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The nightmare revisited…

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The nightmare revisited…

Old 08-16-12, 10:34 AM
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The nightmare revisited…

About a month ago I was going through rides I had done in the past and wanted to do again…and there it was—the Nightmare Tour—the perimeter of Lancaster, PA. 177 miles of `non-flat' roads. A little gravel, some fresh `chip seal', a lot of climbing (over 14,000 ft), some good downhills . All in all a great ride. I looked at the website and decided I would ask the guys I
ride with if anyone was interested. If I could find one, I would sign up. The only one at work who was willing and in town that weekend was Carlos. I also talked to my friend Luke, who had done the C&O Canal from DC to Cumberland (180 miles) on his mountain bike a couple of months earlier. My wife Martha was willing and able to go along as a sag.

A little history- I did this ride in 2004 and 2005. In addition, I was part of a 4 person relay team that did the original `longest day' ride in June of 2005—on a team with the ride director, Mike Ridgeway. I remember the long days, the heat (in 2005 it hit 106 degrees…plus the reflective heat coming off the black top and the oppressive humidity—one of the hardest rides I ever did.)

Skip back to 2012. We signed up for the ride during the last week of July. We all took the day off (Friday, August 10) to drive to Marietta, Pennsylvania for the Saturday ride. It is a quaint little town. I was a little disappointed that the ride venue had changed—last time, we started at the elementary school, which gave us access to locker rooms and bathrooms. This time, it started at a church, with a port-a-potty in the parking lot.

We left the DC area around 2 pm—and I was amazed at how heavy the traffic was—and we weren't headed for the beach… Crossed the river into Columbia/Marietta PA and immediately I started to recognized landmarks, and hills…and more hills. Boy they look steep from the car… We went to the packet pickup, which was really a number pickup and sign-in. It was good to see Mike again. We were the 35th, 36th and 37th riders to check in. That was quick… OK, time to eat and then get back to the hotel in York. We realized we would have to get up before 5 to have breakfast and drive to the start and be ready for the `sunrise start'… at 6:14 am.

We got to the church at around 5:55 am—plenty of time to get everything ready, or so I thought. Except that last minute need to use the facilities… and a line at the single port-a-potty. By the time I was done with that, they were giving the last minute instructions and the riders started rolling out. I ran back to the car to get my shoes, put on my helmet, fill my pockets and get started. Luke was waiting for me as we were the last two riders in the parking lot. Carlos circled around and came up behind us, so there we were—a couple of minutes behind everyone (not that there were that many people—my guess is around 80 total riders—including those who were only going to do a century). We rode through town, still at the back, and then headed out on highway 441… over the hill and a drop into Columbia. We rode along in the back for a while then started to pick off some riders. It is the first of 16 "classified" climbs (whatever that means). It is the easiest one—well, at least it felt like it at the time, since we were all of 2 miles into the ride when it started

(as an aside, I have a new gopro camera which I tried on this ride – I had used it once before with mixed results. I turned it on at the start, and it ran for 40 minutes or so by the time I turned it off, and then back on. I have about an hour and a half of footage on 4 clips—way too long to share. Now I know that I have to limit it to 20-40 second spurts).

OK- back to the ride. It felt good, we were riding along at a good clip, along the river. The scenery is spectacular—the roads not too busy, so we were pretty safe. Lancaster County is Amish country, so we saw a lot of buggies, and farms…lots of farms, with everything from corn to tobacco, and cows, and pigs, and horses, and chickens…All of this as we are riding along at 17 miles per hour (at least for the first hour). The ride has 3 designated mandatory stops. The first around mile 65, the second at 109, and the last at 143 or so. The non-tech way of keeping track of the riders is that you check in, give your name, and they give you the cue sheet for the next section. They can then look at who did not pick up the sheets to figure out who is missing.

On one of the screaming downhills we had, Luke took off. He was off the front of our little group. I could see him ahead, then we'd go around a bend and I'd lose him. This went on for a while. We finally figured he had really gotten some energy because we stopped seeing him. We pulled into the first stop, gave our names, and asked about Luke… he had not come in yet. Oh-oh… where is he? We were at the stop for about 20 minutes, and he pulled in. He had taken a wrong turn and done a little bonus mileage. We waited for him to get ready and started out on section 2. We were joined earlier by Dave, a guy doing his first ride over 60 miles—a young guy—44, but he was only planning to do 100 for the day. We rode pretty well together and then formed into 2 groups. Carlos and Dave were a little ahead, and I was behind with Luke (actually Luke was behind with me…). I was getting a headache that didn't want to go away.

