. Bottom left, my daughter in law and son. Bottom right, me and my son, wearing the matching Raulston Strokers jerseys he designed and had made.

The Fairview Church rest stop was roughly the half way point as well as the geographical high point of our ride. It featured food and drink, bicycle repair, and bathrooms; everything a cyclist en route could want. Depending on their very different speeds, cyclists came in and out over many hours. Furthermore, this particular rest stop was only used by those following the 65 mile route. Nonetheless, this moment in time snapshot suggests how busy it was and by implication the magnitude of the Back Roads Century.

Last, but certainly not least, is a photograph of the bike I rode. As usual, I rented this bike from the Big Wheel Bike Shop in Arlington, Virginia. The last time I got a bike from them, both the saddle and the handlebar height were a wee bit aggressive for my aging body. I had been reading on the Rivendell Bike Shop website about why I might want my handlebars high and how to achieve that. For the bikes Rivendell designs and sells, the answer is to get a larger frame size than normal. When I reserved my bike, I tried that strategy; I ordered a 54 cm frame rather than my usual 52. When I walked into the shop, the staff took one look at me and said "This is not happening, the bike you reserved is to big for you!" I explained my thinking and they explained that modern frames are not designed that way; a larger frame would have exactly the opposite effect of what I wanted. Not only did they give me a properly sized frame after I had ordered the wrong one, the bike they gave me was a better model than what I had paid for. As for the saddle, I brought my own well-broken in Brooks B17.

Although I managed to miss both of the life-defining cultural events of my youth, the Woodstock and Altamont music festivals, within the narrower world of cycling, I was fortunate enough to have attended three runnings of the Great Western Bike Rally. I feel like the Back Roads Century is on that scale, a significant event in the cycling world. I am so pleased that my son and daughter-in-law suggested we attend, and as a result, that I was able to experience this unique event. I would strongly recommend the Back Roads Century to any of you who might have the opportunity attend; you will not feel like your weekend was wasted.

MAF Test Results

For those new to this blog, each week I am posting an update of my training results; see my previous posts for explanations of my aerobic training program, MAF tests, and this graph.

The plateau in my results continues, and as it does so, becomes more perplexing. I will be discussing this along with other training results in a future post.

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