Kicking 2016 into the Sharrows

The end of 2016 is here. It seems the general consensus on 2016 was [insert poop emoji]. Without a doubt, the events toward the end of this year have greatly contributed to the general disdain of 2016 and the anxiety leading into 2017. Personally, these events have hit deep within me to the point that I am reevaluating my whole connection to my country. This isn’t even about the people we elect, it’s about the people we have become and our inability to look past propaganda toward critical thinking and evidence. Bottomline: people are stupid. Please read more than a Twitter message. This could be a whole post but I have already typed too much.

My total cycling for the year was 4,685 miles. I did not achieve the 5,500 mile goal I set this time last year. A number factors contributed to my failure. First, I moved to downtown Bethesda which reduced my daily commute by 4 or 5 miles. This really starts to add up over time. On the upside, my commute is more relaxed and enjoyable on a daily basis. Second, health. I crashed my Norcross during the fall on the Talbot Bridge near Silver Spring. in addition, I had lot of minor but nagging injuries and illnesses throughout the year. This kept me off the bike periodically throughout the year. I thought I had a shot at breaking 5,000 miles toward the end of the year but once again illness got in the way [cough].

The organized events this year were somewhat limited for no particular reason.

My 2016 started with the Vasa Ride. This ride, put on by WABA (Washington Area Bicyclist Association) and the House of Sweden, takes riders into the scenic Potomac area. This ride, which occurs in March, has a history of being very cold. On the upside, the House of Sweden provides a delicious blueberry soup at the end. This year, I got to do this ride with Jenny B which was fun. One of the great bonuses of this year has been becoming friendly with Jenny and her husband Steve.

In the spring I was feeling restless and in need of adventure. I decided late one evening to enter the Hilly Billy Roubaix. This is a grueling 72 mile adventure race in the mountainous portion of West Virginia across extremely steep gravel climbs, pavement, and abandoned roads. If you haven’t watched YouTube videos of this race on the Little Indian Creek portion, you should check them out. This video is from the very wet 2015 event.

While this is technically a race, I knew I would treat it as a ride. I trained a bit harder than I normally would in preparation during the spring and early summer. On race day it was very hot and humid which ironically are worse conditions than the pouring rain. The race fought me as I struggled with a bike that wasn’t optimally geared for the course. A setup tilted toward mountain bike gearing is really the way to go. The steep gravel climbs are too much for a bike setup with general cross gearing. As I approached Mile 50, I started having serious leg cramps. As a slipped further and further back towards the cut off times of the race I knew the end of near. The pain just become too much. At the second to last rest stop, I gave up and took the “sag wagon” back to starting area. On the upside, this allowed me to cheer for my friends Ricky, Dana, Seth, Jenny, and Steve as they crossed the finish line. This event was definitely my biggest taste of humble pie of the year. I may have to return soon to try again. Much like the Civil War Century, I have unfinished business with this ride now.

The DCyclist and the group starting the Hilly Billy Roubaix. Photo by Mike Briggs

The DCyclist and the group starting the Hilly Billy Roubaix. Photo by Mike Briggs

Indian Creek Road on the Hilly Billy Roubaix. Photo by Mike Briggs

Indian Creek Road on the Hilly Billy Roubaix. Photo by Mike Briggs

Ricky A. fording the stream at the Hilly Billy Roubaix. Photo by Mike Briggs

Ricky A. fording the stream with his Dean mountain bike at the Hilly Billy Roubaix. Photo by Mike Briggs

The Seagull Century is an event I have done a couple of times previously. This year was a huge success. The weather was a little dicey but in the end there was very little rain. My previous best time to ride the whole 100 miles was 5 hours and 41 minutes. I was lucky to ride with my friends Ricky and Marc. We managed to hook up with some fast people in a pace line. Since I was riding my cross bike on 33c tires and cross gearing I was totally a “passenger” in this peloton but it made the first 20 miles go by very quickly. Eventually, I was dropped by this group. In the end, I shattered my best time by over 30 minutes with a time of 5 hours and 5 minutes.

Although my participation in organized events was reduced, I rode a lot more gravel and pavement with The Bluemont Connection both officially and unofficially. Every month or so, a unofficial gravel ride is organized for a small group to experience epic gravel in rural Virginia. I also participated in one of their official rides: The Baywatch, one of the highlights of the year. These rides were often the perfect escape from the city I desperately need on occasion. If you haven’t heard of The Bluemont Connection you should do yourself a favor in experience one of their events in the spring.

Soaking up every ounce of the experience with Bluemont Connection. Photo by Francis Tatum

Soaking up every ounce of the experience with Bluemont Connection. Photo by Francis Tatum

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Colorful yum. Photo by Francis Tatum

Engaging the Bluemont Relaxation button. Photo by Francis Tatum

Engaging the Bluemont Relaxation button. Photo by Francis Tatum

Finally, I enjoyed regular attendance at District Cycle Works weekly Light! Gravel! Action! ride on Wednesday nights. It was a great mid-week escape in the evening. Plus, riding at night in the dead of winter is always fun.

So, goals for 2017? In a way, setting bicycling goals seem rather dumb in light of all the coming political drama. Nonetheless, I’ll give it a try. My overall goal is to stay focused on having fun and avoid being dragged into the melancholy of politics. This does nothing but me angry. Next, I want to get serious about getting my weight down into the 150s again and maintaining it (eat less food i.e. tacos and hot dogs….and beer). I want to ride the Civil War Century (cracked on major climb)  and/or the Hilly Billy (DNF’d this year) again in order to vanquish my poor results. Finally, I want to save up some money this year to hopefully build a dedicated road bike. I have become a strong enough rider now that I have reached the limits of my cross bikes abilities on the road. Since a sizable percentage of my riding is strictly on paved roads, a road bike designed for that riding would be nice.

Again, fun is the most important. Toss out what doesn’t matter, keep what matters most. Easier said than done, right? Yep, I know.

Looking back on 2016, although I didn’t achieve my mileage goal, there was a lot of quality rides in my 2016 portfolio especially the gravel rides. Quality over quantity if you will. I hope 2017 continues this trend. To all of BikeDC and BikeMD, thanks for riding with me and making 2016 as tolerable as possible. We will have to depend on each other for support in the coming year.

Peace, love, and bikelove.

 

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