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DC AIDS Ride 4: Ride 3 - Capital Crescent to Bethesda

Ride 3: Capital Crescent to Bethesda
Saturday, March 6
Distance: 22 miles

I thought the second ride was cold.  This one topped it. I thought that saying the first ride was a beginner ride was a gross understatement.  This one topped that too.

Last ride was four weeks ago. The last time I tried riding was two weeks ago. The weather had not helped, my health had not helped and there had been no scheduled rides I could fit in. My one attempt at going riding on a sunny Saturday ended in defeat.  I had decided to follow the ten-mile loop of North Arlington listed in my bike rides book.  Since the main roads to where the ride picked up were very busy, I decided to take the Custis trail along Interstate 66 to Glebe Road, swing by Jeff's and Brian's house and then follow the path of "rolling hills".  I barely made it to their house which is only ten blocks away--that ten-block stretch of Custis Trail is a miniature version of the Rockies.  My lungs were burning, I was dizzy and shaking uncontrollably.  I headed back home, dejected and discouraged.

Last weekend I had been all prepared to go riding despite the rainy weather.  I had called Jeff and Brian the night before just to make sure it was still on.  In his best ride-leader and rider-rep tone Brian had said "Yes, we're still on."  I had called them that morning just to triple-check, and the line was busy.  I biked out to their house and, when I got there saw Jeff barefoot in his sweats, just grinnig sheepishly and saying it was off.  He had been emailing the team when I called telling them that the ride was off.  I gave him grief for his resourceful use of communications media to deliver a message 5 minutes before it was relevant, and then he, Brian, Jamie and I went for breakfast.

The day of the ride the alarm rang at 8 AM, and I had second thoughts.  I looked out my basement window and saw gray.  I got back into bed thinking "nah, it's too cold, they won't do it." At 8:45 I got up again, called Jeff and he confirmed that the ride was on.  I got myself ready, ate a turbo breakfast and biked out to their house where I met up with the rest of the team.

Faithful to his word, we headed out towards Bethesda.  We started out on the Custis trail going towards DC.  That ten-block stretch of the Custis Trail was not as difficult as I remembered it--I guess it was more downhillish.

We crossed the Francis Scott Key bridge into Georgetown, went down Wisconsin Avenue (somewhere near HHS Secretary Shallala scared off would-be muggers by crouching down and yelling), under the Whitehurst Freeway and onto the C&O Canal bikepath towards Bethesda, Maryland.

The ride description said "flat."  I call it "uphill, both ways".  Yes, no rolling hills, but all the way to Bethesda we had a good 10-degree incline.  The trail itself is beautiful.  It is built along what used to be the canal used to circumvent the rapids on the Potomac at Great Falls, a few miles upstream from DC.  We did a turn at some point onto the Capitol Crescent loop, which leaves the canal and heads in towards Bethesda of Naval Hospital fame.

I was the last one in the pack, probably a good mile behind everyone else.  Brian did his faithful duty as ride sweep and stuck with me and a woman who was also well behind the group.  The three of us had a good time, and by the time we made it to Bethesda to do a loopback (having been passed by everyone else on their way back to town) we had warmed up, enjoyed ourselves and were very proud of our accomplishment.

I figured the ride back would be a breeze since it was all downhill.  However, it somehow got colder, wetter, more miserable.  I couldn't feel my toes, my butt was starting to hurt and no amount of gear shifting made it any easier to advance.  Somewhere near the water treatment plant west of Georgetown Jeff caught up with us to tell us that he had taken a vote and everyone agreed on eliminating the leg out to the Airport and just heading straight home.  However, that meant that the way home for us would be the Custis trail.

Given that Brian and Jeff both agreed that this was probably one of the harder, more miserable rides they had ever had to do I felt good about finishing alive and with working lungs.  Frozen and completely soaked I stripped off all the wet clothes and loitered around my radiator for a few minutes before heading for the shower.