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.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Otisco Lake - A ride to remember

Pingo ??/??/1997-03/19/2009


This past week I lost a companion of over 12 years, my cat Pingo. She was born a stray cat in Brazil and picked up by my mom from a pizzeria. At the time I was 18 and today I completed 31 years of age. Just a week ago when I returned from the Owasco Lake ride she seemed fine. That would quickly change. In a matter of three days she stopped eating altogether and became extremely lethargic. The diagnosis was pancreatic cancer and nothing could be done. So on Thursday afternoon she was put to sleep while I held her in my arms. Yesterday was a ride to remember: there was the great company of Jamie Gartenberg, Bill Fischer, and Andy Goodell, a 125 mile scenic route with many challenging climbs and lastly the many memories of wonderful moments spent with Pingo. A few pictures over years are posted below.

A young Pingo in Brazil


Pingo and me then


Pingo and me two weeks ago


As I ate breakfast hearing the weather forecast for day I could feel the chill already. The temperature in Ithaca for the start was 14F and would rise to the mid-40's. That was colder than I would have wanted. This meant I would have to adapt to the warmer temperatures as the day progressed.

I was about 5 minutes late but since I mapped the route and made the cue sheet I imagined the others would wait for me. And they did. Jamie, Bill and Andy were ready to ride as I strolled in the RiteAid parking lot. After a couple of pictures we were off to a pleasant start. The initial miles, in contrast to the Owasco Lake Ride, were relatively innocuous. We moved swiftly in a pace line on Lower Creek Rd, Upper Creek Rd and then McLean Rd to Cortland, our first stop 21 miles in. Thanks to Jamie we were able to find Tim Horton's, which is located inside Tops. How would I know that? Well, Jamie did. This was more of a get-warm stop than a need-to-eat one. Bill actually had inquired about 5 miles before if we wanted to stop to get warm. If Bill manifests discomfort, it must be pretty bad. At Tim Horton's I had an oatmeal raisin cookie, my absolute favorite. Oddly it looked like it had been bitten already, but I did not make a fuss about it. Bill and Jamie ate bagels with coffee and Muscle Milk, respectively. Andy had brought all his food with him, an assortment of granola, fruits, juice for the occasional sugar deficit and celery.

As we left Tops I noticed I once again had forgotten to remove my coffee shop shoe covers. The time I spent to stop, take them off and continue created a sizable gap. Before I have continued pedaling and taken them off while riding, but the traffic on SR 281 was not welcoming. I took my time and eventually caught up with the pace line, which at the moment was pulled along by Bill. The pavement on SR 281 is very bad at some points. Jamie nearly hit a huge crater in the rode that probably would have ruined his brand new Independent Fabrication, or at least damaged it significantly. Not to mention Jamie. We were constantly dodging these craters on the road and I was happy to see our next turn ahead, Cole Brook Rd.

Cole Brook Rd exceeded my expectations. I had read on the FLCC website about the beauty of the Otisco Lake Valley. I can imagine that it will become even more so when the foliage returns. The pavement was excellent, the air crisp and there was not a cloud in sight. As we began a gentle incline I was determined to maintain our speed, observing Jamie in my helmet mirror. I worked hard during that stretch and when I eased off the pedals we had only lost Bill. He soon rejoined us. I could not help but notice the several abandoned homes along the valley. I wonder why this is so. I do not know much about the economics of the region, but I can imagine that these are small farms that may have encountered tremendous difficulty competing with larger producers. I would be very interested in learning about what led people to literally abandon their homes and farms.

We had been steadily climbing for a few miles and now it was time to contemplate our prize. We made a right on Willowdale Rd and shortly thereafter I caught a glimpse of Otisco Lake, the easternmost of the Finger Lakes. Willowdale offered spectacular views of the lake as we headed north along its western side. I noticed that large sections of the lake were covered with a thin sheet of ice. For an instant I started to think about the time required to form a 1 mm thick sheet of ice over such a lake exposed to 20F. That thought subsided in face of such a beautiful sight. Once again I felt the urge to take a picture. That always means I have to catch up later, so I choose my spots strategically, such as the beginning of a descent, or the beginning of a climb, when I know that I can catch up. But you will not often see me taking a picture on flat terrain with blistering winds. But it does happen if the scene is just too precious to be left unregistered by the lens.

The next stop was in Marietta, on the northern tip of the lake. We chose the D&R Convenience Store. They had an ample supply of cycling food and drink. The sun was high in the sky and the temperatures were relatively balmy. I stowed away my Showers Pass jacket and my balaclava, switched to thin gloves and enjoyed roasting in the sun for several minutes. I also used the time to have a picture taken that I had thought of on another ride: the action of fueling the bike. Jamie was kind enough to do the favor, the result of which I am proud of. During this stop we also discussed the usefulness of generator hubs. Jamie was questioning his recent acquisition because of a post he had read somewhere about the added friction these hubs introduce. OK, if you are racing to a finish line I agree that those extra 10W or so might make the difference. But really, is that the case when you are on a randonee? I hardly think so. The notion that you are using your own power to move forward and also illuminate the path ahead is poetic at the least. Honestly, after purchasing my generator hub I am seriously thinking about substituting my rear blinky with a generator powered tail light. Batteries, I need you no longer! Maybe just in case the hub fails... :)

The returning leg along the eastern side of the lake, on Otisco Valley Rd, was arguably the most enjoyable part of the ride. There was however, a steady annoying headwind and also the fact the my cyclocomputer bonked on me. I tried to reanimate it without any success. Oh well, back to old style navigation, cue-sheet and no more. It's better not to dwell on these issues and just move on, doing the best with what you have. The function I find the most useful is the odometer reading. Without it you really have to stay alert. Since I was the route planner, I decided to move on ahead of the others, so I would have time to investigate all the intersecting roads without disrupting the pace. Everyone else had functional cyclocomputers, but I had caught a missed turn or two before and I did not want to go off track.

