DCR Shenandoah 600K: MG’s Ride of Redemption

MG has written her story of the D.C. Randonneurs Shenandoah 600K brevet last weekend. It was quite a different experience than the one we had in 2005 under a scorching sun. This time, all went well and we enjoyed a lot of good, exhausting miles in the lovely valley with mostly moderate temperatures.

MG enjoying our last stop before the finish at Larkin’s Store.

Our memories can maintain such a strong grip on us. The Shenandoah 600K out of Middletown was the scene of my first 600K brevet, and also prompted my first ride report ever.

My recollection of the 2005 iteration of this ride is not that pleasant. Our tandem threw the chain about six miles into the ride, prompting Felkerino to throw his helmet and yell a few choice words into the pre-dawn air. I spent the next several miles wondering if we would be disqualified for his comments.

Later that day I overheated. I was so unhappy I sat on the ground and cried under a tree. I remember Felkerino running through the names of our friends to see if there might be someone to come and get us. (This was before the D.C. Randonneurs began to include “Tired is not an emergency” on its cue sheets.) We gritted out the rest of the first day after realizing that none of our friends owned a vehicle that could carry our tandem.

I cried here in 2005

I ride my bike for fun, and I spent many miles in 2005 in a state that could hardly be considered fun. I’m not really into the whole suffering bit. That is not a good feeling. As the 2011 600K approached last Saturday, I recalled that teary moment under the tree.

“2011 will be my year of redemption,” I thought to myself. I also wanted to do well on this ride because a successful completion would qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris.

Thankfully, 2011 was not a repeat of 2005! Our fender started rubbing about six miles into the ride so we had to let the group go on (like 2005) to address that, but there were no funny words or helmets thrown (unlike 2005). The day’s heat was manageable, and I felt good and strong enough the entire day to enjoy the ups, downs and incredible vistas this course delivers.

Even though we spent many miles keeping each other company, we also criss-crossed frequently with other riders. We kept moving along the route, but I never felt rushed. My legs (and other parts) got tired, but I was never without energy. Despite the 4 a.m. start on Saturday morning and the four-hour sleep stop between day 1 and day 2, Felkerino and I had a civilized ride.

This ride definitely had its highlights, and here is a quick rundown:

High: Watching the sunrise and seing the morning light spill over the Shenandoah Valley. Simply beautiful.

Morning light in the Shenandoah Valley

High: The many beautiful roads we passed over throughout this 2-day pedalfest. Fort Valley Road, Middle River Road, Maury River Road (at Rockbridge Baths and Goshen Pass), and Turleytown Road are just a few of the highlights.

Making our way to Goshen

High: The pop machine at the Walkers Creek Volunteer Fire Department at mile 131. Just 50 cents! I highly recommend it.

The VFD pop machine

High: Getting to be the subject of Bill B.’s fisheye lens in Goshen.

Using the fisheye lens in Goshen. Felkerino, me, Cindy and John (c) Bill Beck

High: Riding and leap-frogging with other riders, especially Maile, Carol, Mike, Gary, Jeff, John and Cindy.

Maile, Carol, John, and Cindy at mile 183

High: Riding the same 600K brevet as tandem buddies Ron and Barb.

Ron and Barb motor to Buchanan, Virginia

Low: Getting a flat on Big Hill Road. Fortunately, it was prior to the big climb.

High: Seeing Felkerino’s super-fast flat-fixing skills in action.

Fixing the flat on Big Hill Road. So speedy!

High: Watching the sunset and seeing the crescent moon take its place in the sky.

Low: The slow uphill slog from mile 240 to mile 243 to arrive at the overnight in Raphine, Virginia. It’s a cruel one!

High: Seeing Tom and Mike at the overnight control and eating something hot before running off to bed!

Low: Starting the Sunday ride in rain. Boo!

High: Remembering my rain jacket!

High: The dissipation of the rain and the cloud cover which kept the temperatures pleasant for the morning miles.

Route 42. Get ready for the big rollers, people.

High: Eating eggs and hash browns at the Volunteer Fire Department in Churchville. Thanks, Fred and Bill!

High: Napping under the awning of an old pharmacy in Bridgewater. Brevet naps are the best!

High: Seeing all the horse-drawn buggies outside of Bridgewater. Beautiful.

Sharing the road with the horse-drawn buggy

High: Finishing before 3 p.m.

High: Qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris!

Felkerino and I finish the 600K (c) Bill Beck

We did it! I am so relieved and happy. Felkerino and I enjoyed a spectacularly beautiful ride, I didn’t cry once  (yes, not once!), and we are now qualified for PBP. It’s a great feeling.

Thanks to everybody who volunteered and helped make the brevets go off so well this year. D.C. Randonneurs is an awesome club!


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