Biking a Marathon: The Two-Wheeled Spectator

Last week my friend Katie Bolton asked me to talk to her about strategies for watching the up coming Marine Corps Marathon. Her article hit the interwebs over the weekend:

I met Katie through Friday Coffee Club. She is an unassuming soul who is infinitely more talented, likable, and bright than she’ll ever know. She is between careers and blogs about the travails of finding the sweet spot in the work/life world, a topic that seems to consume so many of my young friends in DC.

I used to run. A lot. One year I ran 3,000 miles. My marathon best is 3:04:29, good for 24th place at the Heritage Trail Marathon in Troy, NY. No brag. Just fact.


Then I hurt my left knee playing volleyball. Sad face.

I miss running, especially on days when it is just a little too cool for bike riding. That’s prime long distance running weather.

You might think that runners don’t appreciate the cheers from the crowd in a marathon. You’d be wrong. The energy boost that the crowd gives is potent. I’ll never forget the boost I got from the crowds in Newport RI during the final run through downtown in the Ocean State Marathon. (Too bad they weren’t around when I hit the wall three miles later!)

Of course, a great way to cheer your friendly marathoner on is to ride a bike to various spots along the course. In DC you don’t even need a bike. You can use the bike sharing system. Any bike will do.

I know a few people runing Marine Corps so I’ll ride up to DC to cheer them on. if there is a marathon in your neck of the woods, check it out. Make some noise. The runners will definitely appreciate it.

Blowin’ in the Wind

Bob Dylan is getting a Nobel. He wrote the theme song to the 2016 Great Pumpkin Ride. It’s called Blowin’ in the Wind.

We had a nice Indian summer this week. Temperatures were in the 80s during the day. Then a front came through and autumn was back. In force.

The ride continued nonetheless. Apparently the 20 -30 mile per hour winds and the 40 mile per hour gusts turned some people off. I signed up for this ride when Ultrarunnergirl asked me about it. She planned to ride with another friend. She ended up spending the day at a vineyard not far away. Can’t say I blame her.

I met up with some other friends, Paul, Amy, and Jody, at the start. We were going to ride the 48 mile route. Slowly. We left a little after the official 9:30 start.

Adding to the fun was the fact that I have a sore throat and a pretty nasty cold. I was shivering when we started and my energy levels were very low. I ate an energy bar left over from my June bike tour.


The wind seemed to be mostly at our backs for the first 15 miles, with the occasional crosswind to nearly blow us off the road. We mostly had protection from trees. One cool aspect of this was the fact that leaves were falling like rain. Every so often they’d dance in the air pocket in front of my body. As if to tip their caps to the end of warm weather.

The scenery could not have been better. It took my mind off the random blast. Jody led the way for the start. Paul and Amy rode together. I played shutterbug.


This was Amy’s first long ride. The conditions not being ideal, we decided to stop and give her a chance to chop off 10 miles of the route. Amy didn’t take the bait. We rode on to the first rest stop. It was at a church. Warm apple cider. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread. Even Paul’s favorite: pumpkin whoopie pies.

I said hello to Dave and Jean who were riding the 60+ mile route. They had been contending with lots of headwinds.

Leaving the rest stop, we encountered open farm land. No trees to protect us. And we were getting blasted. Not surprisingly this broke our group of four up. I was just plugging along keeping my heart rate where it likes to be kept. I ended up being way out in front. Probably has something to do with riding 6,500 miles already this year.

I stopped at the top of a hill. Riders struggled with the headwind as they climbed. Then came Jody. And we waited. After many minutes, Paul and Amy arrived. Dang. We may be old, but we are slow.

I told Amy the next rest stop at Old Bust Head brewery was four miles away. Jody corrected me and said it was six. “Amy, I rounded up.”

And away we rode. More pretty country stuff. Leaves. Farms. Dessicated corn stalks. A pony being trained.

The brewery was a welcome retreat. I had two pints. The bubbles felt good on my throat.

We set out for the last ten or so miles back to the start. I became separated from the three. I fell in with an old guy. (As Jody later pointed out, “We’re all old!”) He told me he had only recently started biking again. He said he was old and fat. He didn’t look it.We played leap frog.He actually rode faster than me on the flats but the hills were really challenging for him. He walked a few, huffing and puffing, but never gave up.