We stayed on Otisco Valley Rd for about 13 miles, until we reached Preble, the starting point of 9 rides of the Onondaga Cycling Club. On their website they offer well over 100 rides in the region. Plenty to choose from. We were heading south towards Cortland for our lunch stop. Instead of staying on US 11 the entire way, we branched off on Health Camp Rd. I did not see a health camp, but maybe the road is named that way because of the lump you have to go over while on it. It keeps you healthy if you ride it enough times. Health Camp Rd brought us to SR 13 and into Cortland, 75 miles into the ride, 50 to go.

Our second stop in Cortland was originally intended to be at the Subway on Main St. As we were riding along I noticed a deli to the right and thought how nice it would have been if I knew that deli existed when I mapped the route. But the cue-sheet said Subway, so we went to Subway. There was a big line, which was not moving. The woman in front of us said she had been there for over 30 minutes. That was unacceptable. Just the excuse I was looking for. "The Deli Downtown"
offers a large variety of subs, wraps, paninis and much more. It was buzzing, the staff was cheerful and people in line were not complaining about the wait at all. A stark contrast to where we had just been. I had a "Tuscan Chicken" grilled panini and I enjoyed every gram of it. Bill and Jamie ate subs and Andy had more granola. I was proud of Jamie for having tomatoes, pickles and even cheese on his sub. This was an tremendous improvement over bread with chicken.

When I planned the route initially, I noticed that there were not that many hard climbs during the first 75 miles (a modest 4,200 ft over generally shallow climbs). It did not make a lot of sense to re-route what I had already done, so I decided to add some pain on the way back. The ability to control the level of pain of your fellow riders can be enticing and I just kept adding more of it.

We left Cortland on Page Green Rd, gaining 500 ft over 2 miles. That was the first spike. I could hear Bill's anger. Right after a lunch stop? Please! The next spike was worse, Van Donsel Rd followed by Bleck Rd, a gain of 450 ft over 1.2 miles. When we reached Harford I promised Bill that we had a nice descent ahead of us. I wasn't being dishonest, but I forgot that we needed to climb Seamons Rd and part of Harford Slaterville Rd for a gain of 500 ft over 3 miles. Not bad at all!

Finally we enjoyed the promised descent into Slaterville, where we stopped for the last time. Bill said he needed to get some work done in the afternoon, so he left straight to the finish with no regrets or shame. I designed the route specifically so that was a possibility. At the mini-mart I savored a reinvigorating ice cream sandwich. 100 miles in the ride and we still had almost 3,000 ft of climbing left over 25 miles. Not gradual long climbing, rather short and painful.

We started with Creamery Rd, a pebble in the path. That was followed by Bald Hill, climbing up Grove School Rd, a gain of about 450 ft over 1.7 miles. This was the appetizer. We enjoyed a nice descent, but a bit scary, on Bald Hill Rd. There was a large amount of gravel left from the winter, and with a ravine to the side, I decided to take it slowly. At the bottom we joined White Church Rd and followed the loop of many of the Tuesday races, down the valley and up the other side on Coddington Rd. This would bring us to the entree, East Miller Rd. This one hurt, 530 ft over 1 mile, a double digit grade almost all the way up. As I crested I turned around and took pictures of Andy and then Jamie reaching the top. Jamie mentioned that half way up East Miller he thought: "Screw it, I'm not going up Cascadilla". Cascadilla Park Rd was our last climb of the day. What? Leave without desert? The catch is that there was really no way out if you wanted to ride to the finish. It was just a matter of which climb inflicted the least pain. By the time Jamie reached the top of East Miller he was once again looking forward to the next climb. That's the spirit!

Before we were to meet Cascadilla, we had an awesome descent to look forward to on Stone Quarry Rd. During this descent I almost went airborne, having to stand to keep contact with the road and reaching 45.4 mph braking along the way. At the end of the descent there is a misplaced stop sign. Obviously whoever put it there did not take us descent-loving-cyclists into consideration.

At this point we were back in Ithaca and looking forward to the end of the ride. That meant climbing East Hill one way or the other. Every year a local hillclimb race is held on Cascadilla. It is a very entertaining, steep, twisty and short climb: 200ft over 0.4 miles. Jamie and Andy started the climb as I took a picture of them. I created a challenge for myself by waiting a bit and then trying to beat them up the hill with time to take a picture of them climbing up. They were not aware of this, so it wasn't really fair, but still fun! So I clipped in and zipped by them somewhere half way up the climb. I could hear Andy in the pursuit and I when I thought I had only a gentle incline left I was surprised by the steepness of the last section close to the cemetery. There wasn't much left in my legs, and I could have just laid down with the deceased, but I did hold on long enough for the pictures.

Is there something served after desert? Maybe schnapps? If there is, then it is Williams St: 100 ft over 0.1 miles. That was the icing on the cake. Of course there remained a shallow climb to the start, but all pales to that last sting I can still feel in my legs.

We were a happy bunch gathering where we had left early in the morning. Celebration pictures were taken and all enjoyed a good night of well deserved sleep. I certainly will remember this ride for long to come, for the ride it was and because it was the first after the loss of my beloved cat Pingo during the week.
From 2009.03.21

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wobbly wheels and cracked rims

An interesting episode occurred as part of the PA Spring Forward 200K brevet. After we finished the ride, we stowed our bikes in Jamie's car, one lying on top of the other, with several towels in between. This avoids any direct contact between the bikes. After a 3.5 hour drive Jamie drops me off and I take my bike out of his car along with all the rest of my stuff.

The next day I get a call from Jamie, who is convinced that his wheel is out of true because of the bouncing of the bikes in the car. I am not convinced because:

1) The bikes hardly bounced during our all-interstate drive home.
2) Even if they did bounce, the loads were minimal.
3) It is much more likely for the wheels to get out of true while riding, e.g., if you hit a pothole.

