Monday, April 30, 2012

riding out to southern NY for SSAP

In continuing with this theme I scrambled this past week to get everything I needed together for another 100mile ride to another race. This race would be the Darkhorse Cycles 4th annual Singlespeed-A-Palooza. I've been participating in this particular event since its inception in 2008. The past two years have been very wet and throughout last week it appeared that theme would continue. I decided that if it is raining I would drive out there as 100miles in a wet chamois would not be desirable at this point in time. Layering up with rain gear would work but I'd be uncomfortable it would detract from everything I am trying to do and turn this into a chore.

Luckily the weather held out from a precipitation standpoint and we had sunny skies. We did have some wind though. Wind coming out of the west and northwest. Lovely, that is the direction I have to ride. Sure enough, 95% of my ride had a stiff headwind that averaged 10mph or so. It was pretty [metal] brutal.
View Home to Darkhorse Cycles2 in a larger map
Knowing Western CT is mostly hilly terrain I knew I wouldn't get a perfectly flat ride so I studied google maps with the topography on for many hours trying to piece together a ride with a reduced amount of climbing. The end result is what I laid out above. Little did I realize that my route from Hartford up through Litchfield would be nothing but climbing...
Cue sheets written, iPhone charged, good to go...

Lots of turns so I had to pay close attention to the cue sheets and periodic checks of where I was on google maps on my phone. I missed a few turns in Farmington and later missed a few turns in NY but overall the ride went as planned.

I had another stressful week at work and thought I had a plan to get everything together for this trip/event. Tuesday night I figured out my tire situation. WTB Nano 2.1s to give me extra volume for the trail yet roll well on the road. Wednesday we rode bikes offroad. Thursday the Superfly was converted back into bikepacking mode for the trip to NY.

Friday night was left to cook more rice cakes and get all my clothes and stuff together. Bring a tent or bring my hammock? Tent adds 3.5lbs so I left it home. Knowing the hammock is exposed and temps were around freezing at night I brought many layers to wear as this was easier to do with my 32F sleeping bag than my 15F bag (15bag is much larger). Fit everything in the dufflebag on the handlebars or split it between that and my Ergon backpack? I tried hard to not need the backpack but the backpack won. Camping and race gear was split between the handlebar dufflebag and my backpack.
Had intents to go to bed by 10 on Friday night but that slipped away. Asleep sometime  just before midnight and awake around 6am. The wind was howling on Friday and they said it would die down by Saturday. I woke up Saturday and the wind was still blowing but probably at a lesser degree. Still out of the west. I was dreading a headwind and worrying so much about this I made myself a bit stressed.

On the bike by 7:30am and immediately felt the wind and the cold (40F). Ugh..

Once into Farmington it felt like I was constantly riding uphill and my feet were frozen. With a steady headwind I could not tell if it was the wind or terrain. This also made me work much harder than I wanted to and I was sweating like mad and couldn't figure out the best way to regulate heat. Wool t-shirt, wool jersey and Bike29 insulated jacket were too much. Jacket came off, plastic bag under my wool jersey to keep wind off my chest and arm warmers on under my wool jersey. Felt okay but the wind still seemed to go right through me.

A hill or two in Burlington that I knew yet still hurt as my speed fell down to 5mph and my 61.6inch gear was difficult to pedal at that speed. Kept on going..

Riding out 118 I'd eventually cross rt8 but little did I realize I had a long climb just west of rt8 which would take me up into Litchfield. The good news is that it was a large road with a giant shoulder and the pavement was smooth. The bad news is I was standing up for something like 20 minutes at an average of 8mph. Very slow cadences and I felt my arms and legs fatiguing fast.

"Wonderful. 30miles into a 100mile ride and I am about to crack."

Then came the last little up into Litchfield center. I saw that and mentally died yet somehow pedaled up it. I then sat at the light in the center for quite a few light cycles as I tried to figure out what to do.

