Sunday, April 29, 2018

Trip Report: Joe's Ride - Olney, MD

Bottom Line

Fun, inexpensive party ride. Not a race - all riders expected to start together. I'll add this to my list of annual rides - it's a great way to start the season - but there are some things I hope will change.

The Five Ws

  • Joe Sanford died of brain cancer at 10 years old. 
  • Rides (45K, 30K, 10K) and a stride (5K). The 45K and 30K were $25, the 10K ride and 5K walk were $10, and there was a free kids' bike rodeo.
  • 2018 date was April 28 (reportedly earlier than in previous years). 
  • Start and End at Oakdale Emory Church - 3425 Emory Church Rd, Olney, MD.
  • The event is in memory of and benefits children in the Olney community who have died. Proceeds go to the Joseph Patrick Sanford Foundation.
  • Here's a link

What to Expect

The longer rides (30K and 45K) started at 0700. Seemed like fewer than 50 riders, maybe 35 or so. The scene is a party scene - there was a DJ, a couple of vendor booths, and a light breakfast. Check-in was super-smooth. I gave my name and they handed me my swag (a t-shirt, a tote bag, and a water bottle among other things), though the organizers had encouraged riders to have registration info - a QR code - ready.

We all set out after a brief prayer. The majority of the route in the beginning was roads that had been closed for the ride. After the 30K riders split off, roads were mostly lightly trafficked. The route was very well marked with the kind of signs you stick in the ground.

There were a LOT of farms, some woods, and some residential areas on the route. One house early on the route had people on the porch cheering us on. It was rolling hills throughout, with beautiful scenery. The day was really foggy, but that added to the beauty. There was one support stop, where the 30K and 45K diverged. Most of the roads were a little chewed up and in need of a fresh coat of asphalt, but that's to be expected this early in the season and on a rural route.

I got to see a beautiful woodpecker, wings out-stretched, fly in front of me. He was big - I had never seen one that close. The colors were unreal, like God went a little overboard with the Instagram filters. I wish I had a picture to share. Warning, though, farms in spring smell like, well, about like you'd expect. If you can abide the occasional smell of a freshly-fertilized farm, maybe stick to the trails around DC?

After the ride (it took me about 2 hours do do the 28 mile/45K) it was a party scene. Line dancing, talking, eating. I kind of wanted to do the Wiggle and the Macarena, but that part wrapped up by the time I got my bike shoes off and my slides on.

It seems like this is really a community event. I saw a lot of riders riding back home after their ride, and there was a lot of surprise when I said I was from Odenton, about a 40-minute drive away. One person said, "Oh, I've heard of Odenton..." Sometimes, I felt a little out of place - not from there, don't have a kid with cancer, didn't suffer the loss of a child, don't know Joe Sanford. I wanted to ask, "Am I the only one here who's just here for the ride?" but it seemed a callous thing to say.

Some Drawbacks

From most significant to least significant:

No cue sheet. Organizers assured me that I wouldn't get lost, as the route was well marked (it was, mostly) and that others on the ride would help me find my way, if I got lost (so, a group of four of us all ended up lost together, but not badly. There was either a sign missing, or a confusing sign, or one we all missed near the end of the ride. We ended up biking along a busy highway for a short distance, and then turning left off of said busy highway. It was dangerous and scary, but we all made it).

There was SAG, but no one gave out the SAG number. "If you need SAG, just wait, the car will be driving around on the route."

Balloon release. I know - this isn't really ride related. I'd love to see the organizers ditch the balloon release. Cuz, you know, wrecking the environment in loving memory of those who aren't around to see it wrecked... not cool. Plant a tree or release butterflies or something. Grief is real, losing a child is tragic, but there are better ways to honor that memory.

Registration. Registration wasn't through, but through SignMeUp. The technical process - navigating SignMeUp and PayPal and such - was kind of a pain. The other option was a snail-mailed registration sheet and a check.

