Sunday, March 29, 2009

Canandaigua 300K

Continuing the quest to circumnavigate the 11 Finger Lakes, Jamie Gartenberg and I rode over 200 miles and tallied 15,000 feet to our year-to-date climbing totals. We were joined during 111 miles by the strong Bill Fischer, who provided us with great anecdotal references and good humor. By the end of the ride I was contemplating a new saddle and a different pair of cycling shoes, but happy for the achievement and looking forward to even longer rides in the future.

This was by far the earliest start for any ride I have done: 4am. That is the time I figured we would need to start at to return to Ithaca in time to participate in the Earth Hour celebrations held in Cass Park at 8:30pm. On Friday the plan was to go to bed early. As usual, that did not happen and it was almost midnight when I finally closed my eyes shut. At 3am I was awake. After the pre-ride routine: breakfast, shower, toilet, dress and mount; I met Jamie at the RiteAid parking lot at about 4:05am. Not long thereafter we started our journey.

The night was pleasant with little wind and temperatures slightly above 40F. A descent into Ithaca was enough to remind us of the importance of wind chill, but we were still comfortable. The route I had borrowed from Ben Kraft to take us to Watkins Glen started with a long steady climb on Elm St, followed by a right-left sequence and three left-right events that led us to CR6.

The first incident during our ride occurred when a man driving a pickup in the opposite direction stopped to ask an intelligible question. He was visibly drunk and disturbed. He probably had us mistaken for another car, since at the time we were riding side by side and both were equipped with Supernova E3 dynamo powered headlights. After noticing his gaffe, he asked for forgiveness and drove on. No, we won't tell anyone.

We had not been on Elm St for very long when Jamie had his first lighting incident. The Minoura Space Grip to which his light was secured to had come loose. Suddenly the light was illuminating everything but the road ahead of him. Since we did not have the proper tools nor the patience to tighten the parts, the decision was made to secure the light to his aerobars instead (now the light turned sideways with respect to its normal position). It was soon apparent that he had an asymmetrical beam, since the pattern on the ground illuminated one side of the road more than the other. A second lighting incident occurred when his light became loose on the aerobars. This was resolved with a thicker shim.

CR6 is used by many FLLC-ers for time trials. Our pace was not even close to the all-out effort required for a time trial, but we were able to enjoy, even in complete darkness, the smooth pavement and gentle rollers along this 8 mile stretch. However, it was much colder than expected. I was cursing myself for not having brought my winter gloves, as my hands were becoming stiff and numb. Jamie's situation was even worse, as he is more prone to freezing fingers. Over the hilltops we could see the morning twilight, sign that the sun was on its way. However, this would take a while, and we had to endure a freezing descent on Cotton Hanlon Rd into Montour Falls. By the time we had finished descending my hands were so cold I rode the next 3 miles to Watkins Glen no-hands, which were tucked underneath my arm pit as I tried to revive them.

We arrived in Watkins at 7am, a full hour behind schedule. Bill Fischer arranged to meet us along the climb out of CR23. Jamie and I missed a turn in Watkins and spent an extra 15 minutes or so backtracking to the original route. We could have easily taken another route that would have saved this time, but I insist on following the cue-sheet if I can. This is because during a brevet it is standard procedure. Taking a detour will cost at the least a severe time penalty. If there is a secret controle along the route you may complete a 1200km randonee only to find out you were disqualified. This was not the case yesterday, but I would rather not develop bad habits.

The climb on CR23 out of Watkins was spectacular. The sun was now well above the horizon and every time I looked in my rear-view helmet mirror I was reminded of its presence. The fields were immersed in a bath of golden light while our backs felt the warmth of the sun. The climb increased the blood flow and soon our hands and feet felt good again. We were even able to enjoy the long descent to SR226, where for the second time we made a mistake. When generating cue-sheets, DeLorme knows of no such thing as a quick left. Therefore one must be very careful and generally read at least two cues at a time, or else you end up riding an extra 4 miles as we did. I made the right turn onto SR 226 without noticing that I should remain on it for only 0.02 miles, after which I should have turned left onto CR23. Two miles down the road I read my cue-sheet and realized my mistake. At least we had not climbed much.

