Tag Archives: Century Ride

Mourn The Chipmunk

It wasn’t my fault.  The stupid little critters seem to make a habit of darting out across the road as fast as their tiny little legs will take them…..which is surprisingly fast.  Much faster than squirrels.  Though I had not seen one do this before, I believe this one attempted to “squirrel,” that ridiculous back and forth stutter when freaked by approaching traffic, which led to his demise.  Just the smallest little thump under my front wheel.  Descending at 35 mph I was not about to stop and confirm but I’m fairly certain there’s one less critter collecting nuts along Academy Hill Rd.  😦DHV2018

My first state ride in nearly two years has checked off the Big Apple state.  Yes, yes, I know it’s really the Empire State.  This was a very late addition to my schedule and in fact I only registered on Saturday, the day before the ride.  It was pricey at $105… and REALLY  Bike New York (BNY)????  Cash only???

Sunday’s weather was cool and gloomy at 7:30 am when we 100-milers started off from

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The Mid-Hudson Bridge (for vehicle traffic)

the waterfront in Poughkeepsie, NY, about 80 miles north of NYC.  Rain was in the forecast, particularly for the afternoon, though the temps climbed steadily all day to reach the low 80’s.  What could have been a miserable day to ride actually turned out to be near perfect with no real wind to speak of and the cloud cover for most of the ride kept things from overheating.  No rain until I was already back to my campground.  Yay!

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Walkway Over The Hudson.  An old railroad bridge and now converted to pedestrian/cycling Rails To Trails.

Not having ridden nearly as much as I’d planned when I started this “life on the road” adventure of mine I was a bit concerned about this ride.  Not that I wouldn’t finish, but that it would be quite painful.  My longest ride in the past 2 years has been 75 miles, and while that was only a month or so ago, I haven’t even been averaging a ride per week of late.  Turns out I’m apparently in better condition than I thought and certainly better at controlling my ride, not blowing myself up at the start and managing my strengths.  I finished far stronger than I could have hoped, almost exactly on my predicted time given the course (just under 6000 ft of climb), and felt much better than I ever thought I would.  Good Job 👍🏻 👍🏻

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One lovely view, with the sun trying to peek out

This is a nice, fun ride.  Put on by the same folks that do the Five Boro Bike Tour in NYC and the Gran Fondo NY, which I did a few years ago, it is well organized, well stocked at the rest stops and a supremely well marked course.  Starting off with a ride across the Walkway Over The Hudson Rails-to-Trails bridge is one of the highlights along with several scenic sections over the exactly 100 miles.  With the climbing it is certainly a challenging, but not soul-crushing, course.

And they have a VERY COOL finisher medal….

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I have no idea how I ended up with #2 as a walk-up registrant the day before the ride

Next up, Mt Greylock Century.  Same distance, 50% more climbing.  I’m really worried about that one.

 

Early Bird Beats The Wind

It’s high time I get around to continuing this quest, not only because it’s been a long while since I’ve ridden a state ride, but also because, this one happens to be one of the higher elevation rides I expect to do.  Santa Fe, New Mexico sits at just under 7000 ft.  I’m guessing that the only higher elevation of a ride site I’ll do is Colorado.  That however, is just a guess at this point.

Santa Fe is FABULOUS.  The city, that is.  I’ll get to the ride in a minute, but Santa Fe itself makes this ride worth the trip.  Because it’s my first Century of this year, it’s relatively early in the year and the elevation was so high, I made a vacation of this trip and drove the 1875 miles from Virginia.  It was a three day trip of 10-hour driving days, but if you’ve kept up with my adventures you know, the journey is more than half the adventure.

Just another art gallery

Just another art gallery

This gave me ample time to adjust to time zone changes, elevation changes and check Arkansas off the list of states I’ve never set foot in.  That list is now down to 3 states; Alaska, North Dakota and Wisconsin.  Anyway, back to Santa Fe.  I arrived 3 days prior to the ride and taking that time to acclimatize paid off large.  I spent those days wandering the charming, beautiful and interesting old town, relaxing and eating my face off.  I’m not sure if there are more cool art galleries of excellent restaurants, but that decision will be for another trip.

Santa Fe Basilica

When ride day came, the weather was also fabulous, though the forecast was daunting with plenty of sunshine and moderate temps in the 70’s, but brutal 25-30 mph winds. The only way to beat the desert wind is to avoid it and the only way I know to avoid it is to get out early, before it kicks up.  Luckily, this course is a simple loop, or rectangle really.  Starting and ending on the south side of town, you travel south about 40 miles, cut straight east, come north about 40 miles and back west to the end.  Even better, I’m sure it’s planned with the wind in mind as the prevailing blow at this time of year is from the south-south west, meaning, if you can get those first 40 miles in before the winds kick up, you should have nearly all downwind or some crosswind to the finish.  Of course, that was my plan.