So Jamie takes his wheels to a bike shop only to get a call a few hours later. The mechanic was astonished by the large number of large cracks in his rim. Jamie was probably lucky not to have had a rim failure during the brevet. The lesson to be learned is: inspect your rims once in a while! Below are a couple of pictures of one the amazing cracks.

View I


View II


It is interesting to note that these rims have a wear indicator. Usually these are little indents on the brake track that wear over time. When they are no longer visible that means the wheel should be replaced. I did not inspect Jamie's wheel for these indicators, but given the amount of cracks in the rim, a replacement was due a long time ago.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

111 As good as it gets

When I saw the weather forecast for Saturday, March 14, it was clear that it would be a great day to ride. The route was yet another loop around one of the Finger Lakes, this time Owasco Lake. I had the great company of Jamie Gartenberg, Bill Fischer, and Andy Goodell. After 111 miles of beautiful scenery, many climbs and blue skies, it was unanimous, this is as good as it gets.


As usual my pre-ride preparation the night before got delayed and I made it to bed only at 2am, leaving a mere 4 hours of sleep. It was good sleep deprivation training for longer events, so I did not complain too much.

At 6am I got up, had breakfast and took a nice long warm shower, followed by a quick peak through the window. It was still dark. The weather forecast for the day consisted of clear skies with a low/high of 18/52F. That is a significant temperature swing. I decided to use a base layer of wool with wool arm warmers and my cycling jersey. On top of all that a wind barrier, my Double Century Showers Pass jacket. On the legs shorts and tights. I would start the ride with lobster gloves and them switch to lighter gloves as it became warmer. The plan was set. I also had a brand new chain that I was eager to ride with.

Jamie, Bill and Andy were already at the start when I arrived. This would be Andy's longest ride. Previously he had come just short of a century a few times. I was truly excited about the weather. By this time the sun was visible above the horizon, bathing us in its light. As soon as we rolled away and started a gentle downhill I was reminded that it was 18F outside, in spite of the sun. Luckily I had prepared the route with foresight.

The first miles included one of the climbs I like the most, Mount Pleasant. It is by far not the most difficult, but it is unique in that it alternates between steep sections and flat terrain, bringing you up in increments. It also is home of Swan Cycles, a very friendly place for cyclists (and non-cyclists too I suppose). There was no doubt Mount Pleasant would warm us up. If for some reason it did not, we still had Yellow Barn ahead of us, another little Ithaca treasure. A week had gone by since my last ride, and I felt it. My heart rate reached 191bpm on Mount Pleasant and a bit less on Yellow Barn. When you set out for a long ride, the last thing you want to do is blow up during the first 10 miles. However, I do like to push myself just to see what happens.

As we approached the descent on Yellow Barn I shouted "Descent ahead! If I crash someone please take me home!" and pushed as hard as I could on my largest gear, accelerating into the unknown. This was my first time going down in that direction. A week ago I crashed on a descent in Pennsylvania, but my mind had healed from the traumatic event. The body however, had not. I still carried Tegaderm patches on my right elbow, hip and knee. The descent was all that I had hoped for, gentle at the beginning, steep at the end, followed by a long flat section with no stop signs. There were also some curves along the way to make it more exciting.

After I reached our next turn I had time to take a picture of Bill and Andy finishing their descent. Jamie was nowhere to be seen. At this point Bill and Andy crossed SR13 and headed straight instead of making a right turn according to the cue sheet. I tried to get their attention in several ways, to no avail. For a moment I feared the worse and was about to head back up the hill. Then I saw Jamie. It turned out his odometer sensor had got in the way of his spokes and he stopped alarmed by the rattling noise this produced. As I examined the transducer it snapped off and Jamie stored it in his saddle bag. Eventually Bill and Andy noticed that we were no longer in their company and returned. Time to move on.

We headed north on George Rd, followed by Ed Hill Rd and then Lick St, a first for all of us. Lick St was a pleasant surprise. It is a straight line 10.2 miles long with good pavement, except for some bumpy sections. The incline is very gentle and there are several rollers along the way. This road offers incredible views, including some impressive highland cows. I think it is a great alternative towards Moravia over some of the more conventional routes. During this part of the ride I remember congratulating Bill Fischer for his recent nomination to President of Big Horn Velo and also telling him about my intent to use Delorme to map out (and publish) all of the hill climbs that were posted on the FLCC list during a recent discussion initiated by Cameron Cogburn.

Lick St came to an end, or a "T" better said, on Fillmore Rd, named after the 13th President of the United States, born east of Moravia. A 4 mile descent on Skinner Hill Rd would bring us into Moravia. Unfortunately a car pulled out in front of me and I was not able to overtake it safely on the descent. So I remained behind it, grumbling to myself. The slower speed did enable me to observe a curious mailbox that was protected by what looked like a telephone booth reminiscent of the kind found in Brazil. Unfortunately I was going too fast to take a picture, but it looked like what is shown in the picture below.

Photo by Morio



Our first stop came 31 miles into the ride. The Coffee 'N Cream in Moravia was the chosen destination. I had a large hot chocolate with whip cream. Bill ate a muffin and drank coffee and Jamie, well, I am not sure. I think he just drank coffee. Andy brought his own snack along. While my whip cream sank into the hot chocolate I headed to the bathroom to take care of some business. The bathroom at the Coffee 'N Cream is very spacious, in contrast to most places. When I returned to the table the whip cream had sunk into the hot chocolate, which by this point was not so hot anymore. After some pleasant chat we decided it was time to go. Outside was just above freezing, so I decided to keep my wind breaker on.

The first time I climbed Long Hill Rd I started too hard, only to fade behind Stewart Wolsh's wheel on the second half of the climb. Yesterday I knew what laid ahead of me, and I announced it to everyone: the climb starts steep then it gives you a break and gets steep again, winding as you go up. I had to stop even before beginning the climb because my top tube brevet bag had come loose. I secured the velcros and began my mini-chase. As I reached Bill, Andy and Jamie, I paused for a bit. Bill was telling us how it bothered him when lighter guys just passed by effortlessly on the climbs. He did not mind being dropped, it was the lack of effort that bothered him. So I gasped for air like a dying fish and dropped him. Andy must have too, because he was not far behind. I now realize how nifty it is to have a mirror. I can always peak to see what's going on behind me. At the end of the climb Andy joined me and we both waited for Jamie and Bill at Lyons Rd.