For most of the time I was riding I was in my usual meditative trance. When I rode past a turn early in the ride, Jody had to yell at me to get me back on course. Be one with the cue sheet.

I zoned out for the last few uphill miles. I have no idea how fast I was going. The scenery, the hills, the wind. As Robbie Robertson once said, “The wind just sort of took me there.”

At the end of the ride, I watched as the after party closed up shop. I waited and watched old guy finish. Then Jody. Then some others. Where were Paul and Amy. Worry began to set in. They finally arrived having been escorted by the police. Amy was la lanterne rouge. But she finished.

I rode to my car. I was the last car in the vast horse show grounds.

I drove off. Into the wind.

Here are some pix on my Flickr page.

Random Thoughts

It’s been a while since I did a list of the things that the monkeys in my brain are saying. So here goes:

  • The official end of summer happens when your baseball team plays its last game. Spring begins on opening day.
  • Somebody, somewhere makes diapers for dogs. Unless my co-worker is putting me on. Which is possible. Then again, they make poop catchers for horses.
  • Greyhounds are modern day velociraptors. Seriously. Would I lie about such a thing?
  • I grew up with a golden retriever. He’d run away from home and come to my grade school. Then he’d bark at the window of my classroom. So, in front of my whole class, I’d have to go and try to catch him by the collar and take him home. When I think back on it, it’s incredible that he could find me. Dog noses are amazing.
  • A man crashed the bathroom line at the ballgame the other night. I told him that the line starts back yonder. He insisted that he was in front of me the entire time. With a straight face. I should have peed on him.
  • When I work from home, I either get tons done or nothing. The day after the final payoff game in DC was not my best day. It may have something to do with getting home at 2:30.
  • It blows my mind how crappy the DC area subway has become. It was the envy of the nation for most of the 1980s and 1990s. People would literally ooh and aah when the went into the stations. Now they just cringe.
  • I really like Steven Wright’s line: “Everything is walking distance if you have enough time.”
  • I grew up in the frozen north. My father used to get rid of his cars when the warranty expired. Usually every 3 years. He never had rust on his cars either.
  • My record for mileage on a car is 163,000, a 1991 Honda Accord station wagon. I might still own it except the seats made my back ache. One of the cars we own now is a 2004 Honda Accord sedan. It has over 150,000 miles on it. It’s kind of beat up (mostly from my daughter’s experiential driver training) but the seats are comfy and it runs like new. I think it’s going for the record. I took it to the mechanic earlier this week.
  • The mechanic just called. the car is ready. He gave me 2,587.82 reasons to ride my bike.
  • I have never understood people who run or bike with headphones on. I need my hearing to stay safe. Equally as important, I ride my bike to calm my mind, not to add to the day’s info overload.
  • It is truly weird to be known to some people only by my Internet name, Rootchopper. By day, a mild manner government economist (who drops f-bombs at the office computer system on an hourly basis), by night, a bike rider who magically maintains the serenity of the universe by riding 12 miles per hour.
  • Sorry, that last bullet point was a tad woo woo.
  • For most of my adult life I have been doing exercises to strengthen core, abdominal muscles. Whoever said this was a good idea was an ignorant fool. I can do crunches until the cows come home and I  still have back spasm episodes once or twice a year. Lately I have discovered that my back spasms have more to do with weak oblique muscles (on the side of my torso) and tight hamstrings. So when my back starts acting up I just do some side dips or side planks and some hamstring stretches. Your mileage may vary.
  • Over the last 13 months I traveled to seven countries. I have no idea what to do for an encore.
  • I am also maxing out event rides in the DC area this fall. Next year I plan on doing as many rail trail rides as possible or a fall tour, either to Bar Harbor or to Key West. Cold rain or hurricanes. Pick your poison.
  • I unfriended someone yesterday on Facebook. She hadn’t followed me for over a year. Not a comment. Not a “like”. We haven’t done anything together in ages. I will be interested to find out how long it takes before she even realizes that  Elvis has left the FB building.
  • Unfriending sounds mean. I think it’s a brilliantly passive aggressive marketing strategy.  What kind of person would do such a thing to a friend? Um, me.
  • The only place I know where friendship is a one-way street is Providence, Rhode Island.