Around mile 80 I pulled in to where Martha was stopped with the car and asked her for an ibuprophen. Luke waited with me while we looked for the pills and took them. I hadn't been eating much either, as I had no appetite at all. The pills did their job, and I was feeling better. We picked up the pace and gradually got back to Carlos and Dave at the next water stop. Carlos and Dave pulled ahead and we regrouped at the lunch stop… mile 109, arriving there at around 1:45—it had been a long day.

Of the 16 "classified" climbs, we had done 15, and just under 11,000 feet of climbing. The only one missing was the dreaded "Swamp Church Hill" (Where did they get a name like Swamp Church???) We almost talked each other out of continuing. It was like, well, we've done a lot, it is hot, we are tired, my shifter isn't working well (I bent the derailleur cage and tried to bend it back—it went from not letting me use the 2nd lowest gear to not letting me use the lowest gear, and skipping on several others—more on this later). We watched people come in, eat lunch and take off. And still we sat in the shade, eating fruit, sandwiches, chips, cookies and drinking water, and more water, and a coke, and more water.

Finally it was, OK, let's go. We all looked at each other and nodded. We've made it this far, let's go. Dave had already said his farewell- he was ecstatic about having done 109 miles. So we got on the bikes and rolled out. It was a tough couple of miles to get our legs back. We were riding along and then we could see it in the distance. The vertical wall of asphalt. The road leading straight up…Swamp Church. It is only about a half mile long. The hill is steep—18%, then it drops down to a "flat" 12% before kicking up again to the top. Carlos is in front of me, Luke behind. I move the shift lever to the lowest gear and it won't hold. So I go up holding the lever in, which keeps the chain on the biggest ring in the back. I get about ¾ of the way up the bottom part and my finger cramps. I let go of the lever, which drops the chain into the next highest gear, at which point the chain skips and I almost fell over. I put my foot down… big mistake. There is no way I am going to get going again on this part of the hill, so I walk up to the `flat' part, where I get back on the bike.

Carlos is over the top and waiting at the bottom of the hill. I get up to the top and keep going. When I get to the bottom we wait for Luke. He was riding higher gears, and had walked up part of the hill as well. When he reached us we started up again. Luke was dragging off the back. It was obvious he wasn't himself. We would ride with him and he would drop, so we would slow down. This was repeated for a while, and then Luke got in the car. His day was over, but he had done the bulk of the climbs—all the `classified" ones.

So now it was just Carlos and me. We rode together, talking about how many climbs there were—it seemed that every time we got around a corner, we would have another hill to climb--but these didn't count, because they weren't "classified". I remembered a stretch of road where in 2005 we had run out of water (almost)—about 10 miles before TreeTop Country Club. A truck went by asking if we needed anything…the water he gave us made the day back then. We finally got to TreeTop, and the last mandatory aid station. Only 33 miles to go. We realized our hope of finishing around 12 hours wasn't going to happen. Again, we took a long time at the stop—part of it was talking to the volunteers, and to Mike who was there, and part was just being tired. Finally it was, let's do it.

The last 33 miles was pretty uneventful—lots of rollers, lots of short climbs, and a good stretch of highway where we could pick up the pace (or we could have, if I could use my 3 highest gears, which were also skipping as a result of bending the derailleur cage…) At any rate, we were passed by 2 groups in the last 7 miles… They went by like we were standing still. Finally we were getting back to Marietta. The sun was on its way down… we had to finish before 8:15 (sunset—and the need for lights, which, of course, we didn't bring). We pulled into the church parking lot and crossed the finish line with arms around each other's shoulders at about 7:50… to the sound of a cow bell and cheers from the volunteers and earlier finishers. It felt great to get it done. We hung around for about 40 minutes, getting our stuff loaded on the car and deciding where we were going to have dinner…

Carlos wanted a burger, so it was the first burger place we could find after leaving—Burger King. He was happy with a double burger of some sort, Martha had a salad, Luke had some sweet potato fries and a lot of drinks… I had a mango smoothie—it was the only thing I could stomach, and even it felt too sweet. Once done, it was get back in the car and head for home. We got to Carlos's hours around 11:30 pm just as it started to POUR—if we had gotten there 5 minutes earlier, we would not have gotten wet taking his bike off the roof. The it was on to Luke's house in Vienna, and then home. We got home after midnight.