"Do I stop for food or keep going?

There's got to be something coming up. Its not even lunch yet either."

After eating some more rice cakes and finishing my first bottle I kept going. I was now heading slightly southwest so the wind was somewhere at my side or at my tail. I felt superhuman as now I am up to 18-20mph and the high cadence felt great on my legs. I was paralleling another mountain range I had to cross but I had faith in my google maps searching that I would be crossing this range at a saddle or low spot.
Saw this on the side of the road. Nice classic bicycle display.

Things got rural again and now I was worrying about food and water. Once I get over this range I am no where near towns for a while. A gas station came up so I stopped for gatorade and a few snickers bars. Back on the bike and within 10miles later I came to my turn to get over the mountain. It was just as I thought, not that steep and short. Felt comfortable riding over it and now I was on backroads with very little cars.
3.5hours and 44miles in and now I was finally starting to feel okay. Okay because the backroads shielded the wind a bit and the scenery was beautiful. Mentally I was coming around. It was also warming up finally. This newfound confidence fueled me as my next goal was the NY border.
My route also took me on a short section of dirt road alongside a lake. Strictly stunning. I need to do some road rides in NW CT as the scenery is beautiful.

Came down out of the mountains to cross rt7 and then back into the mountains towards the NY border. 4.5hours in and about 55miles I am crossing the Appalachian Trail and entering into New York State.

That goal done. Next goal is to get through one more mountain range and then to the Hudson River.
Lots of old manufacturing history in New York.
I am now about 60miles (5hours) into the ride, drank three and a half bottles, ate two snickers bars and three or four rice cakes. Sun is out and keeping me somewhat warm yet I am still riding straight into the wind. Haven't stopped for lunch like I have on my ride to Thom's and there really isn't anywhere I can stop. Timed things wrong but felt I wasn't digging too much of a hole in my fitness to keep riding.

My cue sheet also said "R onto Blackberry Rd (STEEP)"

Last big mountain range to cross and I opted for the shorter, steeper approach. This saved probably 5 miles from my ride and I was not ashamed to have to walk if need be. Half a mile long and 400ft of elevation gain.

Not so bad, right? This picture does not do it any justice. I actually did walk just about the entire climb. Walking on pavement with Shimano M240 mountain bike shoes is not easy. I was wishing I had my M162s on but wanted to race on the stiffer M240s.

Once I crested the top I turned around to see what I just spent twelve minutes walking up and saw this:
All I could do is laugh. Hell yeah that is a steep fucker. If I wasn't 5hours into a ride I might have a shot at riding up this with an unloaded bike and maybe my 61.6inch gear.

From here was another dirt road which still climbed but I was able to ride it, albeit slowly as my legs were pretty beat up and I was now desperately in need of a stop for lunch.
What goes up must be rewarded with a descent. I rolled through that saddle in the middle of the picture. 28mph of dirt and paved descending whilst stretching my hamstrings and other muscles.

Now I really needed to eat and my iPhone couldn't really tell me where I could eat. I felt like I was in no-man's land in terms of towns but just farms and lots and lots of housing developments. By this point my iPhone battery was also dying. It had a full charge when I left but the battery was draining due to the Strava app running.
Whoa! My walking of Blackberry Rd got me 6th place. Hahahahaha

Somewhere in eastern NY. Oh-So-Smart-Phone battery dead. No idea where the next town would be to get food and water. Written cue sheet fuzzy as I got lazy with writing directions after the mountains. Guess all I could do was pedal. I knew I'd ride through Fishkill and then Beacon which were near the Hudson River so there had to be something there.

I slogged on and eventually rolled into Fishkill and saw a Subway. Time to stop...

80 or so miles in. My body felt like it was starting to shut down. I ordered a footlong ham/turkey/roast beef and some potatoe chips and a Coke. It took everything to eat that sandwich. The roast beef wasn't feeling good so after a few bites I took it off the sandwich. 30minutes later the sandwich and a medium Coke were in my stomach. Hoping the Coke would help a lot I was starting to feel reguvinated. Filled my two empty waterbottles up with water and hopped back on the bike.

