It’s not entirely clear to me when I decided to spend the evening traveling 100 miles on my bicycle. Perhaps it was when I grabbed my light as I left the house in Bethesda MD a little before 4pm. The heatwave that’d had its grips on DC for two weeks had finally broken, and I saw a chance to get out and ride.
There wouldn’t be time for a ride the next day, so today was appealing. “It ‘s not getting dark till 8:30 or 9 these days.” I reasoned. “Plenty of time to get in a nice road loop.”
“I’m just bringing the light in case I don’t get back at exactly nine..” I told myself, knowing somewhere deep down that this was utter crap. I’d had hernia surgery just over a month before, and was finally feeling good enough for more distance. My soul seemed to be crying out “long ride, long ride… you need to go for a loooong ride!” I suppose I didn’t fully listen at that point…
So off I went, heading north, on a pretty familiar route, towards Sugarloaf Mountain. The full trip up to the Mountain is about 37 miles, and makes for a good 75 mile loop when you climb the mountain once and then ride back. This sounded plausible, and my calculations suggested that I could make it back by about 9:30.
Only once I’d done my loop up and down the mountain did I really decide to keep on going. Instead of taking the return road, I headed north on a section of dirt fire-road which flanks the south side of the mountain. The sun was still pretty high in the sky, and it was beautiful out. My plan was to cross the 270 Freeway before running beside it up to Urbana, which is the next major town to the north. This would create a loop around the perimeter of the mountain reserve area and get me out into the 50 mile range. No turning back now!
The trip up to Urbana was hillier than I’d imagined it, and I pulled in at nearly 8pm knowing that the light wasn’t going to be around much longer. The trip through town involved avoiding one very stupid driver as I passed back across the 270 on my way towards the north side of the mountain and my loop back home. Once I’d gotten back onto country roads I discovered that I’d routed myself onto another fire road, and this time it seemed less beautiful.
The sun was dropping fast and I was out in the middle of nowhere, 50 miles from home, picking my way through mudholes and rocks on my carbon roadbike. I silently wondered “what have I done?” I turned on my taillights figuring that if something horrible happened I’d be easier to find that way. Fear had started nipping at my heels.
The calm voice of reason won out, and I pushed on aware that it was the only rational thing to do. Soon I’d rejoined the paved road and I hustled westward with the mountain over my shoulder. I wanted to get as far along as possible before switching on the front light. The miles slipped away, and I even stopped to snap a shot of my bike with some happy cows.
By around mile 60 I was passing through Poolesville MD on my return route. It was nearing 9pm and I knew I’d need to use the headlight soon. I conserved battery power, sliding through town and waiting to fire up the device till the last streetlights faded away behind me.
Now I had about 20 miles to the next major town, and I was feeling good. Hardly any cars on the roads and the light was making it into a fine ride. It wasn’t till almost mile 70 that I started to get the leg cramps. Seems that I should have stopped in Poolesville for a salty snack. My body needed electrolyte, and I suffered through it wondering how I could be so foolish. Note to self: bring sodium with you on all rides. It works.
When I finally soldiered into Potomac MD, around mile 80, I was pretty wiped. I found the first place I could and stuffed my face with potato chips. My butt was starting to feel it, but the salt was good and I was determined to go the distance. There wasn’t much choice at this point anyway! I needed to get back and figured the route was going to add up.
Around mile 90 I realized I’d have to get creative to make it to the full hundred, so I adjusted course slightly and rolled back into Bethesda at about mile 97. It took a little clever routing of my victory lap through town to ensure that I didn’t cross my own tracks and I made it happen to a nearly uncanny level, arriving home as the odometer ticked up to 100.7 miles. I dumped everything and shot this “post-century pile” shot which sums it up nicely.
All told, it was a strong finish at near midnight and it felt good. Everything worked as it needed to, and I had plenty of power left in both my Apple iPhone and Nightrider Minewt headlight. No flats. No mechanicals. Perfect route length. All recorded to gps. 5800 feet of climbing. Just shy of 15mph average speed and completed solo in under 8 hours (the last three of them dark) including the breaks. Here are my tracks from Strava, and while I’m certainly not setting any serious records I did set the 4th best time for one segment early on. Woo hoo!
Thanks for taking the time to read about my trip! -Adamthelizard