Medal is for fundraising, NOT performance.
But the weather was fine - 65 degrees F and overcast, rising to 82 by ride's end. I was able to finish in just over 7 hours including rest stops (more on that below). Thanks to coaching from my friend Nate, I was able to survive using hydration (~120 oz of Gatorade), low resistance-high RPM spinning, lots of Gu Energy Gel and a few Clif bars.
The first 25 miles out of Reston were tame, following my home course, the W&OD trail to Purcellville. There I was informed by a fellow rider that they had switched the course from last year, making the harder, 25 mile excursion north the first leg. I too was grateful as my legs were still fairly fresh.
In this section I exceeded 43 MPH on a downhill, a full 13 MPH faster than my highest speed to date. You REALLY hope you don't hit a pothole at that speed. 4 of my team-mates riding pack helped me hold pace, but they were generally moving a bit faster so at some point I elected to back off, having almost clipped a team-mate's back tire on a climb and having to brake hard and regain my momentum. OUCH. There were a few short, tough climbs but I kept thinking "this is the hard section". I spotted a vulture sitting on the ridge of a barn and hoped he didn't notice me.
Back in Purcellville, I thought I had enough water having calculated the Southern section would be an easy 8 mile out-and-back. "Skip the rest stop and rock on" I said. BIG MISTAKE. This section was RURAL and signs became few. More than once I was looking for other riders to make sure I wasn't lost. And then - there was THE CHICKEN.
I am now able to answer the age-old question. The chicken crossed the road to nearly get himself run over and kill a cyclist at the same time. I'm talking rural, and it was a lonely road. No water, cramping up. Effing chickens. I felt the vulture circling overhead.
But it wasn't a simple out-and-back. I kept going, and going and going. And finally - 22 miles later - an oasis. The Lions Club was so hospitable. Filled my bottles. Food. A misting spray as I went out. I was renewed. But here I was told the course loop had been switched from last year, that the hard part was ahead in a 6 mile stretch of Milltown Road. Super. I thought "It's only 6 miles. then back to Mother's Milk, the old W&OD". And then.
This isn't the actual hill, but after the one I hit, even downhill started looking like this. I tried to attack, but there was no response. I HAD TO GET OFF AND WALK. OK, it was only 50 yards or so, but the shields of dignity took a serious hit. Stop. Drink. Advil. And there were 2 more like it that involved walking. As they said in The Ten Commandments (booming narrative voice) "until at last, at the ends of human exertion, the metal was ready for the hand of the maker".
Let's just say it was hard to enjoy Hamilton, VA. Or Waterford for that matter, which was actually a very quaint historic town. Except for the hills. Seriously, one appeared almost vertical and extended as far as the eye could see. Thankfully, the course went around that one.
Returning to the trail, I was home free. Strength returned and my pace quickened. The final 23 was a walk in the park, and I discovered "Espresso Love" flavor gel, with TWICE THE CAFFEINE. New favorite. So thanks to all of my generous donors who helped me raise almost $1,300 towards a cure for diabetes, and muster the courage for my first century ride. And thanks to the volunteers, who really did a great job managing the event.
Better luck next time, bitch.