From Arte Johnson to Tater Tots in 39 Miles

Those of you old enough to know who Arte Johnson is know that he made famous a couple of bits of schtick. One was a lecherous old man who mumbles and grunts at Ruth Buzzi’s old lady in a hairnet until she whacks him with her purse. The other was of a man on child’s tricycle riding until he falls over sideways.

I pulled Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out for the first time in over two months. I planned on looking at colorful leaves and the upright seating position on this bike is just the thing I needed for maximum enjoyment. Sadly, peak foliage around her is at least a week away. (This is great news for those of us who will be riding the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA next week, however.) Of course, if I wanted to see foliage, I should have gotten out of bed and driven to the Blue Ridge. But I slept in.

Big Nellie is my only bike with clipless pedals, the kind that attached to the bottom of your shoe. I anticipated that this might be a problem and I wasn’t disappointed. After dodging 4,397 runners, walkers, cyclists, and escaped convicts on the Mount Vernon Trail, I made my way down Union Street in Old Town Alexandria. I had made it half way through the tourist zone near King Street when I came upon a Mazda stopped in front of me at a stop sign. I rolled slowly up to it. It didn’t move. Nobody was in its way. It just didn’t move.

As I came up to its bumper I realized I was going to have to stop. I went to unclip and nothing happened. My left foot wouldn’t release. So I veered to the right of the car as I frantically twisted my foot to no avail. I lost my forward momentum and started falling to the left. I reached out to brace myself on the Mazda’s back left fender. Then it moved and I completed my Arte Johnson and landed on my side on the pavement.

My recumbent seat is only a couple of feet off the ground to begin with. Breaking my fall by contacting the Mazda made the normally uneventful fall even less so. Yet I was still lying on my side in the middle of the street with this ginormous bike attached to me.

A Latina pedestrian came over to help. She was saying something in frantic, accented English but I couldn’t understand her. During the fall, my left foot unclipped but my right foot stayed attached. As she was speaking, I was twisting my right foot and hoping it would release so I could get my body out of the street.

The driver and the passengers in popped out of the car in a panic. ARE YOU OKAY? No, I have a really bruised ego! An my foot is stuck!

A cyclists with gray hair flowing out from under his helmet appeared. Her grabbed my right arm to pull me up. No. Please. I am fine. I just feel like a complete dweeb lying in the street with this chaise lounge attached to my right foot.

Finally, my right foot released and I stood up. Latina smiled. Gray hair bike rider looked relieved. Mazda people got back in car free from the fear that they had somehow contributed to the clumsiest cycling accident of the month. (As I write this four hours later, only my left knee feels any pain. Mostly from getting whacked by the bike’s top tube as I twisted my right leg to free it.)

Well, if any of the people who were there are reading this, thanks for your concern.

I continued riding up the trail of a million weekend warriors until I reached Teddy


Roosevelt Island. I ride by TR Island every day on my way to work, but the last time I set foot on it was at least 20 years ago.


I locked the bike and went for a calming walk on its dirt trails. The island is an oasis of green in the Potomac River only a few hundred yards from the Sunday brunchers on the riverfront in Georgetown. It would be an incredibly relaxing place but the noise from airplanes flying into National Airport and the cars rumbling across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge ruined the ambiance.

Teddy Trail

Before leaving I did an Interwebs search for pizza. I was hungry. There’s an Italian place right next to the Custis Trail about 2 miles away. It’s called The Italian Place. Damned clever if you ask me. So I rode up the long hill out to Rosslyn then up some more until the universe decided I had had enough. After a half mile down hill run, I came to the place. They should change its name to The Place with the Incredibly Long Line. I was took a number. 87. Then I heard them call “47!” I walked out.

I continued on the trail up/down/up/down/up/down etc. Until I came to a flat stretch. Lance Mamilot came riding past from the other direction. He blew a snot rocket to his right. Then just as I reached him he blew one to his left. What an asshole! I got a misty spray of his nasal excretions on my left leg. Ewwww!

