I'm back from this years edition of Bike Virginia. I only got to ride 4 days of this years tour – I normally do all 6 – but there's just too much going on at work and life in general. It's a real luxury to be able to take 5-6 days off to just ride. Like any vacation it gives one a renewed perspective on life but cycling is such an "inside your head" sport that it is more like spending a week in a cave by oneself.
This is the third year that I've ridden the tour. The first year I rode, the tour was centered around the Blacksburg-Radford area. That edition is not fondly remembered by most that rode it. Even the 50 mile rides were ridiculous. The climb data was all wrong and pretty much ever day I got off the bike I had to deal with agonizing cramps. Last year the tour was based up near Winchester – Charlestown area. It was the best multi-day ride I've ever done. Bike VA routes are always well marked and flagged but last years edition wound through battlefields, Harpers Ferry and was a great balance of challenge and sight seeing.
This year the tour was centered around Lexington – Buena Vista. We stayed at the Brierley Hill Bed & Breakfast which was quite fabulous and very near the event HQ. Many folks tent camp for Bike VA. Not me baby. I need a bed, A/C, showers and flush toilets. By the way, Lexington is amazing. It has two famous schools, Washington & Lee and VMI. It also has an incredible Old Town area. There is a good amount of retail and the restaurants are very nice. 9 months of the year it's a college town so it is no surprise that there is a social scene with restaurants, etc.
As this years edition was in southside, it isn't a shock that there were hills. New for the first day was a short "warm up" ride of about 25 miles. It wasn't bad, a nice little rolling ride that woke the legs up and got you familiar with the area. The second day was very tough: 52 miles and over 5,000 feet of climbing. It was pretty hot and I didn't keep up with my hydration as well as I should have so I got some pretty serious thigh cramps after the ride. We had a nice dinner in Lexington that night and I got a decent nights sleep.
The third day had a bit less climbing and was more rolling hills. I was pretty sore from the previous day but managed to ride very comfortably the entire 60 mile distance. The fourth day I did the short 25 miler and left town. I had to get back to Manassas and then fly to Los Angeles the next day. Talk about a tough plane ride. Full flight, leg cramps…fun.
People do ask me from time to time what the hardest part about Bike Virginia is? Well, at first it's the climbing. We just don't have mountains around here that you can train on with any regularity. Sure, there are some hills on the PWC Parkway but a 5-6km climb? Gotta go 25 miles west for that. Having to generate that much power also changes how you pedal and sit which can result in some soreness as you adjust. However, you get over all of that pretty quickly. For me, the hardest part of Bike Virginia is that once the event starts, it doesn't stop until about 4 days after it is over. From the time you get up in the morning to the second your eyes close at night, you're feeding the beast: sit up, get out of bed and start hydrating. No plain water either or you will suffer. You require electrolytes. Every meal is considered in the proper context. You might think: "wow, burrito's would be great for dinner"! Then you remember (hopefully) that, after a couple of hours on the bike the next day, those burritos might no be so happy. You skip the burrito and hit the turkey burger with salad. It's all consuming and after a day or two when your butt hits the saddle, it feels as though it never left. Don't forget, just because you drove home, you must continue to normalize your electrolytes because you're still short. Forget about that or skip it and you'll get cramps!
Anyone wanna sign up for next year?