There is a mass start for this ride but that was just a bit earlier than I wanted to be up, so I took advantage of the open rolling start option to get on the course right at 8:00 am.  The sun was already inching the temperature out of the 50’s and still early enough that not a breath of wind was stirring.  A few warm-up miles through town and you start the long trek south through the high NM desert.

Into Desert 2Now if you’re planning to go ride at elevation out West, make no mistake, three days is not enough to completely compensate for going from sea level to 7000 ft.  I could definitely feel it as even easy riding had my heart rate somewhat elevated and feeling more out of breath than I normally do for that level of effort.  The upside to all that is a very easy decision to keep the effort level under control and spend more time enjoying the surroundings, which I admit, were pretty bleak for the first 15 miles.  However, as we got down towards the old mining town of Madrid the topography began to change.  A bit hillier, a bit greener, a bit prettier.

Nearing rest stop #1 and Madrid, NM

Nearing rest stop #1 and Madrid, NM

Starting just before Madrid and continuing several miles past is the first, and most challenging climb of the ride.  It never gets terribly steep, but it is fairly long and again, more of a challenge than it appears given the elevation and fact that by the time I got there it had become not quite windy, but at least breezy and in the face.  Cresting out at Stage Coach Pass takes most of that away with stunning vistas both east and west of the valley below.

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The climb to Stagecoach Gap

After the fun descent in to the valley it’s a few more miles to end of the ride southward, but not before you reach Heartbreak Hill.  There is a rest stop immediately prior, just to give you time to work up some good anxiety.  But fear not, while difficult and double digit grade steep, it’s pretty short at about  3/4 of a mile.  Spin, spin, spin and before you know it you’re cresting the summit.  From there it’s about 8 miles to Cedar Grove and the hard turn to the east.  What I did discover though is that by now breeze had become wind, with dozens, if not hundreds of miles of flat valley with nothing to abate it.  This made the short section of due west pedaling quite the shock, headlong into 20 mph in the face.  However, this was more than made up for when I made the eastbound turn and made the 9 mile crossing from Cedar Grove to Stanley at a 23 mph average without even trying.  It’s nice to go downwind.

Now the mind-teasing part of this ride comes at the end with 14 of the last 20 miles uphill, and those last six at least partially into the wind.  It’s a mostly gentle climb with only 1 steep section of about 7%, but at this point in the ride it did wear on me.  I was ready to be at the “top.”  I wouldn’t say this last part was particularly scenic, although the long distance views up to Taos with the mountaintops still covered in snow was a vision, especially since you knew you weren’t having to climb them.  So I was quite happy and thoroughly worn out when I came across the finish.

Crossing the finish

Crossing the finish

This is a good ride and a fun one.  It has great participation, is extremely well supported by excellent volunteers with plentiful, well stocked and well spaced rest stops. Not the most scenic but I do enjoy the western desert and the chance to visit Santa Fe for a few days makes it definitely worth riding.

Ocean State Tour De Cure

When first I conceived of this whole 50 Rides thing, one of my basic tenets was to avoid the larger, well known sponsored rides.  Not a hard and fast rule, but a plan from which to deviate, and not because I have anything against them, but because I figure that they have plenty of support.  However, when it came to Rhode Island, there is only ONE ride of sufficient length which remains entirely within the state borders, which is one of my hard and fast rules, so, the Ocean State Tour De Cure it was.  Makes the decision pretty easy.

The ride Start/Finish was on the campus of the University of Rhode Island in South Kingston.  Tucked out of the way and removed from the far more touristy areas of RI, it made for a perfect venue.  Easy to get to and plenty of parking.  I stayed at The Stagecoach House Inn, a cozy little inn about 15 minutes west, in the tiny town of Wyoming.  After arriving in the early afternoon and checking in, I headed over to the campus to check out the layout and logistics for the next morning.  There was no packet pick-up the day before; a planning factor I tend to dislike as that disrupts my pre-ride routine.  Then I took the rest of the afternoon and early evening to explore Newport, a fantastic and beautifully historic city.  If ever in this part of the country most definitely spend a day or two.  I had no idea that RI, and particularly Newport is one of the most affluent communities in the country.  Just drive around the southern portion of the city.  The mansions are spectacular.

