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DC AIDS Ride 4: Ride 1 - Pierce Mill

Ride 1: Pierce Mill
Saturday, January 23
Distance: 25 miles

This was my first training ride.

DC has a wonderfully predictable warm spell mid-winter. For a few days, it will feel like the middle of summer, the humidity stifling and the heat radiating through every muscle. Today was one of those days. It was 70 degrees, it rained in the morning and the heat absorbed by the asphalt made the air muggy. A great day for being outdoors.

I bought my bike one week ago from an AMSer who never used it while she had it. I spent all morning cleaning the chain, re-lubing the bike, installing toe cages, attaching my new pump to the frame and doing all sorts of bikerly things. This, of course, made me late. I almost missed the group, and in my haste had attached one of my toe cages on backwards.

Pumped full of Gatorade and ready to munch on a Cliff Bar I jumped on my bike for what I believed would be a 15-mile ride through flat terrain. My yellow AIDS Ride shirt I got from being a Crew member two years ago made the ride leader believe I was a veteran--I only wore it because it was the only long-sleeved thing I had.

The ride itself was beautiful. DC closes off a whole section of Rock Creek Park to vehicles on weekends, so both lanes of Beach Drive are clear of anything but bikers, 'bladers and joggers. Faithful to its name, a creek runs the length of the park and creates a dramatic landscape. The deciduous trees that flank the roads make for beautiful colors no matter the season.

At first, we were on a steady but slight uphill slope. I felt no particular pain or difficulty. Once we got out of the park and into Maryland there were some tricky climbs (one particular climb made me thankful for four years of climbing hills at Cornell in order to get to class) and more traffic than on Beach Drive, but I felt like I was handling it swimmingly. We passed by the Mormon temple, right outside the Capital Beltway, which is something akin to Brigham Young's tribute to Judy Garland.

There were more picnic areas, more intersections, more cars and fallen trees, a Metro underpass and once again, the quite flow of Rock Creek back towards the Potomac.

We reached the midpoint at around mile 13 on what seemed a playground and picnic area. My shirt was soaked, my second shirt was soaked, and changing shirts only emphasized that it was no longer 70 degrees but closer to mid-50.

The trek back became painful somewhere around the Maryland/DC border. One climb up into Rock Creek Park got the better of me and I ended up getting off my bike and walking it up.

The last two miles were the hardest. My head became full of clichéed phrases from Saturday afternoon TV-movies. Everything moved in slow motion, and Chariots of Fire played in the background. I ultimately believed all this helped me get to the end--I figure my unconscious mind knew that once I got back to my car the barrage of grade-B one-liners would end and I would once again regain my sanity.

Walking was difficult. A hot bath helped. Of course, fate would have it that it was the same night when I was supposed to accompany my friend Erica to her company's holiday party.

We danced till 2 AM. My legs felt fine the day after.