Having no map but vague cue sheets that said "Rt82 into Rt52 into Fishkill. cross 84. Bridge. 17K west to Montgomery" I kept on riding Rt82 and eventually got into Beacon.

Looking back there were a few shortcuts I found on google but forgot so I wound up riding into the center of Beacon and rode through some outdoor block party on main street. The found the automobile directions to the bridge so I followed them. Having no map and following signs was a sure fire way to add more mileage than necessary. I was learning a good lesson.

Lucikly the automobile directions took me to the entrance of the bike/walk path on the Newburgh/Beacon Bridge. (or is it the East Fishkill Bridge?).
 No toll plaza for me. Bike path is FREE!
Newburgh in the distance..
Beacon.. where I just came from
Knowing I could get lost in Newburgh and knowing that probably would not be a wise idea I decided to try and keep I84 parallel to me. That would ensure I am riding west. I also remembered that state road 300 runs north and south and intersects 17K which runs east and west. 17K was the road I needed as Darkhorse Cycles is on that road. With this knowledge I felt I had a plan.

90 miles in and if all went well I had 10 miles to go. No map or anything could make that 10 miles 20 or more. I had to be smart about this. I was playing the 'grid' game negotiating through Newburgh and found myself heading west on South Street. That intersected rt52 and rt52 cut over 84 so I figured that was the way to go. Looking at a map today I see I was a block or two north of 17k. So close yet no idea! aghhh!

Riding rt52 northwest (into the wind still) I crossed 300 but could see 84 to my left and the road looked straight so I opted not to turn onto 300. [more poor decisions] I rode past a rescue squad open house and decided to stop and ask directions. I needed confirmation I was heading in the right direction as these gradual uphills were taxing me and my body was telling me that I am done.

The rescue squad looked at me like I was crazy wanting to ride to Mongtomery.

"Go up rt52 the way you are going and turn left onto Rock Cut Rd. Turn Right onto 17k. Rock Cut Rd is a few miles up. 5 or so. Its far."

I nodded and thanked them for the directions. Did not tell them I just rode 95miles so another 5 or so was not a big deal. Easy directions though so I got back on my bike and kept on pedaling. Once I saw the sign for 17k I felt like I was golden.

Now... where on 17k am I? Do I turn right or turn left? 

This is another critical decision which could cost me miles I don't have left in me. The headwind has destroyed me. I took a right and before the big descent I stopped and looked around to see if I recognized anything. I saw a large building and a traffic light up ahead so I decided to ride up to that. That light should be a road to 84 which would mean I'd recognize it from the times I've driven out here. Sure enough, that light was one major light east of the shop so I was heading in the correct direction.

100miles even and I am pulling into the driveway of Darkhorse Cycles. 4:30ish pm or something like that (8 hours after I left my home). I did it! I said hello to everyone and had a beer whilst sitting on the pavement resting. 15 minutes later the Bike29 Vermont crew arrived and I still haven't left my spot on the pavement. Not bad timing. I then decided to get cleaned up and start figuring out food and what-not and lots of resting.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent hanging out at the shop, drinking beer and chatting with the other people camping out and the Bike29 Vermont crew. Darkhorse George, Mike and Mike were out setting up the course. I never laid down to take a nap like I wanted. We had dinner at the restaurant across the street and then I retired around 10:30pm.

Home for the night before Singlespeed-A-Polooza

Next up... My cold evening sleeping in a hammock and the 28mile [fast] race the following day.

Friday, April 27, 2012

biking to create a world free of Multiple Sclerosis

Last year Ginger rode her bicycle around Martha's Vineyard and raised money to help the fight against Multiple Sclerosis. That endeavor comes close to home in that both her mother and a close friend of her's has MS.

