Category Archives: Permanents

Old Rag 200K Permanent: Hills, Vistas, and Math Word Problems

This weekend Felkerino and I hightailed it out of the city to escape the crowds that have descended on Washington, D.C., and arranged to do the lovely Old Rag 200K out of Warrenton, Virginia, with bicycling buddies Andrea and Mike.


The D.C. Randonneurs site describes the Old Rag 200K as follows:

From Warrenton we head generally southwest passing through rolling horse farm country with the Blue Ridge Mountains as our backdrop. We parallel the Blue Ridge as far south as Madison where we begin our return to Warrenton after a stop at the friendly, well-stocked Yoder’s Country Market.

The route is fairly gentle as we wind our way to Syria in the shadow of Grave’s Mountain. A moderate climb followed by a 3-mile descent puts us up and over the Old Rag Grinder.

A series of steep and unrelenting rollers–lovingly known as The Three Kings and The Meanies–will consume us for the next hour or so prompting many to re-fuel at the Laurel Mills store with the sweet, spring water that flows nearby.

Country roads bordered by stone fences carry us through Ben Venue and into Flint Hill and the final control at the reopened Orlean Store. A final climb over Piney Mountain brings us back to Warrenton.

Estimated total elevation gain : 8,000 feet.

This course is an old friend to Felkerino and me. It was the first 200K brevet course he ever rode (in 1996), and my second (in 2005). Saturday’s temperatures were good for riding, the wind swirled around in its springtime way, and the sun shone. Felkerino and I had great company.

Andrea and Mike, and a dog we surprised as it was out for a stroll

Andrea and Mike, and a dog we surprised as it was out for a stroll

I was glad for the urban reprieve, but unprepared for how mentally challenging this ride would prove for me. I have not been logging the bike miles like I hoped this year (although my running miles are up, woo!). Dispirited by the colder weather, getting sick on a couple of weekends I hoped to spend on the bike, blah blah blah. I’m full of good excuses, but the bottom line is that my confidence going into this ride was not where I wanted it.

My mind also kept wandering back to personal concerns. I forget how the things going on in our lives can affect our energy levels and focus. Usually, I can shake stuff, but it wasn’t happening on Saturday. I’d chew on things for a while and then refocus on the ride for a bit, only to be distracted again by all the thoughts banging around in my brain.

Heading toward Etlan Road

Heading toward Etlan Road

My usual mental approach to a 200K is fairly simple.

  1. Divide the ride into two main parts, the first 60+ miles and the last 60+.
  2. Knock off the first 25 miles and get the ride down to a conceptually manageable century distance (easy peasy!).
  3. Pedal steadily with minimal breaks until the halfway point, eating out of the back-pocket cafe as needed.
  4. Eat something more substantial at the halfway mark, like a sandwich.
  5. Ride steadily from lunch and stop once more for a little snack at around mile 100 or so. Only 25 miles left (Surely you’ve ridden 25 miles before?).
  6. The end!

This ride required the use of these ride management strategies and more to push through. I rode the first half or so according to plan, but struggled mightily after the first 60 miles. It was strange because my body felt fine, but my brain wanted to be back in bed, resting on my pillow.

The delicious Etlan Road is just past this red barn, and so is a steep climb.

The delicious Etlan Road is just past this red barn, and so is a steep climb.

After much scrutiny of the cue sheet, I ended up breaking the ride down into 10-15 mile segments. I spent a lot of time challenging myself to basic math word problems, and compared the distances we covered to the everyday riding I do.

Three rides to Whole Foods and back until we reach the next control. Two trips to work until we are at X miles. Two trips to the doctor, taking the long way. This made the distances easier to conceptualize, while also taking my mind off other things.

Ride management strategy: time for math.

Ride management strategy: time for math.

I also rewarded myself at mile 94 with homemade monster cookies I purchased earlier in the day. I try to avoid rewarding myself with food, especially during rides. Not this ride. This ride needed a dose of monster cookies!

Strangely, my legs felt decent throughout the day. At some points they fatigued (particularly during parts of what we call the three kings), but overall my physical output felt solid.

It was my head that was out of sorts. I struggled to be present in the ride. I don’t know if this is worse to experience on a tandem or a single bike. On one hand, you can start to think about how you are dragging the other person down, how much faster they could go if you were not there. On the other hand, your teamwork can be a source of encouragement. Fortunately for me, Felkerino was a good tandem partner on this ride.

Laurel Mills Store, where I rewarded myself by devouring monster cookies.

Laurel Mills Store, where I rewarded myself by devouring monster cookies.

Despite my difficulties focusing, I’m still glad we got out. I had to get away from the District. It felt good to meet up with others and pedal our way over the choppy and scenic Virginia countryside, with all of its trees poised to blossom.

One day after the ride, my legs are tired, but I am far from wiped out. This ride built my confidence that we can handle hills and go further than 200K if/when we need to do so.