We finally met up with Bill Fischer 45 miles into the ride. He had spent a good part of an hour having coffee with locals at a roadside restaurant. I called to inform him of our detour, after which he decided to move slowly on. So good was the chat with Bill that we missed a turn. This was the third mistake already. This time I felt there would be more resistance in returning to the original route since both paths would take us exactly to the same destination, so I let it rest. After nearly 50 miles both Jamie and I were ready for a bathroom and a quick rest, both of which we found in the Deli & Bakery in Hammondsport, on the southern end of Keuka Lake. I also had a vanilla iced coffee, while Jamie chugged some chocolate milk and Bill drank Vitamin Water. Many might not know, but 50 Cent retains 10% of the Glaceau business, creator of Vitamin Water.

"Five Lakes and a Steak", a popular century in the Finger Lakes region, has a hilly option that follows CR76 out of Hammondsport, rewarding the cyclist with an impressive view of Keuka Lake. On two occasions I have ridden the route, and on both I noticed that there was even a steeper option offered by taking GH Taylor Memorial Dr. So this time I incorporated it into the route. Midway along the climb I was about to regret it when I had an epiphany. I "discovered" an out-of-the-saddle position that was very comfortable. I had the vice of leaning too much forward when out of the saddle. This time I purposely made the effort to keep my arms rather extended, holding onto just the tip of my STI hoods. It felt so good I did not want the climb to stop! I would further use this method throughout the ride. I am not sure if it is faster, but it sure is more comfortable. I also spend next to no energy keeping my torso upright. In my other position I would often find myself alternately pulling on the handlebars, leading to fatigue in my arms.

GH Taylor Memorial Dr is home of Bully Hill Vineyards, started by the Taylor family in 1958. Had it not been so early, we might have stopped for a glass of wine. The view from the top of the hill was incredible. I savored the moment with pictures and even took a little video of Jamie and Bill climbing to the top. This extra bit of climbing is worth every foot in elevation gain.

Our ride continued along the "5 Lakes and a Steak" hilly option as we returned to CR76. I was feeling much better than I did a month or so prior on the occasion I had done a 150 mile ride with Bill and Ben Kraft that included the same route along Keuka Lake. I remember it was on the day of the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California. As I passed Armstrong Rd I could not help but take a picture. On the caption I made the remark "No sign of Lance". Well, there is still no sign of Lance and I will continue to take that picture every time I go by that road, until he decides to finally show up.

Once we reached Italy Hill Rd (CR32) I started to get bothered by a condition known as Morton's neuroma. It consists of a an enlarged nerve in between the third and fourth intermetatarsal spaces, that gets pinched by bones, resulting in a burning and tingling sensation that can be very painful. Often I will ride many miles with it, but this time I had to stop and relieve the pain by pulling on my two outer toes until I feel a snap, followed by a lot of pain and ensuing relief. The pain subsides, but eventually can return. I am seriously considering drilling holes in my shoes to move the cleats to the arch area of my feet. I am certain this will relieve some of the pressure on the ball of my foot. This procedure is even recommended by Joe Friel. I acquired this condition after playing a full season of indoor soccer with shoes that were way too tight. Before reaching Naples I would stop again because of my neuroma and also forget a pair of gloves alongside the road in the process.

We reached Naples around 11am, after a series of descents. I even spotted a wind farm along the way. The rotors were still, indicating good cycling conditions and not so great ones for energy generation. At the Arrow Mart in Naples I followed my rando-buddy Rick Carpenter's suggestion for the consumption of beef jerky. As I read the nutritional facts I was convinced of its value. High in sodium and protein, low in fat. And it comes in several flavors! Next week I will certainly be seen eating beef jerky at the controles of the PA 200K. Bill and Jamie loaded up with bagels, a plentiful source of carbs.

As if we had not already climbed enough, we were ready for more. Ahead of us lied 30 miles before reaching Canandaigua, including two large climbs. On the top of first climb we stopped at a scenic overlook for pictures. I even made an attempt at a mid-ride nap, but I was soon interrupted by Bill who would have none of that nonsense. During this stop we contemplated a road on the other side of the valley that looked wicked. Further research indicates this is S Hill Rd, within the High Tor Wildlife Management Area. We left the scenic overlook and it was not long before we experienced yet another cue-sheet mishap near Bristol Springs. Apparently "go straight" has the same meaning as "turn right" for DeLorme. Fortunately the flaw was made obvious by the lack of an expected intersection. It would be another story if we had 10 miles until the next intersection. I now see the usefulness of having a compass on the bike. Yes, a GPS is much more useful, but it also needs batteries.

