Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mother of All Negative Splits

It was just one short week ago when I forlornly begged MarylandGirl to accompany me on a 22-mile bike ride about 3 miles from my house because I am was pretty much afraid to ride by myself. Even though I ride with a cellphone, tubes, cartridges and a pump. I mean really.

But everyone was busy this weekend, so it was time to suck it up. I thought about Ironman Ray's weekend jaunts to Skyline Drive, and thought, well, if he can do it, so can I. Because? I'm MENTAL! So I sent out an RFP to Ray for some advice. And he proposed this:
...start at the Dickey Ridge visitor center – milepost 4.5. This takes out the initial climb, but that’s all good [I'LL SAY IT'S ALL GOOD!] because you start at a nice facility (with a bathroom!) as opposed to a roadside nothingness.
From there, pedal (or crawl as it may be) to mile 21, a high point, and then turn around and come back. I’d guess you’d be between 2:30 and 3:00 depending on how long it takes to get used to the hills [NOTE: I'M BACK AND I'M STILL NOT USED TO THE HILLS].
A general rule of thumb for Skyline drive is take your average speed and multiply it by .6-.75 to figure out how long it will take ya.
Finally, yup – perfectly doable by yourself. Most of the park traffic doesn’t really start rushing in until around 9:30-10AM, and even then it takes a while to make it in the park since the speed limit is 35MPH and people are stopping all the time to go to overlooks.

Skyline Drive follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles. But I thought the actual Drive itself was, you know, on top of the mountain. Like first you DRIVE up the mountain in your CAR, that thing with an ENGINE, and then hop out and ride a few hills.

Errr. Not.

My little car putt-putt-puttered on the way up-up-up into Shenandoah National Park. I wasn't sure it would make it.

But it did, and after scaring myself silly by driving a bit of the course, I parked at Dickey Ridge, pumped up the tires, donned the helmet, clipped in at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and set off on the most perfect summer morning, with bright blue cloudless skies and an empty park. I honestly didn't think I could do this, but told myself I could always bail (again with the positive self-talk. It's an art, people.)

Here's the elevation map:

Miles 1 to 16.5: 2 hours (to Hogsbreath Overlook, or whatever it's called)
Miles 16.5 to 33: 1:10!!!

Holy downhill, Batman. Sparks flew outta my brakes on the way down I was gripping them so hard. My hands ached. My life passed before me. I saw God.

But the way up was much easier than expected. Partly because I wasn't riding for time, and i wasn't trying to keep up with anyone. So yes, I rode 8 mph on the way up. But I never walked, never stood, and didn't fall over. Go me.

Start here


Up. Why is everything named after hogs?

More up

Guess what? UP.


I have arrived at the Promised Land! Hogsbreath!

Wildlife that I managed not to kill. It was going faster than I was.

Me, courtesy of the friendly gent who offered to take my photo. Holding camera backwards. Um, fail, but it's kinda funny.

Post-ride fuel.

So to recap:
1) I can't wait to go back.
2) I can ride hills.
3) I can ride by myself.
4. I actually LOVE riding by myself.

Who knew?

Thanks Ray!

More photos here.


LBTEPA said...


21stCenturyMom said...

It's offical - I'm coming out there with my bike and we are going to climb that thing! That looks awesome!

And by the way - 8 mph going uphill is fine. Better than fine - it's good!

Descending is an acquired taste. You'll get more comfortable over time.

Well done!

Petraruns said...

You are FABULOUS! Way to go to just MAKE yourself do this. Feel the fear and do it anyway and all that jazz. You are wonderful. Now you've made my Monday. Bask in your warm glow.

BettyBetty said...

I don't like to go up either. I'm glad you pushed through your fears and did the ride - I know riding alone can be daunting when it takes you far away from your start spot (sometimes it sucks being female) but as long as you get a handle on changing flats and have a plan B in case you can't get it changed (as in someone to call) you'll be fine - I've flatted everywhere

Shannon said...

Congrats!!! =)

no-e-plz said...

Congrats on all counts and as you know Skline Dr is a special place for me. The hills make you stronger and the descents make you trust faith. You're a better rider for it

Kelly said...

YAY and congrats!! That is a CRAAAAZY split time! And I can't imagine NOT riding by myself. Being next to someone or behind someone... too much to worry about.

Sounds like there is a new-found cyclist inside you. Awesome.

PS that snake is terrifying.

Lesser is More said...

I've been saying it for weeks, but I need to get myself out to Skyline too. Glad to see you are also interested in feeling the pain of those hills. I think we are all going to find ourselves out there one of these weekends, and end up with a giant pile of roadkill from all the animals that get in the way on the descents.

Catharine said...

Good for you for doing the solo thing. I have done my last 3 rides so and I kind of like it. Like you said, you're not trying to keep up with anyone, nor are you worried that you're slowing anyone down.

I can't believe you stopped long enough to take a picture of that snake. I would have hightailed it out of there like lighting.

ShirleyPerly said...

WOOHOO!! I remember my first ride by myself. Boy, was I scared. And then when I got done, I felt like a rock star. Great job, rock star Jeanne!!

peter said...

Were you using a throwaway film camera that the guy got confused and took that picture? That happened to me when I recently asked a tourist to shoot me, and this lady evidently forgot thirty years of picture snapping before that new-fangled thing came along, the digital camera, and held my throwawy with the lense pointed at her face. I guess that's where she thought the viewfinder was, since only that side had a glass display (the lense). And when I got back from Lake Tahoe last night, why wasn't my TV working anymore? Sheesh!

Rainmaker said...

Awesome job out there. Glad to see you enjoyed it. I'll be waiting to see ya at the parking lot next Saturday (not this one of course, cause we both gots ourselves races on Sunday), but the one following. Actually, wait, that weekend I'm going Sunday...either way - see ya there!

David said...

Ah, that doughnut looked like the perfect recovery food.
Your solo ride sounded like something I would like, being the quiet, loner type that I am.
And don't miss the You4Dating opportunity.

MJ said...

Wow, you rock! (and I say that as someone afraid of heights and not thrilled with doing solo workouts/rides, so you seriously rock for getting past my bugaboos) And what a great photo you have to show for it (you on the mountain). Snakes - yikes. And I've never seen sparks from my brakes......I don't think I want to, but it's impressive to hear about someone else with the guts to do it.

Mike said...

Doughnuts! Doughnuts! Doughnuts!

Susan said...

Awesome! And your post-race meal looks divine! :)

Maryland Girl aka Michelle said...

You Rock! I will go with you the next time you decide to ride this! I have hiked all over the Park, but have never taken the bike up there. FUN!

I know a great ice cream and burger place on the way home from that park! GREAT post hike, ride, whatever food!