If you ride mostly north and northwest from the north edge of Raleigh, only one word is needed to describe the Tarheel 200: FLAT.
(Dean, the permanent owner, estimates the climbing for the entire 200 km at ... wait for it ... 1210 feet! Any "normal" north of Raleigh course will give that much climbing in less than 30 miles. I won't even mention certain "gluttonous" courses such as ... name redacted because I'm not mentioning it
Mike O. and Alan and Sridhar seemed to be in a hurry from the git-go. Not wanting to have to navigate for myself using the cue sheet, I decided to stick with the group (after all, Sridhar is not faster than me, and I thought that Alan wasn't faster, either). Sticking with the early pace allowed some some pleasant conversation with Alan ... and might have allowed the same with Mike, but just after I mentioned my plan to "mark" Alan for CL sprints, Mike took off, possibly in pursuit of Sridhar ... who had clearly taken off WAAAAY too early to try to claim the Aversboro Battlefield CL.
Concentrating too much on chatting with Dean after the ~ Stedman control, Sridhar and Alan pulled quite far ahead ... Mike O. was so far ahead as to be invisible. Dean and I tried to close the distance to Sridhar and Alan, but I called a halt to mix up some "koolaide" when we got to Cedar Creek. Dean and I continued at a very nice pace to Tarheel, Dean pointing out the cactus in bloom and the Spanish Moss on the way, to find the other three set to start the return leg.
Dean waited for me to finish a morale-boosting Coke-on-ice, then we started our return journey. I found that there are more snippets of Spanish Moss beyond the main grouping Dean had pointed out; they run almost all the way to the road that leads into Tarheel (if I would look at the cue sheet, I could figure out the road names). We were making a reasonable pace into the north-northwesterly wind, trying to figure out the odds of finding Shridar in the ditch on the various segments of the course.
I noticed that my right leg was bothering me somewhat, so I suggested a one-minute stop at Cedar Creek so I could get my right heel firmly on the ground. (My ride protocol used to call for one minute each hour with the right heel firmly on the ground. That along with a LONG warmup - 2 hours or even up to 40 miles - and saddle perhaps a teensy bit too high, have kept my from having bad pain in my right leg for about 4 years now -- except on a few occasions when I have "forgotten". However, as I have gotten stronger and riden farther, the one-minute-per-hour has mostly been discarded. I've also lowered the saddle a bit. The warm-ups have gotten longer.) Anyway, Dean and I were not able to continue our "where will we find Sridhar" calculations / discussions because he was waiting for us at Cedar Creek.
Resuming, Sridhar seemed intent on continuing the fast pace of Mike and Alan as he took the lead and I slotted into second while Dean CONTINUED in his sweep position. (Hint to Dean: I found something to harass you about -- read the previous clause CAREFULLY.) All the rando world knows that Sridhar climbs even worse than I do, so on one of the little bump-ups just north of Cedar Creek, I took over leading. I thought I was setting a very nice, comfortable pace for the three of us, but about a mile or maybe a bit more before we got to Stedman, Dean rode up alongside and informed me that we had dropped Sridhar. (I apparently share certain characteristics with my ex-wife: "L.I.L." tends not to notice when she has dropped others in the line following her. I would eagerly trade that characteristic if I could get her speed or her ability to climb.) A moment later, Dean "suggested" that I ride ahead to Andy's in Stedman to get some food. So I did.
I had been sitting in Andy's for about five minutes when Dean came in to tell me that he and Sridhar were going to continue at Sridhar "soft-pedal" pace to the Marathon some 5 or 8 miles up the road. They would wait for me there. Okay.
It only took another 15 minutes for my food to be delivered. It had seemed an eternity. 10 minutes to eat. 5 minutes, mostly waiting for someone to come to the cash register, to pay my bill. 5 minutes for the washroom and to re-saddle up. 40 minutes total stoppage time at Andy's. Legs getting tighter and tighter and tighter the whole time. I've eaten in Andy's twice now: once on the 600, and once on this ride. Unless I am with a group of at least 3 others that all want to eat at Andy's, and I have lots and lots of time in the bank, I'm swearing off that joint. Too much time. I'll just eat a Snicker's Bar at the Marathon.
