Sunday, December 8, 2013
One thing I love about the coming of winter is the chance to sit back and assess the past while planning for the future. As a cyclist, this process begins for me when RUSA posts the ride schedule for the coming year in early October and my head begins to spin with options for organized rides around the country. For me, the structure of the year is largely determined by the longest ride that I will build towards as the ultimate goal; a ride that from the comfort of the couch seems like it might be slightly out of my reach. Once this is established, I look to build the season around brevets and training that aligns with my family and work obligations.
This year, the answer for me was obvious. The last time I had planned to ride in the Lap of the Lake 1000K (LOL) was 2010. It was to be the major goal of that season of riding and was to serve as the event that pushed me to the top of the pecking order in the new system of pre-registration that ACP established to regulate the size of PBP. While preregistered for LOL, though, I was unable to start due to a humerus fracture I sustained during the NJ 600K that June and I had let let my pal Andrey ride on to success without me.
2010 was a momentous year in my life. It was the season I pushed myself to complete a full SR series in under 60% of the maximum time allowance, or or R60 according to the rules of the Cyclos Montagnards challenge set up by Jan Heine and the folks at Bicycle Quarterly. I was interested in this challenge as a way to assess whether I could successfully complete PBP in under 56:40, which at 60% of the total allowable time of 90 hours, would qualify me to become a member of Le Societe Charly Miller. By June, things were going pretty well. I had finished the Princeton 200K, Saratoga 300K and the Boston 400K all safely within the time limits. It was my strongest season ever; I felt like I was on top of the world. This feeling would not last long.
In late June, I set out to complete the NJ 600K, a beautiful, flat ride through the magical Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, in under 24 hours. Never having completed a 600 in 24 hours, I was not concerned about the pace or the distance, but rather the impact of riding straight through the night without sleep. To make matters worse, the ride start was at 10:00pm and I clipped in after a full day at work. Starting out strong, I fell in with Anthony M. from VT and we kept pace as we rode through the peaceful night and reached Cape May at the southern tip of the state by dawn. All was going according to plan until mile 309 when I lost focus for a nanosecond and hit a patch of sand on the shoulder and went down hard on the pavement. I knew something was not right with my shoulder, but thought it was more likely a muscle injury than a fracture as I clipped back in and rode with determination to the finish 66 miles down the road. Anthony was a prince and paced me as my speed declined. No longer able to hit the 24 hour goal, we finished in 25:50 and I was left with an R70 finish for the season.
The Lap of the Lake was less than two weeks down the road and while unable to secure a visit to the orthopedist in time, I knew something was wrong enough with my shoulder that 1000K was not a good idea. So I took a DNS and subsequently found out that my shoulder was broken. After six weeks in a sling, four of which were spent with family off the bike in Europe, I entered the Endless Mountains 1000K in hopes of completing the 2010 season with a 1000K under my belt to secure my spot in the first wave of US registrants to PBP the following year. As you may know, the Endless Mountain 1000K did not work out as planned. I was hit from behind by a distracted driver merely two hours after clipping in and spent the following six weeks in the hospital, and the following three years out of the hospital, recovering from 26 broken bones and three surgeries.
It's been over three years now since my accident and I've accomplished quite a few things on a bike about which I am very proud. I was permitted to ride again 9 months after the accident and in my first full year of riding I completed D2R2, a full SR series, the Festive 500 and an R-12. My perspectives on life and cycling have changed, though, as often happens following a catastrophic event. Since the accident, I've not been able to ride as fast as I once did. Neither have I completed an event over 600K. My ultimate goal, though remains clipping in to ride PBP in 2015. I doubt I'll be in shape to complete the event in Charly Miller time, but complete the event I will.
As all of us who consider ourselves randonneurs know, our sport is all about incremental change. This year, I will complete a full SR series and I hope to increase my pace to at least R70 limits to see if I am capable of training to ride more swiftly than is currently the case. LOL will also be a step along my journey to PBP. I need the experience that a 1000K close to home will give me to plan and build confidence for that legendary ride. LOL will not only be a stepping stone, though. If I have learned anything from my accident, it's to savor life as it comes. The Lap of the Lake will be an amazing opportunity to ride with friends in two countries along a majestic course around a Great Lake, which in itself is a goal worth savoring. Care to join me?
So here's to 2014. May all of your dreams come true.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
One of the first rules of randonneuring is to front-load your riding so that you don't run out of time. Up against time constraints, we learn early on not to tempt fate by assuming nothing will go wrong, because, so often the unexpected rears its ugly head. Luckily, nothing went wrong for me over the past few months, but I've been working six-day weeks for some time and with a few college tours thrown in, that number or busy days per week has crept to seven on several occasions. As a result, I found myself undertaking my final coffeeneuirng ride on November 17, the last day of the challenge, with one hour to spare before heading to work in Long Island. I rode to the closest place that sells coffee. It's a shop I don't particularly like, owned by someone I don't particularly want to give my money to, which sells something hot and dark which looks vaguely like coffee. When in a pinch, we do what we have to do. I'm done. Mission accomplished.