The four of us continued on Lyons Rd, then bearing right onto Sally Rd, which merged into Sherwood Rd. While on these roads I had the first glimpse of Owasco Lake. I also saw a small wind turbine. It was still, an indication of how calm it was. Soon we were on SR38, the route for most traffic out of Moravia towards Auburn.

On SR38 we maintained a nice pace line, moving swiftly along the lake. This was a bit of a dilemma for me. I was enjoying the view so much I felt like going slower. But I had the perfect excuse to abandon the pace line. I needed to take a picture! And I did. I stopped next to the rode and watched the others move away at over 20mph. I forgot about that and moved my bike on the gravel to get closer to the lake. I took a picture looking north and one looking south. Now I had to move! As I accelerated I was not sure if I could catch them before we reached the top of the lake. I rode hard for my standards, over 24mph for most of the time. When I once again had them in sight I eased off just a bit and patiently waited until the distance grew shorter and shorter. I celebrated my chase with yet another picture, this time of the pace line I was about to join. This makes me an efficient picture taker, as I rarely waste any pictures. The cost of bad pictures is too high.

As we reached the top of Lake Owasco I noticed a park on the waterfront. The pace line was too busy moving along, but now when I think about it, we should have gone through the park at least. The view was splendid. It would make a perfect stop on a summer day for a quick swim in the lake, one of the shallower, thus warmer of the Finger Lakes.

While we headed south on SR38A we had Owasco Lake on our right. After about 4 miles we were on Rockefeller Rd, where the boyhood home of John D. Rockefeller still stands. I did not even see it. I just heard Jamie say it. The time spent on Rockefeller Rd was very enjoyable. I seized the opportunity to take several pictures of the wheeled companionship, with the lake as testimony. Our speed increased as the distance to Moravia grew shorter. With a little over 4 miles to go, at the foot of a shallow climb, I decided to go all out. I did not look back (as in turn my head) until I reached the Coffee 'N Cream in Moravia. My mini time trial effort paid off, as I was able to park my bike, put on my coffee shop cleat covers, stow my gloves, jacket and balaclava and sit on the curb to wait for the other guys to roll in.

During our second stop at the Coffee 'N Cream I refilled my Camelbak and mixed another batch of Spiz. In the process I observed Bill munching on a bagel sandwich. It was now in the mid 40's and I was eager to continue the ride. 63 miles gone by and 50 remaining. Jamie and Bill cut the ride short, returning to Ithaca due to parental responsibilities.

Andy and I rode up Long Hill Rd for the second time, side by side. Instead of making a right on Lyons Rd we continued straight, joining Poplar Ridge Rd, once home of Jethro Wood, inventor of the cast-iron plow. All along the way we faced a moderate headwind. Poplar Ridge brought us to Cayuga Lake. The view of the lake was spectacular. I took a few pictures from Lake Rd, which we were now on, heading south. Last time I was on this road I followed it to SR90. However, when I planned the route for this ride I thought it would be a good idea to ride as much as possible alongside the lake, so I had us continuing straight on Honoco Rd. It turned out not to be the greatest of ideas.

The entrance to Honoco Rd was marked by a "Dead End" sign. I thought it was worth the gamble and Andy conferred on his GPS that there indeed seemed to be a way out. We went for it. At first the ride was pleasant, but soon the road became gravel. Not just that, but full of large rocks that had rolled down from the ravine on our left. This demanded a very slow ride, about 5mph. The slower we went, the more pictures I took. There were several homes on the shore and most of them were small, of simple construction. I imagined this was partly because of the accessibility and the adjacent ravine. Along the Honoco Rd we discovered several streams joining the lake, making sections of the road very muddy. There is no sewage system and majority of homes had no septic system, so the sight of an outhouse was a recurring event. Most of them were unlocked, rendering Honoco Rd very cyclist friendly when it comes to alleviating the bowels.

After almost 4 miles Honoco Rd came to and end, a dead end. The sign was right. Luckily for us a gate was open. I did not think twice. Before someone saw or had the time to say something I just rolled through the gate and crossed the property exiting through another gate. We were now on Honolo Rd and a sea of gravel. A sea so deep my wheels sunk in the gravel. At least the stones were round and smooth, but this was another first for me. Andy and I laughed as we tried, with difficulty, to move along.

Finally we were clear of the gravel and back to dirt roads with huge rocks lying around. The sight of a railroad crossing light was perplexing. Was this a hoax? I thought so, but now that I look at googlemaps I see a railroad that leaves Ithaca and heads north along the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. It comes to and end near Lansingsville. We were further north. A search for old railroad maps was unsuccessful.

Honolo Rd was better maintained and our stay did not last long. We climbed away from the shore on Clearview Rd, a very steep initial gradient, joining SR90 into King Ferry, where we stopped for a very late lunch. The King Ferry Bowling Center & Pizzeria place was open. They do not serve by the slice, but they offer subs on their menu. I broke my "Spiz Only" method and followed the "Tuna Sub" strategy proposed by Bill Olsen of Califon, NJ. He is an accomplished randonneur, so I value very much whatever he endorses. Andy also had a sub. We both relaxed a bit as we watched Florida State vs. UConn on TV. When we left Florida State was leading 66 to 62. They eventually would upset #1 UConn, but we missed that.

It was a little past 3:30pm now and we still had 23 miles to go. We headed south on Mahaney Rd, joining Davis Rd and then turning left on Jerry Smith Rd. Somewhere along this stretch Andy completed his first century. He had some extra miles logged because he rode to the start from his home on West Hill.