But anyway, on to the ride.  I must say, summer weather in New England is so much more pleasant than the un-godly heat and humidity of northern Virginia.  Particularly for riding.  In fact, it was cold (for me) at the 0700 ride start, at 48 degrees.  Brrrrr.  It did warm up nicely throughout the day, topping out in the mid 70’s and with plenty of sunshine and very little wind, it was a perfect day for riding.I was somewhat surprised at the small crowd gather for the start.  I don’t think there were 200 of us there.  I expected under the TDC banner, there would be many hundreds more.

A Charming Home In Westerly

Overall, this was a nice ride.  While there was nothing awe inspiring, the roads, for the most part were nice.  Several miles are along major and heavily trafficked roads, though there were ample shoulders or bike lanes throughout these sections.  Three areas stood far above the rest in terms of scenery.  The first, the town of Westerly is a charming New England town.

A Charming Home In Westerly

Shortly after passing though you reach the coast and the town of Watch Hill,  riding along the shore through Misquamicut Beach.

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

This is the second of the really memorable sections of this ride, especially with the sun shining, the wind NOT blowing and the vivid blues of the sky and sea.

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Marina near Watch Hill

Heading north again off the water will take you back up through the “hilly” parts.  Now look, it’s Rhode Island, so “hilly” is certainly a relative term, but you will be surprised, by the end of this route, how hard you’ve worked your legs up and over 4300 ft of climb.  With pleasant, but not especially attention grabbing scenery I was not paying close enough attention to the road and ended up missing the course markers painted on the road as I descended into the town of Wakefield.  When the road came to a “T” with no marks on the road I was a bit perturbed.  How far was I going to need to backtrack to find my way?  Turns out, about 2.5 miles.  Well I was definitely going to get 100 miles in on this ride, despite the “course” being a bit less than triple digits.

Finding my way again, I’d merely missed a turn which took us off the main road, but still through town, you head back down south to the water, the third of the notable parts of this tour and the southernmost point at Point Judith Light.

Pt Judith Light

I took a few minutes here for a little rest and to enjoy the scenery.  And of course, a photo op.  Three quarters of the ride done I had one more rest stop, just ahead to eat my last snacks and take on water for the final push.

From Point Judith you head north through Narragansett before eventually turning off the water and back to the forests and farmland.  While in itself this is not an overly taxing course, I tended to make it a challenge by riding a bit harder than I typically do.  Not overspent by the end I was certainly glad to cross the finish.  No matter what the course is like, riding 100+ miles is never easy.   After just over 6 hours on the bike I, and certainly my posterior, we happy to be done.

Misery Is In The Legs Of The Beholder

I first heard of Mountains Of Misery about 8 years ago, when I was living in Virginia Beach, and my first thought was, “who in their right mind would want to do that to themselves???”  That, of course, was well before my cycling became my passion………..or some might say obsession.  Then, when this 50 Rides thing came about it only made sense to check off my home state with one of the more difficult rides east of the Rockies.  Right?

Sunday morning dawned with spectacular sunshine, zero wind and………..Holy CRAP!  It’s 50 degrees!!!  You would think, especially after my Texas debacle, I’d stop relying on weather reports to determine my ride attire requirements.  Sometimes I’m not nearly as smart as your average bear.  I came prepared for the forecast low of 67 degrees, with merely thin arm warmers to get me through to the warmth of the day.  Not adequate for the temps at the start, particularly when you add in moving at 15 mph, in the shade.  Yes, 15 mph.

Virginia backroads

Virginia backroads

I take quite some time for my legs to warm up and stop feeling like blocks of concrete oatmeal. You riders know what I mean.  It took a good 40 minutes for me to actually begin to feel comfortably warm, both leg-wise and body temperature.

My strength as a rider lies in my endurance and ability to spin.  If I can spin my pedals, vice stomping/mashing on them, I can maintain decent speeds and be comfortable all day long.  Once it comes to requiring shear power, which for me is typically REALLY high winds or grades over 8-10%, my performance drops significantly.  Knowing this ride ends with a 6 mile climb, the last 2-3 of which average 10+% of grade, my plan for the day was Conserve, Conserve, Conserve.  I was going to need all my available leg strength to get through those last miles so I would intentionally under exert through all the other climbs of the day and not push too hard where there was flat terrain.  All the work I’d done over the winter and earlier in the spring has me very confident in my nutrition and hydration regimen.  One less thing to focus on or worry about allowing me to really focus on my riding effort for the day.