Martha had a good day—she drove the whole course, got lost a couple of times, took a lot of pictures (I will try to post a few later), she was a great cheerleader and did the hardest job of all—which was to drive home after we were done riding. I don't think Luke, Carlos or I would have been in any condition to drive home…

Now, thinking of next year, Mike said that because it will be 2013, he might make It a REAL nightmare, by riding it backwards… yes, it will still be a "net zero" ride (climbing=descending, since you start and finish in the same place)… however, the hills will all mostly be in the 2nd half, making tired legs even more tired. Will I do this ride again??? Ask me in July 2013!

Ride details: 177 miles. Riding time 11:43, total climbing: 14,300 ft, highest temperature 89F, humidity upper 90's…

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Old 08-16-12, 10:59 AM
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Awesome ride & report... The kind of ride I dream about. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 08-16-12, 11:09 AM
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Good ride...Thanks
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Old 08-17-12, 12:43 AM
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Man that sounds like fun! (and quite an accomplishment)
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Old 08-17-12, 01:23 AM
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Great report. No pics?
I would have been Dave, ecstatic with 109 hilly miles.
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Old 08-17-12, 05:48 AM
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Old 08-17-12, 06:21 AM
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Wow - Congratulations on finishing, and thanks for writing it up and sharing it.
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Old 08-17-12, 08:42 AM
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ok- I am trying to get some pictures up...
Attached Images
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another nonhill.jpg (70.5 KB, 27 views)
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another non-hill.jpg (64.8 KB, 26 views)
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blue eyes.JPG (59.5 KB, 24 views)
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buggy.jpg (67.6 KB, 24 views)
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dinner before the ride.jpg (69.0 KB, 24 views)
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downhill.jpg (83.5 KB, 24 views)
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early morning fog.jpg (54.3 KB, 27 views)
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finish.jpg (65.7 KB, 27 views)
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leaving 1st aid station.jpg (66.3 KB, 31 views)
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lunch.jpg (72.2 KB, 30 views)
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minor hill.jpg (71.4 KB, 27 views)
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pavement.jpg (90.1 KB, 27 views)
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Old 08-17-12, 08:47 AM
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Great photos, and congratulations on finishing the ride!
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Old 08-17-12, 09:08 AM
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I've done the "Dream Ride" but not the nightmare. I liked the jersey better.
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Old 08-17-12, 12:41 PM
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Wow.......just wow. Speechless. I use to thrive on training for stuff like that but am probably 5 years away from being able to do something like that.
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Old 08-17-12, 06:07 PM
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Wow, thanks for the fantastic ride report. That was truly one epic ride! Way to hang in there and finish it.

And thanks for posting the photos. I live "next door" in Chester County and from my visits to Lancaster County I know how picturesque it can be.
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Old 08-17-12, 10:59 PM
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You are my hero. What an effort.
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Old 08-18-12, 10:13 AM
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I'm getting better at hills but I do not see 14,000 feet of climbing in my future. Well done.
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Old 08-18-12, 11:45 AM
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I just checked Wikipedia: Mt. Everest is 29,000 ft high. So, roughly speaking, on this one ride you climbed the equivalent of 1/2 Mt. Everest.
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Old 08-18-12, 04:03 PM
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Nice report, I couldn't type that much in one swell foop if I had to. Your pictures are beautiful, very nice work. Good job on the ride, too.

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Old 08-18-12, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Banded Krait
I just checked Wikipedia: Mt. Everest is 29,000 ft high. So, roughly speaking, on this one ride you climbed the equivalent of 1/2 Mt. Everest.
Or one Pikes Peak, elevation 14,210+/- and yes there is a road that goes all the way to the top.
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Old 08-18-12, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by cbresciani
Or one Pikes Peak, elevation 14,210+/- and yes there is a road that goes all the way to the top.
If you start at sea level. If you start from Colorado Springs, you need to add another 6000 to 7000 ft of climbing after you have reached the top.
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