At the W&OD Trail I headed back toward home. Nineteen miles down, only 17 miles to go. I decided to leave the trail at US 1 and work my way through the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. I stopped at Del Ray Pizzeria. I was going to get t


hat pizza after all. Sadly, they don’t serve individual slices. This was almost as upsetting as the snot rocket and the Arte Johnson. I had a cheese steak instead.  It was humongous. I looked great but did not live up to its visual wonderfulness. It was probably a good cheese steak as cheese steaks go, but I am not much of a cheese steak person. Nick Hornby once remarked that there are well written books that are poorly read. Perhaps this was a good cheese steak that was poorly tasted.

In any case, the cheese steak came with tater tots. Tater tots cure everything. I’ll bet that if Arte Johnson ate tater tots, he’d have stayed upright.




Doing All the Things

What a beautiful Saturday. I could have gone for a hike but I had things to do. Eight things to be exact.

Thing 1

I rode my bike to the government center down the street and I voted. I could vote early because I will be out of town on election day. The only down side to voting early is that other voters don’t get to see me bike to the polls. Oh well, at least I got a new sticker.

I bike and I vote

Thing 2

Next up, I rode to the drug store to score some drugs. Okay, it was asthma medicine which isn’t all that exciting until I don’t have it when I need it.

Thing 3

I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the farmer’s market it Old Town Alexandria. The place was packed. There were apples. LOTS of apples. I didn’t buy any. I was just people watching. There were people. LOTS of people. I didn’t know any.

Thing 4

Next up was a Thai massage. After all the biking I’ve been doing, it was time to cash in the gift card that Mrs. Rootchopper gave me on my birthday in August. It was for a one-hour session including a foot bath. I’d never had a foot bath like this before. The therapist kneaded my feet. I laughed through the whole thing except when it hurt. I have tender puppies. So it hurt quite a lot. When it was over, it felt pretty awesome. If you are a runner, you should have a soaking foot massage.

Thai massage place in Old Town

Then the message happened. Dang are my muscles tight. After 20 minutes, I asked to extend my message for an extra 30 minutes. This was going to take some time. My massage therapist was Dau. She did a great job. Some of it hurt but I told her to keep working on the sore parts anyway. It differed from the other Thai massage I had last year. For one thing, I was on a massage table instead of on a cushion on the floor. This gave Dau a different angle on manipulating my body. Another difference is that, although my legs were tight, I did not have numbness in my right leg. Last time the therapist had to limit the work on my thighs.

When it was over I walked out feeling totally relaxed. My thighs were so relaxed. I had no idea how tight they were. And my back felt like new.

I am not a massage kind of guy. I usually feel like I have better things to do with my time. This was different. It was definitely worth the time and money.

Thing 5

Mrs. Rootchopper does the grocery shopping after her Saturday morning Pilates class. I forgot to tell her that we needed coffee and raisins. So I swung by the grocery store to get some. They fit nicely in my Carradice saddle bag.

Thing 6

After I got home, I mowed the lawn. During summer our back lawn grows much faster than the front. In autumn, the front grows faster. Either way, it’s much easier to mow the lawn when it’s not 95 degrees outside.

Thing 7

I read the paper. Two hours later I woke up. This is primo napping weather. Resistance is futile.

Thing 8

I bought tickets for my daughter to fly home for Thanksgiving. Free. Boy am I glad Southwest flies into National Airport.


Closing Day

When I went to sleep Wednesday night, my intention was to spend Thursday at work then ride home and watch the Nationals play the Dodgers in the deciding game of their baseball playoff series. Having watched scores of games both at the ballpark and on television (not to mention listening to a few on the radio), I was totally psyched that this would be a ballgame for the ages.

So, during the morning, I bought a ticket. I headed to the ballpark on Deets and prepared for a long night. The game started just after 8 pm, an hour after the normal starting time, to accommodate a national television broadcast. This meant that the game would probably not be over in time for fans to take the subway home. The subway system steadfastly refused to extend its hours. So fans had to improvise. The hashtag #natsride and account @natsride sprung up over the last few days to facilitate carpooling. Many others chose to bike to the game, like me.