No Gatorade or EnerGels - okay, this isn't even really a draw-back; I just thought I should warn you. There were delicious bagels and coffee at the start, and, c'mon, 28 miles. Do you really need Gatorade or EnerGels for 28 miles? No. Just fill the two water bottles you have on your bike, you'll be fine.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

NICA and Maryland Interscholastic Cycling League Information Night

I attended the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) information night on 20 January 2018 at Crofton Bike Doctor. Here are my notes.

NICA and its Maryland League

NICA focuses on making mountain biking fun for children in grades 6-12. Their values emphasize inclusiveness and positive support for physical, mental, and emotional health. Their program places a high value on safety and risk management.

NICA is a huge organization, and it is growing, as is the sport of mountain biking. They have 22 leagues across 21 states. 10,826 student athletes, and 4,389 volunteers. Leagues typically double in size between the first and second years.

The league being launched in Maryland, the Maryland Interscholastic Cycling League, will need adult volunteers as well as student athletes. A leadership commission has already been established, and includes cycling leaders from around the state. There is also an aggressive fundraising campaign. While most of the revenue will come from race registration, race registration will com after the need for funds to start. The Maryland Interscholastic Cycling League is a brand new 501(C), so donations are tax-deductible.

Practices and Competitions

Each student athlete who wants to compete can. There is no "bench," no try-outs, no cuts. All are welcome. Each competitor who finishes the course earns points for their team, even the slowest competitor.

Competitions are on single-track courses. Passing is done safely, and the focus on risk management means there are no overly technical courses - no biking along cliffs, no jumps, no drop-offs. The goal is to make competing fun for everyone, even brand-new cyclists. The challenge is often in how fast an athlete can complete the course.

Practice venues are determined by a team's coach or coaches. Not every practice will be a ride through the woods. There are lots of skills that can be honed in a field. Requirements focus on inclusiveness. There is no minimum number of practices per week and no maximum, but coaches are trained in risk management and are therefore wary of over-working student athletes.

Competitions are huge events. Often, 1,000 people arrive to compete, volunteer, or observe. Some competitions have to be in locations that not only offer a course without too many technical challenges, but that also have parking for hundreds of vehicles and nearby camping available. Competitions aim to be weekend-long events, with set-up on Friday night, non-competitive rides and further preparation on Saturday, and competitive events on Sunday.

All events are optional. Being on a team does not mean you have to go to every competition or every practice. Going to a competition does not mean you have to arrive on Friday night - if you can only make the competition on Sunday, you would be welcome.

Venues being examined for the 2018 season in Maryland are Fair Hill, Rosaryville State Park, Schaeffer Farm and Button Farm, and Brunswick. Dates of competitions will be finalized by the end of February.


There is a lot of support through NICA for adults who would like to help out with a team or with the league. While there are requirements for coaches, there is an opportunity for those who would like to try it out once without going through the qualification process. There are also opportunities to volunteer that do not involve getting on a bike. There is a leadership summit which will provide everything needed to become a coach. The cost of the summit is $90.

Coaching will require, among other things, a background check, a brief course in risk management (provided by NICA), and concussion training. There are levels of coaching, but for the first year, the teams can only be level one teams, so the coaches need only be level one coaches.


Teams are encouraged to be associated with a school, but there are also composite teams that include student athletes based on their geographic location or on other bases.

The required ratio of students to qualified coaches is 6:1.

Team dues are optional and there are very soft rules on how a team can function. The one hard and fast rule is that teams must have a team uniform. But even this is flexible - the uniform can be as simple as matching tee-shirts. NICA is negotiating with Hill Killer Apparel for helping teams design and produce uniforms.

Key Dates

  • March 17-18: Leaders' Summit
  • April 1: Registration and beginning of pre-season - teams meet informally
  • July 1: In-Season - teams meet regularly for practice and conditioning
  • September-October: Race Season - there will be 4 races in Maryland during the 2018 season. Typically there are 4-6 races in a season.

More Information

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