This year I will be joining Ginger and the two of us will be riding our bikes, along with a group of her friends, around Martha's Vineyard in support of a world free of Multiple Sclerosis.

The ride is one week from now and we can not wait.

If you would like to support us please click on the image below.

Thank You!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

tires tires and more tires

Last Night's activities:

Today was our wednesday night ride. Fully rigid with a 61.6" gear. Lots of goofing around on tonight's ride.

Trying this Strava thing out. We'll see how consistent I am with recording stuff.
After the ride.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

vermont gravel grinder

This past Sunday was the 5 Hills Bikes Gravel Grinder bicycle ride in Waterbury/Stowe VT.

Ginger and I headed up there on Saturday to partake in the fun. While the locals here in CT were racing on Sunday in the rain and mud we were riding in cold temps and overcast skies in VT. It rained Saturday afternoon/evening but Sunday morning through early afternoon the rain held back.
We did this last year for the first time. This year was the 5th annual event 5 Hills Bikes / Bike29 have put on.

I had a malfunction with my bikes so George let me tool around on his Jet9 RDO.
Ginger rode her Trek/Fisher X-Cal.
I was not ready for the cold temperatures (40s) but had enough clothes with me to stay warm. Our plan was to just ride and see where it would take us. 3000+ feet of climbing in 30 miles. Data is here.

Nice, steady pace the two of us could maintain together, and we kept on truckin'
Participation was in max capacity and despite the cold temps everyone had a wonderful time, including ourselves. George and Mandy did a most excellent job of preparing and executing an awesome event. Thanks guys!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ronde V3 and the ride home

Now that I have arrived at Thom's....

Thom and I were up at 6am to gather our things for the Ronde V3 race around Boston. In typical Thom fashion he was asleep for maybe three hours. I had about four to five hours plus a two hour nap a few hours earlier.

Stumbling around his lakefront property we managed to get all our gear into the Miniature Boogie Van and high tailed it out of Wrentham enroute to some really good breakfast place Thom knew. Thom's idea of a breakfast involves coffee (and only coffee) so first stop was Dunkin' Donuts as the homebrewed coffee wasn't enough. Next stop was my idea of breakfast: egg and cheese sandwich.

This is where my story will suck for the remainder. The second we left the driveway of Wrentham is the second I completely turned off in terms of trying to figure out geography. This is contrary to how my mind typically works but when I tend to travel lately I have pulled away from having to ensure every single detail is planned out in advance. Perhaps I started doing this to piss Dicky off as he is one to follow in Clark Griswold's footsteps? Who knows. Either way, the rest of this story will be vague on locations.

Being the only all-mountain-bike all-29er-singlespeed team registered we drew some attention at the start. Actually, we arrived right as teams where leaving. The format of this event is what I refer to as
Open roads. Open bike paths. Open trails. Open yards. There is nothing 'close course' about this event. We will be sharing all forms of ridable medium with every Tom, Dick and Jane out there that Sunday. This is what I call a fun race. In order to keep things somewhat managable each team started in heats like a time trial. As we were signing in and finding our team other teams were starting off down the road.
Photo: Chip
Yes, none other than Mike Ramponi! Thom also recruited Will Crissman to be on our team. The last time I saw these two was at the 2010 Vermont50. I remember hearing Mike's distinctive voice in the dark at the start and met Will that day as he and I were both on singlespeeds in our age group. Will beat me by five or so minutes that day. Sounds like Thom put together an all-star team and I felt lucky to be a part of it.

With a perceived handicap, so I thought, I knew I'd have to work hard to keep up with everyone if we were to function as a team. Right out of the gate both Will and Ramponi were at Mach 1 speeds. Ramponi was having so much fun with his new Hi/Low gearing on his Firefly it was no wonder we were off at Mach 1 speeds.