I stopped at rest stops 1, 3, 5, and 7 as planned.  The first was just a quick water top-off and snack.  In this regard I learned my lesson from Texas.  DON’T PASS UP WATER.  By mile 35 I was starting to get rather hungry, so I snarfed down a fair bit of food (1.5 P,B&J sandwich, a few slices of cheese, a pickle, some Sport Legs and a gel) at rest stop #3 (mile 44).

I was a bit concerned all that might bother my tummy, especially since it was getting pretty warm, but I had no issues at all.  Rest stop 5 & 6 are the same spot, at the start and end of a 12 mile loop. John's Creek Mtn I grabbed another pickle (more for the taste than any fear of cramping), water and a gel at #5 and only stopped quickly as I came back by to slather on some more sunscreen. Another lesson learned from Texas.  You may be able to tell, this ride has been around a while and the support is excellent.  Well stocked rest stops with lots of variety and actually located where the course map says they will be.  THEY supplied the little extras that earn very high marks from riders like me, such as sunscreen, energy gel, electrolytes, etc.

This 12-mile loop through Clover Hollow may be the most scenic stretch I’ve experienced in any of these rides.  It starts following a narrow, shaded stream gully, just wide enough for the stream  Clover Hollow Bridgeand road, hills rising straight up on either side. After a few miles you come around a bend and it opens in to a most bucolic valley.  If you ever ride in the Blacksburg/Newport area be sure not to miss this gem.

Opening to Clover Hollow

Opening to Clover Hollow

93 miles and I wasn’t miserable yet.  In fact, I was feeling quite good.  Rest stop #7 was a quickie.  Just enough time to refill my water, suck down a gel, let my legs recover from the good climb of the last few miles and get psyched up for the final 8 miles.  Smiling at MOM  Now the test to see if my plan had worked.  From #7 it’s a nice little downhill for 2 miles and essentially all up from there, gently at first then steeper and steeper.  Through mile 98 I was encouraged, thinking to myself if the whole climb was like this there’s no problem.  Yep, that came to bite me.  No sooner had my Garmin clicked to 99.0 than the grade rose quickly to double digits……….and stayed there.

You would not think it possible to pedal less than 3 mph for 2.1 miles, up grades which reached at least 16%, without falling over but apparently it can be done.  As my legs strained harder my heart beat faster, and faster……..and faster.  It was finally my heart, pegged near 180 bpm, not my legs which brought me to stopping for a rest.  In fact, it brought me to stopping twice in those last two miles.  I’ll admit it, I was kinda miserable.  The second time fantastic volunteers, with my encouragement, doused my neck with ice water.  If it hadn’t been going at max rate my heart may have stopped right there, though after the initial shock it felt glorious.  No comparison however to the thrill and overwhelming relief a half mile later of crossing that finish line.

Lo and behold, I LOVE it when a plan comes together.  My legs got me through with flying colors and I suffer no disappointment in joining the many who needed a short break or two to conquer that climb up Doe Mountain/Bald Knob.  Mountains Of Misery should be on your biking bucket list.  It is 01.1 miles through beautiful farm country in southwestern Virginia.  With more than 10,000 ft of climbing it is truly a challenge; one worthy of your efforts.  Of course, that’s much easier to say now that I’ve crossed that finish line.

Two weeks to recover till I head off to Rhode Island.

Duck Season; Wabbit Season; GRAN FONDO SEASON!!!

It’s time to get this show on the road!  Spring has sproinged; Spring

Eggs are hatching;  I bet you thought you were gonna see a cute little chick

Bunnies are hopping; Almost Hopping

Quacks are quacking (and practicing medicine);duck

Lambs are lambing; Baaaaaaaaaaaaaa

And bicycles are rolling!  Now this is a GRAND Fondo

It’s Gran Fondo and Century season once again and I’m getting an early start.  Well, sorta early.  I did pass up a few worthy April rides for some other priorities but now it’s time for me to get a ridin’!

In the next 38 days I will be riding two Gran Fondos (or is that Fondi?) and two Century rides. First up, this weekend, is Texas Gran Fondo around Fredericksburg, followed by Mountains Of Misery (VA), Ocean State Tour De Cure (RI) and Vermont Gran Fondo.  All this, assuming my legs don’t fall off.

I’ll throw in another pitch here for helping my train get out of the station, or reach the starting line, really.  If any of this might tickle your generosity bone, any help you may see fit to send my way is unquestionably and greatly appreciated.  It’s easy, here’s how (click on the image below):

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Stay tuned for more……….  🙂