Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Hilly 36 miles in a lot of snow

There was some interest in a ride I had planned for today, so here's my report. At the end I added a section on clothing for the cold temperatures and nutrition for longer rides.

After carbo loading at yesterday's FLCC gathering, I set out alone on a hilly ride later than planned, 12:00pm. The first half of the ride included climbs up Mount Pleasant, Hunt Hill Rd and Hurd Hill Rd. The roads on these climbs had a fair amount of snow, which made it a bit more difficult to reach the top. The descents were very challenging (really scary on Hunt Hill Rd) and I was happy to be on a MTB with disk brakes. No crashes or mishaps occurred. The climb up Hurd Hill Rd was especially tricky because of the accumulated snow. I was rewarded at the top by a beautiful view. I got a small break from climbing on Midline and then continued up Creamery Road after crossing R-79. At this point the sun was peaking through the clouds and I was able to take a picture of my next goal, Bald Hill. Having done this climb yesterday in the opposite direction with Brian Lawney and Ben Kraft, today I went up Grove School Road, which led me to White Church Rd and the next destination, East Miller Rd. This is one of my favorites in Ithaca. If you consider the climb starting from Caroline Depot, in the center of the valley, it is 1.7 miles with an average grade of 8% and maximum of 18%. Just the right climb to get you warm on a cold day. At this point I made arrangements with my wife for a late lunch at Smart Monkey. After a bit more of climbing I started an awesome descent on East King Rd. I got the green light and did not have to hit the brakes to cross 96B. Shortly thereafter I made a right onto Stone Quarry Rd and continued the descent all the way to Spencer Rd. At this point I had icicles on my eyelashes. I made my way to Smart Monkey and had a "Mediterranean Omelet" for lunch. It was delicious and I highly recommend it. After lunch we decided to visit some friends who live half way up South Hill. They have a nice slope in the backyard and I went down it on a sled and also on my bike several times. This added at least 300 feet of extra climbing. Somehow I was able to squeeze a bit more of amperes from my camera battery and I took three nice pictures of the view. After some hours of chatting and coffee I made my way back home climbing up Giles St. All told, it was a beautiful Sunday. Now I have to make sure there is no salt left on the bike. Below are some pictures taken during the ride.

If you are interested in how I stayed warm the whole ride, here's my approach: I wear a "Jones wares" merino wool mockneck as my base layer and DeFeet arm warmers. On top of that I use a Louis Garneau Massimo jacket and a Showers Pass "Double Century" jacket. I recently got a pair of the Louis Garneau lobster gloves and they work very well for me (note that I do not get particularly cold hands). On my head I use a Louis Garneau balaclava and I cannot state how much this helps. My ears never get cold when I am wearing it. On my legs I had three layers: Louis Garneau shorts, Louis Garneau tights and a Showers Pass "Event" pants. They are great but I recommend getting them with suspenders. On my feet I wore DeFeet Woolie Boolie's and Grabber Toe Warmers on top of them. They are amazing and lasted the whole ride. I also wore Louis Garneau shoe covers. There was not a single moment during the ride where I felt uncomfortable and the average temperature was about 17F. It also helps to have all those climbs.

Regarding nutrition, I have done several rides lasting 9h+ and on every single one of them I have bonked at some point. This is not fun at all and usually it takes some time to recover. I attribute these bonks to not enough calorie intake, but I am sure there are other possible causes. On every ride that lasts 2+ hours I have devised the following strategy. I take one 24oz watter bottle and mix 600 calories worth of "Spiz" with water. This is an endurance drink that works very well for me. It has everything you need in it (and probably more). I have not found it in stores around here and have to order it from California. I use about 300+ calories per hour, so the water bottle will last two hours. I'll take extra powder in ziplock bags on the ride for later use. For hydration I use a Camelbak filled with water. I do not like the taste of plain water, so I add electrolyte powder to it. In a second bottle I carry Accelerade as a backup, in case I run out of water in my Camelbak. In these freezing temperatures it important to blow in the Camelbak tube after drinking. That way I get all the water in the reservoir and it does not freeze. With the bottles it's tricky. I use the Polar Insulated bottles but I have found that it does not quite cut it on rides longer than 2h in subfreezing temperatures. My solution has been to stop at convenience stores and put the bottles under running hot water if such and option is available. Of course I also take an assortment of bars for variety. I also take gels in case of an emergency. I would rather eat the slowly digested complex carbs.

Juan S.

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