I continued my ride. And of course being a wise 54 year-old, knowing my legs had been getting stiffer and stiffer the whole time I was at Andy's, and knowing that my right leg had been bothering me somewhat even before reaching Cedar Creek ... I threw caution to the wind and rode pretty hard right off the bat upon leaving Stedman. Hey! I'm telling you that 16.5 +/- mph into that breeze qualifies as pretty hard riding ... for me.
I got to the Marathon, did a quick circle-about on the bike, slowing only enough so as to not be a hazard to customers that might be in the parking lot, and continued toward Erwin. I kept up the 16 +/- pace for quite a while, but then my right leg started to significantly bother me ... and I slowed. Especially on any of the little bump-ups (which should not have slowed me) I found myself putzing along at 10.5 to 12 mph.
I was putzing along at about 10.5 mph on Sisk Culbreth Rd when I heard a dog barking. I paid little attention as it was clearly well behind and certainly would not come running this far down the road. WRONG!! Next I knew that demon was nipping at my left heel. I yelled and hit the pedals hard, reaching 17 mph in about 3 seconds.
But I was soon putzing along again. Trying to find the best pedal stroke to minimize the "breaking in" sensations my brand-spanking-new cycling shoes were inflicting on my feet. Pulling back and a little up worked best.
I reached the Erwin control to find Dean and Shridar engaged in conversation with locals. Dean standing. Sridhar in his characteristic sitting flop position; he can sit anywhere; he can get into that position, and back up, no matter how tired he claims or appears to be.
After a bit, the three of us headed out for the final 15 or so miles together. The best thing about Dean and Sridhar being at the control: I could put my cue sheet away and let Dean do the navigating. Through Erwin. Through Dunn for the second time on the day (neither of which counted as "Get 'Er Dunn"). Into the short country space still existing between Dunn and Benson. Dean not only navigating, but also taking most of the pulls. It was my turn to tell Dean that we had dropped Sridhar.
Then, with Sridhar still trailing out of sight ... we reached Roscoe. Dean described the ensuing action:
"Ya'll should have seen Martin's left jab --- left foot to be exact--- to the mug of Roscoe the dog, who bit Martin's shoe. Martin nailed him good! Next time the home cooking will include some pepper spray."
Roscoe did NOT actually bite me or my shoe. Came close though. (Thank goodness he missed because one dog bite in a career is enough for me.) Got him a glancing blow once, and then got him good ... his head snapped aside after I delivered a very satisfying, loud "thud" with the bottom of my shoe to Roscoe's head. Should have been an 8 count for sure. Only downside ... my left calf cramped from the violence of the kicking action. I don't know how I got clear of Roscoe ... what with my right leg being in enough "strained" pain that there was no power being generated there, and my left leg cramping and hanging free of the pedal.
I don't think Roscoe learned anything ... I heard (but did not look back because of the cramp) Sridhar shouting at and dealing with Roscoe just a minute later.
After stopping to ingest some SportsLegs and some Endurolytes (thanks, Dean) and a long drink of eLoaded water. Dean and I followed after Sridhar. The cramping sensation in my left calf mostly disappeared and on that little climb on that last road ... I passed Sridhar. Dean must have passed Sridhar, too. Because I recall navigating the red (stop) light district in Benson with Dean but don't recall Sridhar.
All-in-all ... it was a beautiful day to be on a bike with good company ... even if the breeze did pick up during the late afternoon.
Tarheel 200 km Permanent; 125.8 m.; 8 hrs, 4 min in-motion time; 15.6 mph; elapsed clock time 10 hrs, 24 min.
Q-1 tot: 16 rides; __938.2 m.; _60 hrs, 39 min; 15.5 mph.
Q-2 tot: 31 rides; 2,263.3 m.; 151 hrs, 29 min; 14.9 mph.
Ju1 tot: 13 rides; __786.9 m.; _52 hrs, 36 min; 15.0 mph.
Aug tot: _9 rides; __649.9 m.; _40 hrs, 45 min; 15.9 mph.
Sep tot: _1 rides; __125.8 m.; __8 hrs, _4 min; 15.6 mph.
YTD tot: 70 rides; 4,764.1 m.; 313 hrs, 36 min; 15.2 mph.