This past Sunday, I completed my highest mileage ride to date - 132.7 miles. It was an amazing experience.
Just a couple of weeks ago, driving back home from the beach, I told my dad that I wanted to be more adventurous. After seeing a few friends go out with each other and complete this "Goshen Pass" ride, I knew it was something I had to do.
I also knew this was going to be an all-day event, which had me both excited and nervous. Leaving just before 9am, my goal was to make it back before 7pm.
My route took me out towards Stokesville, through Leading Ridge Rd, past Braleys Pond, and into Deerfield. I ate a little snack there and refilled on water at the gas station on 250W. Turning off of Deerfield Valley Rd, I made my way towards Goshen on Marble Valley Rd. There were some amazing views - mountains for miles on either side of me, the road rolling along through fields and then some more forested spots. About 13miles before Goshen, I hit a rough patch mentally. The temperatures were starting to climb, and I was beginning to doubt myself. So I stopped in a shady patch, chugged a bunch of my electrolyte drink, ate a cookie, and turned my Garmin to a page just showing my heart rate. I think I was getting caught up in the "miles to go" and forgetting that this was meant to be an all day adventure.
That little break helped bring back my energy and excitement. I reached Goshen in what felt like no time after that, and stopped at a gas station for my first big snack break of the day. While I was hanging out there, drinking my favorite flavor of Mountain Dew (baja blast!), a guy who was on a big motorcycle tour sat down and ate his lunch next to me. We talked all about the mountains and the places we've been - it was pretty cool.
Newly rejuvenated and fueled, I made my way to Goshen Pass. This was the absolute BEST part of the whole ride. Oh my gosh, what a beautiful place! Words and even my pictures can't do justice to the sense of wonder and excitement I felt riding between those 2 big mountains with the Maury river flowing directly on my left. The water was a beautiful color and so clear. A bunch of people were there; some jumping off boulders into deeper sections, other enjoying lunch on a boulder in the middle of the river. It was stunning.
This was also the best road of the ride. It's the perfect time of the season to ride here because students are not back yet, and most tourists have finished their vacationing. Riding with no cars, complete tree cover, next to a gorgeous river, and having a general loss of elevation made for a great combination.
After Goshen Pass, as I was turning onto the next road, 3 other cyclists showed up. The leader of the group introduced himself as Rick, and said, "we're going your way! let's all ride together!" And so off we went. After talking for a bit, I found out he knows some people here in Harriosnburg pretty well, and will actually be the announcer for this year's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo! Finding this great group couldn't have come at a better time. I was doing well with my nutrition, but I was starting to feel some fatigue as I was nearing the 100mile point and was beginning to gain elevation as I made my way back north. We stopped in McKinley at a church with a wonderfully cold water pump. Hanging out here, I got the lowdown from Rick on how to get back into Staunton on roads with a lower number of steep climbs.
"252 is awesome," he told me. "No one who drives knows about it because they all take 11 or 81 to get anywhere. And it's rolling but downhill all the way into Staunton."
He wasn't lying. 252N was awesome! Riding on that road brought life back into my legs and rekindled my drive to get back home before 7pm.
When I hit Staunton, I made one more big food stop. It was 30miles back to Harrisonburg, and I knew it was going to hurt. There are some steep short sections of road on the way home, and I was curious about whether I would cramp or not.
After scarfing down a mini bag of potato chips and coke, I began the last section of my adventure. Low and behold, I felt really good. My legs were spinning, my muscles didn't feel tight, and I was enjoying the scenery like a kid in a candy shop.
Checking my watch in Bridgewater I was super stoked to see that I would, in fact, make it home before 7 o'clock.
Rolling into the back yard, I was ecstatic. I looked at my garmin and saw 132.7 miles. I couldn't believe it! I had been so nervous about my abilities at the beginning of this ride, but stayed on pace, stayed on top of my nutrition, and did it without any problem whatsoever. I was able to go on a pretty big adventure all on my own, and see amazing and beautiful things! Nothing can really top that feeling of strength and confidence.
Now I want to take all of my friends on this ride, and I can't wait for that day to come!