Throughout the day I realized our team of four were riding as one. Any one of us would pull on the road and Thom or I would lead the group through the trail sections. Our first flat was changed in record time as a NASCAR pit crew. We were a well oiled machine and haven't really ridden together before. This was fun!
As we made a clockwise loop around Boston we'd ride stretches of paved or dirt road to get to off-road trail sections. I started loosing my legs around mile 60 but somehow recovered a few miles later. Next thing I know we're rolling up over the last hill and coasting to the finish. We were out there pedaling, purchasing food, refilling bottles for something like 5 and a half hours and 70 miles. I felt a fairly consistent level of energy throughout the entire ride. Something I was surprised to pull off after riding 100miles the day before.
The next day, Monday, I was up at 5:30AM and on my bike by 6AM heading back home. My legs were very heavy but I managed to turn the pedals over one by one. The slightest incline forced me to get out of the saddle, something I did not have to do on the ride out to MA.

Needless to say, I kept on pedaling and enjoyed the empty roads before Monday morning rush hour. 25miles into my commute my legs finally started turning around and I knew I had a chance of making it back home.
By now I was somewhere in Rhode Island and I desperately wanted out of that state. All I could think about was riding the rail trail and being off the pavement. Just like with the longer mountain bike races I started setting short term goals to achieve which would pass the time. Next stop:
Putnam CT was the next goal. 30miles covered in a few hours and I was hungry. Guess my banana at 6am was expended. This was my last town before the rail trail for a few more hours so I knew I had to get some food. Upon stopping at a gas station for water I stumbled upon a breakfast joint and sat down for a good breakfast.
With a full belly and two full waterbottles I was back on the bike.
40 miles into a 105mile day and I was back on dirt. Temps were also starting to climb. I think it was around 9am and pushing 70F by now. Weather forecast called for a hot day. Unfortunately the trees are not in bloom yet so I did not get much tree cover from the sun but did remember to load up on the sunscreen when I stopped for breakfast.
Fairly straight for as far as my eyes could see
Knowing it was a Monday and knowing a friend of mine near Willimantic could, potentially, be off from work I sent him a txt seeing if he was around and wanted to get a long ride in. Donal was around and was looking for another bike ride so arrangements were made for he to join me on my ride across CT.
Donal found me just north of Willimantic and we rode down to Willi to stop by our friend's Mika and PR's house so I could refill my bottles and say hello (PR's been traveling the past few weeks and was back in town).

High Noon and we've got bottles full and the temp is climbing into the 80s with the sun blaring at us. What a good time to ride a bike..

maybe not.
Back on the rail trail climbing every so gently across 30 or so miles from Willimantic up to Bolton Notch. 60 miles in for the day, temps at a relatively recent record high, and a stiff headwind. Just the way I wanted to end three days of riding. We mustered on and I made sure to stay ontop of my water so I'd stay hydrated. Hydration is key and I was doing a great job of it all weekend. Knowing the route home from here and where I could get more water was perfect as it allowed me to not be so conservative with water consumption.
Donal turned around just near Bolton Notch and rode home with some local-to-him singletrack for good measure. A good 50 or so mile day for him. I rode through Bolton Notch and was stoked for some every so slight descending.
Mid-day on a Monday and I was making great time so I added in an errand on the way home. I would be riding past Pedal Power in Vernon CT and Matt had a set of disk brakes for me. Pedal Power's Vernon store is a five minute detour off the rail trail and I was consuming water at a rate where I'd need more by the time I got near Vernon so it was an easy choice to stop by.

After 45minutes or so of hanging out in Vernon and filling up my waterbottles I strapped the brakes to my handlebars and hit the trail west back to my home. A few short miles on the rail trail and then I was back on roads to my house. Roads that suck. Suck in terms of having to ride across Hartford.