It was time to descend Lockerby Hill. I had climbed this road several times with Jamie, but it would be my first time down. The descent offers a clear view of the upcoming road. I reached 47mph shortly before the bridge over Salmon Creek. Andy joined me at the crossing with Salmon Creek Rd and for the next 3 miles or so we rode alongside the creek. It was very nice this time of the year, but I can imagine how wonderful it is in the summer, with full foliage.

After a climb on Brickyard Rd, where I took my last picture of the ride, we joined SR34B shortly, before taking a detour along Drake Rd. Then we followed Asbury Rd till Warren Rd, which brought us all the way to Forrest Home. At this point I was in "let's finish this" mode, riding over 22mph most of the time. We were lucky to encounter all the traffic lights green. After two short climbs on Judd Falls we were back to the start, 111 miles later.

I congratulated Andy for his first century, and nearly first 200K. He then continued on his way home and I went in the RiteAid for more Tegaderm patches.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

PA Spring Forward 200K

There is no better way to celebrate the return of mild temperatures to the northeast, even if temporarily, than a nice long bike ride. A group of 24 randonneurs and randonneuses gathered in Ephrata PA for the "Spring Forward 200K" organized by Andrew Mead and Tom Rosenbauer. At the end of the day I rode an extra 7-8 miles because of two missed turns, crashed between miles 73 and 74, but made it to the finish in one piece. Even though my elbow is in pretty bad shape and my right side has plenty of road rash to display, I am happy to have overcome these obstacles, including a bent derailleur.


Jamie Gartenberg and I arrived in Akron at about 10pm on Friday night. Our hotel, the Rodeway Inn, was located just about a mile from the start in Ephrata. By now I am better trained in the process of prepping the bike and getting ready for the next day, so I was able to be in bed by midnight. At about 5am Jamie and I woke up and had breakfast in the hotel room. We like to eat at least an hour and a half or so before beginning the ride. This gives you a chance to go to the bathroom and become instantly lighter for the hills to come.

We left the hotel at precisely 6:32am and after a bit of a climb and a descent we were in the K-mart parking lot, where we joined the other riders. This was by far the largest group I have ridden a brevet with. My rando career started only past November, and by that time the field had already become scarce. It was nice to see many new faces, including Seattle Randonneur's Jack Brace, who has recently moved to the Northeast. He almost did not ride because of a hairline crack on his dropout. Fortunately Bill Olsen kindly let Jack use one of his bikes for the ride.

I took several pictures of the bicycles being used during yesterday's brevet. My intent is to showcase these pictures at a local cycling club seminar during which I will talk a bit about randonneuring. I would like more people to learn about it and a good way to accomplish that is to show pictures of the riders and their bicycles. My opinion is that there is really no perfect setup. You can be a randonneur or randonneuse whether you weigh 110-130 pounds and ride a racing bike or if you are on the heavier side and ride a heavier frame.

After some quick pointers from Andrew Mead we all left the K-mart parking lot at 7pm. The field split almost immediately into two groups. I was in the first group and at the sight of the first hill I sprinted up to create a gap, just large enough to stop and take some pictures of the other riders coming up the hill.

The first miles of the ride were very pleasant. The sun was out and temperatures were quickly rising. One of the highlights was Speedwell Forge Lake as seen from Lakeview Dr, which led us to the first extended climb of the day on Rt 332. As many riders were flipping their cue sheets I got a head start on the climb. When I looked back I could see Curtis in the distance. As I crested, I was not so sure about the turn onto Boyd St, as it was unmarked. Just before Boyd was Mountain Lane. I am happy I made the right decision. Curtis caught up with me after the descent into Cornwall. Just before that I had taken a picture of several stone houses on Boyd St.

My second moment of indecision came after we made a right to continue on Boyd St. The cue sheet said "TR+QBL", but I did not see the "QBL". I decided to turn around and wait for the other riders while Curtis continued. I would not see him until the next controle. The others soon showed up and I had the assertion of being on the right route. Eager to make up some of the gap to Curtis, I decided to ride fast. Too fast it turns out. I missed a "BR" at a three-way intersection and continued along the wrong route for 1.3mi. I revised my cue sheet and noticed the mistake. "Crap!", I thought to myself. As I was turning around I received a phone call from Jamie. He saw me miss the turn and wanted to make sure I was aware of it. That was really nice of him. Now I had even more of a gap to make up.

Upon arriving at the intersection I saw Bill Olsen. He was surprised to see me and I told him what had happened. At least it was a nice day for a detour. I said goodbye to Bill and continued on my quest to rejoin the peloton. I was passing the gas station on the corner of Rocherty and Quentin Rd when I saw Rick jumping over the grass to join me at the traffic light. He decided to wait until I showed up. That is the kind of camaraderie that you find in randonneuring.

For the next few miles Rick and I worked together to rejoin the peloton. It was nice to push hard for a bit. We caught them as they made a right onto Colebrook Rd. We still had about five miles to the next controle in Annville. My memory from this stretch is rather vague, probably because of the work I had done to rejoin the others. I was happy to arrive at the controle and see that Curtis was still there.

On this ride I decided to experiment with a new nutritional method. I would not eat any solid food during the ride. I relied exclusively on Spiz for nutrition, mixing about 780 calories per bottle. I drank water from my Camelbak for hydration and I also took a bottle of Accelerade along just for variety. I did, however, carry 6 Clif Bars, 2 gels and Jelly Belly's just in case. This greatly reduced the time spent at controles.

Since my Camelbak was still full and I had plenty of Spiz left, I did nothing else at the controle other than have my brevet card signed. As I waited in the parking lot for the group to get ready, Curtis left. He was followed by Bill Fischer, Jamie Gartenberg and John Fessenden. I was waiting for Rick, who had gone to the bathroom. After about 5 minutes or so Rick and I departed. Again I was striving to cut the gap and we managed to catch the three as they reached Campbelltown. This is where the second detour of the day would take place.