My head was not in the space I wanted it during the ride, but I feel much better about life today. Nothing like a 200K in the spring sunshine and lots of made-up math story problems to clear the head.

Thanks to Mike and Andrea for riding with us. And Felkerino, you’re the best.

Repast at Rocco’s 200K Permanent: A Winter Ride that Felt Like Spring

Heading toward the stone bridge over the Monocacy River

Heading toward the stone bridge over the Monocacy River

With temperatures taking an unusual leap into the 50s this weekend, Felkerino and I committed to our first 200K distance of 2014, meeting up with a few others in Urbana, Maryland, on Saturday for the Repast at Rocco’s RUSA permanent.

Welcome to Frederick County

Welcome to Frederick County

Repast at Rocco’s (Ride With GPS track here) is an out-and-back 126.6-mile course that begins by see-sawing through some big rollers, levels out on valley roads through Frederick County, Maryland, and goes into Adams County, Pennsylvania, for lunch in East Berlin (at a pizza placed named Rocco’s, incidentally) before it turns to retrace the first 60-plus miles.

Looks like winter over there. Feels like spring where I'm riding.

Looks like winter over there. Feels like spring where I’m riding.

The rolling morning miles took us through some cold dips, and we pedaled cautiously over a few icy patches remaining on some segments the sun has trouble reaching.

One of the things I love about riding in Frederick County is checking out the old barns that pepper the countryside. Many are wood, and some are a brick and wood combination. More than a few have fallen into disrepair, but others still stand strong. Their weathered exterior intrigues and gives them vivid texture.

One of my favorite old barns on the route

One of my favorite old barns on the route

The warmth of the day enveloped us, but the countryside was still dressed up in winter. It was odd to be outfitted for a spring ride while winter landscapes surrounded us.

Roads were fairly calm, and sun and tailwind made for a fast first half of our 200K day. I was reminded of some sound advice my father imparted: take the headwind first. Why don’t we listen to our parents’ advice more often, I ask you.

While about 10 of us showed up for the ride, Felkerino and I spent much of the time by ourselves. Midway through the morning we met up with Tom, who was in the process of completing his 99th consecutive monthly ride of at least 200K, and rode and chatted together for a bit.

Riding with Tom

Riding with Tom

There was some serious talk about the direction the flags were waving and how the wind had picked up over the course of the morning, but I tried not to sweat the headwind blasts sure to come after lunch.

I rationalized that I would rather ride in sunny 50-degree temperatures with some spirited headwinds than spend my day doing a ride under threatening skies with no wind and temps in the 30s. See? Always a bright side to be found.

Bikes at Rocco's

Bikes at Rocco’s

We refueled on pizza at the 63-mile midway point and I mentally prepped for headwind headwind headwind. Inevitably, it battered us around for the next 30 miles, making talking difficult (What did you say?! What?!) and altering my mood so that I put my camera away and stopped looking around and taking photos. Oh Dad, I should have listened to you about taking the headwinds first!

Eventually we rode our way into more wooded segments and took favorable turns so that the wind was behind us or at least not directly in our faces. Yippee.

A look at the old stone bridge over the Monocacy River

A look at the old stone bridge over the Monocacy River

We also leap-frogged the last 30-plus with fellow rider Calista, which helped the miles pass.

This 200K is front- and back-loaded with hills, and the middle half is quite gentle. It’s an ideal winter century because you don’t sweat up too much on the uphills and then freeze going down. Steady rollers and gentle valley riding.

Calista during the last 10 miles. Bare legs and snow.

Calista during the last 10 miles. Bare legs and snow.

The ride profile says Repast at Rocco’s has around 5,500 feet of climbing, which really is not much for a ride of that distance, but it still tuckered me out by the end. I suppose that’s how you’re supposed to feel at the end of your first 200K of the year.

Sorry I don’t have any photos of the wind for you. I’m still working on ways to document that largely invisible beast that has such power over one’s ride. Sometimes it’s your friend and other times you can’t wait for it to go away (What?! What did you say?!).

Trail Ridge Road on Tandem

There’s nothing that kicks off a bike tour better than riding the highest continuous paved road in the United States.


Felkerino and I spent yesterday riding our Co-Motion Java tandem on the Trail Ridge 200K, a 134-mile RUSA permanent that starts in Louisville, Colorado, and takes the rider to Estes Park, up Trail Ridge Road, down the mountain, to Grand Lake, Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, through a canyon that has a name I don’t recall Byers Canyon, and over to Kremmling.

We had a good ride, the highlight (and lowlight) for me being Trail Ridge Road which ascends to a height of 12,200 feet.


The road was beautiful, winding us up and up and up, and eventually giving us incredible views to look back at what we had climbed.

