Blue Ridge to Bay 1200, May 31-June 3, 2018

Ride Report from Dave Thompson:

An interesting ride for sure. I’m not sure if I’d do this one again, but I say that about many of the 1200s, for a variety of reasons.

Nick et al. set out to showcase the region. Combining downtown Washington, Annapolis and the Bay Bridge with climbs on Skyline Drive and through one of the Appalachian gaps, hitting the battlefields of Gettysburg — these all provided diversity and challenge. From a time perspective, the long run into Washington and the city riding with a multitude of turns affected average speed more than the long climbs and descents. There’s payback from climbing; none from jogging through suburbia. The route designers did achieve their objectives but it probably made the route more difficult than they expected. Degree of difficulty isn’t all about climbing. It’s a very difficult route for anyone to break 80 hours.

I have a somewhat jaundiced view of heading into Washington; I lived in the Philly area long enough and saw the sights often enough, that it wasn’t new. Skyline Drive is spectacular and the Appalachian Gaps are challenging. In between we climbed and rolled. The run into Washington on commuter paths, 40+ miles of them, was new to me. I was pleasantly surprised that I could make reasonable time but for those who start these rides at a fast pace, the paths are speed limiting. I found it interesting.

The weather was also provided diversity — mostly cloudy the first day; sunny and hot the second day, again with rain late; climbing easing up on the third day and more late-day rain, but it was a long 203 miles; rain all day on the fourth and final 200k, cool and chilling. The rain on the first three days had been warm. You had to be prepared for anything.

At one point with heavy thunderstorms we took refuge at a waste treatment plant and then an open barn. Such is randonneuring!

The DNF rate was somewhat high, around 35% for the 1200k riders. Nick thinks that was mostly due to the weather. I think that it was mostly due to the long riding days. The female DNF rate was zero. The Seattle rider DNF rate was 100%. It’s really too small a sample to say for sure and even if the ride is held every year for the next dozen years, different riders and different weather will produce different results.

I rode with Hamid most of the time except, as usual, that first day. He always gets out ahead on the first day; this time he finished an hour before me. Jerzy from Toronto and Greg, a local rider, were companions for most of the ride. Jerzy slept in after the third day. He was riding strong; it wasn’t due to route or conditioning.

I never felt that I was in trouble time-wise. Nick had made it clear that intermediate times were guidelines; the final time was all that counted. As such, I could plan a reasonable day for that day’s riding. The final day, for instance, turned out to be a 15 hour 200. We warmed up and dried off for extended periods a couple of times.

Volunteer support was good. We started in Leesburg, spent two nights at the same place in Shepherdtown and the third night close to the BWI airport. There were loads of volunteers at the overnights; during the day we saw Bill taking photos and Nick providing water. Shab managed the overnights, doing her usual excellent job.

I enjoy all these rides and this was no exception. It didn’t have the views of the Rocky Mountain 1200 nor the Cappuccino from Italy, but it worked for me.

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