Saturday, April 25, 2009

Steuben 200K test ride

Saturday 11 hardy randonneurs test rode the soon to be submitted Steuben 200K permanent in Upstate New York. With temperatures hovering 90F it was quite a challenge. The route offered plenty of climbing with long descents and a difficult headwind to deal with during most of the ride. I learned a valuable lesson from this ride, i.e., on hot days ingest electrolytes regularly. I waited way too long and suffered with cramps. Wearing tights also did not help.


Phillip Meerkamp and I arrived at Bill Lodico's home in Elmira at about 8:50am. I was a bit surprised not to see any other cyclists. As many on this ride live in Elmira, I suspected they would show up just minutes before the ride start. Indeed, that was the case.

Today was Phillp's first unofficial 200K. He was very well prepared. During the week we had spoken on the telephone about equipment and nutrition for a 200K. I hope my limited experience was of some value. Phillip, like me, took up cycling just about a year ago. Before that he had dedicated himself primarily to tennis and running.

In a few minutes John Dennis arrived with Dan Barbasch and not long thereafter Bill Fischer, Mark Sheehan, Julie Riplinger, John Fessenden and Blaine Chamberlain completed the roster. We left Bill Lodico's home around 9:20am.

Just a couple of miles into the ride I had a flat. Phillip was kind enough to wait for me and both of us worked together to close the gap to the other riders. On Friday evening I played over two hours of basketball and my legs were feeling it. Probably not the best idea if you plan to ride 200 km the next day. At least my arms seemed OK. That is about the only way they get some sort of a workout. At this point it was around 74F and rising.

We caught the lead group somewhere along the first long climb. Eventually Julie, Phillip and I climbed more or less together to the top. I then coasted down the hill in my aero-tuck for nearly 3 miles without turning the pedals once. I made a comment to Julie that what I had just done was probably considered a heresy among fixie riders. Blame it on the cassette freehub, not on me!

Soon we were joined by the rest of the group. John Dennis was the last to show. A malfunctioning front derailleur slowed him down on the climb. He was not able to shift into his granny-gear and the limit screw was stuck, not allowing for adjustments. On occasions like these fixie riders giggle. Granny what?

The pack rode on along CR 73. After flirting a bit with Tioga River, we crossed a bridge into Presho and followed CR 5. This road is very awkward, as it first takes you south, then west and finally north into the town of Addison. Except for the last 3 miles or so, this is a steady climb. Upon leaving Presho the group split once again. This time Julie, Phillip and I were joined by Dan Barbasch for most of the way. I was feeling the heat as the temperature rose to nearly 87 F (30.5 C) Even the headwind did not mitigate that much. As if in a mirage, I saw a cyclist in the other direction. It was Misty McPhee. She drove from Ithaca to Addison and rode up the hill to meet us. Just after we greeted she gave the good news of a long descent into Addison. A pause for refreshments was much welcomed almost 40 miles into the ride.

At the Sugarcreek Stores I was lucky to find the coveted Starbucks Vanilla Doubleshot. I am not a regular coffee drinker, but I do enjoy it occasionally and especially on rides. In Addison we regrouped and many of us used the time to bathe in sunscreen. I was trying out this nutty idea of wearing thin tights on this hot day. Unfortunately the tights were black and that did not help much. However, it was not too bad, at least I did not have to apply sunscreen on my legs.

The group left Addison on CR 119 following the Canisteo River. The headwind at this point was very annoying and the group remained together for the first few miles. I used the opportunity to chat a bit with riders that I had just met like Bill Lodico and Mark Sheehan, both randonneuring veterans. I spoke with B. Lodico about my hometown Florianópolis in Brazil, issues like the right to sunlight and flaws of the Mercator projection. Our conversation was abruptly ended when the speed was notched up as Phillip took command of the pace line. The group strung out in small clumps and remained that way until we regrouped at a right turn on CR14.

One lump remained between us and the city of Bath, our coveted diner stop. Phillip, Julie and I rode at nearly the same pace to the top of the climb. As we began to descend I got into a nice groove, riding in the drops for the next 10 miles. My lower frontal area in this position allows me to gain 2 to 3 mph almost instantly. By the time I reached the Chat-a-Whyle Diner in Bath I needed a break. I used the minutes I had accumulated on the last stretch to take some pictures, among them the town clock. For a while I stood in the street waiting for the other riders to come. I wanted to get a picture of the group riding towards the diner. All of a sudden I turned around and they were there! They had arrived at the diner from the other direction. I suppose they would not get back on their bikes to pose for the shot, so I did not bother. Maybe next time. I noticed Julie was no longer among the group. She continued straight back for a prior commitment.