Prior to the game I ate dinner after which I ran into Kevin from the bike tour. Later in the evening, he offered to get me some World Series tickets which was incredibly thoughtful. We were sitting in opposite sides of the ballpark so we parted ways. Soon after reaching my seat in the left field grandstand, Klarence and Lauren walked down the aisle to my left. They had come to try and get a ball during batting practice. Klarence and I had a long talk, probably our last one for quite a while as our social paths rarely cross anymore. Hugs happened. Then they went off to keep score in their perch in the seats high above the Nats on deck circle.

Normally, when I go to a baseball game alone, my introversion melts away and I strike up a mini-friendship with the folks sitting nearby. It’s a very conversational vibe. Last night was different. Fans were on their feet for most of the game, cheering and waving red towels. The atmosphere was more like a football or hockey game.

The Nationals’ ace was on the mound. The Dodgers eventually got to him and some relievers for four runs. The crowd stilled. Then the Nats scored a run. Woot! Then a Nats pinch hitter hit a two run homer. Pandemonium!

Since this a win or else situation, the managers used every trick in the book and played nearly everyone they had. At 11:30 the scoreboard announced that the last train was leaving the nearby subway station in a few minutes. The crowd booed! Loudly! (Good luck getting support for fare increases, Metro.)  The game dragged on. Finally, in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Nationals sent up the best hitter in baseball to face the best left handed pitcher in a generation. Our man popped up. Down to their last pinch hitter, the Nationals sent a rookie to the plate. It would have been so cool if he got a hit. Alas, he struck out lamely and the Dodgers won. After over 4 1/2 hours, the longest 9-inning post season game in baseball history.

What a strange feeling it is to go from sensing a euphoric victory to suffering a buzz killing defeat. The crowd went silent. In the distance, you could hear the Dodgers celebrating on the infield. Fans, wiped out from emotion and the late hour, began their long slog home at 12:30 in the morning.

The bike valet was stuffed with bikes. Some were locked to the top of a ten foot high chain link fence that contains the bike racks. Many were simply leaning against other bikes. I was lucky to get out in a reasonable amount of time. After greeting Kevin again, I thought of waiting to say goodbye to my other friends at the game but it was already close to 1 am so I rode off into the dark.

Most of the crowd stayed until the final out. The traffic outside the ballpark was insane. Traffic signals were ignored. Traffic control officers seemed to be completely overwhelmed. Riding a bike under these conditions is like being a running back going off tackle. You just look for the gaps and ride to daylight. Or in this case, headlight.

The ride home along the Mount Vernon Trail featured a steady tailwind. I was groggy but I have ridden this trail so many times that I was nearly confirming that I can ride home in my sleep. Another cyclist followed me all the way to Old Town, about nine miles from the ballpark.

Then I was on my own. The only sign of life I saw was two lights next to the trail. A fox? Raccoon? Opossum?

I pulled into my yard at 2:30.

What better way to soothe the disappointment of a season ending loss than to ride 16 miles under the stars in a crisp autumn breeze.

Only 171 days until opening day.


The Cold, The Deer and The BMW

Dang it was cold this morning. On with the tights. On with the long sleeve shirts. On with the wool socks. On with the vest. On with the lobster gloves.

I am such a weather wimp. It was in the high 40s but I was prepping for 40 below. And I was still cold for the first five miles.

Once I warmed up, I began to notice what an absolutely awesome fall day it was. The sun reflecting off the Potomac.A great blue heron perched on a log waiting to strike a fish amid the hydrilla. A passenger jet taking off over the Mount Vernon Trail at unusually low altitude. The Washington Monument. Not half bad.

My re-set odometer and over did it. It was a half mile farther to work. Oops.

The ride home was pretty sweet. 60s. Sunny skies. A puffy white cloud here and there. It still felt cold but I think it was all in my head.

South of the beltway I admired the beginning of fall colors. Then a deer darted in front of me. A young fawn. Just as I was about to pass behind her, a second deer bounded across my path. She wasn’t all that big either but it was a good thing I kept my head up otherwise I’d have been clobbered.

Emerging from the trail onto Northbound Road, I spotted a BMW making its way toward me with the intent of turning onto the George Washington Memorial Parkway to my right, the driver’s left. Instead of coming down the right lane, the driver took the left lane, my lane. Quelle le fuck?