Jamie told me of the dreaded Bopple Hill Rd and was wondering if we would climb it. My expectations were confirmed as we began to descend. At first I thought: "Even East Miller is worse than this!" That was before the road turned and got even steeper towards the bottom. It is certainly on par with East Miller Rd, but not as tough as Blakeslee Rd, another Ithaca favorite. Riding alongside Canandaigua Lake was the highlight of the ride. The sights were so nice I did not even notice a couple of lumps on our way to Canandaigua. We crossed paths with several cyclists and pedestrians enjoying the excellent weather. I was impressed by the amount of luxurious homes on the lakefront. It also made me wonder how the everyday person can access the lake if all the property is privately owned. The waters seemed clean and crisp. I will make sure I include swim stops along future rides during summer.

We arrived in Canandaigua between 1pm and 1:30pm if I recall correctly. This was our "long stop", about halfway in the ride. Each of us ate a sub and I had even more beef jerky. In retrospect, I should have taken more for consumption on the bike. Bill and Jamie had some laughs about my explanation about the art of timing your trip to the bathroom. I did not know talking about one's physiology was so funny. I was starting to get worried about the time, wondering if we would make it back to Ithaca in time for the Earth Hour celebration.

On the way to Canandaigua I noticed that my chain had started to chirp a little, so before we left I meticulously oiled each roller, to Bill's astonishment. I find it a bit more time consuming, but just the right parts are lubricated, no more. Our ride along the western side of Canandaigua Lake was as enjoyable as the one on the eastern side. However, now the sky was mostly covered with clouds, but the temperature was above 60F. We bade farewell to Canandaigua Lake at the town of Vine Valley and continued our ride heading northeast to Geneva, on the northern end of Seneca Lake.

The segment of the ride from Vine Valley to Geneva was probably the most difficult. We were feeling the hours in the saddle, there was a constant headwind and I was not drafting. Although we did not encounter extended climbs, there were enough rollers to make it challenging. In addition, my neuroma kept bothering me and I had to stop for a minute or so as I tried to relieve the pain. This was after I attempted to relieve the problem while riding by loosening my cycling shoe and pulling my foot out without unclipping. I had my left foot on the handlebar and was pulling on my toes with my left hand while I pedaled one-legged with my right leg, but just for one revolution, as I heard my shoe (which was now upside down) rubbing on the asphalt. It almost worked! By the time I got back on the bike Bill and Jamie were out of sight. Now I had to catch up in this unforgiving wind. The road was straight enough that I was able to ride in the drops with my head down, following the shoulder of the road. Occasionally I would look down to scan the road for potholes. Eventually I reached Bill and Jamie. Bill apologized for letting me suffer in the wind but I still dropped them in return.

We reached Geneva a bit after 4pm. By the time I rolled in the Tim Horton's parking lot I was out of water, Spiz and Accelerade. The last 30 miles since our stop in Canandaigua had taken its toll. We all enjoyed one form of refreshment or the other. I also had a cranberry muffin made from whole wheat. It was delicious. After mixing up a batch of Spiz and Accelerade and replenishing my Camelbak we were back on the road for 55 more miles.

I celebrated my longest ride ever as the odometer reading exceeded 145 miles. We were on E Lake Rd, on the shore of Seneca Lake. As the hours grew longer the conversation subsided and was replaced by a pace line, as we took turns pulling. Next time I'll make sure to ride behind Bill instead of Jamie. First of all, Jamie is small and now he has the habit of riding in his aerobars, which reduces his frontal area significantly, to my disadvantage. However, there was a slight tailwind and it helped us maintain a nice steady pace without much effort. It was a little after 6pm when we reached Willard. Bill would take a separate path back to Watkins Glen while Jamie and I would cross to Cayuga Lake. We still had 30 miles and 2,000ft to cover in 2.3 hours if we were to make it in time for the Earth Hour festivities. It seemed possible, but we could not stop at O'Malleys for the coveted seafood chowder that Jamie had been speaking of for the entire ride. We did stop there, but just to flip the cue sheet and take a little break off the saddle. My butt was hurting a bit and I am now convinced I need a new saddle for these longer rides. My San Marco has some stupid embroidery that will remain imprinted on my rear for some time to come.

After we left O'Malleys we followed a more or less direct path on Powell Rd and Arden Rd towards Trumansburg. At this point I was checking my clock every now and then to check how much time we had. Once we were following a familiar route I switched the display to show the current time instead of the odometer reading. We were doing good until my foot neuroma reached is worse state. I tried to continue turing the cranks but the pain was too great. I had to stop just before we began to descend into Ithaca. I chose the professional building parking lot where Jamie also relieved his bladder. Curiously Jamie, who is an endodontist, mentioned he had some colleagues who worked there that referred patients to him. He did not want to be seen peeing in the parking lot. After each of us dealt with our bodies we began the descent on SR96, joining the folks at Cass Park for the Earth Hour with 10 minutes to spare.