After spending 90 miles on empty early morning road and the majority of the day off-road to myself having to ride across the city just prior to the evening rush hour was not desired. It actually took a few miles to remember what it is like to ride with cars buzzing you at 30-40mph while you are pedaling along at 15mph. It was surprising to have these thoughts as I did not leave much of the populated areas of New England on my ride yet here I felt as if I've been in the back-country for days on end.
More like strange things happen to your mind as you're pedaling away for most of the day without headphones or music playing. I distinctively remember how the thoughts would run rampant whilst racing 100 offroad miles. One reason why I kind of liked not having music.

4:30 PM I am rolling into my driveway. Three days from when I left.

Another 100 or so miles for the day. 282 cumulative miles for the three days.
Self Portrait immediately after returning home.
I was now tired and ready to clean up, eat and rest. Ate a large bowl of shrimp fried rice, drank more water, showered and fell asleep on the couch until dinner time. Called out of work the following morning to let me sleep in. I slept in for about an hour and then was wide awake and catching up on chores including mowing the lawn. At work by noon.

I proved to myself that I could ride my bike quite a distance, race and ride home. Certainly enough to make you tired but somehow I found a way to keep going. I dug into that philosophy that keeps me going through stage races and it seemed to work. Definitely a big mental game. You have to mentally prepare yourself for something like this, in my eyes, more than you have to physically. Without that feats like this are not possible.

This was my own personal stage race and I proved to myself it is possible without having some organized 'event' to get me to ride multiple days in a row. It also felt damn cool to arrive at an event on the mode of transportation and compete with said mode. Especially when the only thing that really difference in the mode of transportation is attached bags.

I am looking forward to doing this again this coming weekend with Darkhorse Cycle's SingleSpeed-A-Palooza in southern NY. Especially knowing that I am not going to touch my bike upon showing up. All I plan on doing is removing my bags and bolting on my water bottle cages.

Run What-cha Brung

Sunday, April 22, 2012

next stop: Wrentham, MA

With back to back weekends away from home riding and then a few days falling off the horse from writing here I accumulate a back-log and then interesting thoughts I have fade away into the abyss.

As a result, this may be shorter in words than I originally anticipated yet some of you might like that.

A week ago yesterday I set off for my first official "Ride my bike to my race. Race. Ride home." It would be a tad over 100miles out to Wrentham MA to Thom's house. Then we'd do a 70mile race around Boston. The third day I would ride the 100 or so miles home. All in all, it was a great success and the testing I have done paid off.

My route, which included about 50 miles offroad:
View Home to Thom in a larger map
The Airline Rail Trail in Eastern CT
The good news is this was a success. I made it out there without destroying myself that Saturday. I felt a consistent level of energy racing on Sunday. The ride home on Monday started out sluggish but after 25 miles I finally got my legs back in me and even had some energy to run some errands on the way home.
 The new bridge installed on the rail trail in Andover CT. More on that soon.
Willimantic CT, about 40miles in
The ride out to Mass was fairly uneventful. The 29x1.9 tires and 61.6inch gear (34x16) were a good choice. The rail trail was both a good thing and a bad thing. The good was that it leveled out the mountainous area of Eastern CT. The bad thing was that I spent a lot of time seated. Something I typically don't do when riding my singlespeed.

The ride to Willimantic I've done many times. Willimantic north I've never ridden so I was in exploring mode. The trail went from being very sandy and rocky to nice and smooth to very muddy and rutted out from trucks and ATVs.

Old converted rail station in Pomfret CT.

Around 1pm, with a few miles left on the rail trail, I was getting hungry so I stopped in Pomfret for a big caesar chicken salad. An hour later I was back on the bike pedaling north to Putnam CT. In Putnam I hopped on Rt44 and headed east to RI and then meandered north to Mass and into Wrentham.
 Putnam CT (end of the rail trail)

I did managed to find some singletrack along the rail trail :)

9.5hours after leaving my home, I arrived at Thom's. Ate half a pizza, took a shower and then took a nap. 2hours later I awoke and we went over to his family's farm for a few drinks and some live music.