I wagged my finger at the idjit behind the wheel.

For the last two miles nothing tried to run me over.

You have to be thankful for the little things.


October on a Roll

I am having a pretty darn good weekend. Saturday I rode the Seagull Century. It was supposed to rain all day, but we only had a sprinkle now and then. The overcast skies and light winds along with the impossibly level terrain made for a nearly effortless 96 mile day.

On the drive home, I learned that it rained all day in DC only 120-ish miles away. The Nationals-Dodgers playoff baseball game was postponed until Sunday. My Twitter feed said that because of the rescheduling tickets were available at 10:30 Sunday morning.

After a really deep sleep, I woke up late. I bought a ticket for a seat in the left field grandstand. With winds blowing hard from the direction of DC, I decided to go multimodal. I drove 8 miles, parked my car, and rode the last 7 to the ballpark. I could have driven farther but the Army 10-miler (running) road race had forced several road closures.

My ride to DC was hard because of a relentless strong headwind. I wore my baseball cap instead of a helmet. Crossing the Potomac River on the 14th Street bridge, I tucked my cap into my jacket. The crosswind was so strong I had to lean into the wind to stay upright. Lordy!

Once across the river I practically glided to the ballpark.

My 2015 tour-mate Kevin pulled into the Bike Valet behind me. Good to see him.

The game was a blast. It was my first ever playoff game. The ballpark was packed. Fans were given red towels to wave (the Nationals colors are red, white, and sometimes blue). I didn’t get one. Sad face. I mentioned this to the fans next to me. A woman sitting behind me gave me hers. Woot!

We spent about half the game on our feet cheering and clapping and towel waving. The howling wind made for an adventurous game for outfielders. Somehow Jose Lobaton, the light hitting back up catcher who was subbing for his Venezuelan countryman, the injured Wilson Ramos, smashed a three run home run into the wind. Lobeeeeee!!! Pandemonium!

We won.

I left with a sore throat from screaming.

At the Bike Valet, I ran into Kevin again, then Ed and Mary showed up. Mary rode to Harpers Ferry the other day. Then she ran a marathon. And rode home. She was a tad tired. (I’d be dead.) Go Mary!

Then Lauren and Klarence showed up. I only see them at baseball games these days. They seem so happy together. Klarence and I did our traditional bone crushing hug thing. After chatting for a bit we parted but not without another BCH. Klarence leads the league in BCH per nine innings. Suffice it to say, I miss Klarence big time.

The ride back to the car was literally a breeze. The nasty winds had calmed but what wind remained was at my back for five miles.

Today I slept in. The temperature has finally dropped into the autumn norm. The air is dry. It’s perfect sleeping weather. I spent the morning reading four days’ worth of newspapers and doing all the crosswords and sudokus. I am the newspaper puzzlator!

As I write I am listening to the Nats-Dodgers game on the radio because my TV plan doesn’t get the MLB TV network. As someone who grew up listening to baseball games at night on the radio, I feel like a kid again.

The weekend wasn’t all perfection though. After I changed the tires on Deets, I noticed that the odometer was being stingy. My normal bike commute route is 29.5 miles but the new tires were only getting credit for 29.

So I reset the wheel size. In the process I learned that, unlike my other bike computers, this one won’t allow me to re-enter the 3,045 miles I had deleted in the reset process. Boo. Cateye Urban Wireless. Don’t buy this bike computer.

Also, I pulled out my cold weather bike gear. Wind pants. Lobster gloves. Tights. Ear band.


Okay, autumn has its moments. I promise to enjoy them. With any kind of luck, I’ll get to see another playoff game. Woot!

How was your weekend?




Everybody I know who rides bike events in the DC area raves about the Seagull Century. Seagull is held every October out of Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With over 6,000 participants paying in-season hotel rates, this ride provides a big economic boost. I did not participate in the hotel part of the proceedings, however, choosing to forgo some sleep to save a few bucks.

I left home at 4:30 a.m.