However, the intense climbing amid fairly constant car traffic on a road with a tiny shoulder overlooking what seemed like a long long long way down if we fell freaked me out in places. I would call it vertigo, and at times I found myself flung over to the left side of the stoker bars like a cat stuck in a tree clinging to a tree branch while it awaits rescue. So dignified.

We breathlessly made our way to what seemed like an interminable summit and stopped to warm up and drink a pop. While there we received many kind comments from visitors who had seen us on the climb and I can’t tell you how much that meant and helped me feel better about my low moments on this preposterously high road.


Felkerino and I rolled our way down the mountain and glided our bike over gentle rollers to Kremmling in perfect late afternoon long shadow sun, with stories of Trail Ridge Road pouring out. I have never ridden anything like it. Unforgettable, daunting, vertigo-inducing, exhilarating, inspiring. We did it. I can’t believe we did it.

Rides for All Seasons

Or so it’s felt the last three days. From temperatures in the 60s, 40s, and today’s dip into the 30s with snow, it’s been quite the climate roller coaster here in the Mid Atlantic.

Alec rounds the bend on Last Train from Clarksville

  • Saturday – Last Train from Clarksville 201K Permanent

Saturday’s too-good-to-be-true weather had anybody who ever pedaled out and about. Felkerino and I, along with a few friends, decided to carry cards and ride Crista B.’s “Last Train from Clarksville” 201K permanent. The route took us through Maryland rollers, up to Fairfield, Pennsylvania, and back.

Even though our group enjoyed rather warm weather, Last Train from Clarksville is a good winter permanent, as it offers up about 7,600 feet of climb without any major climbs. That means you get a good workout, without overheating on the ups just to freeze on the downhills. I found myself working pretty steadily the entire ride.

Lane says, “I give this ride a thumbs up!”

Another reason I enjoyed the ride so much was that another D.C. Randonneurs group had ridden a populaire from Mt. Airy, Maryland, to the same midway point in Fairfield. We exchanged group pictures, stories about our ride, and exclamations about the fantastic day.

D.C. Randonneurs on the Populaire

D.C. Randonneurs on the Permanent

I also enjoyed checking out the bikes everyone chose for the day’s adventure. In particular, I admired this Trek 330 Elance. I had not seen one before.

Trek 330 Elance

I took several pictures of the bikes as well our ride, and you can find them here. Felkerino’s set is also up on flickr for your viewing pleasure.

  • Sunday – Coffeeneuring Ride through Rock Creek Park

After 125 miles of fun in the sun on Saturday, Felkerino and I took out our Rawlands on Sunday and coffeeneured to Bethesda via Rock Creek Park.

Felkerino on the Rawland in Rock Creek Park

The handlebars look gigantic, but note that these are normal handlebar size, just dramatized for effect (or plain distortion) by my point and shoot.

Our coffeeneuring destination was Quartermaine Coffee Roasters in Bethesda. We decided to go there because of the coffeeneuring writeup by the @whatsupwheaton team of Tara and Simon. My coffee was excellent and Felkerino said his espresso was “very good.” We looped back home via the Capital Crescent Trail, which was busy, but not overcrowded.

  • Monday – A Quick Blast of Winter on the Commute

After enjoying a Saturday in the 60s and a Sunday in the 50s, today I rode home from the office in mid-30s with a little blanket of snow covering the ground. The snow’s steady dripping off the trees onto the slushy grass made for a meditative riding soundtrack.

Surly and snow on Hain’s Point.

I decided to extend my commute with a quiet lap around Hains Point. While there, I came across at least six foxes. The roadies may own the Point during the summer, but in the winter the foxes are king.

There you have it, folks. Three seasons in three days. Back up to 50 tomorrow (so the weather people say). See you out there.

Wild & Wonderful West Virginia RUSA Permanent

I am so lucky to live in Washington, D.C. Despite the large metropolitan area in which Felkerino and I live, we are a stone’s throw away from beautiful cycling (with mountains, yay!) on quiet back roads.

This weekend, Felkerino and I headed out to the Shenandoah and the mountains of West Virginia to work on our climbing legs. This particular ride was the 203 Kilometer Wild & Wonderful RUSA Permanent #713, designed by D.C. Randonneur George Moore.

Making the trip out was a bit of a haul (about a two hour drive), but the ride was stunning and lots of the riding was shady (always a plus  in the summertime). Here are a few highlights to share.

A mailbox we chased down.

51 Miles Per Hour. That’s right, baby!

I Heart Bikers! Not sure they meant us, but we liked it!

The full set of my pics is here.  I’ll link to Felkerino’s as soon as he posts them.

Hope you all were able to get outside for some sunny summer riding (or other activity), too.  It got a little toasty this weekend, but I really like the riding this time of year.  The longer days, no worries about layers, the green of summer.  It’s a fun time to be out.

And now, it’s back to the grind.  See you on the commute!