We made a left onto Schoolhouse Rd and the cue sheet indicated a "BR" onto Smith Rd. The problem is that the sign said otherwise. We collectively decided to remain on Schoolhouse Rd, i.e., until we had ridden about 1.3 miles and there was no sign of Feltymill Rd, the next reference point on the cue sheet. Time to turn around!

Soon enough we saw Felty Mill Rd after a mile or so on what was supposed to be Smith Rd. That meant we were on the right track. At this point I was going at a pace that felt comfortable to me and when I looked back I noticed that I was alone. Not long thereafter I saw a cyclist in the distance. The bait was there. I kept my eyes on him and started to ride faster, catching up with Curtis just before we made a right on Hess Rd, in Conewago.

Curtis and I were the first to make it to the Uni-Mart controle in Bainbridge. I had to use the bathroom and ended up spending more time there than I wanted to because of a malfunctioning toilet. Eventually I made it out and by that time Rick, Jamie, Bill Fischer and some other riders had arrived. Curtis was the first to leave followed by Jamie, Bill and I. I bridged the gap to Curtis quickly and we would ride the next 23 miles together until the Conestoga Wagon Restaurant controle. During that time we had the second extended climb of the day, on River Rd, leading up to the Turkey Hill Dairy factory. On the way up Curtis said something about stopping for ice cream. Unfortunately, it turns out he was just kidding.

At the Conestoga controle Curtis sat down to have lunch. I did not want to disrupt my plan of avoiding solid intake, so I decided to rest outside while I refilled my Camelbak and mixed up a new batch of Spiz. Not long thereafter Rick showed. He was quick at the controle and was munching on his choice of fuel, beef jerky. Curtis would take a little longer, so Rick and I decided to move on.

There was a bit of climbing to be done on Sandhill Road once we left the controle. The descent began with a left turn. It was a pretty steep downhill and Rick was in front of me. As he reached the bottom the road curved to the right and suddenly I saw him hit the brakes and his rear wheel started sliding as he tried to regain control. At this point he went down. Instead of reacting I kind of watched everything as if I were at home in front of the TV. When I realized I needed to do something it was too late. I went down hard on my right side as I tried to turn. Then I was sliding on the gravel for several feet, hoping for the best. As I came to a halt Rick was getting up. My right elbow was bleeding profusely and Rick had several spots of road rash on his right arm. Would this be the end of my ride? It could have been. Luckily there were two boy scouts that were in the house just at the spot where we crashed. They promptly provided me with a first aid kit and some water that I was able to use to wash my wound. Rick helped me tape some gauze around my elbow and after that I was ready to go. We had to climb and I soon noticed that my derailleur was slightly rubbing on my spokes when I shifted into the lowest gear. I really needed that gear at this point, so I pulled a bit on the derailleur in an attempt to unbend it. For all practical purposes it worked and I was able to ride again. Next time I am on a road that has "sand" in the name I will be more careful when descending.

Rick and I took it rather slowly for the next couple of miles. My cyclocomputer stopped working after the crash and I would have to rely exclusively on the turn by turn directions, which was not so bad. It indicated 74.88 miles and an average speed of 18.1mph, definitely the fastest I have ridden over that distance on hilly terrain (this does not include some extra miles after the first few controles when I had the computer off to offset the extra mileage I had done). As time progressed we steadily increased our pace, making it to controle #5, George Metzler's home, at around 1:50pm, if I recall correctly. At this point I gave up all hopes of repeating the sub 9 hour performance of the February brevet. As we were at the controle Curtis and Jamie Gartenberg joined us. They had been observing us in the distance for some time. George left a cooler filled with Starbucks goodies for us. I drank a vanilla frappuccino that went down oh so well. Thanks George! Rick even played catch with George's son in the yard. I was a bit anti-social and did not take part in the festivities. My legs were hurting from the crash and my elbow was starting to annoy me. Soon it was time to go and we left together for a short 9.4 miles to the next controle in Gap.

This part of the ride was uneventful, expect maybe for a "BR" to remain on Buena Vista Rd that Rick, Jamie and Curtis missed. I looked back and they were going the other way. They probably did not believe in my navigation skills after my previous detours. However, this time I was on the correct route. Another point that led to some confusion was a road labeled "Valley Rd" on the cue sheet, however the sign said "Valley Ave". After living here in the US for several years I have learned that it is not uncommon to find roads, avenues, lanes and drives with the same name and close to each other. After a bit of scouting the issue was resolved and we were convinced of being on track.

The stop at the Turkey Hill controle in Gap was a quick one. I learned something very useful from Curtis. He taught me to bite off the corner of the ziplock bag and use it as a funnel to pour the contents into the water bottle. That way you avoid spilling precious Spiz on the pavement. Plus you render the ziplock bag useless and don't feel bad about discarding of it in the trash. As we were about to leave the controle Bill Fischer showed up. Jamie decided he would stick with Bill, as they had ridden most of the brevet together. Even upon Bill's insistence for Jamie to go on, he decided to stay. Another display of camaraderie.

Rick, Curtis and I took the last miles easily. There was little to no hope of making it to the finish under 9 hours. Rick calculated the speed required to make it at several points during this stretch. 30mph at one point and then 60mph not long thereafter. Then it was too late. 9 hours had already passed. I thought that maybe we could ride at the speed of light and travel in time, making it back to the 9h mark. I did not mention this to Rick, since I knew he would probably go for it. Instead I decided to take several pictures that had been lacking, including a young Amish man plowing the fields with the help of seven horses. Rick also pointed out the several Amish schools and how they were nice places to look out for since they always had a bathroom that could be used. This is something to keep in mind for the longer events in PA.

We rolled in the last controle at 4:17pm, signing our brevet cards and taking some celebration pictures after the eventful ride. 23 of the 24 starters finished the ride for a 96% completion rate. At the last controle I bought some M&M's that I haven't eaten yet. Maybe now is a good time to do that.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

The Mud Trap 125

Jamie Gartenberg and I set out on a ride that should have been 120 miles long. At mile 48 we encountered a mud trap that would delay us for more than an hour and add almost 5 miles to the original ride. At the end, by all accounts, it was another memorable day on the saddle.