I arrived at Salisbury just before 7. I put my cue sheet on my bike. Threw on my rain jacket because the skies were overcast, and headed to the start. I looked around for people I knew but, seeing no one, set out on my own.

Getting to the start involved riding through a tunnel. Weee!

The start was obstructed by people milling about and straddling their bikes. This was a good reminder that people would be lacking situational awareness during the ride.

After about a mile I struck up a conversation with another rider who told me that organizers had chopped off four miles of the 100-mile route due to flooding. It had rained 15 inches in the area during the previous weeks causing major flooding in some communities along the course. After discussing the flood, he asked me what time I was trying to reach. Time? Seriously? I usually try to reach a zen moment by mile 30 but that’s about the extent of my riding goals.

Within five miles, Chris M. (@manymodecommute on the Twitter) pulled up along side me. We met on the inaugural Cider Ride a few years ago. Ever since I have struggled to remember his face. Another victim of my defective fusiform gyrus. Also, Chris is chatty so the zen thing kind of went out the window. (Except for about a minute late in the ride when my brain went on vacation and Deets decided to ride some rumble strips. How I managed to keep all my filling is a mystery.)

Chris was riding about 1 – 2 miles per hour faster than I normally do but I decided to ride with him anyway. We zipped along in an every changing pack of bcycles.A while ago someone told me that it was wise to skip the first rest stop. They were right. It was a madhouse.

Chris and I made our way through all the people lingering on the road and headed forth looking for Rest Stop No. 2.

Meanwhile we noticed that the road was utterly flat. For those of you wishing to do a very fast 100 mile bike ride, this is your dream ride. I wasn’t looking to prove anything but it was hard not to ride fast. Despite my efforts to make Deets gallop, we were getting passed by scores of bicyclists, sometimes gather in groups. Velomobiles also clipped by us. These are little bike cars.

At the second rest stop 40 miles into the proceedings we had some water and some rather disappointing snacks. A participant while refined interwebs taste said “Hi Rootchopper. I like your blog.” Once again my fusiform gyrus failed me. (If you read this, please identify yourself.)

Trees. Sodden farmers’ fields. Chicken farms. I kept saying we were getting a headwind but Chris was pretty sure we weren’t. It was just the fact that I rarely ride 17 -20 miles per hour.

Just before 60 miles we approached Assateague Island. The bridge to the island looked ominous. It was a trick of the eye. We flew over it.

Chris gets his climbing in

The rest stop at Assateague was a bit better than the previous one. It had packaged, crustless PB&J sammichers. They looked like sponge bread raviolis. The texture was strange but the calories were welcome.

As we left the island we stopped for a photo op with some ponies. Chris is a better wild pony model than I am.


Once we came off the bridge we encountered a bona fide headwind. You mean we have to work at this? Well I never! It was short-lived. In fact, the overcast skies and light winds made for a perfect day to ride hard. We obliged.

Another ludicrously flat 20 miles went by in a flash. The final rest stop loomed. After I parked Deets, I picked up another rider’s bike after it had fallen over. It was made of carbon fiber. It was about half as light as Deets. No wonder so many riders were passing us. (Note to self: never admit you are fat, old, and slow. Find excuses wherever you can. K? Thks.)

I had heard a rumor about pie on this ride but the first rest stops had left me feeling short changed. But no! There was pie at the last rest stop. Cherry pie with vanilla ice cream too.

Major YUM. Chris has so much will power. He made me leave after one piece of pie. I cried.

The last 20 miles featured a climb over a highway. The overpass actually was a little difficult. Not much. Well, not at all actually. There was even a surprise pit stop that featured, I am not making this up, free beer. Dang. (We did not partake, however.)

We rode to the finish line through a tunnel and past throngs of our adoring fans. Okay, maybe one or two said “Hi” but still..

The after ride festivities were pretty nice too. Music, beer, food that didn’t taste like it was made last week.I even ran into Dave (@darsal) and Jean (@oskarchat) who told me about the amazing exploits of Ricky (@bikeeveryday) and Ryan (@ryansigworth) who scorched the course in under five hours. And a special surprise came from seeing Phil F. who I worked with for about 20 years.

