North Carolina is about 500 miles end-to-end, “Murphy to Manteo.” Sunday I rode about 1/5 of that, from Cary to Thomasville. The 101 mile ride lasted a bit longer than six hours, and covered portions of six counties in the heart of the North Carolina Piedmont: Wake, Chatham, Orange, Alamance, Guilford, and finally Randolph.
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How did I get from here to there? Approaching the weekend I had been looking over the map trying to figure out where I was going to ride for 6 hours, the scheduled amount of time for my weekend long ride on my TriDot triathlon training plan. The previous week’s five hour 83 mile ride was my longest to-date; I spent much of the ride in Chatham county- practically circumnavigating Jordan Lake, including a few out-and-back legs. This week my ride was supposed to be an hour longer. It didn’t escape me that 83 miles was roughly the same distance as a direct route from Cary to Thomasville. At the same time that train of thought was chugging through my head, Katie casually asked if I wanted to ride to Thomasville and meet her and the kids there Sunday afternoon. Decision point!
I am pretty familiar with the roads around Jordan Lake & Chatham county, and pretty comfortable finding my way around. I just haven’t really taken my road bike much farther than that though. Accordingly, the thought of traveling 50-75 miles on a new-to-me route through the country was daunting. Perhaps my biggest fear was simply getting run over. As my mileage and time on the bike increases I am more and more mindful of how little control I have over my own safety on the bike- and how important my family is to me. Ultimately I decided to put aside my concerns and take on the challenge. That didn’t stop me from worrying about this for much of the night before- and the ride itself.
It took me a little while Sunday morning to get on the road. I put together make-shift cue sheets for the route out of packing tape & post-its, crammed as much fuel as I could into my bento box, and finally hit start on my garmin at 7am. The day started at about 60°F and sunny, great weather for a morning on the bike. After knocking out a few high-intensity segments my mind switched over to the longer task at hand- covering all those miles across the state.
En route from ‘home to home’ I passed through Farrington, Carrboro, Snow Camp, Climax, and a handful of other small Piedmont towns. Fortunately the only hiccup in my navigation was a surprise road closure in Chapel Hill; once I got around I turned off of Franklin St. too soon, and wound up having to backtrack a few miles (seemingly adding a fair amount of elevation from a steep hill too).
During my ride I was surprised to see a steady succession of green bike route #2 signs; unbeknownst to me, I was following North Carolina Bike Route 2, the ‘Mountains to the Sea Route’ for most of the day. That said, I usually feel like I am surrounded by cyclists around Jordan Lake, but seemed to only pass a handful on Sunday during my entire ride.
Like almost all of my races, my favorite part of the ride was seeing my family at the halfway point. Katie left Cary a few hours after I did, and re-traced my route to Thomasville in the 4runner. When I stopped east of Snow Camp I turned on my phone to text Katie with my location; as luck would have it she pulled up a minute later, right after I walked outside of the convenience store. Seeing their smiles and hearing their voices lifted my spirits, and made the next hour on the bike go by in a blink.
Something that doesn’t immediately occur to me when planning such a long ride is how much of the ride (in particular the second half) involves mental toughness. One mental distraction was reliving Noah’s first fall soccer game from the preceding Saturday (he scored a few goals and did pretty well). Even with thoughts of my family running through my head, six hours is a long time to spend in the saddle alone. By the fifth hour convenience stores and filling stations seem more and more tempting places to stop and grab (more) water and gatorade- “it’ll just be a few minutes.” Fortunately I soldiered on through the country roads, and did not stop in the last two hours. In the end I stopped three times- once after I took a wrong turn in Carrboro, the second time to see Katie and the kids, and the third time to fuel up before turning on highway 62.
As I got closer and closer to Thomasville- 25 miles… 20 miles… my spirits started to rise. Sure, I felt like I was closer to home when I passed Groometown Rd., but soon enough I passed over 311/I74 and I could see 85. I knew I was closing in. Eventually I passed a few traffic lights in Archdale and traveled down a familiar section of 62 from my childhood. My GPS meter registered 100 miles shortly before turning onto Finch Farm Rd., so I was coasting on success when I turned into my parents’ subdivision a mile later. Everyone was outside the house playing (or watching) soccer, so I got to see everyone immediately when I pulled up.
Of course it took the kids about a minute to become distracted with something else (I think fishing), so it wasn’t much of a problem for me to pull on my running shoes and go out for a short 15 minute ‘brick’ run that somehow seemed easy. Finally we capped off the day with some fun at the pool- as katie pointed out, my third Tri sport of the day.
The Beach2Battleship Iron-distance race is now only two months away, and my training is only ramping up from here. During August my weekend bike rides on the training plan started at 3 hours, and went up from there- 4 hours, 5:45 hours, and a 4 hour ride for rest week. During September my bike rides start at 6 hours, and average around 7. My rest week ride? 5 hours. Fun times.