This time around we started promptly at 9am from East Hill Plaza. It would be a two person affair. Jamie's last long ride had been a 200km brevet in Pennsylvania three weeks ago. However, he has been going trainer crazy over the same period, riding a minimum of 1.5 hours on the trainer, 6 days a week. I was happy to have his company again. After all, he introduced me to randonneuring.

The ride started with a nice descent into Ithaca. The cold was immediately felt and it would remain so throughout the day. At this point it was 13F and the maximum would be 18F. There is nothing better than a nice steep climb to get the blood flowing. The climb of choice was up R79 towards Watkins Glen, 1000 feet over five miles. Jamie is a great climber, but he soon felt that the trainer does not quite get it right when emulating climbs. I crested, followed by Jamie, and we continued on the endless rollers.

We stopped twice before reaching Watkins Glen. I noticed a yard giveaway with interesting items: fish bowls, a diving mask and other unidentified objects. Nothing really useful to me. I wondered what I would do if there was a classic steel frame. Carry it along? Cancel the ride? I guess it would depend on the state of the frame. The other stop was at Burdett, home of the Main Street Bike Shop. Near the bike shop there is a nice cafe that has a friendly "Feed Zone" sign for cyclists. The place was closed, but a picture was in demand.

At about 25 miles into the ride, following an awesome descent into Watkins Glen, we decided to stop at the Natural Grocery. Two weeks ago I stopped at the same place with Ben. At the time we were heading back to Ithaca and needed to warm up. The Natural Grocery has a great variety of organic products, many of which are not typically found in the bigger stores. We spoke with a very friendly attendant, who told us about how he enjoyed the outdoors and would not live anywhere else than the Finger Lakes region. Jamie was having issues with circulation in his hands and got a chance to warm up. I also went to the tiniest bathroom in the world, pictures of which were featured in a previous post. The next food stop would be Geneva, on the northern end of Seneca Lake, 45 miles away.

The climb out of Watkins was exactly what was needed to get warm. I made a quick stop on the climb to get a picture of Jamie working his way up the hill. I had hoped for a sunny day, but so far things looked rather gloomy. It was cold and gray clouds covered the sky. In addition we were now heading into the 12mph wind. Having a little more power in my legs than Jamie, I took the lead and pushed on. Often I noticed that Jamie had drifted back, so I would strategically stop to take a picture or spin easy for a while. Finally we caught a glimpse of Seneca Lake. I always treasure the sight of water. On another occasion I saw an Amish carriage parked and decided to take a picture. Jamie then joined me and noticed the several bikes that were also there. It is curious how initially I did not see them. We passed several red barns with cows huddled to stay warm. I had thoughts of tri-tip, sirloin and strip steak. I am openly carnivore.

According to our cue-sheet we still had about 20 miles before we would reach Geneva and my bladder was about to explode. We took a nature break and just as I was walking around the bush I spotted an Amish carriage pulled by a huge black horse with the most beautiful trot. I was quick enough to take a picture.

On Lakemont Himrod Rd I was able to see a glimpse of blue on the horizon. Indeed, the wind blowing from the north was clearing up the skies! I remember precisely the moment when we crossed the shadow into the sun, on Hazard Road. It was a well defined line, perpendicular to our path, extending miles right and left. Not long thereafter we again saw Seneca Lake, now blue as the sky above us.

At mile 48 we would encounter a mud trap. The cue sheet had us on City Hill Rd, bearing right onto Henderson Rd. All was good so far. As we turned on Henderson the road was gravel and I recall hoping not to get a flat. It would be worse. After 0.3 miles on Henderson the road made a sharp bend to the left and our cue sheet said "remain right". However, the road ahead did not look much like a road and to make things more confusing there was sort of a road going right. I decided to follow Henderson and soon we were intercepting City Hill Rd again. I thought, this is odd. It did not seem to make sense, such a short detour on a gravel road. We decided to turn back and ride to the bend. There we pondered and Jamie insisted on taking the right onto the unlikely road past a barn, clearly private property. Instead of vehemently opposing, I followed. We were now going downhill along a path that was getting increasingly muddy. As we reached the bottom of the hill I decided to avoid the road and started riding on the field, as I observed Jamie try to push his way through the mud. As I saw the huge clump of mud that had accumulated on Jamie's front brake, I broke into laughter. I could not help it. The amount of mud was ridiculous. Like two irrational beings, we continued until the path we followed looped around a willow tree. There was no way out but to ride back up the hill. My bike had fenders on and the mud was accumulating between the fenders and my tires, making it difficult to pedal. However, I was trying to avoid the mud as much as possible by riding on the field, among the crops. Jamie did not have the same foresight and was complaining he could not move his wheels. Eventually we made it up the hill. As we crossed a section of snow and ice, Jamie fell to the ground, unable to unclip. After asserting everything was OK, I laughed again. This was amusing. What was not so amusing however, was that the mud, now exposed to the wind, was quickly turning solid. Jamie was not able to move his wheel and I had mud that was underneath my fenders and fork crown. It was ugly. I grabbed vegetation from the ground and started to use it to get the mud off. I also used sticks and even a small stone. Eventually I decided it was necessary to remove the wheels. That was the best decision I made. I was able, with some effort, to scrape of the mud from underneath my fenders and clear my brakes as well. All this time I heard Jamie complaining about how he could not clip into his pedals. At first I decided to ignore him because I needed to get my stuff done. After I had gotten rid of most of the mud I decided to look into his problem. It was obvious that there was mud and ice underneath his cleats. I used a screwdriver from his multi-tool to get it out. Voilla! Problem solved. It was nice to see Jamie happy again. He was almost ready to bail out. Our bikes were now functional but we still did not know where to go. We agreed to follow Henderson back to City Hill Rd and figure what we would do there. As we started to roll we saw a woman walking towards us. I inquired about Ridge Road, which would be our next destination. She then indicated that all we had to do was continue to City Hill and then make a right. Only if we had done that an hour ago! Oh well, c'est la vie.

