ACP 400 km with Northern Virginia Randonneurs

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Its been a while sine ACP events were regular occurrence. After my 200km on March 7th with DC Randonneurs a lot have changed in the world. As we are making progress with this terrible disease, we finally came back to some sort of normality. Randonneuring is not considered group ride event by nature and luckily we are finding ways through technology to run them safely.

My first post lockdown event was ACP 300km on September 26th with Northern Virginia Randonneurs one week after my Cross State record attempt. It was super nice to see new riders challenge themselves and entering the Rando pack. I hanged with some of them for the entire day and we had a lot of fun. To name a few – Meena, Perry and Sakthi were in my group and they all managed to finish successfully their fist 300 km event. It was not easy at all but they made it. If they can figure out their nutrition, equipment and have good time management, they can do anything.

Last weekend on October 10th we clipped our pedals in Sterling ,VA and headed out for one of my favorite distances – 400 km. This is a true test of perseverance and endurance. Honestly , tougher than a 600 km since almost nobody sleeps and it could take some riders up to 24 or more odd hours. This one was no different and the course proved to be tough. At this kind of distance you are starting in the dark, pedaling all day and more than 90% of the riders would ride again in the dark at the end of the day and some well into the next morning. 250 miles is a long way to go.

Start time was at 5 am in pitch darkness. The temperature was 55 F and it felt super nice. We were almost immediately on the W & OD trail towards Leesburg and surprisingly there was some activity at this early hours. The scary part was people running or walking on the trail without any reflective gear at this hour. Hey, I guess they didn’t care to be ran over as they were practically invisible to us. But yet few runners were so scared when they saw bicycles passing by with strong lights. Wear reflective gear people.

Going north towards the first Control in Middletown around mile 46 we experienced the lowest temperature of the day – around 45F. Me, Barry Dickson and Perry were really pushing the pace. I didn’t really needed resupply as I carried 4 bottles of liquid, a bottle full of pasta and countless amount of cookies and energy bars 🙂 What was i thinking 🙂 With two major climbs that was definitely disadvantage. Especially my heavy jersey pockets. I am not used to that and the constant strain of the weight pulling down the jersey was not a good feeling for my back and shoulders.

After the first control we hit the first major climb on Wolfsville Rd / Spuce Run Rd. With few sections above 10% and length of 7.4 miles, this woke us up 🙂 After long descent, we passed Thurmont and parallelly to Rd 15 we continued north to the second control in Emmitsburg ,mile 74. I topped off my water bottles and pushed ahead towards the 2nd climb in the Catoctin Mountains. They are so picturesque but punchy and steep.

It was daylight now, a bit cloudy but some glorious views at higher elevation. All uphill from here until mile 86 through small portion of Pennsylvania towards the Blue Ridge Summit. The next control was all the way at mile 117. By then the temperature was above 70, I was pushing hard on those climbs and heating up fast. My nutrition was not working so well. I did take some amino acids to stay sharp + electrolytes in my drink as well. But my stomach was not having it. I should have known better and not eat all these sweet bars and cookies. Plus, based on the intensity we need different amount of nutrition. We can only absorb so much, so even eating too much can be a problem.

While passing by Boonsboro near the WV border, I was stopped at a red light and surrounded by hundreds of Trump supporters. The light switched from red to green numerous times as I was seeing hundreds of pickup trucks with massive flags flying from their truck bed and people on the streets screaming and cheering. I was stuck in some sort of rally for like 10 minutes. Unbelievable

Soon thereafter, I reached the Shepherdstown, WV control ( Sheetz Gas station) at mile 117-Randonneurs favorite spot 🙂 Barry Dickson was there filling up his bottles and getting ready to depart. He asked if I was stopping or going. I told him that I would eat a sandwich ,refill my bottles and then go. I was enjoying my Egg and Cheese sandwich in the grass next to some motorcycle group in the parking lot. Kind of typical sight for this area. After recovering a bit , it was time to go. The only way to finish fast is to keep moving.

The next control was all the way in Strasburg, Va, some 60 miles away south. The moment we left PA and turned south around mile 80, it was all headwind. I had to go low and fight back. It took another few hours to feel normal again. There was some serious traffic between Winchester and Strasburg. This was due farms in the area doing Pumpkin patch activities. The cars being so many and so close to us with many miles in the legs doesn’t feel so good. Well, that is an understatement. I hate it.

On one of the descents , my right shoulder completely gave out all of a sudden. I lost control of the bike and swerved to the right, exiting the road and running into the grass. Luckily, I was able to jump back onto the pavement and avoid a crash. What caused it was such a mystery. My shoulder was completely numb and in excruciating pain. I still cannot explain how and what exactly happened.

The next control was a little over 30 miles away so I only got some redbull to keep me awake and mixed it with water. All reflective gear was back on, lights charged and ready for the darkness towards the end. The good news was that we were done facing headwind. It actually turned into a slight crosswind but it felt better. Except when descending. I was hearing my deep wheelset create a symphony of noises from the wind while shifting to the sides. I was holding my bars tight once again.

For some odd reason, I didn’t manage my supply well and almost ran out of water but made it to the control in Marshall and it felt like an oasis. With just few hours to go and all tailwind, I pressed harder with anything I had left in the tank. Both headlights were on full blast and I was able to keep really high speed on this section.

My goal to finish between 9pm and 10 pm was accomplished and I was done at 9:06 pm. Just as expected only 2 hours of riding in the dark and 2 at the end. This course proved tougher than expected with over 16 000 feet of climbing and good amount of headwind. My average Normalized power was 206 with IF 0.7 so the numbers do show I did put a good work despite not feeling as good at some portions of the ride. Another nice metric was seeing that I was able to hold 40 seconds at 770 Watts on the big ring going up a major climb. This should be a good lesson and preparation for NCOM 375 coming up in 10 days. Until then. Ride on