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Back Roads (Half) Century: Bucolic Bliss

This past weekend, I enjoyed the most beautiful bicycle ride of my life in the Virginia countryside.

The Potomac Pedalers put on a fantastic event. The ride was all I had been promised (thanks Rootchopper!) and more. We lucked into one of those perfect fall days with crisp air and warm sun.

We rose at 4:30 a.m., applied coffee and loaded our bikes in the Honda Element. Side rant: WHY did they stop making these? We saw about 100 of them at this event. 

We navigated our way to Berryville, Virginia. Even in my half-awake state I took notice of the lovely hamlets we were passing through.

Drew, Dave, me and Hubz at the start. It was a wee bit chilly at 8 a.m.
I had signed up months ago, intending to ride the full century, but our France trip and then antibiotics conspired to keep me off my bicycle. I debated gutting it out, but since I was dragging Hubz along for the fun, I wanted to make sure he enjoyed every mile.

Three of our ultrarunning friends were also riding. Marti was representing at the full century on her sleek new Trek Madone. Drew and Dave were riding the 50 despite not having trained for the ride at all. It didn't show.

Hubz pumped up our tires while I got my bike shorts and chamois cream situated and dithered about how many layers to wear. I only have two pairs of bike gloves: fingerless and lobster, so I grabbed a pair Smartwool socks to put over my fingers. That worked, kind of.

Rootchopper and the Mule sighting

We rolled out on gloriously flat, smooth blacktop road. Right away, Drew and Dave were cranking. I did my best to hang on for the early miles, and then thought better of it and settled into my own pace. Hubz dropped back to ride with me, but I think he was a little bummed that we couldn't all stay together. Sorry honey, and yes, I need to do more strength work ...

We regrouped at the first rest stop. It was unbelievable. They had drinks, bagels and hummus, warm boiled potatoes, PB&J, fruit, cookies, chips, and a string quartet including a harp, next to a little stream that ran under a footbridge.

At the Burwell-Morgan Mill rest stop. You thought I was kidding about the harp, didn't you?

We rode on, admiring handsome barns and Civil War era stone walls, stopping occasionally to snap photos of especially lovely scenes. We cruised along quiet, tree-lined country roads, basking in the warm sunlight. Everything felt right with the world.

Hubz riding his Novara Element, a cyclocross bike. He doesn't own a road bike.

We saw horses, sheep and alpacas. Yes, I failed you because I didn't get any photos of alpacas.

There's Signal Knob on the left, in the distance.

There were plenty of flat stretches, for which I was grateful. There were lots of rollers too and that kept it from being leisurely. Hubz likes to keep his heart rate up, so he was happy as a clam.

Hubz was strong on the hills. I am getting passed yet again.
Soon we were at the renowned White Post Restoration stop, where they restore antique classic cars. Once a year, during the Back Roads Century, they serve the most delicious tomato and cucumber sandwiches!
Drew and Dave ride past the "White Post" for which this place is named

More scenery that doesn't suck

I had expected more daunting hills, so I was extremely happy not to encounter any mean ones until close to the finish. Even then, they were either steep or long, not both. However, I must register a formal complaint against the headwind which seemed to change direction every time we did. 

We made the right call in choosing to ride just 50 miles. Our necks and shoulders were happy to be done but our legs were eager for more. Always leave the party while you're still having fun.

stood around stuffing out faces at the post-ride barbecue, talking about how much fun we'd had.
We marveled at how much less endurance biking hurts than running, and debated about what distance in trail running compared to how we felt after 50 miles of road cycling. 

The exhilaration of the ride and the camaraderie of friends was intoxicating; we were already talking about doing another. 

I'm definitely planning to return to ride the full century next year!

VHTRC Women's Trail Half Marathon

I won't bury the lede: I ran my third fastest time at my ninth VHTRC Women's Trail Half Marathon.

It was humid as usual, but not as hot as it has been some years. There was even an occasional breeze. I'm convinced that this race will never feature cool weather. It seems that year after year, Summer hangs on until this race, exerting the last of its power before relinquishing its hold to Fall.

Summer races mean red faces
Predictably, my low summer mileage was noticeable, especially in the last 5 miles when my legs began to protest. 

In the positive column, my focus on hill training definitely paid off as I felt strong on the uphills. Note to self - keep doing those hill workouts!

I knew I wasn't going to run a PR, and I had adjusted my expectations in light of my less-than-rigorous training. I didn't push too hard and suffer the way I often do at this "Anaerobic Sufferfest" - thanks Sophie for coining that classic phrase. It runs through my head like a mantra.

I enjoyed time on the trail with friends Katie, Kate and Sara. There's something special about chatting on trail. Sorry you had to hear about my antibiotics issues, ladies!

Katie ran a great race. She's been training hard and it shows!
Sara caught me with 2 miles to go. I couldn't hang on to finish with her this year.
Kate kicking ass in the woods in her first WTHM
Teresa finishes in a great comeback race.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that the post-race socializing was the highlight of the day. We basked in our personal triumphs over the course and cheered as the remaining runners finished.

There's nothing better than a cold recovery beverage.

Post-race tailgating. Check out Lauren's race report - 6 stitches in the chin!
I love this race! I'll be back again next year, trying for a PR and inviting all my friends to join in the fun.

Thanks to Aaron Schwartzbard and Bob Fabia who took all but the last two photos.