The post ride activity was a fun game of Find the Car. When you get up at 4 a.m. and river over two hours you don’t think to make a note of where you park. I had plenty of company. I think I won the game though. I found a campus map. Then made my way to the route I drove in on. That led me to my car. Ta da. Only took me 30 minutes.

Another bonus was the fact that the Nats game got rained out. Now I can recover watching the game tomorrow.

Special thanks to the organizers and volunteers at this very well run event. You did yourselves proud. Also thanks to the many police officers (including Maryland State Troopers) who protected us at busy intersections. And to the EMTs who carted a handful of riders from the course after they crashed.

Bottom line: If you want to do a first century ride, this is your event. The flat course made 100 miles much easier than most metric (62 mile rides I’ve done). If you want to ride your fastest 100 mile ride, this is also the event for you.

I posted a bunch of pictures on my Flickr page.

Get Your Ass to a Doctor

I have often said that had I been born 200 years ago I would have died before the age of 50. Modern medicine has fixed my broken parts many, many times. Nearsightedness, a damaged knee, a ruptured disk, two retinal detachments in my left eye, cataracts in both eyes, and secondary cataracts in both eyes. I just wasn’t born for the long haul.

I apparently also have a little genetic flaw. About 25 or so years ago, my mother contracted colon cancer. She caught hers in time, had an operation, and lived to the age of 90. Inside of my colon cells lingers a strand of DNA that is going

Tick, tick, tick.

Colonoscopies are examinations in which a doctor uses a fiber optic camera at the tip of a long flexible probe to search for irregularities. Cancerous tumors are of immediate concern but so too are polyps, bumps in the wall of the colon that can become cancerous.

When I was around 40, I had my first colonoscopy. In order to clear out my pipes, I had to drink about a gallon of laxative solution that tasted pretty wretched. My mother, who weighed less than half of what I weigh, had to drink about twice as much. Once, she was diagnosed, she had to have frequent colonoscopies. She didn’t mind the procedure itself but she HATED that “stuff” as she called it.

My first colonoscopy came back clear. My second revealed a couple of polyps which were removed and proved to be innocuous. My third not so much. I had seven polyps. My once every five year routine was bumped up to once every three years. In recent preparation for a colonoscopy next month, my doctor showed me why. He pulled out his tablet computer and pulled up a picture from my last procedure. All the way back, at the furthest point in my colon, I could clearly see what looked like a wart. It was an adenoma. This is a type of polyp that could have morphed into a tumor had it not been removed. Welcome to the high risk list. 

I have no symptoms. I felt fine then. I feel fine now. But I know that dear old Mom left me a gift that I don’t want to open. So in a month, I go for my fourth colonoscopy. Each of my four procedures has been a little different. Each time the laxative solution is less voluminous and less nasty tasting. One time I was given light sedation. This was rather fun (I loved up at the nurse who injected me and said, “That feels WONDERFUL” as the drug worked its way into my brain) except when the instrument had to turn a corner. Last time I was knocked out completely. No muss, no fuss.

Here’s how the deal will go down:

I stop eating small foods like corn, peas, and nuts beginning on Sunday. On Wednesday I drink only clear liquids. No solid food at all. At 6 pm on Wednesday, I drink a 16 ounce solution of the stuff. Then another 16 ounces on Thursday morning at 8. At 1 pm, I go to the hospital. At 2 they do the deed. At 3 I will be at home having something to eat before sleeping off the lingering anesthesia. Friday, I go back to work.

It’s that easy. It doesn’t hurt. Regardless of the outcome I will be much better off for having the colonoscopy done.

If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about getting a colonoscopy.

Whether you have a history or not, if you are 50 or older, get one.

Don’t believe all the unpleasant stories you’ve heard. It’s not bad at all. It’s way easier than retina surgery or back surgery. And it’s way easier than contracting undetected colon cancer and having a bowel resection or worse.

Yeah, it’s icky. It’s inconvenient. Do it anyway.

And finally a special note to my middle-aged (sorry, middle age begins at 40) friends who live an awesomely healthy lifestyle (e.g, yoga, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, whole 30, microbiotic). Good on you. Now get your ass to the doctor! No excuses. To my friends go all woo woo about the universe taking care of you. It’s time to put a colonoscope in your present moment.