Sometimes all the planets do line up... at least that's the way things seemed to come together for the Spring Rally on April 20th. As co-directors, Henri Bohl and I spent many hours worrying over all the different elements that come into play for this kind of event, from things which we can influence, such as route markings, food, and the like, to things which we have no control over at all, such as the weather. But... the weather turned out to be beautiful, if cool, and everything else seemed to fall into place nicely.
Some 144 riders registered for the event. We made an almost prompt start at 9:00 and got a police escort onto High House Road and through Cary Parkway and Davis Drive. We maintained what seemed like a modest warmup pace until we hit Friendship Road south of Old US 1. There the tandems took over on the long, gentle grades and the lead group was keeping speeds of 33 to 35 mph. Things seemed to settle down as we worked our way north up to the first sag stop at Wilsonville, manned by Kevin and Phoebe Coggins from The Spin Cycle.
I didn't notice any excitement until we reached the 50-mile route split off. At that point the lead rider in the pace line veered left, as though he were pulling off the front, and then turned right in front of the group. I heard lots of "Whoa!"s and other expletives as those continuing straight on the 100 mile route regrouped. This underscores what I've come to learn as a cardinal rule of group riding - make your moves safe, steady, and predictable. This means, among other things, not overlapping your wheels, no sudden changes in speed, and clearly communicating your moves.
The 100-milers continued on, and as we hit the hills on Jack Bennet Road Mark Nelson and Chris O'Conner started battling it out for king-of-the-hill points. Both seemed to be climbing effortlessly. A couple of "pit stops" broke up the group, so that some 14 riders continued together west of 15-501.
Al Johnson put together a wonderful route. I guess you'll find potholes wherever you ride nowadays, but the scenery was beautiful throughout the ride. When we got up Mann's Chapel Road to 15-501 we greeted the folks from Bikes USA who were manning sag stop 2. The lead group passed them by, and worked their way over to Mt. Carmel Church Road. Tandem riders Tom Fissel and Mac Edwards again up'ed the pace coming down the long hill, so much so that we completely missed the turn onto Whipporwill (this, and I even helped mark the route!). We regrouped again, and successfully navigated the conflicting arrows for the turn onto 751 (sorry 'bout that!).
Before long we made it over to Rick Ferguson at Sag Stop 3. We didn't stop here, either, but some how the startup from the light at highway 55 seemed particularly hard, as though the food and rest available at the sag stop were calling us (or at least, me) back.
It was only a couple miles beyond that where I began feeling that unwelcome but familiar tightness in my thighs that's the precursor to cramps. Bummer. I had been battling cramps for the past year, and it's a frustrating and painful way to end a ride. So I dropped off the back and elected to spin my way in, but by the time I hit the hills on Mt. Pisgah Church Road I simply was no longer able to turn the cranks. I had read somewhere a while back that calcium can help with cramps, and I had brought some Tums with me. I took two, washed them down with some Gatorade, and within 30 seconds was pain free. It was a miracle. I was able to finish the ride at full strength (at least, of what I had remaining) and was delighted to have found a cure for my pain. It may be that some of this is simply mental, but I really don't care. A good placebo is worth everything you pay for it.
Back at Bond Park things seemed to be going smoothly. I was disappointed that food was lacking, as it would be a few minutes until the folks (and food) from Sag Stop 2 arrived. But everyone there seemed to have enjoyed the ride, even the surprise hills toward the end.
Finishing a century is a very satisfying experience. I enjoy a certain tiredness that goes along with having given yourself a difficult challenge. It was also satisfying to see how well the Rally itself turned out. I really appreciate the effort folks put in to the event, and am particularly thankful for Henri who stayed at Bond Park for the entire day (which freed me up to ride). I hope our Summer and Fall rallies will turn out as well.
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