Us hungry cyclists occupied a large table at the diner. As we waited for our orders Misty and John Dennis entertained us with yoga positions. It hurt just to look at them. I went to the bathroom and on my way out a motorcyclist asked me about my spandex shorts and handed me piece of paper with a prayer. I am not religious, but I am also not one to disrespect others' beliefs, so I took the prayer and thanked him. I was back at the table just in time for a Spanish omelet with home fries and toast on the side. By the look on Phillip's face, I believe he was surprised with our choices. Instead he settled for a milkshake and sliced bananas. I did envy him for a bit, as I too am a huge fan of the milkshake and all the cousins of ice cream.

In a bit of a rush, I quickly ate all that was on my plate and headed to a nearby convenience store to purchase water required to mix Accelerade and Spiz. While at the store Mark Sheehan came and went. I spent a bit of time outside and when I rode past the diner no bikes were to be seen. The feeling of being left behind is not a good one. I figured they would not be riding too fast after a diner stop and that I would eventually catch up. It turned out to be a wrong assessment.

The cue-sheet indicated a bear right onto a certain CR 11. However, there was no indication of a CR 11 so I continued along SR 415 until it was obvious that something was not quite right. I stopped at a roadside motel for directions. After waiting a minute or two for the lady to come to the door after I rang the bell, I found she knew no more about CR 11 than I. I thanked her and apologized for disrupting what seemed to be a nice siesta. On the way out of town I observed an ice cream shop that was sprawling. I figured someone there must know about this infamous CR 11. Indeed, there I was given instructions to follow the I 86 sign. A few tenths of a mile later I was comforted to see the CR 11 sign on the road.

My detour had cost me over 3 miles. At this point I knew it would be difficult to catch the group. Nevertheless I tried. The miles came and went and I grew frustrated. A gentle but long climb began. A little girl on a bicycle approached me and told me to go straight, so she was told. Bill Fischer had asked people on the way to let me know of their passage and indicate the correct route. Just a few minutes after I met the girl I saw Blaine Chamberlain slowly moving along. Just before I reached him there was John Dennis, lying in grass on the roadside next to his bike. Bill told me that John was having some bad cramps. I believe Bill had felt a bit sick to the stomach and decided to stop for rest. Since I knew that John had a cell phone and was planning to return with Misty once we reached Addison, on our way back to Elmira, I continued cranking the pedals. There ahead of me was Bill Lodico. I caught up to him and told my story of the detour, John D. and Blaine. I learned the others were not far ahead. We reached the top of the climb together and began to descend. We were now in Addison. I had ridden nearly 30 miles alone, trying to catch the rest of the group and the effort had taken its toll on me.

We regrouped at a convenience store in Addison. Misty left us to get her car. She would then drive back to pick up John D. and Blaine. I enjoyed another dose of Doubleshot and also munched on beef jerky. Bill Lodico, Mark Sheehan and Dan Barbasch had root beer floats. In retrospect I should have eaten more at this stop. I didn't think much about it, something I would soon regret.

We left Addison for the last 30 miles of the ride. A significant effort would be required to beat the dark. I was not worried about this because I had my generator hub. While riding on SR 417 out of Addison an approaching car gave us a friendly honk. As it passed I saw John D. waving out of the window: "Hi Juan!" It was great to see such a lively John. Blaine was also in the car. Soon afterward my calves began to twitch. Uh-oh. I immediately remembered the endurolyte pills that Rick had given me for our flèche the week before. I had two. I was feeling energy deprived. I ate some gel, which I only use in emergencies. Then I ate Clif shot blocks followed by Jelly Belly jelly beans. The act of eating alone felt good. I knew it would take some time to feel the benefits of what I had just ingested, but my mood was already improving. At this point in time we were on Indian Hills Rd heading south. Soon it was time to cross the Tioga River for the second time in Presho. A brief acceleration by Bill Lodico left John Fessenden behind. Then we made a left on CR 120 for the last climb of the day. The group split up. Bill Fischer, Dan Barbasch, Phillip and I rode together to top of the climb and began a 7 mile descent into Elmira. What a joy! For a moment I had the impression it was beginning to drizzle. I realized I was mistaken and what I sensed as rain drops were actually insects. Better keep the mouth shut. I led the group down during most of the descent and did not have any further issues with cramps on the bike.

Once we entered Elmira Bill F. moved to the front and showed us the way back to Bill Lodico's home. The arrival time was just a few minutes past 8pm. We had beat the darkness. After some celebratory pictures Bill F. left towards his home while Phillip, Dan and I got ready for the drive back to Ithaca. My average moving speed was 16 mph, not bad for a 132 mile ride with almost 10,000 ft of climbing and various stretches with significant headwind, in the heat!

I can't wait to try out the wool jersey and shorts I just ordered from Woolistic. I hear they're good for all weather conditions.

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