Sunday, August 23, 2009

FLCC Skaneateles Ride

After completing over 5000 km in brevets this year, I have decided to limit (most) of my rides to 100 miles or less, with an emphasis towards achieving the goal of becoming faster. The Skaneateles ride is advertised as 41 miles in length with a start at the southern end of the lake. If you ride out of Ithaca it brings the total distance to about 100 miles, out and back. So this ride fits into the 100 mile category. I was happy to hear during the week that Bill Fischer and others from Elmira would drive to Ithaca at 7:30am and ride to the 10am start. As the ride day approached, my only concern was the weather.

I woke up at 7am and looked out the window. It seemed as if it was raining. That put me immediately back in bed. 38 min later I woke up again. Now I was late. I looked out the window. In spite of the cloud cover, it was dry. Luckily I had left everything set up the night before, so it took me about 5 min to get out the door. By the time I reached the rendezvous point everyone was gone, except for Mark Sheehan, who had just pulled in. I waited for him to get ready and we left EHP at about 8am. We thought that would be enough time. The only detail is that we had no cue sheets nor did we know which way we were going to get there.

Our laissez-faire approach was actually quite effective. We followed Lower Creek / Upper Creek road into McLean (I find this name amusing for obvious reasons) and then turned left onto Church Rd/Lafayette Rd. At this point I realized we were following the exact same route as the Moravia ride earlier this year. The clock was not forgiving and in spite of our good pace, it would be difficult to make the 10am start. Initially we planned riding into Moravia and then climbing east towards the start. A few miles before arriving in Moravia and only 15 minutes before 10am we realized it would not be possible. At this point in time Mark's GPS came in handy. He found a road that would take us across to 41A, which in turn goes by the Colonial Inn, location of the ride start. At about 9:50am Mark noticed we had about 3 miles left and that at 15 mph it would take us 12 min to reach the start. I didn't question his math, which I now know was correct. However, we were going uphill. I then asked him "Are you going at 15 mph?", to which he replied "No." Neither was I. It was more like 12 mph. Missing the ride start by a few minutes would be very frustrating, so I decided to give it a try. The gradual uphill continued for a while, but eventually it subsided and I made good time. I was happy to see the full contingent still at the start, at 10:01am.

At the start were Bill Fischer, John Fessenden, Sam Kolins, David Sahn, Jim Millar, Steve Powell, Eileen Penner and her guest Kirt (Kirk?). Mark, who pulled in a few minutes later, and I completed the roster. I heard from the others that Gary Hodges would be driving to the start. Gary is known for his last minute / a few minutes late arrivals. Eileen tried reaching him on the cellphone, but reception was bad. Actually, there was thick fog leading up to the start. Visibility was poor. We waited a bit and decided to leave at about 10:20am.

The group remained together only for a few miles. Sam noticed that Kirt has vanished. He tried communicating this to the others, but there was no success. I decided to follow Sam's lead and slow down and wait a bit for Kirt. I suspected he had flatted. In retrospect I should have backtracked. Steve, Sam and I separated from the group. Our decision was poor, since now we had failed to find Kirt and also lost the rest of the group. After a quick 15 miles or so we regrouped in Skaneateles. Eileen was suprised by Kirt's absence, but a phone call dissipated any worries as he was en route.

About a year ago I did my first club ride. It was precisely the Skaneateles ride (41 miles) and also my longest ride at the time. It was a very warm summer day and I managed to dehydrate on that ride, cramping at the end. On the way back I almost fell asleep in my car while driving. Since that scorching day I cannot forgive myself for not swimming in the lake, although I did stand on it during a 108 mile ride in mid-winter under heavy snowfall. I made sure to pack my trunks and a hand towel in my Carradice Barley saddlebag. My swimming companion, Ace, bailed out as she is fasting during Ramadan, and a 100 mile bike ride is not advisable without food or drink. The other swimming partner John Dennis could not join because he is in Canada for his son's college debut. So I had no swimming companions. I hate to hold people up, but I think of club rides as social events, where stopping and enjoying what the ride has to offer is part of the package. I'm glad a few riders decided to wait and Jim even joined me for a dip. I was a bit disappointed that I was only allowed to swim in a minuscule square area of the lake and only in the presence of life guards. At times like this I miss the lack of prohibitions. Lifeguards were not on duty, but I jumped in anyway. I did not want to raise too much attention, so I confined myself to immersing my head under water, no swimming. We should do a night ride where everyone jumps naked in the lake. That would be fun.

My impromptu dip-in-the-lake allowed Gary Hodges and Kirt to catch up. Then Gary, Jim, David, Eileen and Kirt had pastries at the Sherwood Inn Patisserie. Sam and I waited at the park on the lake. Once the croissants et al. were eaten we joined the rest of the group at the firehouse on Nunnery Rd. They serve a pancake breakfast on Sundays it seems. At this point I had only eaten an energy bar since the previous evening and already tallied 50 miles plus (and the dip in the lake). I was hungry and not having something to eat was not an option. However, I was short on money. I only brought my credit card and $2 for swimming (in case the lifeguards were on duty). It turns out that for non-residents, the fee is actually $3. Even with the swimming savings I was $4 short. Bill was kind enough to lend me the money. I got in line and Gary approached me to say that everyone was leaving. Great! I tried to eat as quick as possible, and I even forgot to take a picture of the quite ingenious pancake contraption. This consists of a rotating disk about 4 ft in diameter that is heated from below and upon which the pancake mix is poured in consistent amounts by another clever gadget. The mix is poured on one side and before a full revolution the pancakes are ready to be eaten. Amazing! Along with two pancakes I had orange juice and two eggs. I must have eaten all that in less than 3 min. I was eager to get back on the bike and rejoin the group. That took a while.

I was reminded that any speed above 0 mph is infinitely faster than 0 mph. I didn't want to push too hard, given the extra 30 miles I would ride on the way home. I only caught up with the group towards the end of the ride. First I passed Steve on Scott Gulf Rd, then I met Gary and Eileen at the Bear Swamp turn. They were waiting for Kirt, who I had not seen. Gary then told me that the remainder of the group had continued up Scott Gulf. I then caught a glimpse of them and unlike the others, I was undeterred by gravel on my 30 mm Grand Bois tires, soon catching up to David, then Mark and finally Sam, Bill and John. Just in time!

The ride back to Ithaca was spirited with John and I challenging ourselves up some of the hills. After a stop in McLean, we arrived at EHP at about 3:30pm. It was a great day to ride, even if not the most beautiful.

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