ARHC 2020 day 1 (and done?)
Here's a fun idea for a drinking game: pour yourself a glass and take a drink every time you read "last year" or "2019". If my wordiness doesn't put you to sleep, the alcohol poisoning certainly will. But there's no way for me to talk about this year's "race" except in the context of...last year. (Drink)
Four of us -- Dirk, Tracy, Cliff, and I -- were starting together. We would each ride our own ride but follow the same general plan, which called for mostly 100-mile days. While I'd only managed that distance three times during the 2019 event, I'd ended up averaging about 90 miles a day...not so far off from this new goal.
Logistics had been a huge weak spot for me last year, so I hoped that piggybacking on Tracy's vast touring knowledge would help smooth out some of the self-inflicted bumps I'd experienced. He'd shared a plan with proposed mileage, stopping points, and available resupplies for each day. Not knowing where I was going to stay each night had been particularly stressful last year; I thought that having a set destination might help me push on when I might otherwise stop sooner. Of course I was also happy at the prospect of more company than the largely solo experience 2019 had afforded.
|Thursday afternoon prep in the Witts Spring Community Center|
Photo credit: Tracy Wilkins
Though the official race start was in Fayetteville, our DIY version started at the Witts Spring Community Center near where Dirk lives. We all met there on Thursday evening, and Dirk's wonderful wife Chris cooked us dinner and their cousin/my friend Tammy came by to visit while we tended to last-minute packing. I'd met them on my tenth day last year as I rode into Witts Spring to a welcoming party that immediately felt like family. It was great to see my friends though our greeting was tinged with the no-hugs/social distancing weirdness of these times.
Day 1: Witts Springs to Fifty-Six
|Cliff, Tracy, Dirk, and me just ahead of our 6 a.m. start|
Friday began with a beautiful sunrise, which we rode into with new friend Tim, a local cyclist riding some of the first day with us. The first few hours were wonderful (and, "completely unrelated", largely downhill). It was fun to experience some of the same places I'd ridden last year at such a different point in the race. Last year I'd barely dragged myself out of Witts Springs on my 11th day. Leaving there on fresh legs felt much different.
|One of my new favorite cycling pictures, riding into the sunrise on day 1.|
Photo credit: Tracy Wilkins
|Morning mountain views|
Just outside of Marshall (mile 28), we found my friend Dana, a local photographer who took some of my favorite pictures from last year's race and was once again out on the course. There we regrouped It felt like we'd gotten there in what seemed like no time, though my red face in her photos revealed hints of woes to come.
I reached Leslie still feeling strong and happy. Focused on not wasting time, I tried to be quick in the C-store, meeting Tim's wife Reneta and then exchanging goodbyes with my new friends before helping Dirk with a small Garmin issue and taking off. Only 4.5 hours for the first half of the day's ride...I was starting to feel really good about my ability to stick to Tracy's ambitious (for me) plan.
|What a "not bad" section of the Arkansas High Country Route looks like. The blue dot on the Garmin is the above creek crossing, and I guarantee I was looking at the hill in front of me saying something like, "This is some bullshit."|
|4:06 / ~68 (I wouldn't hit mile 71 for another hour.)|
I've now abandoned my helmet, which one doesn't need for walking.