Monday, January 9, 2012

Are We Cold Yet? The Catskill Climbfest 200K: January Edition

I decided against this walk after considering another set of broken bones.

In search of a great January R-12 ride in the unseasonably dry and warm weather, Don N. came over from CT and we hit the hills. The Catskill Climbfest 200K permanent is a fixture of the spring/summer/fall season, in other words, when I'm in much better shape and the differences in temperature are not as severe. The good news of the day was that two major bridges, one undergoing repair and one not, were both passable. We no longer needed to undertake a reroute. The bad news: with a forecast of the low 40s at my house, I forgot about the 10 degree drop in the hills @ 2200 feet.

While not yet repaired, with a little cyclocross action, this bridge was passable.

Climbing Route 23A alongside the Kaaterskill Creek to Hunter Mountain alongside SUVs packed with skiis and snowboards to take advantage of the artificial snow, a few gave us encouraging gestures while one honked as if in disbelief. After resting at the first control at the top of the 1500 foot climb, we headed out into a nasty 20+ mph headwind on our way to the glorious 6-mile descent into Phoenicia. Hurricane Irene was still in evidence everywhere along the route.

Don checks out the construction of a new bridge spanning the 50 ft chasm caused by Irene.

I'm certain that someone inserted a bump or two to the great Slide Mountain climb and to add insult to injury, the bucolic Frost Valley fully lived up to its name with snow flurries and wind chills in the teens. When we arrived at Controle #4 at mile 90 in Grahamsville, an angel of mercy served me a cup of the most outstanding bean soup I've ever tasted along with a delicious buttered roll. It was nearly impossible to get back on the bike feeling so chilled to the bone as the sun slid low in the sky. The gentle rolling climb along Peekamoose Mountain Road was lovely, though, and with a slight tailwind and balaclava firmly in place, a much more pleasant experience than the crossing of Frost Valley an hour earlier. We even spied a glorious bald eagle sitting atop his nest along the way which, not being a small furry ground-hugging creature, I took to be a good omen.

As we reached the top of Peekamoose Mountain, the shroud of night was firmly in place. On went the lights and reflective gear and down went the average speed. Luckily temperatures became milder the closer we got to home. As the nearly full moon rose in the sky from behind some clouds, I was reminded of how much I love night riding on quiet back roads.

It was a ride of extremes. At times, I felt at one with my bike, while at others I wanted to hang it up and spend the rest of the day by the fireplace. Despite the difficulties, though, we made it. My January R-12 is now in the books. With five more months left (only one of which is in winter), I'm optimistic. Up next: some indoor trainer work to get my power and speed back on track.

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