Location: Esopus, NY
Venue: The Country Store
Monday, November 11, 2013
New Paltz is a Hudson Valley gem. Founded in 1678 by French Huguenots, the village still hosts a rich collection of colonial stone houses and churches. Home to a state university campus and nestled into the side of the remarkable Shawangunk Ridge, New Paltz has something for just about everyone. The climbing, hiking and cycling are all world class and the food and shopping aren't bad either. When in town, be sure to stop by the Bicycle Depot for all of your cycling needs.
Venue: The Mudd Puddle
Carbs: Chocolate chip cookies
Saturday, November 9, 2013
It's always a delight to pass through Rosendale, NY. Originally settled by Europeans in 1685, Rosendale was once home to a booming natural cement industry. While it's still possible to locate the old mines, the industry has long since moved away and artists now outnumber laborers on Rosendale's main street. My destination this afternoon was the beloved Alternative Baker, where I found the mixed berry scone and cup of black coffee quite a pleasant counterpoint to the crisp fall weather.
Venue: The Alternative Baker
Carbs: Mixed berry scone
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Several years ago, the amazing Walkway Over the Hudson was unveiled and since then it has become a wonderful local resource as well as a significant tourist destination. The Walkway is the tallest and longest pedestrian bridge in the world and it's well worth a visit whenever you find yourself in the area. It was not until this fall, however, that the two preexisting rail trails on either side of the river were completely and permanently linked together to form a full 18-mile linear park that connects Dutchess and Ulster Counties.
I decided to mark this auspicious occasion with an end-to-end ride with a short break in the middle to enjoy some hot coffee and a seasonal treat. The Dutchess Rail Trail begins at the old Hopewell Junction train station so this is where I began my east-west journey after dropping my daughter off at a local high school to take her SAT II exams. The air was crisp and the skies were blue with a few colorful leaves still hanging onto the trees along the way.
The completion of this linear park required a few bridges and the purchase of a few miles of land from CSX. The next stage planned to enhance the bicycle infrastructure in the area involves building a massive elevator to connect the Walkway with the Metro North train station in Poughkeepsie 220 feet below. After crossing the Walkway, I found a nearby Dunkin Donuts and after enjoying a coffee and a pumpkin donut, I rejoined the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and rode the 10 miles to the trail's end in Highland. Rejoining local roads, I was home in no time.
Location: Highland, NY
Venue: Dunkin' Donuts
Carbs: Pumpkin donut
Thursday, October 31, 2013
No autumn gastronomic cycling challenge in the Hudson Valley is complete without a stop at a local farm stand for some hot mulled cider and a fresh cider donut. The Apple Bin is a local favorite, perched on western shore of the Hudson River along a particularly bucolic stretch of iconic Route 9W. Last Sunday, I carved out a short loop in the crisp morning air, while enjoying the remaining color in the trees along the way.
Location: Ulster Park, NY
Venue: Apple Bin Farm Market
Berverage: Hot mulled cider
Carbs: Cider donut
Venue: Apple Bin Farm Market
Berverage: Hot mulled cider
Carbs: Cider donut
Monday, October 21, 2013
Day two of the Coffeeneuring Challenge brought me to the village of Stone Ridge, NY, which lies just a few miles away from Kingston. Filled with stately colonial homes, Stone Ridge served as the temporary capitol after the burning of Kingston by British troops in 1777.
The hamlet of Stone Ridge sits at atop a hill as the name implies so I was happy to see Jack and Luna's Cafe as I reached the end of my climb. I was less happy, though, when I saw the scant collection of baked goods that was left on the counter at 11:30am, but selected this miniature lemon poppy bundt cake in hopes that the tremendous flavor would make up for it's diminutive size. I was sadly disappointed, though, and the coffee wasn't much to rave about either.
So after finishing up at Jack and Luna's, I said hello to a few friends and swiftly rode down Main Street and descended the ridge to begin my trek home, already visualizing where coffeeneuring would lead me next weekend.
Venue: Jack and Luna's Cafe
Coffee: Hot and black
Carbs: Itsy, bitsy lemon poppy bundt cake
Sunday, October 20, 2013
I know, I know, it's been WEEKS since this challenge began. It's been a bit busy recently, so today marked my first stab at the Third Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge. Unlike past years, this time around I think I'll follow a theme or a plan of some sort. Yes, this year I'll ride to seven separate towns that represent my some of my the amazing richness of life in the Hudson Valley.
Today, Kingston is divided into three sections, the most interesting of which is the Uptown or Stockade district. Filled with historic stone homes, the area is also home to a growing community of artists and creative souls. The Outdated Cafe is one of my favorites. Where else can you sit and enjoy a giant, freshly baked pear scone with piping hot Costa Rica gold alongside antique dress frames and manual typewriters? I almost felt like a hipster!
Location: Kingston, NY
Venue: Outdated Cafe
Coffee: French Roast Costa Rican
Carbs: Pear Scone