Now that our mileage was off and we had not followed the cue sheet, once we got to Ridge Road I was not sure if we should turn left or right. After a glance in both directions, I decided right and rode away. Jamie followed. It turns out our detour in the mud trap had added five miles to our route. We were now looking for Earls Hill Rd, and I was growing weary at every intersection we encountered, no sign of Earls Hill. Finally we saw another pedestrian. To my dismay, it turned out I had made the right turn and we were on route! What relief.

The ride on Ridge Road was very pleasant. It seems we would reach Geneva after all. At one point a huge bird resting on a branch of a willow tree caught my attention. I snapped two pictures, but did not want to get closer to figure out what kind of bird it was. Not long thereafter we arrived in Geneva at the welcoming sight of 18F on the thermometer.

This was my first time in Geneva and I made several quick stops for pictures. There was the boat house on the lake, the church, pompous homes and the Geneva Bicycle Center, with very interesting bicycles on display. At this point Jamie and I badly needed to pee. Our first bet was Byrne Dairy. No luck. We then tried Mac's Philly Steaks. Home run. The place was crowded for a Sunday afternoon. There was a group interested in the basketball game shown on TV and another group of older men. I am not sure which group was more intimidating. Neither looked very friendly. I picked a table near the door while Jamie alleviated himself. I ordered a Chicken Cheese Hoagie with everything on it. Jamie had a grilled chicken on bread, nothing on it. It looked like torture to me. Why would somebody eat that? After the meal we refilled our water bottles a I mixed up some Spiz, my delicious source of calories. While on the bike I did not eat any solid food, just Spiz.

As we left Geneva alongside the lake there would be no hills to warm me up. Instead we found a nice tailwind, something I had been looking forward to. We soon were on East Lake Road for 13 miles of shear pleasure. With the lake, the sun setting on our right and a 20mph wind on our backs, this was bliss. I got into cruise control and was averaging 23-24mph on this nice flat section. There was an occasional lump here and there to disrupt my pace, but this would be as nice as it gets. Several stops were made for pictures of the sunset and other local attractions, including an Addams Family-like home and the Military Museum. While we were riding through the Sampson State Park it became dark enough for us to switch on our blinkies and for me to use my dynamo-powered headlight.

Our journey alongside Seneca Lake would end at what seemed like a prison to me. I later looked it up on the internet and apparently it is the Willard State Hospital, which was an asylum from 1869 through 1995. I found a wonderful web page about some of the patients that there resided. It is called the "Willard Suit Case Exhibit". When the hospital closed in 1995, workers discovered hundreds of suitcases in an attic of one of the buildings. These suitcases were brought by patients when they were admitted to the hospital, often decades earlier. The contents of the suit cases told the stories of these people, and often revealed what brought them there. According to the website, more than 50,000 patients were admitted to Willard during its 126-year history, and nearly half of those died there.

We left Willard and crossed to Cayuga Lake through Ovid, arriving at Wyers Point. We followed Wyers Point Rd alongside the lake to Sheldrake Point. We could not see much of the lake, but the sound of the waves hitting the shore remembered me of the calm bay waters of my native Florianopolis, Brazil, and for a moment I felt a bit homesick. Maybe it was because of the 17F temperature.

Jamie's water bottle had frozen again. He was annoyed by the fact that I was having a good slurp of my Accelerade. "How come yours did not freeze?". I thought to myself, that is a good question. We both have the same water bottle and the contents are the same. Then it came to me. "Did you leave your nozzle open?" The reply from Jamie was positive. Lesson to be learned. In subfreezing temperatures always close the nozzle if you want to prevent the contents from freezing.

I did not expect O'Malley's to be open, but it was. I could not resist and Jamie concurred. Inside we found the warmth of a gas-fired fireplace and a delicious bowl of seafood chowder. I also had a portion of french fries. After the meal I stood in front of the fireplace for several minutes, until my front and rear were almost roasted. If I felt at any point of the ride like quitting, this was it. It felt so good to stand in front of that fireplace. We still had 25 miles ahead. Oh, the fireplace.

I admit I must have had a bit too much at O'Malley's and was feeling heavy as we left. I slowed my pace down, hoping for some blood to get to my digestive tract and do it's magic. The slowing down did me good and after some time I was able to speed up. Occasionally I turned back to check if Jamie was still in sight. Eventually he was not, so I decided I would wait for him in Trumansburg.

I stopped in an empty parking space, near a bar that seemed to be "hopping". Lot's of people outside and inside. They were having a really good time. As I was observing them I could see Jamie's light approaching. We made a left on Cemetery Road, leaving T-burg behind and veering on a familiar route for the Thursday "slow" riders. After I descended Willow Creek Rd and made a left on Kraft Rd, followed by a quick right on Dubois Road, I turned around to see Jamie head straight down on Kraft Rd towards R89. I yelled at him, then I rode down to the corner of Dubois and Kraft. I saw his red taillight and continued yelling. No result. Soon his taillight was gone. I then called him on his cell phone. After trying many times he answered. I told him he missed the turn. He was now on 89. We agreed we would meet at my place.

I rode the last 10 miles alone, as fast as I could. I thoroughly enjoyed the descent on 96 into Ithaca. I did not even bother losing another contact lens on the way down. The climb up East Hill to my home did not annoy me, even after riding 123 miles. It would take me home! As I stopped in front of my house the sound of the last unclip of the day was joyful. I got in and took a nice warm shower and changed into comfy clothes, just in time to greet Jamie, who had arrived. His hands were freezing, so we aided them with some warm water and talked shortly about our epic ride. His wife and kids were waiting for him, so it was time to go. We both agreed that despite the subfreezing temperatures, the headwind for 45 miles and the mud trap, we had a great day. Pictures below.

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