Yes, we had made it! We were happy to meet other cyclists and share stories from our long day in the saddle. The Earth Hour celebrations consisted of riding along the Waterfront Trail in a loop of about two miles, after which we proceeded to the commons. Along the way we were greeted by customers of Felicia's Atomic Lounge, an establishment that was also obeying the no electricity policy. Upon arriving in the commons, we made a stop at the Collegetown Bagels, where I ordered "the largest hot chocolate you got" and an oatmeal raisin cookie, my favorite. These treats feel well deserved after so many miles. There was a lot of interest in randonneuring and I was happy to share the knowledge I have.

At 10pm Jamie and I parted towards the start of our ride. We still had a sizable hill to climb and I grinned as I proposed Jamie we climb it via Cascadilla Park Rd. He was reluctant at first, but then agreed it would be much more fun than climbing via East State Street and all its traffic. After the twisty climb we were happy with the choice. A bit more climbing and we were back to the start. My odometer read 199.5 miles after we looped around the RiteAid for some extra mileage. Since on more than one occasion my cyclocomputer did not restart after we had stopped, it was official: this ride was over 200 miles. We took a couple of celebration pictures an parted ways.

Earlier I had spoken with my wife. She was at a friends place and they were waiting for me to watch a movie. There was also pizza. The caveat: I had to get there soon, riding downhill almost the same amount I had just climbed. So I did. The pizza was delicious and the talk after the ride as good. I did not take off any of my cycling clothes, but I was assured by my wife that I was not stinking. The movie started and I faded into a deep sleep. It was 2:30am when the movie finished. Everyone left in cars, and I mounted my bicycle for the last climb of the day, half asleep. It was almost 4am before I was finally in bed, showered and all. I recall dreaming about endless climbs and exhilarating descents, all familiar somehow.


bsk said...

You might try the mid-foot position on flat/bmx pedals before drilling your shoes. Sounds like it could work, but I'm a bit skeptical of Joe Friels claim that tradition is the only reason we use the fore cleat position. Seems we use the ball of the foot to transmit power in many natural activities -- running, walking, etc. Perhaps if you had an extremely stiff sole the mid-foot position would let you transmit power through your whole foot (as you do squatting), but I'm not sure you want this cycling.

bmike said...

Great to read this report! I lived alongside Canandiagua lake for several years, about halfway between Naples and Canandaigua on Seneca Point Road. If you dropped down Bopple you then climbed up to Seneca Point and rode past my old residence.

S. Hill Road on the south end of the lake is a challenge - I spent many an afternoon hiking and mountain biking in Hi-Tor. Its a wonderful place - steep and rutty and even a bit dangerous. The climb up the road is work... I've done it a few times on the mountain bike.

I'm guessing that you rested at the overlook that gives views to the north. That stop is on the Highlander Century ride - a ramble that climbs 10,000+ feet over all the major hills in the area. I rode the 'low' version of it a ways back.

You post certainly brings back the memories! My first 'long' ride after getting back on the bike was to ride round the lake.


Juan PLC Salazar said...

Hi Ben,

My strategy will be as follows:

* Visit the doctor to see if I can get an orthopedic insole.
* Move the cleat position as far back as possible (with the Speedplay extension)
* Ride long enough to note the difference.

I'll let you know if I come across any interesting information on this.

Juan PLC Salazar said...

Hi Mike,

Wow! I was telling Jamie and Bill how that part of the ride was amazing (Bopple Hill Rd - Seneca Point Rd). You are very fortunate for having lived around there. I had such a great time on the ride.

Maybe I'll get a chance to try S. Hill out as well. I was looking at the pictures from the last Quadzilla and I believe many of them were taken from the same overlook we stopped at. I have heard a lot about the Highlander. Hopefully I'll be able to ride it someday.

By the way, I added your blog (littlecircles) to my blogroll.

Good luck on the RCP award!

bmike said...

Juan -

Try using this for routing and cue sheets - its not perfect, but it does a better job of Delorme (I use both...) It takes a Google map and mashes it into cues. I copy it into a spreadsheet and work on it from there.

Juan PLC Salazar said...

Thanks Mike,

I will make sure I use it on my next ride around here.