I did the Cumberland Valley Cycling club ride out near Hagerstown on Sunday. I've done this ride a dozen times over the past 25 years but they have changed the course and this one kicked my butt. Set out to do the metric century, 64 miles. First, at the start they had no bagels/bananas/powerbars, etc - just coffee and water/Gatorade. I said OK, I had already made a traditional 7-11 coffee and muffin stop on the 60 mile drive out the the ride, and I had a granola bar in my bag and ate that. The first rest stop would be at the 20 mile mark, I would grab something there. Bad move.
The course marking was pretty good and the first 20 mile stretch was rolling hills in fantastic weaither - temps in the 70s, partly cloudy after a rain storm and front had moved through giving us a temporary break from global warming. At the 20 mile mark, the markings said turn left at a stoplight intersection at a Sheetz near Williamsport. I was following a few other cyclists, including two women with long ponytails and that Olympic Volleyball player style of multiple hair thingies. I was contemplating why that was so attractive when we all turned left and continued on. I stopped seeing any markings but kept following those ponytails straight down the road - until we hit the dead end, oops.
There is probably some Jason/Argonauts/Sirens lesson to be learned there, but I just turned around, retraced the road - and at a cross road saw cyclists going east, and markings on that cross road. Turned left onto that crossroad, and found I had bypassed the rest stop in the confusion. Turns out the rest stop was right *before* the turn, which is sort of like saying "cut the red wire *after* you cut the blue wire" in bomb defusing instructions...
I've been doing 35 mile rides without a stop, so figured, OK, will just keep going, cloudy skies/rolling hills meant I wasn't sweating that much, and could live on one water bottle. The cycling gods don’t like that kind of attitude, any more than the car driving gods like it when you scoff at them after the picture of a gas tank lights up on your dashboard and you say "Feh - I can get to where I'm going and back with what is left in the tank."
Unfortunately, the sun came out and the route turned into sharp, steep, momentum robbing up and downs. I remember this stretch from many years ago and it included what I call "antigravity sections" - stretches of road that look level or even slightly downhill, but are actually going uphill. Psychologically, this is very damaging - you think you are bonking - but I think it just where the road grade and the terrain grade cause an optical illusion. Each state has these hautnted downhill sections where tennis balls roll uphill...
This included going through the Antietam battlefield, very scenic with many random historical markers: "Tom McFee sheltered his horse here"; "General Farnesworth Vanderlay beat Colonel Angus McCrangus at checkers here" etc. Interesting reading but two problems: (1) over steep hill and dale is the norm; and (2) they couldn't spray paint course markers on the road in the Battlefield, so they put up cardboard signs on stakes that weren't very visible - much route retracing here.
I ran out of water at 40 miles and kept thinking I would be coming back to the start soon, as the start would serve as the second rest stop. Hit Keedysville and thought about hitting a grocery store for water but figured nah. A few miles went by and hit Boonesboro and said nah - then with 47 miles on the clock the route started to head straight uphill and I regretted both of those "nahs." Saw some woman in her carport with her dog, and stopped and asked if I could fill my water bottle from her hose. She said "even my dog won't drink that water" and she went in and filled my bottle with some ice cold filtered water - ahh...
I said thanks and started up again and emptied that bottle in a few miles. By now I was at 48 miles, but remembered this stretch as being the climb before a nice downhill to the San Mar facility that was the start and rest stop. This was a steep stretch - I had to talk to granny (shift to my eensy beensy front sprocket known as a granny gear) here for the first time in the ride. Coming the other way was a cyclist who had passed me earlier - he missed the first rest stop, had also ran out of water, had lost hope that one was near and was heading back to Boonesboro. I convinced him we were almost there, and two miles later we reached San Mar.
It was set up for a very nice lunch (barbecue pork/chicken, chips, pasta salad, ice cream) but this was actually supposed to be the 2nd rest stop before the final 17 mile loop for the metric century - I was expecting bagels, fig neutrons, bananas, etc. I've never been big on a big meal and then hopping back on the bike. Had a sandwich and some pasta salad and lost my enthusiasm for getting back on the bike - closed out the day at 50 miles.
Still a great ride with lots of scenic views, low traffic roads, many historical buildings but next year I will make sure to carry more water and food as offerings to the bike gods.